Sunday, October 16, 2016

House of sticks

Pinch me!  We've got the outline of a house.  Our home.

Can't wait to see our huge sliding doors that lead onto the sun court.  And that window on the left; that's where my desk will go.  From here I can see all the way over into the park.

If you look really closely you can see the elevated ceiling in the living area, and I hadn't realised that you could see allllll the way through the house from back door to front.

This is the really cool, albeit slightly scary, part of making so many modifications to the base plan.  Every little reveal is a surprise.  And so far we're loving the flow, the space and the light.  Hopefully we feel the same when it starts to become closed in with roof (this coming week) and external walls (maybe the following week).

Tomorrow we meet our site supervisor for a walk-through, just to make sure everything is as we'd imagined before they go any further.

Very positive experience with Arden so far.  It's going to be a great build!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I do believe...

...we're being framed!

True to their word, the chippies were onsite first thing Monday morning to kick off our frame.

The pencil marks on the slab where the frame will go make it all look really tiny.  Like, freak-out tiny.  But now that the walls are taking shape, it feels more spacious.

See the sun court in the middle?  I think it's going to be my favourite "room" in the house.

If all goes to plan, the frame will be finished by Friday.  How quickly are we moving??

Monday, October 3, 2016

It's raining, it's pouring

Springtime in Melbourne; warm days, wet days, magpie attacks, more wet days.

With the forecast showing 80% chance of rain until Thursday (which is predicted to be 26!  go figure), we weren't expecting any movement on the slab pour.

And yet I drove past a touch before 7am.  As you do.  To see...

The concrete pump stretching it's legs.

OMG.  Today is pour day.

Seriously?  Today is pour day?

That's not sunrise; that's a whopping storm and it's headed right for Balanced HQ.

Right on queue, our Site Supervisor gives me a call to share the exciting news that the concrete will be going down today.  His reaction to me already knowing gives me the impression that clients don't actually visit their site twice each day.  And definitely not before 7am.  

Mum pops into clinic for a treatment later in the day - complete with pics of a swarm of dudes knee deep in cement.  We ooh and ahh over them as though they're a newborn.

Ten hours later they're still on site trying to dry it out with the helicopter.

Doesn't it look beautiful?

Garage, porch, showers, suncourt; there it all is.

Can I move in yet??

Friday, September 30, 2016

Waffles for Breakfast

It's the strangest feeling.  You know nothing will have been done overnight, but yet you find yourself driving by anyway.

On a public holiday.

When you'd already been past the night before.

Total jaw-dropping moment when we came across a hive of activity on our block.

Our nice, neat framework and waffle pods with a reo topping.

The Melbourne weather has been a blessing, as it gives my Dad a chance to check their work pre-pour.  30 years in the concrete industry means that he'll be checking this inch by inch.

If it passes the Dad once-over,  all we need is a few rain-free Melbourne days, and we'll have this baby poured.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Finding a facade

There's a heck of a lot of choices to be made in this building caper.  One of our first was facade.

Last build, I remember agonising over choosing the face of our home.  Our builder gave us an address lists of other versions of our base house being built or recently finished, and off we'd go, taking photos, comparing, deciding, changing, deciding again.  Agonising.

Not so this time around.

Arden gave us 8 options to choose from, and in less than 2 minutes we were down to a choice of two.

We 100% knew we wanted a raised ceiling in the entry, which automatically ruled out the first 4 options.

Keeping within budget disqualified these two;

Which left the two contenders...

I like them both.  I like them boooooooth.  The portico makes the house look wider and definitely more welcoming.

Do we like the bottom one $1,500 more than the top?  Nope.  Done.  Arco it is!

Probably no coincidence that it's also the facade of our display.
I wonder what percentage of people stick with the displayed version.

Here's a very rough idea of our home's face.

Our roof is a touch darker, and that wall to the left of the column is narrower.  Thank goodness!  I would have LOVED a long, narrow window in here but I misunderstood the timeframes for changes.  The windows in this front room have given me a few nights of broken sleep.  But it is what it is.  And if we're smart with our plant placement, we can balance it up visually again.

The contrast Mt Eden (charcoal grey) render we originally chose for those front columns has changed.  We're keeping it all a consistent Limed White which should make it seem wider and give a cleaner look.  Fingers crossed.  Or the paintbrush will come out!!

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Underground

Every day this week there's been some form of action at Balanced HQ.

Yesterday's pile of gravel became todays trenches and the start of plumbing.  So.  Many.  Pipes.

It was pretty exciting to map out the rooms and start to get a feel for the space.

Now that things were sticking up from the ground, I could use these as landmarks to navigate my way through the whole house.  Room by room I could feel the flow of rooms; where the master bed will sit in relation to the sun court and ensuite.  The vacant space left between bathroom and kitchen for the theatre.  The width of the kitchen bench.

In my mind it all looks amazing.  Calm.  Balanced.  Contemporary.  With a touch of architectural edge.

I wonder what next week will bring?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What's a-piered

A couple of blue lines.  A couple of concrete piers.

We're VERY lucky to get out of the ground with only 2.  Some sites nearby have looked like they have a contagious disease, they're so dotted with concrete spots.  Site costs in excess of $20k are pretty common in our estate.  We were bracing ourselves for that kind of news, so at Tender, when we heard M Class, there was a total party going on in our heads.  Less than $4k in site costs, and that includes the temp fence!

That blue line gave us the first look at the size of our backyard.  Just 3m wide.  Golly it's tiny.

I'd imagined a bit of a deck out the back.  Space for the BBQ.  Maybe an outdoor table.  Maaaaaaybe not.  We're going to have to be creative with this area to make the most of it.  Tiny.

That's the idea of downsizing though, eh?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


You really know action is imminent when your fence and dunny arrive;

 And a bonus pile of rock, too.  Must be getting ready for plumbing.  It's all happening!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Positive Power

Trying ever so hard to flip the - into + and focus on the awesomeness of this build.

Yep, a few things aren't how we'd like them, and although getting exactly what you want is kind of the point to building from scratch, in reality, it's our fault for not spending enough time with the plans before we got to contract stage.

With hindsight we should have rescheduled our contract appointment though, as we had our first look at full drawings and elevations on the friday night before our first open house weekend.  Which ended with a very late sunday night going through the offers presented, and negotiations, and acceptance.  So it's not as though we were sitting around twiddling our thumbs, neglecting the plans.  We really didn't have a chance to give them our full attention before fronting up to contract signing the next day.

Anyway - we move on.  The plans are the plans.  They can't won't be changed.

I could go into this build thinking that it's going to be crap and we will sell it within the first year.
Or I could get over my perfectionist tendencies and accept that I can't always get my own way.

I've got the power to change my thoughts.

And our block has power too.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Scraped In

Pretty frustrating few days!

Finance approval is dragging it's heels.  About 8 weeks after application and we're still waiting.
The plans aren't correct.  We've requested changes and been denied.  They've missed some things but they're okay to be changed.
Another Council fee to be paid.  This time to protect "Council's asset", i.e.: footpath.  $200 application fee on top of a $1,000 bond.  And WE have to pay this.  What the?

It's feeling as though the house is trying to tell us something.  It's resisting it's own start.  (if you're not a fatalist then you'll think this is cray cray).

All day my mind was processing the dodgy window placement in the second bedroom, the lack of an alcove for the microwave, the tiny size of the tiny block and the tiny yard we'll have, the less than ideal orientation on the block; round and round it all went, sending me for a trip down what-are-we-doing Rd.

I was ready to walk away from the whole build.  Sell the block.  Stay in our rental for a while and reassess everything. As I drove to the block in the pouring rain, with tears in my eyes, I was imagining the conversation we were going to have to have, and how we could escape the build.  Seriously.  Over before it had begun.

And then I saw this;

They've started.

No finance.  Plans not final.  They've started.


We're not ready.  We're not happy.  There's no out now.  They've started.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Grass & Brass

With our site start imminent and excitement building, we charged up the mower and trotted on down to give the nature strip a trim and tidy up.  As you do.  Well, as we do.  Gotta make the place look respectable before it gets chewed up and turned into a construction zone.

 The battery almost lasted long enough to get half of it done :D

But... while we were there, we noticed something about our taps.  You know, the bright sparkly new ones that were installed last weekend?  They're gone.  Stolen.  Severed below ground level.  Bastards.

We checked out a few other sites nearby, and yup, theirs were gone too.  Grrrrrrrr.  Maybe we should  camp out on our block with a baseball bat ;)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Tap Dancing

There was no reason for me to drive past today.

I wasn't even passing by, really.

But something called me.

And THIS...

Extreme close up...

We have taps.  We've started.  Aren't they beautiful?

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Colour me happy

I get that builders make their money through upgrades.

But I don't like it.

It feels like a bit of a scam to me.  And we were swept up in the upgrade frenzy last time around, so this build, there will be no $3,000 feature tiles in the powder room.  No sir-eeee.  Or stacked stone feature wall.  Or any of the craziness that dates and over-capitalises.  We spent $120,000 over the base price last build.    Yes, it DID look amazing.  But our mortgage did not.  And with downsizing that figure one of the key drivers to this move, we had to keep our emotions in check, and make smarter decisions.

One of the MANY things I've loved so far about Arden is their inclusions.  I don't feel like I'm being up-sold at every turn.  It feels transparent.  And I like it.

I was really, really hoping that our colour browse wouldn't sour that, like a particular large builder with a biiiiiiig warehouse of shiny upgrades in Port Melbourne.  (I needed a shower after that experience!).

We're allocated one hour on a Saturday to browse the Arden colour room, with a guided tour by a qualified Interior Designer.  Cool.  Felicity was so adorable, and helpful, and cheery, and made us feel welcome and at ease.  She stepped us through the showroom, and guided us with really helpful questions to eliminate options.

Brick or Hebel?  Hebel.  It was included in the promotion.
Light or dark render?  Light.
Colorbond or tiles?  Tiles.  An upgraded profile was included in the promo too.
Light or dark?  Dark.
Windows?  Black.
Garage door to match the roof or contrast?  Match.

And in less than 7 minutes, our exterior scheme was picked.

Timber or tiled floors?  Timber.  Promo.  Yahoo.
Do you have any images of kitchens or bathrooms you like?  Do I ever - ha ha.
Oh, I know what would look awesome with us...
Have you thought about...

Felicity completely understood the look we were going for, and added value in ways we would never have considered.

Before our hour was up, we literally had every element of the house selected.  It was so stress free, and for the first time, it felt like the fun that people tell me it's supposed to be.

Here's our selections;

Render, main - Dulux Limed White
Render, feature - Dulux Mt Eden
Roof tile - Monier Traditional, Barramundi
Windows - Black
Garage Door - Monument
Gutter & fascia - Monument
and if the budget allows, we'll add in this gorgeous stone to the facade columns.

Walls - Dulux Natural white
Ceiling - Dulux Natural White
Trims - Dulux Natural White
Feature wall - Dulux Vanilla Quake
Carpet - Major Carpets Royal Parade, Cavalade (Cat 2 upgrade)
Timber - Trendline Oak Laminate, Golden Oak
Tiles - Beaumont, Belga Grey GL Porc 450 x 450

Benchtop - Caesarstone, Ocean Foam
Vanity - Polytec, Natural Oak
Tiles - Beaumont Belga Grey
Feature tiles - Beaumont Mosaic Penny Round, Cinder Grey (upgrade)

Benchtop - Caesarstone, Ocean Foam
Cabinets - Polytec, Classic White
Overheads - Polytec, Black Wenge
Feature - Polytec, Natural Oak
Splashback - Glass, Dulux Vanilla Quake

Me being me, it's likely these will be changed, at least in my own mind, hundreds of times over until the final point of no return.  But for now, we're much pleased with ourselves and with Arden for a lovely experience.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

An unexpected welcome

Flowers from our builder, with a note welcoming us to our future home.

Nice touch, Arden Homes.
And just like that, the nerves disappear, and we know our future is in great hands.

Theirs vs Ours

Some builders we spoke to (and there were MANY) throughout the decision phase were surprisingly inflexible when it came to minor changes.  Like, no, we can't flip the garage to the other side, even though there's a load bearing wall directly opposite and it makes no difference at all to the engineering calcs.

It was so different with Arden.  That first quick flip and sketch was virtually a complete re-working of the plan.

Here's the display version;

And here's our first draft;

Pretty much the only thing that has stayed the same is the sun court, and everything else has been pivoted to make the most of our orientation, aspect and lifestyle.

There's some minor things to tweak, but a great base to build from (pardon the pun).

It's starting to gain momentum.  We REALLY are doing this.  Again.  Eeeeeeekkk.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I used to be certain...

...but now I'm not so sure.

It's a BIG decision, getting the floor plan right.

Colours and finishes, they're temporary (hopefully someone has painted over the apricot coloured walls of my first home built in the 1988 by now!), but if the rooms don't flow, the spaces don't match the way you live, then the house won't work, no matter whether you've gone for a tiled or glass splash back.

It's spreadsheet time.  Room sizes.  Standard inclusions.  Price.  Reputation.
Objective and measurable.  That's the way to make a decision.  Except it isn't!  What about the feel?

So the four on our shortlist get another visit;
  Boutique's Oslo
  Porter Davis' Dakar
  Sienna's Eve
  Inspired Home's Aria (modified).

The reasons the first 3 were rejected still hold true.  We take the lessons from each (and there were many), send the consultants a massive thanks for leading us to our decision, and we head out to do some more research on our selected builder, Inspired.

Turns out they don't build their own homes.  They design in a unique way and sub by out the build process to Arden Homes.  Makes sense.  Best we check out the quality of an Arden build before we go much further.

It's awesome.  Not just in a descriptive sense, it is literally producing some awe-struck emotions.  But the garage is on the wrong side, the master is at the front, living area faces the wrong way, and it doesn't quite work as a treatment space.

That's our line of escape from the sales office, at least.  Until the super helpful sales guy says "hang on - let me play for a minute".  Copy.  Cut.  Twist.  Flip.  Paste.  PERFECT!

Here's my card.  Take my money.  Yes, we're sure.  Maybe.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Not-so-green Prints

There's nothing green about choosing house plans!

As you walk into each and every display home, you're greeted with a low-pressure, fully analytical smile, from the sales person's assistant as they thrust a display brochure in your hands.  In this split second encounter, I'm sure they're assessing whether you're a potential customer or tyre-kicker.  We're becoming skilled at timing our entry and exit when the converted garage, I mean sales office, is full, and staff are distracted.  High-pressure, salesy types are never, never, never going to win me over.

I love me a good bit of research.  Most decisions are arrived at after considering pretty much every option possible.  When we searched for our current home, I dragged the man through just about every display home in the Melbourne metro area.  It's either awesome or sad, you choose which, that I can still recall most of them too.

So why would this time be any different?

A new display village is evolving not far from us, so when the first home opened, of course we had to check it out.  And it's beautiful.  Open, flowing layout.  Full of light and decorated in colours we like. Theatre.  4 bedrooms, with a logical layout to create treatment rooms from the back two - the whole reason we went for a corner block.  Day 1, HOUSE #1, and I'm in love.  Already.  Price it up, eager and very helpful young guy.

Price = yowsers!  For a 28sq house?  But yes, we do need higher ceilings and doors and fancy windows, and a colorbond roof, and double shower.  In the 7 years since we'd gone through this process, I'd somehow forgotten that just about everything is an extra.  Yes, we want to downsize both the home and the amount of money we owe on it, but are we ready to downgrade too?  Time for spreadsheeting, pro and con lists, and a good hard look at the way we live and what it is we REALLY need from this new home.

It doesn't add up.  Why are we doing this?  We may as well stay where we are and not go through the stress and hassle of moving and building and moving again.  Either the house will be crappy or the mortgage will be the same.  Meltdown #1 takes the stage.

To cheer me up, the man suggests we go look at some displays further afield.  Day 2, HOUSE #2, and the man is in love.  Okay, before we invest more time in this, let's get the pricing structure, inclusions, yadda yadda upfront.  Really?  For 30 squares?  With colorbond, and...  Let's go have a closer look?

It's good.  Parts of it are great.  The kitchen is strange though, and the bathroom is internal with no window.  Sure, no one uses the bathroom right now, but it feels funny.  And not ha ha.  So, so spacious though.  And light.  It IS the 35 square version on display though.  So we spend the night measuring and pacing out the room sizes based on what we have now.  It's good.  Five less squares though.  How is that going to feel?

HOUSE #3, and we're both in love.  No clumsiness in the floor plan. Rear entrance and a foyer type space for treatment rooms.  Theatre at the front.  Great kitchen and open feel.  This really works.  Price it up.  Yep, it's in our range. But the display, again, is a 35 square.  That's a lot of space to lose.  Do you have a 30 square under construction we could see?  Yes?  Awesome!  Only it's not so awesome in the flesh.  It's a lot of rooms from 30 squares, and they feel pretty small.  Gahhhhh!  Lots of rooms may be good for re-sale, but we're not going into this with an out clause.

Another day, more displays.  They're all starting to look the same.  A collection of boxes running from a long hallway.  Where's the ka-boom?  There's supposed to be an earth-shattering ka-boom!

I don't know why we decided to do this, but we re-visited a display village that we were pretty familiar with.  We'd visited all of the main players there.  Maybe we'd missed something?  On the next row back, you know, where the B-listers hang out, there was one we'd never been in.  Let's just.... OH WOOOOOOWWWWWWWWW.  It wasn't exactly a ka-boom.  More like a "Hi honey, I'm home" type of feeling. It was different.  Very different.  Not everyone's cuppa, but we didn't want to leave.

HOUSE #4 - We put this one through it's paces.
Does it work for us?  As a Remedial Therapy clinic? How would we live in this space?  Is there enough room?  Enough rooms? What if we... and if we could... ?  Is that a possibility?  We've poured over the plans every spare minute we've had.  Met with their super helpful consultant.  Met the owner of the business.  If there's a downside to building a semi-custom home designed just for us, through a smaller, local builder, then I hope we find it before Saturday.

I'm ready to toss the piles of new home brochures we've accumulated into the recycling bin, lock this baby in, lay down some dollars and go for it.

Building Balance

"You're building AGAIN!"

We're becoming used to the reaction now.  Yes, it will be my fourth build.  Our second together.  One after the other.

When we started planning for our current home around seven years ago, we were planning for it to be our last.  Lots and lots of planning.  But the thing with plans...they change.  And as much as we love this house - LOVE this house - two people and two fur kids do not need a 39 square home on one of the largest blocks in the estate.  It's too big, and we've got too much living to do, so we're building some balance in Berwick.

The block is under contract and should be released for construction by the end of June or early July.  And it's a beauty!  At least 1/3 smaller than what we have now, it's on a corner, opposite parklands, and a short hop to the gorgeous wetlands that feature in our estate.

It's exciting.  There's some sadness, in a reflective way, mixed in too.  I hope the family who is lucky enough to buy our home has as many happy times here as we have.

We've changed.  We're ready for more change.  It's time for us to build balance.  Ready...