Sunday, 8 December 2013

Callignee II :: Recycled House From Grand Designs Australia

{image credits: Alicia Taylor & Lifestyle Channel}

This project is one of my all time favorites for its aesthetic design and outstanding sustainable approach. 

Built from the remains of the original house, which was destroyed by the tragic bushfires of Black Saturday in Gippsland, Victoria, in 2009, this home recycles what it can from the fire and adds the latest fire resistant materials to make a eclectic, warm and resilient new house. 

This home is best explained by these links to Grand Designs Australia's house tour and video diary.

Eco or natural initiatives from this project:

1. Reuse, recycled materials where possible from your original house.

2. Due to the need to use fire resilient materials, this new home uses a mix of recycled timber, surviving structural steel, burnt concrete, glass and rusted Corten panels for the interior walls, floors & ceilings. This illuminates the need for any internal; plasterboard, panelling, painting, architraves, tiling, skirting and tiles.

3. Reduced your house size - Think about the number of rooms you really need, can some be dual use and what size do you really need? By reducing your house size you reduced your building, materials and running costs.

Designer - Sean Hamilton, Hamilton Design  
Builder - Chris Clarke, Swale Developments

Have fun

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Recycled Driftwood Christmas Tree Ideas

For those of you that are heading to the coast for Christmas and are looking for an alternative to the traditional Christmas tree how about a little DIY project inspired by these eco-friendly tree options.
Just gather a few pieces of driftwood and create your tree. Instructions to create this lovely tree above can be found at All about you.

Alternatively you can purchase these from Folksy and Karen Miller of Devon Driftwood Designs.
What a great idea for a coastal Christmas holiday or beachside holiday home. 

I now have to find some driftwood for our tree. Have fun.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Woven Pendant Lights

Check out these great handmade Luna Luna woven pendant lights designed by Stephanie Ng Design. Made from 100% treated Merino wool which wraps around the roof of the light fitting creating some interesting pendant feature lights.
They would make a great look either as an individual or hung as a cluster.
Have fun,

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Log Side Tables

This week marks the start of our storm season with a collection of palm fronds, branches and seeds already littering my garden courtesy of a recent hail storm. If you do come across a tree stump or fallen tree wide enough to make a side table, instead of disposing of it why not make a piece of furniture from it like these lovely log side tables below? 

This white washed log side table by The Dharma Door has been made from rainforest establishment trees in the Byron Bay Hinterland. Gum trees were originally planted to create a canopy to allow rainforest remnant seedlings to grow. When the Gum trees have served there purpose the trees are cut down and made into furniture. What a great idea!  AU $299.00 from The Dharma Door

A little more rustic but I also love these painted tree-stump stools by designer Marie-Laure Helmkampf.

If you fancy making your own, here is a great DIY instruction project from Curbly to transform your tree trunk into a coffee table.

I will be keeping an eye out this season as I need a few side tables for my bedroom.

Have fun.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Fabric Alternatives For Cushions Covers :: Recycled Indian Sari Fabric

I have recently ordered some second hand Indian sari fabric from Delhi via Etsy.

Why? You may ask? 

Sari's come in about 5m length of fabric and a standard roll wide. Depending on the fabric style they can vary in pattern and colours across the entire length. This makes for an interesting mix of colours and patterns from just one or two pieces of fabric.

LHS image - sari artwork from the restaurant Dal Roti in Fort Kochi, Kerala, India
RHS image - some of my sari material
You can see how many different colours and patterns you can get from just one sari!

The fabric patterns will also tie in nicely with the Indian theme of my new outdoor seating area.

If you are looking for an eclectic set of cushions with mix and match patterns, colours and designs and do not mind making your own cushion covers then this makes for an interesting option. 

It is also far cheaper for the amount of fabric that you get and great to know that the fabric has found a new lease of life. 

Will post photos when all the fabric has arrived...

Has anyone used any other interesting recycled fabrics to make their cushions? 

Have fun.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

How to Theme Your Outdoor Entertainment Area

May favorite outdoor theme, pink & orange with a connection to travel!
I have some time to work on one of my own home projects and have started with my future outdoor entertaining area. This project includes finding:
  • 2No huge timber daybeds (doubles if possible)
  • 1No recycled timber dining room table and timber benches
  • 1No low recycled timber coffee table 
  • Cushions, bolsters table runners, throws and decor.

So where do you start?

This is great opportunity where you can create something quite wild and magical without it having too much of an impact on the rest of the home. It may be your main entertaining space or a simple quiet space for relaxation.

Step 01 - Find your theme and style 

If you are looking for a quiet zone then you may look at colours and materials that are calming like, whites, natural finishes and pastel colours.

If this is to be your main entertainment area then you may want a theme that provokes conversation, brings back fond memories and lifts your mood. It may be a style, a colour, a selection of colours, shapes and patterns or something you have brought back from a travels. 

For me I have always fancied an outdoor space that reminds me of my travels through India and Turkey. This space would then work well for me as an eclectic mix of Indian fabrics, natural textures, Turkish and Moroccan lamps and decor mixed in with recycled timber furniture. This would finally give me a home for the my Istanbul Bazar Turkish lamps that have been sitting in a drawer for a few years.

I also love the happy and fun colour combination of pink and orange on a white background. This colour combination is quite bold and reminds me of the mass of strong colour combinations you find everyday in India. 

Step 02 - Collect inspiration and images to create a mood board or your ideas 

Now for the fun bit... collecting inspiration and images. 

A mood board is a collection of inspirational images to base your final selections around. 

I would start by adding a photo of your key furniture pieces or decor objects. Then start adding images for cushions, fabrics, seating, decor, furniture, drapes, glasses, tea lights, pendant lamps etc that suit your theme or style.

I would save your images in one place where you can see them all together like on Pinterest, or on a desktop file, or stuck to a pin board. The trick here is to see everything together so that you get a clear sense of what is working together and what is not.

I started with my travel theme and my favorite colours orange & pink below...

Step 03 - Source and create 

Once you have your mood board you would have a clear idea of knowing what you need to source and purchase. 

You may need to look at second hand shops, interior magazines and local decor shops for sourcing your ideas. Whenever you see something on the internet always keep a note of how much and from where. If you need furniture and cannot find exactly what you want, how about a search on Ebay or commissioning a local furniture maker to make something for you? 

If time is your issue then I would go to a couple of furniture retailers with a print out of your ideas and ask them if they have anything similar. 

If you can not find exactly what you are after then how about making your own? For example, I would like a cluster of outdoor cushions made with different Indian fabrics styles but in my colour combination of orange and pink. Not an easy task due to my colour restriction. I could be on the internet for months to find these already made, so instead I have been sourcing recycled cotton sari fabric from Delhi via Etsy with a view to make my own cushions.

Note: With outdoor spaces there are a few things to be mindful of...

1. Buy quality weatherproof outdoor furniture - do check your furniture is appropriate for use outdoors. Timber needs to be sealed as it can rot with moisture. 

If you are on the coast metal furniture may rust unless it is a high quality marine grade or powder coated. Check with the suppliers recommendations. Aluminum and cast iron are more durable outdoors. If you choose timber furniture then remember to apply seals, oils as requested by the manufacturer to help with moisture and UV protection. 

I would also look at covering or storing furniture if possible.

2. Buy well constructed furniture - Furniture outdoors have many more opportunities to fall apart due to weather exposure. Check under the furniture to see how it is constructed and if the construction can withstand rust and moisture.

3. Buy weatherproof cushions and fabrics - Fabrics outdoors are susceptible to mildew from moisture and discoloration from sunlight exposure. Do check that the fabric is appropriate for outdoor conditions with a light fast rating, UV treatment and that it has a resistance to mildew. Note the fabrics cleaning and maintenance regime. 

I would also have a space inside where cushions and fabrics can be stored when not in use. 

Projects like these do not happen overnight, but if you make a start collecting things bit by bit the final result will be rewarding. 

Have fun.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Recycled Kitchen Countertops Finishes :: Alternatives to Natural Stone

Technically the greenest kitchen counter top is the one you already have... However if yours is bright yellow (we still come across a few) or beyond repair or you are unable to source a recycled kitchen then you may need to look for a new kitchen joinery and a new countertop.

Firstly, your counter top material should be of good quality, durable, water resistant, non porous (this excludes most natural stones) and something that is a timeless design that you are happy to live with for many years. If your kitchen is a neutral design and of a good quality it is likely to be around for a while, thus reducing the need to consume more materials with buying a new kitchen.

I have selected a few alternative counter materials below. Some of these brands may not be available in your country but there may be other similar products available by local suppliers.

Recycled glass countertops - For an alternative to natural or quarried stone

Whilst granite and marble counter tops have a luxurious finish they are not very environmentally friendly as they are a quarried from natural stone. Nowadays engineered stone has become quite popular as a practical stone substitute but their manufacturing process is not so eco-friendly and their recycled component is fairly low.  However, some stone composite brands are now incorporating higher recycled content options. For an alternative to natural stone or non recycled composites try:

1. Squak Mountain Stone - A fibrous-cement material made from recyled paper, recycled glass and low-carbon cement.

2. Fuez - Made from 100% curbside recycled glass.

3. BottleStone - Made from 80% post-consumer curbside recycled container glass.

4. Vetrazzo - Made from cement and 85% recycled glass from curbside recycling programs. Some of the glass comes from  windows, dinnerware, stained glass, laboratory glass, building demolition glass, traffic lights and other unusual sources. They even provide a certificate of transformation that tells you where the glass came from!

5. Seeta by Torzo - A formaldehyde free composite made from sunflower seed hulls.

6. Caesarstone - On a few colours only, 42% recycled content from production off cuts.

Nowadays there is a wider selection of different surface materials that adopt recycled principals, FSC certified timer products and green building council certification. This is still a growing market a lot of green wash with some materials claiming that they are eco and green when they are not. If you give yourself some time to research thoroughly and check the products technical credentials then you should be able to find your perfect alternative counter finish.

Have fun.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Natural Paints & Low VOC Paints

image via Marston & Langinger
If you are moving into a new home, decorating your nursery, renovating your existing home or just renovating some old furniture there are a few things you should consider when it comes to paints and finishes.

Materials such as paints, stains, varnishes, carpets, new furniture and kitchen joinery contain compounds that "off-gas" over a period of time producing poor air quality in your home. 

A simple example of this is the odour from fresh paint. The smell will dissipate but the compounds will continue to "off-gas" for years after the products or materials are initially installed. For more detail see the image below from Green Painters.
for more details click here at Green Painters
Believe it or not some paints are healthier than others.

I often hear people say... “I love that new home smell” when their walls have been freshly painted or when their timber floor has been sanded, sealed and polished.

That “new smell” is likely to be the product of VOC off gassing and is actually toxic gases released into the air.

You may ask what is a VOC...? 
VOC is short for Volatile Organic Compound. If you would like to learn more about air quality & Volatile Organic Compounds click here.

Otherwise I will try to explain... Regular paints, the sort we normally buy from our local hardware store, are made from a cocktail of petrol based products and chemicals and can give off differing levels of toxic fumes called VOC’s into the environment that can cause symptoms such as breathing and respiratory irritations and headaches.

From the time when these paints and finishes are applied they continue to release their highest levels of emission over the first year and then continue to release lower emissions for years after the first application.

New environmental regulations and consumer demand have led to the availability of a range of healthier paint options from organic and natural paints to zero VOC and low VOC paint products.

If these healthier paints are used along with choosing low VOC finishes, low formaldehyde materials and natural furnishings a newly decorated room should have no smell or odour.

An example of a project where I have used a range of low VOC and natural paints is “Three Little girls and a Boy named Ted”


Natural Paints

  • Many of these ingredients are made from renewable resources and natural raw ingredients such as water, plant oils and resins, plant dyes, natural minerals such as clay, chalk, milk casein, bees' wax, earth and mineral dyes.
  • These are ideal for residential applications, or for use when chemical sensitivity is an issue or sustainability is the main focus.

Zero or Low VOC Paints
  • More of a traditional water based or acrylic paint product and ideal for residential and commercial applications.
  • These products can be quick drying, better to clean and have a higher UV resistance.
  • For chemical sensitivity use Zero or Low VOC paint (less than 1 gram/litre).

Some major paint manufacturers in Australia still use tints that contain high levels of VOC'S. With all paints you can ask for a product's technical data sheet that will explain the VOC level within the product.

With products that brand themselves as “Low VOC” on the tin it is still worth checking what the final VOC level is after a tint is added. When tints are added the VOC value may increase and therefore the original VOC level cannot be guaranteed.


for more details click here at Green Painters

Another thing to think about is that just because the paint is classed "low VOC" it does not mean that the product has a low environmental impact. The whole life cycle of the product needs to be considered:
  • Does the product come from a renewable resource? 
  • How much water is needed to make the product?
  • How much energy is used in producing the product?
  • Can the product be disposed of with a low environmental impact method?
  • Can the product or it's waste be recycled?
There are now eco labels that can help you identify how sustainable a product is. This labeling system will vary from country to country but shows if a product has passed a comprehensive sustainable life-cycle based assessment.

Here in Australia just look for the label below...


Green painters and decorators are now becoming much more popular. When selecting low VOC or natural paints I always try to use green painters and tradesmen that are familiar with using these natural products. The benefits of this are that:
  • Your painter is qualified and trained to apply these products.
  • Your painter uses waste-water minimization and disposes of painting waste correctly within EPA guidelines.
  • You know that your paint will not be swapped for a cheaper brand.

  1. Natural finishes, allergy safe & toxin-free.
  2. No fumes or smells - healthier on your family and colleagues.
  3. Sustainable life-cycle managed product.

As more products are available on the market more people are asking for natural alternatives to protect the health of their children and colleagues. By selecting products that are non-toxic and low VOC you are improving the quality of your air within your home and selecting a more sustainable product.

the beautiful Sistine Chapel - painted between 1508-1512
I hope this has explained a few things about low VOC and natural paint products. Natural paints are not a new thing, they have been around for many years and used to decorate the Sistine Chapel and all the stuccos and ceilings in Europe.

Have fun.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

How To Decorate :: The Modern Country Style

image via Blakes London
This decoration style reminds me of the my first property in England. Our first purchase was a 114 year old, Victorian semi-detached house, with two floors, small garden at the front and courtyard, herb garden, shed and grassed area at the rear.

Buying an old character house would be quite normal as a large number of English houses would be Victorian, Georgian or Farmhouses in style and would be of at least a 100 years old! 

These lovely old homes would be full of architectural character; timber sash windows, old fireplaces, cast iron radiators, roll top baths, traditional kitchens, high ceilings, parquet timber flooring, hand plastered walls, ornate cornices, ceiling roses and timber beam ceilings.

By introducing a mix of modern and vintage furniture into these character buildings you are able to mix the charm, history and the traditional quality of the past with modern day living in a relaxed modern country style.

How To Decorate The Modern Country Style
This Modern Country style combines antique finds and reclaimed furniture, with new modern and handmade furniture pieces, set against a backdrop of rustic timber, coir and stone floors, brick, plaster or old tiled walls and white washed or milk painted timber walls or furniture. 
I love those old leather rustic seats and aged timber flooring...
To this day I still prefer timber as my main floor finish rather than that of carpet or floor tile!

Use throws over seating to give you that country look with a mix of neutral and floral cushions for decoration.
Keep everything white but use storage, furniture and lighting as accents. 

Ahhh... I miss these old baths.
images above via Foster House 
Kitchens would have ‘Belfast’ styled ceramic sinks set into a timber or recon stone counter top, recycled timber dining table or chopping table, old style pantry cupboards and lots of open shelving for storage jars, best china, boxes and baskets. 

images above via Foster House 

For more on country style kitchen design ideas click here.

For decoration accents think natural fabrics, fine embroidered linens, checked, striped or soft floral vintage fabrics, cottons, flax and wool, fresh flowers, old and new handmade china pieces, covers for seats and patchwork throws. 
image via Foster House 
images via Pale & Interesting
For many more interior images and details, feel free to hop over and follow my Pinterest boards.

Have fun...

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Country Style Home :: Kitchen Sink Design Ideas

What do you think of when you think of a Country Style Home?

I always think of the kitchen first and those old country style kitchen sinks. I would love to own one of these but until then here's a few for inspiration.

Country Style Kitchen Sinks

There is such a wide selection of sinks to choose from these days but a style of sink that find it's self quite a home in any country style kitchen is a Farmhouse, Butler or Belfast sink.
Most of these type of sinks are made form fireclay ceramic and although not as robust as stainless steel they add that element of character to any country style kitchen.
Brick bond rectangle wall tiles look great above these sinks.
As do open shelving.
My humble apologies for not being able to credit the origin of these photos. If you are the owner one of these images please let me know and I will add your details to the image.

Have fun shopping for your perfect country style kitchen.