A Day in Taipei

IMG_1537

I might have mentioned before, probably several times, that I visit my family in Austria every year. It’s a looong flight to Europe from Australia, which can’t be done in one go. That is fortunate, because 20 hours straight on a plane beggars the imagination, even for Aussies who are used to long flights. If you want to live in Australia you have to accept that the rest of the world is a long way away and if you want to go there you will be on a plane for many hours.

I always try to organise a stopover, because even with a fuel stop, getting off one long haul flight and straight onto the next is the pits. Much better to get a few hours sleep in a real bed in between, and if there is time to do a little sightseeing, that is even better again. This time I went via Taipei and had 18 hours to play with, getting in at 5am and flying out just after 11pm. I don’t know about you, but an overnight flight always leaves me with a burning desire to sleep in a real bed, so I had booked into one of the airport hotels for a nap. The airport Novotel is only 4 stars, but I was left to wonder why, as I can’t see how a hotel could be much better. Everything looked very new, or extremely well maintained if it wasn’t, and apart from a luxurious bathroom and comfy bed, this is what awaited me when I got to my room.

20180905_061234.jpg

No getting lonely in your hotel room with that giant panda for company!

I always do my research when I visit a new place, and it is very easy to get around in Taipei by public transport. I avoid taxis in large Asian cities if there is a good metro system available, because many of these cities are notorious for traffic jams. In Beijing there are something like 30,000 new cars registered every year, and I have watched it getting steadily more and more congested over the 10 years I have been going there. I don’t know if Taipei is as bad, but I wasn’t going to risk it because my time was so limited. Fortunately the metro is very foreigner friendly with stations written in English as well as Chinese and maps everywhere. On top of that the Taiwanese are super friendly, you only need to look a bit confused for someone to come up and offer help in fluent English.

I had planned to visit three places in the time I had, the Yongle fabric market (what else?), the old town which was conveniently adjacent and Shilin night market. Night markets are a big thing in Taipei and the star attraction there is the street food. I have been to markets on the mainland, mostly Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, but the Shilin market really was about food, not the cheap and cheerful designer fakes that dominate the markets elsewhere. The idea is to walk around and pick up snacks to eat, and there were plenty of people doing just that. I didn’t see a lot of western faces, but I believe this market is very popular with mainland visitors, so definitely used to tourists.

I decided to be brave and try as much of the street food as I could manage. Below is a stall selling different types of octopus and squid. The fat things at the back looking like peeled bananas are actually octopus tentacles. They chop them into bite sized pieces and deep fry them, then put them into a cardboard cup for you to eat with a tooth pick. Utterly delicious!

I have a sweet tooth, so I enjoyed quite a few of the sweets on offer. Below is a lady who presses glutinous rice into the wooden mold she is holding in her left hand, to make the little cakes you can see on her tray. They are sprinkled with either ground peanut or ground black sesame. Very yummy!

I’m not that keen on meat, but there was plenty of it if you wanted it.

More meat in the process of being fried. Just look at the serious blow torch in the man’s hand.

I was impressed with the cleanliness everywhere, no litter, no flies, no scavenging animals. Many people handling food were wearing gloves, hats and even masks. Taipei is pretty developed and I was told the food in the markets was safe to eat. They weren’t kidding. I even had a papaya milk shake, which is probably more of a risk than I should have taken, but no ill effects.

The fabric market was less of a buzz, lots of poly and not much silk. Quilters would probably have enjoyed it a lot more than I did, I saw lots of very cute quilting fabrics and fat quarters of traditional Japanese fabrics. I managed to pick up some ultrasuede for a jacket, so it wasn’t a complete loss. A couple of friendly Chinese fellow sewists who spoke good English stopped for a chat, which was fun, and I also discovered that little girls in Taiwan seem to love ‘Frozen’ as much as my three year old granddaughter does.

I’m afraid I was too busy looking to take more photos of the fabric market, but there are probably quite a few online if you want to see. For my money, the tailors market in Shanghai is really the best place I have been to buy silks and linens if you get the chance. Lots of variety, great prices and easy to get to.

I didn’t spend nearly as much time at the Yongle fabric market as I had planned, which was probably a good thing because it made the rest of the day much less rushed. The market is right in the old quarter which is full of the most interesting traditional shops, so I had more time to explore and poke around. I was too busy looking there too to take photos, but I found a few online that will give you an idea of what it was like.

I have another day in Taipei on the way home and am really looking forward to it!

Advertisements

What I Have Learnt Installing an IKEA Kitchen

I thought I would write down my pearls of wisdom, such as they are, while they are still fresh in my mind, for others who are interested in doing their own kitchen reno. Mine has been thoroughly enjoyable and I wish you the very best of luck for yours.

First of all, I was impressed by the quality of the IKEA components. Everything had a nice solid feel and went together really well, without gaps or problems with the fit. The drawers, for instance, are absolutely sturdy and well made, and will easily take a load of heavy crockery or whatever else you are going to put in them. Ask me again after 10 years of wear, but so far the quality seems excellent. The design and engineering are really good, and a whole lot of thought has been put into every little aspect. Because so many other people have installed IKEA kitchens, there is a plethora of help and advice via google and YouTube to draw on. Make as much use of it as you can, it really makes the job easier.

Because we installed the kitchen ourselves, we could adjust our design as we went along and that was really valuable. Just be sure you keep all your dockets in a safe place, because if you need to exchange anything you will need them. We exchanged some cupboards for smaller and/or deeper, one door to a different colour because we were given the wrong one, changed the handles to a different style etc. Knowing where to find your dockets is also important if there is a problem with something later on. A friend of mine had her oven break down after a couple of years, and because she could not find her dockets she could not get it replaced for free. I put mine into an envelope and filed them in a safe place, so if I need to claim on my 25 year warranty I hopefully will be able to do so.

When your items are delivered, it is important to count the number of packages. I was not prepared and fluffed that rather miserably. In my defence, there were 130 flatpacks, plus handles, hinges and other small pieces, 189 individual items in all and they kept coming, some in bundles where you could not see how many there were. Once delivered and crammed into a small space they were impossible to count, so I just made sure all the expensive bits were there. Thankfully we were only short of two packets of legs, $10 in total, but that is just as well. You get 7 days to claim for missing items, and when I tried claiming a couple of days outside this period, because that was when I discovered the problem, they completely ignored me. I am not prepared to fuss over $10, but if it was more serious I don’t know how it would have gone. That said, I thought at various points that something was missing, only to find it later. Easy to do with 189 pieces.

Keep the paperwork the kitchen designer gives you that lists all the cupboards with their components. If you lose it, you are toast! Impossible to know what goes with what without it. I referred to it constantly for all sorts of things, like codes to find the right package in the pile or what type of hinges went with a particular door. It is your bible, keep it where you can find it!

Putting the cupboards together is easy and does not require any particular carpentry or DIY skills. But you need to read your instructions really carefully and completely. If you don’t understand something, take the time to research online and puzzle it out before you go ahead. Skimp on that and you will ultimately waste time having to undo and redo things. IKEA has tested and refined their instructions over many years, so if something seems silly, assume that you misunderstood, not that they are idiots. I know I sound as if I am on their payroll, but believe me, I’m just a satisfied customer.

Cutting the holes into the sink and benchtops is in a different league to putting together a cupboard. The former does require some skill and knowledge of tools, and a familiarity with carpentry. If you are a total novice, get someone else to do it or buy custom made. Or approach with extreme caution, read everything you can find online and watch all the videos. Be prepared for a challenging job.

All that said, don’t sweat the small stuff. We did make mistakes, but none of them mattered in the end. The small crack in the worktop behind the sink that gave me conniptions cannot be seen unless you specifically look for it, and the same is true for assorted other little oopsies. Probably the biggest mistake we made was the raw material we used for our display shelves. Too lazy to make the 3 hour round trip to IKEA, we bought melamine shelving from the local hardware store. When it was installed we were horrified to notice that the white of the melamine was quite different from the IKEA white. We fully intended to rectify this with proper IKEA shelves, but when we put all our display items on the shelves to see what it would look like, we were amazed to find that the colour difference disappeared. The eye was completely captured by what was ON the shelves, and the shelves themselves became background, totally unnoticed.

Timewise, while the cupboards go together quickly, the finishing takes much longer than you would expect. I would even go as far as to say that 90% of the work will be done in 50% of the total time. The last 10% will take the other half. So if you are planning to finish for Christmas Day, or that huge birthday bash for your darling spouse, be warned. On the other hand, a kitchen that is 90% finished will probably be fully functional, just not ready to be shown off in all its glory to your admiring guests.

So, can I recommend the experience? I can. Would I do it again? Absolutely!

 

An Eva in Winter

Our kitchen reno is dragging on. Three weeks ago it was 90% finished, but then we had a slew of social and work commitments: grandchildren’s birthdays, weekend away we promised my daughter’s family ages ago, unreasonable customers demanding things on weekends. Everything slowed to a crawl. Now we are 95% finished, but have come to a screeching halt over the colour of the walls. I bought the paint a while ago, feeling quite confident that I did not need to do any tests to get the right colour.

Well, that was a mistake. I picked quite a dark shade of gray, being a bit bored with light, wishy-washy colours. But gray can be tricky, with undertones of blue, green or yellow. The gray I chose is too blue, making my cupboard fronts look somewhat beige in comparison. Grrr! So back to the drawing board regarding the paint. I will need to get a few sample pots after all to get it right.

In the meantime I thought I might do a quick sewing post, to keep my blog warm so to speak. 🙂

I might have mentioned before that I have made one of my all-time favourite dresses, the Tessuti Eva, in a Ponte for colder weather, and I happened to have a few photos I took ages ago. Winter is just about finished in the Southern Hemisphere, but those of you living in the northern half of the planet will be starting to think of autumn sewing.

eva ponte5.jpg

The pattern is for a woven, but that only matters for the bodice. To adapt it to the knit, I merged the bodice of the Eva with the armscyes and long sleeves from my TNT t-shirt pattern, the Burda Lydia. The latter is unfortunately no longer free, but at $1.99 it is still a bargain, at least for those of us who don’t have access to the $1 sales of the Big 4. It is a great classic t-shirt pattern, very well drafted as you would expect from Burda.

IMG_1485.PNG

Beware that Ponte is heavy, there is a lot of fabric in the skirt and this stretches the bodice downwards. That makes it especially important to shorten the bodice if you are not tall, or the proportions will be off. I am 161cm and take 5cm off the bottom of the bodice if I am using heavy, stretchy fabrics, which is about right for me. Because the bottom of the bodice is curved this also takes a few cm off the circumference and you need to adjust the top of the skirt accordingly.

I don’t adjust the skirt part for my height, or lack thereof, as I quite like the finished length.

eva ponte3eva ponte4eva ponte

The Accidental Renovation Part 5: Making a Splash

The splashback caused me quite a bit of angst and indecision. I would have liked glass or perspex, but that turned out to be rather exy, and we were going for a budget kitchen, not an all-singing-all-dancing extravaganza. I toyed with the idea of doing a blue/green/grey watercolour wash like I do on my silks, or even a block print, then put clear perspex over the top. But it got too complicated, the rest of the family thought it would look too hippie,  and anyway, even clear perspex spec’d for behind a stove is still expensive. So in the end I settled for the nearest thing, the IKEA Lysekil laminate panels.

IMG_1450.JPG

These are thin melamine, double sided, and of course I chose the drama side. Cheap and cheerful, and easily cut to size DIY, they are a very cost effective solution. We put up several of the panels yesterday, and I love the look! The only thing that made me hesitate is that the distinctive design immediately identifies an IKEA kitchen, I would have liked to be a bit coy about the low cost of my wonderful new culinary installation, but that horse has possibly bolted anyway, as the handles we chose are very IKEA looking too.

We only got to work for one day this weekend, as we had friends down from Townsville. They left early Sunday morning and we started around 11 after taking them to the airport. Putting in the exhaust took a fair chunk of the day, and a few fiddly bits like the under-cupboard lights for the benchtops and finally the panels accounted for the rest.

Mr Rivergum at work

20180722_133531.jpg

Mr Rivergum fending off the paparazzi

20180722_133526.jpg

It has been almost exactly a month now since the flatpacks were delivered and all the cupboards have been installed, the drawers and shelves are in and the doors on. We are avoiding cutting in the hob after our experience with the sink, but that will be done next weekend. I am starting to realise how much easier the sink would have been if we had followed the instructions, instead of trying to wing it. When I saw Mr Rivergum use the template provided to cut out for the exhaust, I happened to comment what a shame it was there had been no template for the sink. He looked a bit sheepish. Apparently it had been tossed with the packaging. Grr!

Now that some of the backsplash is in, it is getting really hard to leave the protective plastic on the cupboard fronts. For a start the bright blue is a bit jarring with the panel colours. I am dying to see what it will look like with the light grey, so I have doctored this photo in Photoshop. But is it really what the colour will look like when the plastic is off? Patience is a virtue, but it can be tough!

20180723_083736.jpg

Not much sewing happening here, needless to say, but I did make a jacket just before we embarked on the kitchen, which I have not blogged about yet because blogging about the kitchen is more exciting. I have also started a Marcy Tilton jacket, a very simple design that ought to be a quick sew, but with a couple of seams sewn per weekend it is taking its sweet time. And now I am prevaricating whether I should do a lining.

It is only 5 weeks or so before I am off to see my family in Austria again, and kitchen or not, getting my wardrobe organised is starting to figure large on my mental horizon. So if you are missing the sewing posts, there will be more of them soon!

The Accidental Renovation Part 5 Getting to the Fun Part

We are starting to put stuff back into the cupboards. Deciding where everything is going to go and finding that there is room to spare is such fun! Of course we are jumping the gun again, you are probably supposed to finish the whole kitchen before you put your things away, but it’s impossible to resist. I am also trying to do a Mari Kondo, but I have so much storage space now that I can afford to hang onto a few things that don’t spark any joy but may come in handy one day. — Spoken like a true hoarder.   🙂

Mr Rivergum, that prince amongst husbands, has installed my sink and it is now fully operational! I can’t tell you how wonderful it is for normal standards of domestic hygiene to be reinstated because I don’t have to run to the laundry to rinse every little teaspoon. And I now have this uber-sexy tap that has a hose attachment so I can spray water wherever I want. Well, around the sink anyway.

IMG_1436

So here is my new sink, with a very attractive pile of empty cardboard from the flatpacks as a backdrop outside the window.  🙂

20180718_074536.jpg

 

Last weekend we spent a good chunk of Saturday picknicking with family, but we still managed to make a lot of progress. The hallway wardrobes now have doors and are finished except for the handles.

20180717_192249

In the kitchen we fixed almost all the cabinets to the wall rails, and clamped and screwed the lower ones together. The wall cupboards are in place, but the middle one still needs to come out again to have the exhaust fitted. In the meantime it has become a spot for a few things Mr Rivergum likes to have to hand.   🙂

top cupboards.jpg

We built and installed all the drawers and put on most of the doors. Last night we installed the carousel in one of the corner units and put the double hinged door on. The sink cupboard now has two joined drawer fronts that pull out the single drawer, with the garbage and recycling bins behind it. It even has handles!

20180718_074520.jpg

20180717_192122.jpg

The best things is that everything works, everything fits and it perfectly aligned. That is what makes this reno so enormously enjoyable, and it is very much due to the clever engineering that has gone into these cabinets.

20180717_192115.jpg

Most things are perfect out of the box, but if they aren’t there are inbuilt adjustments. All the hinges and draw fronts have screws that allow 3-way adjustments: in-out, right-left and up-down.

IMG_1446

I know this is pathetic and I should get a life, but I am totally blown away by this ingenuousness. Mostly because I am very much aware how much the alignment matters in the final look of the kitchen and if it is even a little bit off it will look shoddy. So when the joined drawer fronts in the sink cabinet stuck out a bit at one side and also did not line up perfectly parallel with the dishwasher next door, Mr Rivergum and myself were really worried. But after a minute’s search online we found the answer (thank you, YouTube!), that all we had to do is adjust some screws in the side of the drawer mechanism to fix it. How good is that! It is probably somewhere in the instructions too, but YouTube and other online resources have been an invaluable help with this project. IKEA’s pictograms are ok, but there is nothing like being able to see something in a video or in real photos to help you when you are stuck.

IMG_1447.PNG

That said, not everything turned out perfect. Mr Rivergum’s DIY building and carpentry skills have been immensely helpful with this kitchen build, but sometimes a bit of extra research can make life so much easier. We were nervous about drilling the hole in the sink for the tap, so we researched it carefully and it went without a hitch. But when it came to cutting the hole in the benchtops for the sink it seemed pretty straightforward, so we didn’t bother to look for advice online. We did get it done ok, but we rushed because it was getting late and did not stop to work out how to attach the reinforcement rails underneath. Bad mistake, because the hole is large and weakens the long and heavy benchtop, so when we wrestled it into place, with the sink and big tap in a confined space, we managed to produce a hairline crack. Thankfully it is small and in a spot where it won’t be visible, but it still upset us. It will need to be sealed so water doesn’t get in and this seal might wear over time, causing the chipboard to swell. The benchtop is only $90 and we could replace it, but decided to leave it for now because I hate waste and throwing out an otherwise good benchtop that can be repaired does not sit easily with me. Mr Rivergum is not that keen on having to do the work all over again either, so we will chalk it up to experience and try to learn from our mistake when we cut the hole for the hob.

Here are some pictures of what the kitchen looks like now, still with the protective blue covers and with lots of stuff on the benchtops still waiting to be put away. That kitchen is being used! I promise I will tidy up for the big reveal photo shoot at the end.  🙂

20180717_192222

The dishwasher is not in properly yet, and I have a towel on top to prevent steam getting to the underside of the benchtop when it is opened. This is not a permanent feature, there is a filler piece waiting to be fitted.

20180717_192035

Mr Rivergum fleeing the scene because I am taking photos.

20180717_192229.jpg

 

There is no denying that painting the walls would have been good before installing the cupboards, but who wants to do boring stuff when there are exciting flatpacks to be installed. The backsplash will cover a lot of it and painters tape will be our best friend for the rest. I am picking the backsplash up today!

Mr Rivergum is planning to install lights behind a white perspex cover to infill between the top of the wall cupboards and the ceiling. This should produce a nice soft light to wash across the ceiling, but we’d better patch and paint the bits that won’t be hidden behind the perspex!

20180717_192144

The oven is in, but not yet connected. The sparkie has to come back because we didn’t realise that we needed 30 amps for the induction cooktop, not 15. So he will connect it all up once the cooktop is finally in. The oven cabinet was a bit of a challenge too, to get everything to fit neatly.  Once we had found the right page in the instructions it was easy, but trying to wing it first cost us a bit of time and frustration.

The Accidental Renovation Part 4 The Return of The Dishwasher

Oh, how I love thee, dishwasher, let me count the ways!

Nobody could ever describe me as a neat freak, creative chaos is more my thing, but everyone has their limits. Dirty dishes on top of all the other mess are just about mine. So imagine the utter blissful bliss of Mr Rivergum heaving the dishwasher into position, connection the pipes, plugging it in, looking deeply into my eyes and murmuring into my ear what I have longed to hear for an eternity: “Go ahead!”

And they say romance is dead!

20180708_193953.jpg

The quiet burbling sound of the dishwasher busily doing its thing is a heavenly accompaniment to the noise of hammering and electric screwdriving that is punctuating our evenings at the moment. The cupboards are fun to put together, but there are 20 of them, not to mention the 17 drawers and other assorted bits. We have just finished the third weekend of our reno. So far we have assembled all the base cupboards, high cupboards, some of the top cupboards and several of the drawers. That has made a dent in the flatpack pile, but it isn’t gone. If you are wondering at the different shades of blue on some of the cupboard fronts, they are a protective film. We are leaving it on for now, partly to stop scratches while we are working and partly for the big reveal at the end.

Mr Rivergum has installed the rails for the top cupboards and we have hung a couple. We would have hung the lot, except one of them turned out to be a base cabinet, same measurements but no top because base cabinets are covered by the benchtops. So that has to go back, along with the cupboards over the fridge, which are too high, now that we decided to make the top cupboards lower so they won’t cause grief with the cornice. We forgot that they all needed to be the same height. Oops.

This is one of the nice things about DIY, you can change your mind and adjust your ideas as you go along. Exchanging items seems to be no problem, which is great.

20180708_165127

But two wall cupboards are up, a place to put things were they won’t be moved all the time!! It is hard to appreciate fully how wonderful this is, unless you have spent the last couple of weeks constantly looking for things because they are no longer where they were the last time you used them. Want a cup of tea? First hunt for the kettle, the tea, a power point, cups, a spoon, etc etc? You get the idea.

But the absolute highlight of the weekend have been the wardrobes in the hallway. They are in, including the shelves!

20180708_194024

The doors will have to wait until they are no longer in danger of being damaged, as large and heavy objects are carried through in the direction of the kitchen, but I can already put stuff away. Just have a look at our shoes, no longer cluttering up the entrance but neatly put away, behind closed doors eventually, and best of all, there even is lots of room left. How good is that!

 

20180708_194253.jpg

 

 

The Accidental Renovation Part 3 Walled In!

After the old kitchen cupboards had been removed and the floor was done, it was time to attend to the walls. Originally the kitchen had half-height part walls on two sides, to the lounge room and to the hallway going from the front door into the house. The latter was not a great idea, especially since the entry to the kitchen was right where you walked in the front door.

Mr Rivergum had demolished both part walls. The kitchen would now be accessed from the lounge room and be completely closed off from the entry hallway. The drawing below shows the hallway on the right, with the entry door at the top. The two ‘doors’ at the bottom of the drawing are actually openings, leading to the lounge room.

IMG_1427.PNG

This necessitated a new stud wall to be constructed between kitchen and hallway, which would support a bank of floor-to-ceiling storage cupboards on the hallway side and the kitchen cupboards on the other.

That was the easy part. Mr Rivergum has good DIY building skills and the wall was soon up. What was a much bigger headache were the old splashback tiles which had been continued all the way to the ceiling as a back to the top cupboards.

20180629_071550

 

 

IMG_1948.jpg

Those tiles weren’t going to come off easily! Mr Rivergum said he had two choices, pull out the tiles together with the plasterboard they were permanently stuck to, or put a new layer of plasterboard over the top. The latter was less work, not to mention the dust and rubble that would be created by the former. The kitchen would shrink by 1cm in all directions, which would be neither here nor there, and because of the kitchen cupboards the extra layer would not create any finishing issues either at the top or at the bottom of the walls. All the power points and light switches would have to be redone either way.

A bit of a no-brainer, and we will now have extra thick walls and a hermetically sealed kitchen. Forget it, mice, rats, cockroaches and ants, you aren’t going to find a way in through that lot!

So this weekend we bought the materials and constructed the stud wall, but then could go no further because we realised that getting the rest of the plasterboard installed would have to wait until after the electrician had worked his magic. So to forestall precious weekend time wasted, we jumped the gun and put together all the carcasses for the bottom and high cupboards. It will make installing the remaining large sheets of plasterboard a lot more awkward, but on the upside we can try out how it all fits. This yielded an unexpected bonus: because I had been very conservative when planning how many cupboards I could fit in, and there was wriggle room deciding where exactly we placed the new wall, I realised that if I stole 5cm out of the hallway, I could fit in an additional 20cm pull-out cupboard next to the dishwasher. Score! I always wanted one of those. It will only pull out as far as the handle of the corner unit it butts onto, but that is almost all the way. A girl has to be lucky sometimes!

IMG_1429

Putting the cupboards together is fun. After a bit of head scratching and brow wrinkling getting used to the IKEA modus operandi, we can now put a carcass or drawer together in less than half an hour. You’ve got to love that! Of course there are the hinges, doors and handles to go, but even though that will be a bit more fiddly, compared to the building work the cupboards are so much easier!

The Accidental Renovation Part 2 Getting Floored

I have a strange fascination with flatpack. I love the puzzle. The way it all resolves itself to go together nicely to create this shiny new piece of furniture gives me a deep feeling of satisfaction. Bit like sewing really.

So the 130 pieces of flatpack on my back veranda were a special kind of torture because of one giant problem: the floor had to be layed first. Mr Rivergum had done a stirling job getting rid of the old tiles (some of which required a mini jackhammer, covering the mess in my house with a nice even layer of dust). But while the new tiles weren’t expensive, the quotes for laying them most certainly were. The gentlemen doing this kind of work must all get around in their Porsches on the weekend, judging by the kind of money they are charging, tax free from what I can tell.

We were outraged, upwards of 2k for a little bit of floor? One chap wanted 2.5, claiming the work would take him 4-5 days. We thought that hilarious.

So we would do it ourselves. How hard could it be? The tiles are huge, consequently there aren’t many of them to lay, you put them down on a bed of cement, one after the other, then wipe the grout into the spaces in between with a sponge. Job done!

There are lots of videos on YouTube showing you how to lay your tiles, but let me tell you, the time-lapse used in those videos is quite deceiving! Laying our own floor has given me a whole new appreciation of tiling. It is really hard work, not at all kind to your knees and your back. Good luck to the tradies, they probably need all that money they are charging for regular knee replacements and back operations.

But while it gives your back and leg muscles a workout, it isn’t really very difficult. You get lots of help these days, with little bits of plastic to keep your spaces even between the tiles, and a nifty clip and wedge system to make all the tiles nice and level on the slightly uneven surface of a previously tiled floor.

IMG_1424

It did take us more than 5 days, a week in fact. Because it was DIY in our own home, we could take it easy and work in stages in the evenings, an hour or two at a time. This made it much less physically demanding than doing it solidly for a whole day, like a tradie would have to do.

20180624_102120

Doing it ourselves was not only cheaper, but also tremendously rewarding, because I am so happy with the result. If the floor had tuned out badly it would have been a much less positive experience. I wish I could show you now a beautifully washed pristine floor, but there is no point washing it just yet. We can’t grout anyway because we need to be able to walk on the floor to do work on the walls over the next few days, so this work-in-progress pic will have to do for now.

20180629_082905

After the walls are done we can finally get stuck into the flatpack pile properly, but as an hors d’oeuvre, after a fair chunk of the floor was good to walk on, we did put together a couple of the base cabinets to support a worktop, still in its protective cardboard cover.

20180626_193032

We now have a kitchen surface! After one take-away dinner we decided we really needed somewhere to put together our own meals, even if they came out of the freezer. Weeks on take-away are just too horrible to contemplate. Yay for a kettle, a toaster and a chopping board!

20180626_193204

The Accidental Renovation Part 1 How to Get a New Stove

So my stove was cr*p. The geriatric oven could just about manage a pot roast, but otherwise even simple stuff such as baking nicely browned potatoes or pumpkin? More like dry boiling them in their skins.

The hotplates didn’t work very well either, at least one of them was either heating full blast or not at all, no matter what setting it was on.

I needed a new stove. That’s how it started.

A months later, my kitchen has been demolished and my whole house is in an uproar, with stuff absolutely everywhere. Tasteful raw chip board floors. The only functional living spaces left are our bed and a couch, with sight line to the TV as a bonus. Otherwise every bit of floor space or surface is occupied with the former contents of all our cupboards, book shelves and other assorted furniture. To top it off, there are 130 packages of my new flat pack kitchen cluttering up my back patio.

How did this happen? Well, be warned, once you start looking at all those glossy new kitchens it is hard to draw the line where to stop.

When we bought this house a couple of years ago, we always planned a major renovation, or possibly demolish and start again. But after drawing up the plans and watching a gazillion ‘Grand Design’ episodes we kept putting it off, deciding that we could not cope with managing our business, which was at a complicated growth stage, and a house build as well. So we put up with a 30 year old kitchen, inadequate storage and horrible carpet. For 3 years.

Until we cracked.

The deal was that I was getting a new stove and Mr Rivergum was getting a new floor in the living room and hallway. But, oh how easy it is to get carried away!

Letting yourself think about home improvements is a very slippery slope, so now I am getting a new kitchen, a bank of wardrobes for storage in the hallway, new floating wooden floors throughout, and a walk-in storage room, taking the floor space from part of the laundry and a small access corridor to our toilet, which is separate from the bathroom.

Just a second, don’t we still need to get to the toilet??? No problem! Just relocate the vanity in the bathroom to make room for a direct doorway straight from there.

That is a lot of work on a house we might possibly demolish down the track, or at least reconfigure again with a major reno. Wasteful, so very probably not all that smart. But the labour involved is by far the greater part of the expense, and we have no trouble justifying our extravagance by intending to do all the work ourselves. Ahem, in the evenings and on the weekends.

— Come on, it will be fun! And we will be a whole lot more comfortable afterwards. When we retire in a few years we will tackle the rebuild or whatever. Or, having made the improvements, we will sell and buy something else.

See how easy it is to talk yourself into something you really want to do? So here we are, a month later, surrounded by utter chaos, aiming for the stars and hoping to clear the hedge.

We were sure from the beginning that a custom built kitchen was out of the question. Too expensive to have done, and beyond our skills or time available to do properly ourselves. So it was always going to be a flat pack number. Elsewhere there might be more choice, but Australia is a small market and there is either Bunnings or IKEA. Some independent businesses also do flat pack, and there are direct importers from China on eBay etc, but we considered this a bit more risky than buying from an established brand with a track record and a local presence.

I had a look online to check out the reviews. There were quite a few negative comments about the quality of the board used in the carcasses of the Bunnings Kaboodle kitchens. IKEA had lots of complaints about installers and delays in delivery etc, but nobody had a bad word to say about the quality of their kitchens.

We really liked their designs and interior fittings when we looked at them in the store. Then they had a 25 year warranty compared to Kaboodle’s 10 years, we could get the light grey colour we wanted and hallelujah! — they were actually cheaper! That clinched it, IKEA it was.

I am really big on planning, so I appreciated being able to do that myself using their online 3D planning software. What I appreciated much less was that, even though it is browser based, it needed a proper PC or laptop to run, and could not be used on my iPad. Very inconvenient, when I mostly use an iPad at home like a lot of people, and surprising that such a big company would ignore this in this day and age. Maybe because iPads are not Swedish? Just kidding, but get with it IKEA!

 

 

That said, the software worked really well and I soon had my kitchen planned out. Next was a trip to the store, to get their their human kitchen planners to check it all and get their expert advice on a few things I was not sure about.

Big tip: measure, measure and measure your space again! Then double check your measurements! Then check with the in-store kitchen expert what extra few cm more you might need for cover panels and for doors/drawers to open properly in corners. You don’t want any nasty surprises!

We chose the Ringhult light grey glossy fronts for the bottom cupboards and the white version for the top. As many drawers as possible and a good balance between bench space and high cupboards for maximum storage.

IMG_1410.PNG

As for the benchtops, I know stone is all the rage, but we wanted a budget kitchen. In any case, though stone is undoubtably beautiful, it is a bit of a primadonna and not as easy care as laminate. After a brief flirtation with natural wood, which I have always loved, we decided that the maintenance required was too off-putting. And even though I have always hated laminate that pretends to be stone or wood, in the end we settled on wood look-alike laminate benchtops. After scouring Pinterest for pictures of IKEA kitchens, we decided that wood benchtops looked so much better than the grey concrete I had originally picked, and after scrutinising them in the flesh I decided that they did not have the visually offensive fake look I had feared. IKEA seems to fake it so much better! The laminate actually has a pleasing natural looking texture, not just a printed wood grain picture, and the colours are really good. So for us, light oak laminate it is.

IMG_1411.PNG

I have to say, the process of buying the gazillion individual pieces that comprise my kitchen was surprisingly easy. After finalising the design on the computer, the kitchen designer will print out a list for you of everything you need. It is long! You can pick it all out yourself from the racks and put it in your car, but I wouldn’t recommend it. If you have it delivered, everything is picked for you and all you have to do is pay with your printed list at the checkout. Then it will all turn up on your doorsteep a few days later. There is a flat fee, which was very reasonable, considering it was well over 1 tonne of weight, 130 individual packages, and everything had to be carried up a steep driveway and another 35 steps to our house on the high side of a hill. The two guys delivering weren’t thrilled, but they did it cheerfully, and were even polite enough to initially refuse my tip. I insisted. 🙂

Not much sewing will be happening here in the next few weeks, as we are installing our kitchen, but plenty of blogging about the process. So if you are interested, watch this space!