Wow.  It’s been absolutely ages since I updated this blog.  Home-in-the-Making is ‘made’ but, as any homeowner knows, homes are never ‘finished.’  There’s still quite a lot going on here and a few things still have to happen.

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I asked my local street corner ‘Beader’ to make little yellow chickens.  I think I got ducklings instead.

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So this is a quick update.  As usual in Johannesburg at this time of year, there is a distinctly autumnal feel in the air.  As recently as last week though, we were still having thunderstorms and heavy rain and the drought in this part of the country has been well and truly broken.  After just one storm on Friday, I measured 20ml of rain.

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It’s fairly late in the year for this sort of rainfall and our water storage tanks are brimful.  This is reassuring for the dry winter months ahead.  Should we have any inexplicable water cuts, we’ll be covered.

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Our house seems to have settled into its surroundings now.

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Autumn is creeping into our park.

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Guest Suite Over the Garage

My next project is to finish decorating and furnishing the guest suite over the garage.  These rooms have a separate entrance and would only be used to accommodate visiting friends if the main house were full.  Despite the mixed reactions I have had from friends on the subject, I’m thinking of trying this out on Airbnb when it’s complete.

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Galley Kitchen in Open Plan Living Area.

This is how the guest suite looks today.  You can see two perspectives of the living room and three of the bedroom, one showing the sliding door into the bathroom.

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Barn slider in guest suite.

Quite a lot needs to happen in this space before I can consider renting it out.  Let’s see how it will turn out. And in the meantime, Daisy wishes you all a Very Happy Easter.

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I know D’Arcy and I share some readers but I hope some of ‘my’ followers will enjoy this post about Seattle’s Floating Home community as much as I did.

Our Bungalow's 2nd Century

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that Eric and I enjoy home design tours. We’ve done bungalow tours, modern home tours, and two years ago, a floating homes tour. Ever since then, I’ve eagerly looked forward to the next time we could come aboard Seattle’s iconic floating homes. I thought that because I’d already blogged about this tour, I’d skip writing about it this time … but it was such a lovely day and such an eclectic collection of homes, I can’t help myself.

The tour was sponsored by the Seattle Floating Homes Association. This year, we were asked not to take photos inside any of the homes, which I can understand. Still, I managed to sneak a couple, and I’ve borrowed a few from The Seattle Times. This post will be more of a look at the floating home community and lifestyle rather…

View original post 1,226 more words

Spring has a way of approaching Johannesburg tentatively.  Much like many first-time visitors to this city.  It is usually a case of two steps forward and then a big step back which is why I only took the cover off my little camellHia bush two days ago, although the temperatures haven’t been much below 25 during the day for the past two weeks.

The first official day of spring in the southern hemisphere being today, it feels like a good time to introduce you to something special in my garden:  See if you can spot the difference between the two photos below:  This one…

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I’ve always had a thing for swings.  Old school friends tell me that when I was a little girl I was a hopeless party guest if there was a swing anywhere in sight.  I would plant myself on it and refuse to participate in any party games.  Not much has changed.  If I see a swing that’s fit for grown-ups, I’m on it.

So I was absolutely delighted to receive a very heavy Xmas present from my sister in England last December and to find inside it, a very special swing.  It came complete with ropes and has a solid oak, inscribed seat.

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Needless to say, it was quite a substantial addition to my luggage on the flight home but it was well worth the extra bag required.

There was much debate about where to position it in such a small garden and in the end I decided it should line up with the bay window.  It works this way from both inside and out:

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I swing on it almost every day and when my sister came to visit in March, she swung on it too…

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I plan to grow a climber over the frame but am still trying to decide what will do best.  It is a very sunny, hot position for most of the day.

Friends and family who know about this particular penchant of mine, have taken to sending me photos of beautiful swings in other parts of the world.  My daughter took the photo below at a villa in Tuscany where she did a cooking course at Tuscookany in June.

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Now I’d like to go there too…

Other variations of  swings that have found their way into this house are this basket one which lives on the upstairs veranda.  With its lovely views over the park, it is my favourite afternoon tea spot….

And this painting by Abe Opperman who features swings in much of his work…

 

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And finally, being Spring Day, it seems like an appropriate time to look back on what the garden looked like a year ago on the 28th of August, 2015.

 

And today, it looks like this:

A year ago the driveway looked like this:

And today it looks like this:

So it does seem as though some progress has been made.

The animals all seem happy too…

I’ve developed a passion for secret gardens; hidden-away gardens and courtyards.  Having downsized from a property of just under 4000 square metres to one of just over 800, I have a newfound respect for gardeners who can turn a small area into an enticing, exciting, verdant space.  It’s reasonably easy to make a big gardens with huge trees and broad flower beds filled with shrubs, perennials and annuals look impressive.  It takes talent and imagination to make a small garden interesting.

My sister in law has just that talent.  She and my brother live in a townhouse in Cape Town.  Their complex is on the lower slopes of Table Mountain, below the cable station and very close to the city.  Looking at the building from the outside, you’d never guess  that one of the units has a magical garden hidden behind it.

As you walk in the front door of their home, your eye is immediately drawn to the lush, green oasis beyond the French door leading out of their living room.  Their garden is approximately 7 by 10 metres big and all you want to do is go outside:

 

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An old bathtub makes a perfect herb garden.

You’ve got to love the luxuriant tresses of the guy below:

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Pam made the pottery planter herself.

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That’s a cast iron cat silhouette on the wall above.

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An old Xhosa corn grinding stone finds new purpose as a birdbath.

Garden shed in Bridal gear

A Tiny Garden Shed hides beneath Star Jasmine.

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Baby Robins in Ivy on the Garden Wall.  

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Magnificent Clivia

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A Cape Robin Finds Cheese on the Feeder.

 

Each time I visit Cape Town, I look forward to visiting this enchanting garden.   It’s hard to believe that so much magic has been conjured out of approximately 7X10 metres.

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When it comes to gardens, my sister-in-law has made something very clear:  Paradise can come in quite a small package.

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(Some of the photographs in this post were taken by my sister-in-law, Pam Parkin.)

 

The London Underground is not exactly a space where you’d expect to find inspiration but it is where I rediscovered the magic of poetry two years ago.  I’m not sure whether this post belongs on Home-in-the-Making or elsewhere, but since it ends up in my garden, I’ve decided to include it here.

Subways and crowded carriages are not my favourite places and until overcoming a lifelong struggle with claustrophobia a few years ago, I almost never used them. Consequently, to suddenly catch sight of a breathtaking line of poetry printed inside a carriage rattling far below London was an unexpectedly lovely experience, to say the least. In that instance, I was reminded of “how extraordinary it is that poetry can, over the course of one sentence, flood your circuit board with loss, or anger, or love” (The Independent) and to that quote I would like to add ‘joy’.

“The swallow are italic again”.  The brilliant imagery of that line held me spellbound.  On closer inspection I realised that this was not random graffiti, but a whole poem, printed on the inside of the carriage along with several others.  In fact, the inside of that particular carriage seemed quite festooned with poetry.

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I made a mental note of the poet, Owen Sheers, googled him the minute I got home and then set out for the nearest bookshop.  So far, I’ve not been able to find an anthology of Owen Sheers’ poems, but I did find a book titled “Poems on the Underground” edited by Gerard Benson, Judith Chernaik and Cicely Herbert and I bought it immediately.

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As you can see, it is already quite well worn.

To quote from the foreword of the book, “Poems on the Underground started life in January 1986 as an experiment by three friends, lovers of poetry, who persuaded London Underground to post a few poems in its trains.” I for one now look for poetry every time I board the tube and am disappointed when I don’t find it.  I wish all the carriages could become travelling poetry books.

“Swallows”, I’d decided, needed to find a place in my new home and then on reading “Poems on the Underground” from cover to cover, I came across another poem I couldn’t live without either.

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Returning to South Africa, I set about looking for someone who would be able to transcribe these two poems onto stone for me and, thanks to Google once more, I found just the perfect person in a small, southern coast village of Still Bay (or Stilbaai as it is more commonly referred to by South Africans.)

Si’mon Huber  (http://www.stone2stone.co.za) turned out to be exactly who I was looking for and in a matter of weeks, with only email correspondence between us, he had carved the first verse of ‘Swallows’ and the whole of ‘Tin Roof’ onto beautiful sandstone blocks and had them couriered to me in Johannesburg.  What a find!  It is not often that one orders something sight unseen and when the finished product arrives it actually exceeds one’s  expectations. While I’d have loved to have all three verses of ‘Swallows’ in the garden, I felt I needed to exercise some self-restraint so have limited myself to just the first verse.  It was, after all, that first line that had so captured my imagination.

The poems are now comfortably settled; one outside the front door and one in the front garden.

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With one of the criteria given to our architect being that our house have an ‘iron roof’, this poem, ‘Tin Roof’, has special resonance.

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Close up.

Once “Swallows” was in place, I felt it might benefit from some ‘illustration’.

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While developing this garden, I have rather fallen in love with a shop in our neighbouring suburb of Greenside.  Tucked down a little panhandle and quite difficult to find, is Garden Bleu. (http://www.gardenbleu.co.za)  It is a treasure trove of garden ornamentation and is becoming a regular haunt.

When I realised that most of their products are locally manufactured, I asked Sascha – who manages the Greenside branch – if she thought they could make a few swallows for me to mount on the wall.  She asked me to find a few diagrams on the internet to use as ‘patterns’ which I did and a few weeks ago I collected seven beautiful swallow silhouettes for the wall.

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I had asked for them to be made with short ‘posts’ which could be bolted into the wall so that the swallows would stand proud of the wall itself.  This means that at different times of the day, they cast beautiful shadows of themselves against the wall.  Bernard, our architect, taught me about shadow lines.  Had I not gleaned that from him I would have probably asked for shapes that could be stuck straight onto the wall and I don’t think they would have been as effective

Sascha told me that she’d had a few extra swallows made alongside mine and that they’d already been sold.  It’s very refreshing to have found such an enthusiastic young business where anything seems possible. And, as with the sandstone carvings, the finished swallows were lovelier than I’d imagined.  Before our big ‘downsizing’ exercise last year, I never knew that having a small garden could be so much fun.

 

I had planned to write a garden update this morning but will postpone that until today’s dust has settled.  This post is coming to you live from my sofa and I am writing it with the sound of a burglar alarm ringing in my ears – and no doubt in the ears of most of my neighbours.

Parkhurst properties tend to be narrow with not much space between homes.  This means that trees planted on the boundary lines often encroach into neighbouring properties.  In this country, we are allowed to trim branches that overhang our fences and interfere with our roofs or gardens.

So on Friday morning I sent text messages to both my left and right neighbours, letting them know that we were expecting tree fellers here today to cut back branches on our boundary.

This is what I said:

“Hi there.  Just want to let you both know that we’re expecting tree people on Monday, hopefully in the morning.  They will be cutting back branches that are over our walls/touching our roof.  I’d very  much appreciate it if you’d switch off your electric fences while they’re working. Thanks. Jacqui”

I had a perfectly polite and co-operative response from my neighbour on the right while neighbour on the left took a different approach.  While I’m sorely tempted to include her message here, I’m not in the habit of peppering either my speech or writing with four letter words, and I won’t start now.  Needless to say, I did not take the trouble to reply and the tree men arrived, as arranged, about half an hour ago.

It would seem that we’re never going to be forgiven for building this house and changing this…

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View from the street

to this….

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I shared the message with Julian of Treeworks so he knew what to expect.  The electric fence had of course not been turned off so the alarm goes off each time the smallest branch lands on it and I suspect her armed response company must be calling her every five minutes.  This also means that the tree fellers are unable to pick up any debris that might have fallen into her garden and they have had to access all the trees from my side.  Ironically the trees are all either privets or syringa trees and if I’m not mistaken, both are regarded as ‘alien invaders’ in this country.

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Can you spot the man high up in the Syringa tree? He has carefully avoided the live electric fencing.

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Fellow workers looking on.  The white post to the right is part of the electric fence.  The man on the wall is standing on the wall we had to build a foot into our property, having been prevented by our neighbour from building on the common boundary.

This type of attitude is a mystery to me. There is no concern whatsoever shown for the men who are working around and above the live wires of the electric fence.  I have had several calls on my phone from an ‘unknown’ number (which I’ve ignored) and my husband has had one message left by our neighbour’s attorney requesting that he call back to discuss ‘damages’.  It goes beyond belief.  Fortunately Julian remains unruffled and his attitude transfers itself to his workers who appear faintly amused by the all the goings on.  If you live anywhere around here and especially if you have tricky neighbours, I can highly recommend him.

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TreeWorks

I have maintained a fairly low profile but Julian tells me he has been on the receiving end of a verbal lashing from my neighbour who came back from her office especially to deliver it. He is unfazed.

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Our right hand side neighbour has obligingly switched off her electric fence.  Here they are trimming the poplars.

And now, to add insult to injury, a massive storm has broken over Johannesburg and we have had to hastily recall all the men in trees…  This is the first rain we’ve had in many weeks and probably the last we’ll have for many months.  The weather men have been taken by surprise as we’d been told not to expect any more rain until the summer so this is some – welcome – late relief.  Just a pity for us it has chosen today to fall and it’s bucketing down.  The men have taken shelter and it seems likely that this little drama will have a second instalment.  In the meantime we wait for a lawyer’s letter from our neighbour who insists that her electric fence was damaged earlier this morning. Julian doesn’t believe it and frankly, neither do I.  And if she’d switched it off for just one hour, as requested, all would have been well.

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A late and welcome – if inconvenient – storm breaking over Johannesburg.

 

 

 

 

In September last year my daughter had an offer accepted on a  small flat in Hampstead, London.  Securing a property, no matter how small, in London, is no mean feat and although her offer was accepted in September, it was early January before the solicitors ‘exchanged’ and late January before the deal was ‘completed.’  The hiatus between having an offer accepted and completion can be a nail-biting time as any number of things can go wrong, not the least being a change of heart of either party.

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So receiving the news that the deal was sealed, so to speak, was a cause for celebration.  South Africans have to make huge mental adjustments when buying property in London and it is impossible to draw direct comparisons between the space money can buy on the tip of Africa and what it can get for you in this humming, heaving metropolis.

It seems that my interest in space and decor has been passed on to my children. Juliet looked at lots of flats last year and each one was more depressing that the one before.  Her search was not confined to Hampstead.  She looked high and low finding each flat more depressing than the one before.

So it wasn’t without some fundamental requirements that she subsequently came to see a Mansion Block flat close to Hampstead High Street.  It just so happened that not only was I visiting at the time, but my sister from Sussex had also come up to London for the day so we were able to bring our combined experience to bear on the three flats we saw in Hampstead that day.  One subterranean lair still gives me the jitters just thinking about it.

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View of Hampstead High Street

The owner of this particular flat was at home when we visited and the flat was dingy and cluttered.  But it was oblong; shoebox-shaped with no funny angles or staircases to nowhere. (And yes, we’d seen a few of those.) Best of all, it had beautiful, tall, sash windows and although ground floor, faced onto banks of hydrangeas.

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At some stage, someone had fitted built-in cupboards down the longer side of the bedroom, meaning that a queen-sized bed could only fit with its headboard against the windows.  This gave the room a ‘stretched’, elongated look.   Then it turned out that the cupboards were so shallow it was impossible to hang coat hangers any way but one behind the other and adult-sized shoes had to lie longways…  Juliet’s first thought was to get those cupboards moved.  And her second was to get the entire flat painted from top to bottom and the floors redone.

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The bed, off centre, against the windows. One wall covered in dark, textured wall paper.

The keys were finally handed over and Martin, the  Polish builder, started work on February 1st.

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Keys at last

Martin calls himself a ‘Handyman’ but has proved himself to be so much more than that.  We think he has an engineering background and we know that he remains stoically undaunted no matter what household building obstacle is put in front of him.  In fact, I’ve seriously considered flying him out to Johannesburg to finish of our snag list here, once and for all.

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Built in wardrobes along ‘wrong’ side of bedroom. Note the smaller, mirrored door next to the window.

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Martin moved the mirrored cupboard door and installed it on the entrance hall cupboard.

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Here it is all spruced up and with a new Mother of Pearl handle from Portobello Road.

This time, he brought along two Polish helpers and the three of them together, in just two weeks, wrought miracles.  They expected to finish on the 17th of February and were apologetic about running overtime to the 18th, when they had to work side by side with two cleaners, miracle-workers in their own right.  By the end of last Thursday afternoon, when the builders handed back their set of keys and the cleaners left, the flat looked brand new and as though there had never been any previous residents.

The two biggest changes, other than installing new bedroom cupboards, were to repaint the entire flat and to refloor it.  The bedroom was carpeted, the small entrance hall and living room had very old, dark wooden floors that could not withstand further sanding and the kitchen floor, also wooden and equally aged, was a hazardous step up from the living room.

IMG_3182 Juliet found several floor samples she liked and after poring over  photos and one visit with her to the supplier, she settled on one she liked which is quite similar to what we have had installed in Johannesburg.

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Cupboards removed, beautiful new floors laid.

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New mirrored cupboards from Ikea.

The flat doesn’t get much direct sunlight although the windows ensure that it is not dark.  Mirrors are also very effective in ‘bouncing’ light around.

 

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The bedroom on the first night.

The bathroom, other than needing a shower screen, new cabinets and a very good scrub, was salvageable.  While the entrance, living room and bedroom have all been painted in Farrow and Ball Wimborne White, the bathroom and kitchen have been redone in plain white.

When you’ve looked at enough flats in London, a bathroom with an actual window is a big win…

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Bathroom as it was.

 

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Before…

And after…

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Bathroom now.

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Below is the kitchen on the day we saw the flat:

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The kitchen as it was.  Note door on the right – entry from the living room.

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Long drawer installed under the countertop and a shelf below.

With the exception of the oven which was not salvageable,  the kitchen is remaining essentially the same for now.  The door from the living room into the kitchen has been removed to create more space in what was a very inaccessible area behind it.

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Old oven and light fitting.

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New oven and induction hob installed.

The kitchen came with a washing/drying machine on the left and on the right of the oven, behind the panelled door, is a 6 place-setting dishwasher.

The workmen and the cleaners finished off at about 4pm on Thursday the 18th and the movers were booked to bring the furniture out of storage on Friday the 19th.  In Africa I’m not used to working to such a tight schedule.  I tend to always have a few days grace in-between times to allow for the inevitable delays and no-shows.  So it was not without a degree of trepidation that we awaited the arrival of the moving men on Friday 19th but they arrived absolutely on cue.

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Van in the slip road outside the Mansion Block  There was much discussion as to where to park it so as to cause the least inconvenience, but eventually the driver manoeuvred it right outside the front door closest to the flat.

A very busy day followed.  We unpacked as much as we could as fast as we could, so as to send away as many empty cartons as possible when the truck left. By the end of the day the flat looked very habitable.

The following day we set off in search of bedside lights and ended up in Heals on Tottenham Court Road.  I love having a good excuse to visit decor shops in other countries and Heals was a very rewarding place to spend a morning.

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I just loved these balloon ceiling lights and wished I had an excuse to buy them.

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Also loved these……..

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And these ‘balancing’ table lamps…..

Heals offered all sorts of distractions:

I loved the vividly-coloured fabrics and cushion covers they sell which so beautifully off-set the neutral base items that continue to be popular.

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Gorgeous Jewel Colours

And this is how the flat looked by the time I left two weeks later:

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Seeing this sort of transformation in two weeks was hugely satisfying. In the end it  came down to new floors and new light fittings, a fresh coat of paint throughout, an incredibly good clean and, most importantly, great workmanship from three Polish guys who take enormous pride in their work and for whom nothing seemed to be too much trouble.  They even came back the day after finishing, just to hang pictures.

And now I’m looking forward to having the time to get to know Hampstead much better.  It’s a beautiful part of London.

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Hello Hampstead! These crepes are worth the queue.

 

 

We have builders back on site.  Not the original ones, mind you.  We don’t want to see them again any time soon.  If ever.  Bernard has found us someone new and we’re doing a small alteration.

When we decided to downsize to a house with a small manageable garden, I believed I’d get by with only a garden service company every fortnight.  The small toilet and handbasin next to the garage would then have been more than adequate.  But during the moving process we ‘borrowed’ William, a young, enthusiastic Malawian man who works for friends of ours once a week.

William helped us in all sorts of ways both when we packed up the old house and put things into storage.  When we eventually moved into this house  and needed to collect  various potted plants and other garden paraphernalia which had been in the care of  long-suffering friends, we borrowed him again.

William showed himself to have great initiative and to cut a long story short, he is now our once-a-week gardener.  As our exceptionally hot summer dragged on and on, I started to feel the need of providing him with a shower rather than just a basin and I spent some time thinking about ways we could extend the little bathroom to accommodate one.

I asked Bernard about it and he came up with an excellent idea.  Our garage is extra- big and he suggested knocking an opening through the garage/bathroom wall and building the the shower cubicle out into the extra garage space.  It meant that neither the basin nor toilet needed to move and was quite the simplest and best option.

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So that is what it taking place right now.  This little job has had little impact on us and the workmen tidy up so thoroughly each night, you’d hardly know they had been here at all.  And I think it will make a big difference to William when it’s finished.

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The garden is growing beautifully despite the heat and water restrictions.  Desperately hot days have been interspersed with some spectacular and violent Highveld summer storms bringing drenching rains of several millimetres at a time.

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Summer Storm building up

This is what the garden looks like now:

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Fortunately the carefully thought out drainage on the south side of the house has worked well.  Unfortunately we have sprung a leak over the bay window on the north side and now need to get that roof more or less redone.

Inside, we’re making progress on a weekly basis.  Pictures have been hung and small changes made to the arrangement of furniture.  I decided to offset the yellow wood dining room table by using ghost chairs rather than more conventional wooden ones.  They look good and pick up on the glass of the staircase balustrades:

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I like the way the Ghost chairs leave the view almost unimpeded.

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After a Storm: The view from our balcony.

 

Having survived the whole house-building process running a full year over the expected completion date, there are probably quite a few nuggets of advice I could offer someone about to embark on a similar exercise but if I had to pick just one thing, it would be to keep ‘Inspiration Files’.  The minute the tiniest seed of the possibility of building your own home takes root, start a file.

I spent hours and hours poring over decorating and gardening magazines in the year leading up to us finding the right property on which to build and I soon learned that thinking I could simply go back to a particular page or article when I wanted it, did not work.  I lost things along the way and so I started cutting out and filing every single photograph or article that struck a chord.  It didn’t take long before my first file was too cumbersome to manage and so I started ‘sub-files’; one for kitchens and bathrooms, one for gardens, patios and pools and another one for everything else in between.  I discovered I have something of a passion for all things building and décor related and when I wasn’t buried in a decorating magazine, I was engrossed on Houzz or Pinterest although in the end Houzz seemed to work best for me.

When you keep photographs or on-line records of designs that appeal, over time a particular style becomes a theme throughout.  An unexpected advantage that this gave me when the time came to choose finishes was the speed and ease with which we were able to make decisions.  Before the first brick was laid, I had a pretty clear picture of how the finished house would look both from outside and in and it reduced hugely the amount of time we had to spend trawling around building supply stores spread around the dusty outskirts of Johannesburg.

The stored ‘library’ of photographs also proved very useful on one or two occasions when it was inexplicably difficult to convey an idea or image to a workman.  A picture does indeed  paint a thousand words.

Now, as the dust is finally starting to settle and our new home continues to unfold itself, I am finding it especially rewarding to see  how some things, that were once just ideas inspired by magazine pictures and photos on websites, have come into being.

One of the very first pictures I saved off Houzz was the one below.  I love baking but seldom managed to extract the relevant baking pan or tray from a drawer or cupboard without causing something of a metal avalanche and a cacophony of chaos.  This vertically divided drawer is simple and totally practical.  I don’t know why they’re not standard features in all kitchens.

Traditional Kitchen by Oak Brook Cabinets & Cabinetry Schuler Cabinetry
I showed the photograph to the cabinet-maker who built our kitchen cupboards and below is a picture of what I now have.  With hindsight, I wish I’d asked for two of them.
Baking Tray Drawer

Baking Tray Drawer

 

A couple of years ago, when this house was not yet out of the ground, I opened a British House and Garden magazine onto the page below:

Globe lantern Jamb stairwell

I can’t actually say what it was about this light fitting that so enchanted me, but it sent me off on a mission to find something similar.  While in London last June, by sheer chance I found something very similar at the Petersham Nursery Gardens in Richmond:

At Petersham Nurseries

At Petersham Nurseries

It was a fraction of the price of the Jamb one but would have required shipping.  And then, an off-chance visit to a lighting shop just a few kilometres from home, uncovered the ones below:

Another perspective.

Globe lanterns at 44 Stanley

It couldn’t have been simpler but I’d enjoyed the search.

Globe Lantern over our stairwell.

Globe Lantern over our stairwell.

 

Globe lantern seen from outside.

Globe lantern seen from outside.

And then there was my paternal grandmother’s rather beautiful chaise-longue:  It has had several incarnations in its lifetime even that I can remember; gold velvet, maroon velvet, then a slight departure from tradition, a dark blue check.  I felt it needed a new image but wanted some independent encouragement before embarking on a major change.  And I found it in the pictures below:

I seem to have cut this picture out of an American Elle Decorating magazine in 2013.

I seem to have cut this picture out of an American Elle Decorating magazine in 2013.

The photo above validated my idea of covering my chaise in something unexpected.

I loved this fabric but couldn't track it down.

I loved this fabric but couldn’t track it down.

 

I loved this one even more because of the introduction of blue.

I loved this one even more because of the introduction of blue.

I spent many hours and covered quite a few miles looking for something resembling the two stripy fabrics in the pictures above and then, one rainy afternoon in London last year I found myself with the time and inclination to go to Liberty’s.  Going to Liberty’s is always a treat but their fabric department is gorgeous and I spent ages just leafing through fabric samples.

 

Looking at Fabrics

I was rewarded with the discovery of a whole selection of Pierre Frey fabrics, in particular the one below.

Couch/chaise longue fabric

Arriving back in South Africa, I established that Mavromac are importers of Pierre Frey fabrics and to cut a long story short the end result is this:

Granny's Chaise now brightly attired in the library.

Granny’s Chaise, now brightly attired, in the library.

Close up of stripy velvet.

Close up of stripy velvet.

I’m really happy with the way it turned out.  So much of the house is neutral but this offers a bright surprise as you turn a corner.

Then there was the water feature we wanted on the retaining wall in the driveway.  Below are the photographs I had kept from old South African gardening magazines:

This is my favourite.

Trough with 3 Spouts.

There was potential for the driveway area on the south side of the house to become something of a sun trap being brick paved and surrounded by pale grey walls and white garage doors.  I hoped that the sound of running water would off-set the heat and felt that cladding just that retaining wall with stone would soften the whole effect.  Quite fortuitously, quite early on in the building process, a man came in off the street and offered his services as a stone mason.  He told us where to find some of the walls he’d built in the neighbourhood and on the strength of what we saw, we hired him.  He did a beautiful job here and the end result is exactly as I’d hoped it would be.

Our driveway water feature.

Our driveway water feature.

And then there were the barn doors first spotted on Houzz.  I fell in love with the photo below and set about finding out if we could get something similar installed in our third bedroom and our guest suite, both of which have quite small en suite bathrooms.

Contemporary Bedroom by Tineke Triggs
 Amoretti, who supplied all our doors and windows, were able to source the barn sliding mechanisms for me and were happy to install them.
Barn sliding door in bedroom 3.

Barn sliding door in bedroom 3.

 Bedroom 3 is still very much a work-in-progress but the door is beautiful and works really well in providing privacy and ease of access to a small bathroom.  We were so pleased with it, we immediately ordered another one for the guest suite:
Barn slider in guest suite.

Barn slider in guest suite.

And from another perspective.

And from another perspective.

And let’s not forget the scullery….
Barn sliding door scullery
The picture below was one of my favourite kitchens on Houzz and I particularly liked the shelves in the island for keeping recipe books close at hand.
Beach Style Kitchen by Chatham Architects & Building Designers Siemasko + Verbridge
I had similar bookshelves built into my island and in the picture below you can also see glass-fronted display cupboards;  another idea gleaned from Houzz.
Island Recipe Book Shelves.

Island Recipe Book Shelves.

The photograph below, taken from Houzz, was one of my favourite kitchen pictures.

Traditional Kitchen by Millbrook Architects & Building Designers Crisp Architects
Kitchen display cupboards.

Kitchen display cupboards.

Under counter windows and display cupboards.

Under counter windows, also seen on Houzz and display cupboards in our new kitchen.

Oggie Flooring adverts are beguiling.  We’d chosen our floors before our foundations were dug.

Magazine Advertisement for Oggie Floors.

Magazine Advertisement for Oggie Floors.

 

Oggie floor in situ!

Oggie floor in situ!

And finally, there’s the pool.  I had several photographs filed including this one.  I found it quite difficult to get my way with the ‘pool man’ who seemed to have quite set ideas about how a pool should look; essentially bright turquoise with an equally bright mosaic edging. This photograph was particularly helpful.

One of the magazine photos I kept as inspiration for our pool.

One of the magazine photos I kept as inspiration for our pool.

And as a direct result of having this photo filed, we’ve ended up with this:

A view of our pool from the south east corner of the garden.

A view of our pool from the south east corner of the garden.

The pool is 10 metres long but quite narrow.  I hoped it would resemble a farm dipping tank.  I’m not sure that it does but I do like the effect of the dark grey lining and simple cement tile coping.  The mosaics, hard to see in this photo, are dark grey glass. The three fountains are connected to the filter pump but can be switched on and off separately.

Going over this post, I can’t help feeling that keeping all those files and records was absolutely invaluable.  And I still enjoy going through them and I still keep adding to them.  What can I build next?

 

My wire chickens have finally come home to roost.

My beautiful beaded, wire chickens – made by a Zimbabwean called Stuart and bought on a nearby street corner – have finally come home to roost.

It’s been a while….  Settling into a house still teeming with workmen has been quite challenging and very time-consuming but in the meantime, the garden has started to take shape and it’s all looking more like home.

There are four distinct parts to the garden:  the pavement (sidewalk) garden, the office garden, the driveway and what we call the front garden but which would probably be called the ‘back’ garden in the States.

I called in the help of a friend of mine who has a small landscaping business, Parktown Gardens.  Marion helped with various ‘rejuvenations’ of our old Dunkeld garden and I knew we’d understand each other here.

So this is how things are looking now:

The garden team arrives and gets started.

The garden team arrives and gets started.

 

Laying out the flower beds in the front (north) garden.

Laying out the flower beds in the front (north) garden.

The bench against the wall was originally in my mother’s East London garden and has survived several moves.

Plants waiting in line.

Plants waiting in line.

Standard Iceberg Roses, Jasmine and Agapanthus in the narrow bed on the west side of the driveway.

Standard Iceberg Roses, Jasmine and Agapanthus in the narrow bed on the west side of the driveway.

 

Front entrance taking shape.

Front entrance taking shape.

Starting to come together.

Starting to come together.

Water feature functioning at last.

Water feature functioning at last.

Water Feature up-close.

Water Feature up-close.

The flower bed along the front of the house.

The flower bed along the front of the house.

As you can see, there is still some building work to be done.  Where the loose tiles are laid between the beds, there are supposed to be more steps.  Unable to face asking this contractor to start anything else at this stage, I will tackle these sometime in the future…

The bed along the east boundary wall.

The bed along the east boundary wall.

First Crested Barbets to visit.

First Crested Barbets to visit.

In the absence of a big enough tree, I have resorted to a metal stand on which to hang a bird-feeder.  Perhaps it’s the proximity to the park but we were astonished at how promptly the local bird population came to visit.  Within hours of hanging up the feeder, Thrush, Cape Robins,  Grey Louries, Weavers and these beautiful Barbets had all come to their own house-warming party.

As you can see, there are still building materials piled up in the corner next to the pool and we’re still waiting for the decking to be installed.

 

Garden office yellow cymbid

Garden office pink cymbidBoth these cymbidiums survived the move including a few months of neglect while we were in Cape Town.

The first clivia and first (white) azalea flowering in front of the office.

The first clivia and first (white) azalea flowering in front of the office.

We’ve planted buffalo grass in between the pavers but it seems to be taking rather a long time to get established.

Planters around the office.

Planters around the office.

We’ve put five of these planters along the high-level bed around the office.  There are bougainvillea plants in all of them, chosen to withstand the heat and in the hopes that they will eventually ‘tumble’ over the edge of the stone wall.

Standard fuschia next to the front step to the house.

Standard fuschia next to the front step to the house.

There are lots of gaps to be filled in with annuals and I hope to get to that soon.  In the meantime, it’s such a relief to have a garden again and the lawn has even had its first mowing which took all of 5 minutes.   The sprinkler system is up and running and we hope our summer storms will not be too late in starting this year.  Watch this garden grow!