Hi everyone, it’s been a long time between posts as the house is now finished and my biggest effort is keeping it clean – just like a typical family home! However I still receive lots of comments and questions about the house from people who are building or renovating and using it as inspiration for their Hamptons dream house. So here is a list of the most common answers I get asked.


Exterior cladding – Wattyl Wicker White

Exterior Trim – Wattyl White

Roof – Colourbond Shale Grey

Interior walls and all joinery including kitchen and bathroom – Wattyl Chalk Dust

Interior trim – Wattyl White

Ceiling and beams – Ceiling White

Kids Bedrooms – Dulux Vanilla Quake

Study – Dulux Pacific Line



Caesarstone Statuario Nuvo


TILES (all from Beaumont Tiles)

Laundry –  97740 Devonshire Sky Gloss 75×300

Kitchen –  97733  Devonshire White Gloss 75×150
Ensuite Walls –  1000891   Devonshire Seamist Gris Gloss 75×150
                          – 97744 Mosaic Carrara Bianco Herringbone (23×48) 280X280
Ensuite Floor – 183019 Rio Limestone Grey 456×456
Bath Walls – 97734 Devonshire White Gloss 75×300
                     – 1000547  Agrestic Ash Gloss 75×150
Bath Floor – 32853  Artisan Oslo Colour GL-Porc Rect 200×200 C714-01 MIST
                    – 32851 Artisan Madrid Colour? GL-Porc Rect 200×200 C715-02 ASH



Alby Turner and Son Kitchens



Plantino Oak in Natural by Choices Flooring



Lazytime by Camerich



Original stone reclaimed from the old house


I think that’s it! I won’t be able to respond to comments or emails for a while as I am working on the workshop of my musical but hopefully this answers most of the questions! xx


Variations – make sure you’re prepared.

So it turns out there is a word in the English language I previously didn’t think much about, but now realise when you’re building a home it suddenly carries a whole lot more significance. Variation.

According to the dictionary the word variation means ‘A change or difference in condition, amount, or level, typically within certain limits.’ But to those of us who are building it means, ‘This is going to cost you more money.’

As I’m discovering in my ‘building in the real world and not on The Block’ experience, when you change your mind about something, or you want something that’s different to the standard inclusions of your contract, it’s called a variation. And variations can make or break your budget.

I was probably ruined by doing The Block (in so many ways!) because it gave me such a false sense of how the building process works. I mean, of course I knew building an entire kitchen in a week was insane, but it’s the little things that I’ve found to be so different as well. On The Block every decision is made at the last minute and if you change your mind and redo something it’s good drama, so everyone just goes with it. But in the real world no one is as excited about your spontaneous last minute decisions to change things, so if you decide you want to move where your pendant light goes after they’ve cut the hole, that’s a variation. I’m learning in the real world, and understandably, changes to the plan cost time and money.

It’s not just changes at the last minute though (and I haven’t done that many!). It’s anything that falls outside your original contract and agreed price that you should be aware of, because it can catch you out if you’re not prepared. Particularly with the cheaper house and land packages, this can be a huge pitfall. With some of those (you know the ones where you can’t believe you can get a house so cheap) you really do get what you pay for. That’s not to say they’re not an excellent option for people looking to get in to the housing market, they are. But for that price you will only get a very basic list of inclusions and anything else will be considered a variation. This can be a particular issue with things like electrics, where there is only one standard ceiling light and powerpoint per room allocated, or in the bathroom, where only larger tiles are quoted and anything smaller will be an additional expense.

So, when you are working out your contract and budgeting for the overall spend I would definitely advise anyone to budget for variations. Because even those of us who know what we want are bound to have some last minute changes and additions. So, it’s best to be prepared for them.

Here is a list of the areas and examples of where you could expect to encounter cost increases due to variations……

Paint. I wanted white gloss paint on the windows, doors and trimmings, but that requires a minimum of four coats to look good, on unpainted timber, something I didn’t realise when I chose it. The standard most builders budget for is two coats, so if you need extra that will cost more in both paint and labour. Luckily our builder Scott Salisbury Homes’ standard is three coats, but in this instance they’ve had to do four. I was told this would be a variation, but as I really wanted that look I still did it. It”ll look amazing, but next time I will know to expect this.

Lights. I don’t think there has ever been a build where the owners haven’t increased both the lights and the powerpoints that come as standard. But beware, downlights can prove to be expensive! Also, keep in mind if you want switches and points that are nicer than the ‘basic’ range that will probably cost you, as will adding dimmers to your lights. It’s the little things that add up! All building companies have a different package of what they include, with the more prestigious builders typically offering a much higher standard. Either way, this is somewhere that is open to variation based on your tastes and wants, so is something to think about when you’re working on your contract and lighting plan.

Carpet and floors. Again, you get what you pay for and the standard will vary from builder to builder. But, if you’re like me and have expensive taste, chances are you could fall in love with something that is outside the included range. Why do I never pick the cheaper one!

Tiles and tilers. This one came a bit of a surprise to me, but it does make sense. Most builders base their budget for tilers on a standard 600 x 400 tile which is pretty quick and easy to lay. So, if you choose a small mosaic, or subway tile, or anything that requires a more complicated patter, shape or size to lay, it’s going to cost more. So when small tiles and patterns like herringbone are what is on trend, this can be an unexpected cost.

Appliances, fixtures and fittings. Again, most builders have standard packages which include certain brands and ranges for kitchen and bathroom fit outs, so if you want something different it’ll be a variation. Although this one can go up or down depending on what you choose, so you could even save money here if you’re prepared to chose a more economical range.

Finally, another area you should be wary of with extra costs as part of the total build is landscaping. If you have a block with even a slight slope from street level, it will affect your budget with additional soil removal to get a flat surface to build on. Also retaining walls and fences that need concrete plinths to maintain the new level. This can add tens of thousands to the overall costs, so it is definitely another one to be mindful of and discuss with your landscaper upfront.

One thing we’ve found in the process of building our own house is communication is an absolute necessity. Be part of the process of your build. Talk thoroughly with your builder to understand not only what your inclusions are, but also the processes and steps. Don’t allow yourself to be swept away by choosing the colours and textures of the inside – these are just the icing on the cake. It’s the total structure of the home that you want to spend the most time, money and consideration on. You can always upgrade your carpet later!

In other news, everything is tracking along really quickly now and we have a full house of tradies working at the same time. The painters have started on the exterior and ceilings, the kitchen has gone in (I’m keeping that under wraps for now!) all the joinery is pretty much done and the lights go in in the coming days. Now, this is the fun part!


It was all action this week.


Our painters, John and Andrew. I’m so glad they are doing this and not us. They also like to sing while they work, which I appreciate!


In the coming weeks they will take the board off the pool, connect it up and pave around it. I can’t wait to see some grenery, although it will be a while yet before it’s all finished. But we’re getting there!

Amity x

What if we knock it down and start again…..

The last few weeks have involved lots of design discussions and a now a possible big shift in direction, which I’ve become quite excited about. Because the original house isn’t a great floor plan our plans have always involved keeping the front three rooms only and demoliting everything else, with the rest of the house to be a new build. We always knew the floor plan of our house wasn’t ideal, with the bathroom right in the middle of the entrance hall, but we mostly bought it for the land and the location (as I’ve discussed before, you can change the house but you can’t change the location.)

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 12.37.05 pm

Here’s the original floor plan. We bought the house before it went to market so they never drew up a proper floor plan, but as you can see, the bathroom and kitchen are not ideally positioned and the front rooms aren’t huge.

In our latest design meeting our architect showed us two plans, both which met the brief of what we wanted and we were happy with. However, he then mentioned he had a third option to show us. “If it’s more expensive don’t show it to me,” I said, knowing that of course I would like that one more but that we were already at our limit.

“Actually, it’s cheaper,” he said. “But first, answer me a question. What do you love about the house?”

Curious as to where he was going with this I replied, “Well, I love the block, the street, the location, the lovely trees and feeling of peacefulness and that it’s zoned for good schools,” I began.

“But what do you love about the house?” he asked again.

I had to think about that. Because, while the house was OK and had enough potential to achieve what we wanted, it definitely wasn’t my dream house. That’s because whenever I found my dream house, with my dream block, in my dream location, it never met my dream budget! I liked the stone frontage, but the exterior was a bit of a mish mash of styles and the layout was pokey. It wasn’t the heritage federation villa I still hope to own one day, but I knew we could make it look great with the right design. So I eventually replied that I didn’t really love the house, but that it had the potential to be good with the right renovation.

“Seeing as that is how you answered, I have one more option for you,” he said, mysteriously, bringing out another plan.

“How about we knock it down and start again?”

This kind of caught me by surprise. We had always thought we would do a renovation and had bought the house with that in mind, but funnily enough, just the day before I had said to Phil “I almost think it would be easier to knock it down and start again.” This was after driving down the street and noticing that all the best houses on the street were new builds. There is a real mix on the street of new and renovated houses, so a new build certainly wouldn’t look out of place. And as the house isn’t heritage there wouldn’t be an issue with approvals.

The designer then presented us with some drawings and a budget, and much to my amazement it was CHEAPER. And BIGGER! He went on to explain that due to the high cost of fixing things during a renovation it would actually end up being cheaper to build a totally new house, with the added benefit that we would get exactly what we want, with no compromises to suit the original floor plan. Everything would be new, under warranty and without the ongoing maintenance of an old house.

I have to admit, those were a lot of pluses. But there was only one negative, I don’t really like new houses! I love the character of old homes, the slightly worn feel, the detailed cornices instead of square set, the imperfectness over the shiny and new.

The plans he had presented us had a fantastic floor plan, but the exterior just felt to…already done. When I mentioned this he came in quickly and said that we could have any exterior we wanted, we didn’t have to stick to a federation replica.

Now this really got me thinking and I quickly felt my excitement grow. “Could I have a Hamptons style weatherboard?” I asked.

“Of course!” he replied. And that is when my mind started to furiously tick over. Now that sounded exciting.

What do you think, should we make the old house work or knock it down and start again? There is lots to consider, but I am feeling pretty damn excited about the potential of a blank canvas now!





A demolition party??

Things are moving along well with our house plans, even thought we still haven’t actually settled yet! We offered a long settlement to the vendor, which suited us both, but now I’m so ready to have those keys and get started! Until then it still doesn’t feel real, so I can’t wait for that to happen in less than two weeks. It has given us time to get organised though, so as soon as we settle we can put our plans into council.

We decided to throw a housewarming party for our friends and family, so they can see the house before it changes. Obviously there won’t be anything in the house, so it’ll be a ‘bring your own deck chair’ party, but we’ve certainly got the room in the yard for it. There’s nothing like seeing the before and afters in the flesh to make you really appreciate the story behind a house and we want them to share that with us.

Phil suggested we make it a demolition party where people can start to demo things, but of course I vetoed that idea! Can you imagine the combination of alcohol, kids and sledgehammers?? Um, no!!

So nothing will be knocked down that day, but it won’t be long after that it will be. In particular I can’t wait to get stuck into the garden, because there are a lot of things that have to come out. There are a few trees we’ve already had approval to knock down, plus a huge bird aviary. The kids and Phil want to keep the chicken coup, but I’m not sure, so we’ll defer a decision on that one! Then I may even start planting screening trees along the fence, so they have time to develop before we move in.

We have been looking at some plans and I’m so excited to share to share them with you soon. In fact, we’ve been looking at a few options that may change our original idea dramatically, so I can’t wait to let you know all about it!

More from me soon….

Real estate, research and Pinterest – Oh my!

Now that we have our house and block of land, the fun part really begins – deciding what to do with it! I’ve waited a long time for this moment and have essentially been planning my dream house forever, but now it’s a reality that planning and research has taken on a whole new importance.

I love looking at homes, whether it’s in the flesh, in magazines or online and am always collecting images of things that inspire me. When we bought our house an agent friend of mine told me to cancel my real estate alerts straight away, in case I saw something better and had buyers regret. But I am way to curious for that so I kept them coming, just to see what else was out there. And much to my delight I haven’t seen one house that I wish we’d bought. My mum still pours over the houses for sale online as well, even though they recently bought a house, so I guess that’s where I get it. But I love it, especially looking at houses I can’t afford but aspire to own one day. You should never stop dreaming and aiming high!

Another thing I am obsessed with is Pinterest, especially when I am researching for a renovation. Whenever I give people advice on what we learned doing The Block I always say that doing your research beforehand is the single most important thing you can do. In the lead up to All Stars I was online for hours every night looking for ideas, even though I had no idea what the house we’d be renovating looked like! That did make it a little trickier, but the research was still invaluable. I documented pictures I liked both online and in magazine cuttings and then refereed to them constantly during the renovation. I can’t tell you how much it helped, particularly when I had to make decisions quickly, which of course The Block is all about.

Anyone who has renovated or built will know how many decisions go into creating a house, from paint colours, tiles, floor coverings, tap ware, appliances, cupboards, benchtops, curtains, lights and door handles, just to name a few. Not to mention the all important floor plan, which is probably the most important decision of all.

When you’re bombarded with decisions and every one of them affects the look and feel of your home it can get very overwhelming very quickly. When you’re standing in front of a wall of paint swatches or door handles they can all start to look the same, which makes choosing difficult for anyone, even those of us who have done it a few times. So that’s when your research comes in handy.

Whenever I had to make a design decision I would refer back to my pictures, to see what I had originally liked. I would usually find I had subconsciously collected a lot of pictures of the same thing, whether it was paint colours or kitchen designs, so that helped to point me in the right direction. It was also extremely helpful to show my builder and kitchen designer what I was going for, especially when I couldn’t always put it into words. For example, if I wasn’t sure whether to choose white or cream cupboards, or matt or gloss, I would look at my pictures and see what most of them were. Then I’d look at which door handles they used and if they were all the same or a combination, those little things that can such a difference to the overall look of your house.

Trust me, even the ‘experts’ do this! They create moodboards before a job and refer to them to stay on track with their colour palette and design. So if you are doing your own renovation or new build I cannot stress how important it is to do this research beforehand.

At the moment I am mostly looking at exteriors and floorplans for our house, but I do tend to get distracted by gorgeous Hamptons style kitchen and living rooms! So if you want to get some inspiration from the pictures I’ve collected make sure you check out my Pinterest boards. If you’re into Hamptons or modern country style you will love them.

Another great site for inspiration is Houzz and there are many more I’m sure you’ll find in your searches. Just make sure you have a coffee (or wine) and a few hours to spare, it can get a little addictive!! Happy researching. :)