Any of you who have been following this from the start will know that the one immoveable item I had on my wish list for BuildingBoxes Central, was a bath with a view. Like a spring lamb all excited about new grass, I’m bouncing, and bleating my head off, because my bath went in this weekend. *throws confetti*
It’s a luxury that I am quite aware may get usurped by the water loving Lego Engineer and Destruction Specialist, but I’m hoping to keep it mine for as long as possible. We did build them their own bathroom after all.
So, with self-indulgent grown up luxury in mind, but with a tight budget firmly in hand, what did we choose? This puppy is a freestanding Cassini bath from Athena. It’s made from easy clean sanitary grade Lucite acrylic (which retains water temperature better than some other materials and ensures stray children’s filth is cleanable), and is reinforced with fibreglass laminate if the boys do decide to do their ninja leaping worst. It was a pretty straight forward install (thanks to Chris, Our Man of Plumbing), the waste is in the middle, cos who likes sitting on a plug, and, something Mr BuildingBoxes wanted to ensure, it fits two grownups, comfortably.
As well we have showers, a small one in our room, and a bigger on in the boy’s “family” bathroom. I know traditionally the family bathroom would be the one with the bath, but, I figure we only need one and as they grow older, surely they’ll appreciate the size of their huge shower. That was a rather last minute change. Mr BuildingBoxes was determined to have a linen cupboard upstairs and so he and our Architect had designed a cupboard to eat into the bathroom space. When the frames went up and I saw just how much space it would eat up though, I was not particularly excited.
Happily I pointed to the huge laundry we’ve got which fits all our linen and more, and Chris pointed out that showers these days come in ALL sorts of sizes: a 1000x1600 Athena Lifestyle shower fitted our bathroom space almost exactly. We’ve gone for acrylic showers, and I’ll go into more of why on stuff in a week or so, but suffice it to say that I hate cleaning, and cleaning grout? Who has the energy, really. When it comes to install too, these puppies, are quick, cheap (no pre-forming of the floor for drainage) and because there’s no membrane required on the floor, there aren’t any leakage issues. But do remember to get a qualified plumber to sort all that out. We have the same again downstairs, just in a smaller 1000x1000 size, because, the bath…
Finally, it was vanity time and because Mr BuildingBoxes had managed to get all smart with his kitchen bench top measurements, we were able to get the two vanity tops out of the Caeserstone slab. It meant I could have a top mount basin which I really like the look of, but which we couldn’t afford when we looked at off the shelf vanity options. With Peter, our Genius Cabinet maker on board though, we have two custom vanity units, with tops in Sleek Concrete, and they look, we’ll, lux. (The basins are a Valdama overtop basin and a Slab basin, again both from Athena, in case you were wondering.)
So, two bathrooms, one bath, and one glorious view. If you’re wondering about the floor too, I painted it. Yes. Really. It was quite a process, but cheaper than the European tiles I would have had if our budget wasn’t tighter than…a tight thing. If you’re interested in the hows, I’ll share a post on the Resene Habitat site in a week or so.
A while back I talked about choosing a colour palette for your home. It’s a bit overwhelming deciding on the look of a whole house, in your imagination. And when I spoke with a colour consultant about the process, her advice was to start from the ground up. That’s all very well, but when it comes to floor coverings where to start!
The type of flooring in a room can change the look and feel dramatically. It also needs to work with your lifestyle and budget, which for us means being cost effective and able to withstand the rigors of the Lego Engineer and Destruction Specialist.
We also wanted the bedrooms to be warm and soft underfoot. Solution? Cavalier Bremworth. They’re a New Zealand owned and operated company that likes to make finding the right carpet for your home and lifestyle as easy as possible. And the more informed you are about your preferred choice of carpet, the better I say.
Cavalier Bremworth has a great buying guide and videos from an independent interior designer about the different steps you need to consider when purchasing carpet. There’s even a 3D Floor Designer Tool to mix and match your desired carpet against a Resene wall colour of your choice if you like getting busy on your computer before you step into a store.
Our process. Step One: Fibre
As I said, our main concerns were warmth, comfort and durability, along with sustainability. For all of that, wool wins. Especially in a nation of around 60 million sheep. It’s naturally beautiful, durable, family-friendly and very easy to clean (contrary to what you might think). Wool’s scaly structure acts as a natural stain resister and will repel most liquid spills – stains can be easily removed if you get to them quickly. It also naturally regulates the humidity of an interior – absorbing moisture when the air is damp and releasing it when the air is dry. This can help prevent mould growth and improve the indoor air quality of your home (keeping you warmer in winter and cooler in summer) – making it a great choice for those with breathing difficulties. Cavalier Bremworth has the most extensive range of wool carpets available in a range of different styles.
We weren’t too worried about fading as the bedrooms are predominantly on the southern side of the house, but if you are, a solution-dyed nylon (SDN) carpet is the way to go. SDN’s are also very durable and are a great family-friendly option – most having very good stain and fade resistant warranties. Cavalier Bremworth had plenty of those as well, just to dazzle me with choices when I was making decisions.
Step two: Style and texture.
In carpet terms, that means whether you want cut pile or a loop pile. Cut pile carpets are usually more luxurious underfoot and can range from a hardtwist (set like a perm to hold the twist) to a plush pile (where the fibres stand up straight). It’s important to note that all cut pile carpets will develop shading over time which gives the effect of light and dark patches on the floor – especially plush piles – quite like velvet or suede. However this doesn’t affect the durability of the carpet. Loop piles on the other hand can offer a classic or casual look and are very easy care. They don’t show footprints and are great for busy families. They provide real texture on the floor too. For me, I just like the look of loop pile. I’m not sure I can put a finger on it, but aesthetically it works for me, and for Mr Building Boxes who has more opinions about aesthetics than he likes to admit, even to himself.
Step three: Colour.
This is really the start and finish for many people. It’s all about the look. But there is a science to how it works in your rooms, just like paint. Darker carpets absorb light and will make a room feel smaller and cosier whereas lighter carpets reflect the light and make a room feel spacious. In our house, there is also the all important - can it hide that trail of muddy footprints test - to consider.
Make sure you take a sample home and look at it in different lights throughout the day to make sure it will achieve the look you’re going for. Carpets can generally appear around 20% lighter on the floor when laid, compared to a small sample. It’s also pretty difficult to get an idea from a small patch, so if you can get a decent sample size to take home, and a tip someone shared which worked well for me is to slide it under a piece of furniture, make a square with your hands and focus in on the carpet and furniture, somehow it makes it look like its “in” the room. Either that or I really haven’t had enough sleep lately.
Result? We’ve gone with Lisburn carpet in Holland. A 100% pure wool carpet in a fairly dark grey-blue, with a pale thread. We had a piece on site for a while and even in the filth that is a building site, it dusted off well, so we’re hopeful it will hide at least a fraction of the mess that the Lego Engineer and Destruction Specialist like to create on a daily basis.
That was what first struck me about the system Mr BuildingBoxes has been installing these past nights. Our Zehnder system runs off less than fifty watts. A traditional light bulb runs off 60 watts.
This is the piece of the puzzle we haven’t yet talked about in the Air Tightness, Insulation, Ventilation trifecta that we’re hoping will make our house one lean green efficient…well, house. Simply put, this combination of construction principles (as opposed to design principles) are the kernel of passive house design (says Mr BuildingBoxes). In a passive house, once it’s air tight and insulated, you need to guarantee a minimum number of air changes per hour to distribute air throughout the house and keep it dry. The Zehnder is purpose built to do just that.
The thing that looks more like a Tardis than I expected, takes hot, wet air from kitchens, bathrooms and the laundry and exhausts it outside. Fresh air from outside is supplied to the living areas and on its way there, it picks up the heat that was extracted from those hot, wet environments, but without the moisture.
Moreover, some of our rooms have a lot of solar gain because of our massive heat sink (the concrete midfloor), so they hold a bunch of heat. Other rooms, like the ones downstairs don’t, so we need a way of sharing all that great free heat energy throughout the house.
Zehnder does this with individual ducts, radiating from a central heat exchange unit, supplying each room individually. AND it has one massive sound deadening attenuator box (that’s Mr BuildingBoxes speak for that Tardis I was talking about). It also filters the air as it goes.
The difference between this and what Kiwi’s would associate with a Heat Recovery System is:
· It’s super quiet – no sound travels between the rooms because they have their own ducts and because of that massive Tardis downstairs.
· Really importantly for the long term health of your house, it balances the pressure between supply and extraction. That means hot, wet air from inside the house won’t be forced into your wall cavities creating leaky building syndrome Mark Two.
· And the biggy for us is that it’s fresh air moving around the house. Fresh air that’s been heated by the unit with those clever, super efficient German fans, taking everything we make through solar gain and transferring it into what goes back into the house. Not the same air, just being pushed around room to room.
· For us too, the ducts are smaller and go through the wall cavities – important when you don’t have a ceiling space.
Oh and I’ve changed my mind about it looking like a Tardis, it’s more like a Dalek. Or maybe a cross between the two…
Also, if you were looking for me on stuff.co.nz this week, sorry, they’re having a shuffle around. I’ll be back, but it might not be on Tuesdays, still, the end is in sight so all is well!
It's been a while in the making, but once the ducts were in the walls back some months ago. The Air Tightness membrane went on and the GIB covered the whole thing up nice and neatly, it was time to get those ducts into the mighty Tardis-Dalek...
A family of four: writer, scientist, lego engineer and destruction specialist. Our previous home is featured in New Zealand Interior Style and this new project promises to provide plenty of great, green, smart and maybe madcap solutions to new building in New Zealand.