This post is a partnership with Quicksales.

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I love second hand shopping. When we need a new piece of furniture the first play in my game plan is generally to look for something pre-loved. You can find some great bargains – certainly a big plus when you’re on a decorating budget – but what I really love is layering our home’s interior with pieces with character and history.

While I sometimes visit local second hand shops in person, you can’t beat browsing Quicksales from the comfort of your couch in your trackies, glass of wine in hand, amiright? My idea of a good Friday night.

Our first home was dotted with pre-loved furniture that have now become favourites. The only reason we didn’t have more is that we literally ran out of room for more! Happily, I can now indulge my vintage shopping desire again as we furnish our new (much bigger) home. Yippee!

As I compile my furniture shopping list (mid-century entertainment unit… extra seating for the lounge… oo and how ‘bout a cute console for the entry?) here is my approach for finding the perfect pre-owned pieces for your home.

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Know what you want

Going into shopping blind is a recipe for ending up with something that doesn’t work for your home, taste or lifestyle. Decide exactly where in your home this piece will live, consider what will fit with the overall style of the room and measure, measure, measure!

…But have an open mind

Wait, isn’t that contradicting the previous tip? Nope, what I mean is that while the right size and practicality of the piece are non-negotiables, if you have an open mind in terms of the style you could end up with a piece that is a surprising feature for your room. If you only searched for chairs for your dining table, you might never have discovered the incredible antique church pew that would work perfectly instead.

Imagine if

Similarly, have a second glance at items you may have passed over due to condition or colour. That worn armchair would look fab with new upholstery and that timber dresser just needs a good sand and refinish. It’s amazing what a little TLC can do!

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Cut some slack

Remember the sellers are just your average person down the street, so don’t be expecting catalogue-quality photography. But by all means, if the photo is out of focus or has inaccurate colouring, just politely ask for a better photo or go and take a look at it in person.

Ask questions

If a seller hasn’t listed an important detail such as the dimensions, simply get in touch with them to clarify. There’s no sense in schlepping across town only to find the entertainment unit will obstruct your doorway.

Potay-to, potah-to

Before you’ve given up hope of finding that retro dresser (zero search results, what?) try a few synonyms. Think: mid-century buffet, 60s sideboard… you get the idea.

Check seller profile

Have a look at the user reviews before meeting anyone in person so you can buy with confidence. Also check out their other items, as chances are they’re selling more than one item. You could buy a few things at once to save some driving… and maybe even negotiate a better deal.

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There’s something so rewarding about giving a new home to an unwanted item, particularly if you restore it to its former glory or put your own twist on it. It’s an environmentally- and budget-friendly way of creating a home that’s uniquely yours.

I’ve shown some of our favourite pre-loved furniture throughout the post. Now, tell me what are your most treasured second hand pieces?

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kitchen benchtop dilemma

While we have made a lot of progress on the house, the last week we’ve gone one step forward and two steps back. I am totally cool with putting in the time for a good result but when all that effort is for nada, it’s frustrating to say the least.

Here’s how it happened:

I prepped the kitchen, including priming the entire cabinetry for painting. I painted the tiles – beautiful! I painted the cabinets – beautiful! I painted the benchtop – uh… not so hot.

The Man was nervous about saying anything because I’d spent so much time on it. But as soon as he said that he didn’t think the benchtops were working with the rest of the kitchen, I admitted I was thinking the same thing. No qualms with the product itself (in white it has made the faux wood cabinets look amaze) but the colour? Well, we just weren’t feeling it.

We did consider trying a different colour paint but thought we’d look at other options while we were about it.

I remembered my friend Mary saying something about her plans to concrete her benchtops so I hit her up for some details. I also went online and saw a couple of examples, which boosted our enthusiasm.

I was all gung-ho to get straight into it but The Man wanted to be thorough and make sure we’d considered all the options. So we started looking at getting new benchtops. Of course, we couldn’t have new counters with a cruddy old sink, could we? And we couldn’t have a shiny new sink with decades-old plastic taps, could we?

Even with a cheap Ikea number (Lagan, if you’re  wondering) it was still going to be nearly $600 for the benchtops alone. We had car keys and measurements to head to Ikea when we both just looked at each other. Are we sure about this?

The timber counters would have looked beautiful in the kitchen against the white cabinets, true. But this is only a cheap cosmetic makeover to tide us over until we do a full-on renovation in a few years. We never intended to drop several hundred dollars on new fixtures.

Ugh. So, a whole Saturday afternoon wasted and it was back to Plan B: concrete.

I’ve applied one coat and so far so good! I will do another post on the full process once I’ve finished. Wish me luck – it seems I need it!

gas hot water unit

I didn’t think too much of it about a week after moving in when The Man mentioned that his shower ran out of cold water. I apologised, figuring I’d just been in there too long scrubbing wallpaper scraps from my arms.

Unfortunately, it was a much bigger problem than my indulgent showers.

Yep, the hot water system was busted. Great.

(This also happened right after we moved into the townhouse which makes us wonder what we ever did to the hot water gods.)

Instead of simply replacing the old electric unit, we opted to get gas instead (it was available in the street but was not connected to our property). It was a total nightmare for The Man to coordinate the various parties (the person who installs the inlet is a different person to the one who installs the meter who is a different person to the one who installs the new unit, then of course there’s the energy company themselves whose call centre is simply delightful to deal with).

Oh and did I mention that when the gasfitter was emptying the old unit outside, the water started flooding in the back door?! Needless to say, I grabbed a bunch of towels, not the camera.

We did manage to get a temporary system (above) for a few days’ respite from the freezing showers (hooray!)… but then they took it away again to install the permanent unit which wasn’t hooked up for another three days (nooo!). So it was back to my parents’ place, towels in hand.

gas hot water unit

All up, it cost A LOT. Way more than it would have been to just replace it with another electric unit. But switching to gas will not only be more economical to run, it will also allow us to have a gas cooktop in future (we hate cooking on electric), to plumb in the barbecue and to replace the non-functioning oil heaters with gas if we want to.

Sorry, no eye candy for you today. Keepin’ it real with the boring and ugly realities of home ownership!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to wash my hair.

How do you power your home? Electric, gas, solar or a combination?

kitchen stools roundup

To help me get through the monotony of working on the kitchen renovation day after day, I’m dreaming about the fun things like shopping for bar stools. No seriously, I had an actual dream about bar stools last night. 

Here is a visual representation of what was floating around in my unconscious.

I dig colourful stools but we have a some small appliances and accessories that are red – I don’t want to reinforce the red (not loving it anymore) nor do I want to introduce a colour into the palette. So neutral it is.

I was thinking something industrial but worried it would be too cold since we’re already having stark white cabinetry and concrete counters. Timber would be the natural choice to add in some texture and warmth but the only timber stool I loved (#4) is going to blow the budget.

The Man is super keen on the Tolix (in fact even suggested without my input!) and I found a ridiculously black and timber replica (#6) that ticks our boxes. They’re so everywhere though which has me second-guessing the choice.

Perhaps the right choice will come to me in my dreams?

1. Bosse stool ($49, Ikea)  |  2. Dalfred stool ($69, Ikea)   |  3. Industrial factory stool ($129, Milan Direct)  |  4. Tractor stool ($169, Freedom)  |  5. Replica US Navy stool ($159, Click On Furniture)  |  6. Replica Tolix ($60, Super Amart)

before-lounge-04

While I’ve been beavering away at the office and kitchen updates, The Man and a couple of friends worked on the lounge. Specifically, tackling this intimidating amount of wallpaper.

wallpaper removal

Some bits were flaking off even dry so we thought it would be much easier than the kitchen. Sadly it wasn’t quite that simple, but once you got into the swing of it it was manageable.

wallpaper removal

First we removed all the wall lights and outlets and covered the wires with plastic to protect them from the water and steam. We also removed any hooks and nails.

I had researched wallpaper steamers and they cost a bomb to hire. Not so bad if you only have a small area that you can do in a day, but we have an entire house. We were keen on this baby but it didn’t ship to our area. Happily though, The Man scored a second-hand one on eBay for $80!

wallpaper removal

It’s really easy to use; it’s basically like a giant kettle with a hose connected to a flat plate. We started off using less steam and more scraping, but with a bit of patience, the steam works like a charm if you take your time.

wallpaper removal

wallpaper removal

We also uncovered some unexpected scenes, like this spiders’ hangout between the wall and the loose wallpaper.

wallpaper removal

See if you can spot the four spiders in the photo!

wallpaper removal

The steamer works with water only (no chemicals or other additives) which is great. Although like the kitchen, we’ll give it a wash and scrape with a bucket of wallpaper glue remover solution to remove the glue residue.

Then there is the usual prep work to be done on the walls to ready them for painting, which will be the next step.

wallpaper removal

This is such an epic room – 10×3 metres – so it was a big job and we’re very relieved to have it done.

This post is sponsored by White Knight.

Kitchen before

Anyone for a brown-on-brown kitchen with orange and olive green accents?

Didn’t think so.

The first step in this makeover (or should I say makeunder?) was to remove the crazy wallpaper. With the help of a wallpaper steamer, some elbow-grease and couple of kind friends, after a (very hot and steamy) day we had uncovered the bare walls.

Our first of many rooms to de-wallpaper – very satisfying!

Kitchen during

I’d had great success using White Knight tile paint before in our first home’s kitchen and bathroom so I knew it would be well worth the effort here too.

This 80s delight called for a more serious approach though, needing not only tile paint but also laminate paint for the cabinets.

Kitchen during

One of the things that attracted us to this home was the beautiful natural light. The kitchen, however, is in the centre of the house and is really dingy with the dark cabinetry and lack of light. The Man and I selected white for the splashback and cabinets to really brighten up the space.

kitchen-makeover-02

I set about giving everything a thorough clean with Tile & Laminate Cleaner, followed by a coat of Tile & Laminate Primer. I like using a foam roller (and foam brush for the edges) to get a nice smooth finish free of brushstrokes.

Kitchen during

Our cabinets were a cinch to paint but if yours have handles I would remove them first for a neater finish.

And here it is all primed and ready to go:

Kitchen during

Already it looks so much bigger and brighter!

Stay tuned for part 2…

New house ideas

No surprises that I’ve been pinning like mad since December when we signed the contract for our new home.

Like the announcement, I wanted to keep everything hush-hush until it was all 100% sorted. But I just realised my epic pinboard was still set to ‘private’ – oops!

Well and truly time to remedy that so you can peek inside my brain to see how my ideas for the new house are forming. Make yourself a coffee and go over and browse my inspiration so far on Pinterest. Go on, I’ll wait.

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Back? Good! Tell me, what did you think?

In some ways it’s quite a departure from my normal design tendencies. There is a lot of white and other light wall colours (mostly very pale grey) instead of being drawn to my usual bold palette.

Certainly it’s partly due to age – we were in our early twenties when we bought our first home so it was a fun, colourful house for a young couple, whereas I feel like this is our ‘grown up’ house.

I think also at the time I had a boring job and wanted a stimulating environment at home. Six years on, I have more than enough stimulation in my day so I now find myself craving calmness and simplicity. (Self-diagnosing psychology through Pinterest – who would have thought!)

Some things definitely haven’t changed though. Overall my style is still a mix of old meets new, with a heavy mid-century influence, graphic patterns, industrial touches and pops of colour.

Either way, you can definitely see clear themes emerging, which is what’s so great about the process of creating moodboards.

My goal with this house is to have it all flow and work together, instead of the dog’s breakfast of a colour palette we had in the townhouse. Consistent flooring and a whole house colour palette is at the top of the list.

That said, I do have the irrepressible urge to paint a couple of the rooms in really bold shades, but I’m leaning towards neutrals rather than brights (greys or even black). I still want it to be playful and colourful (couldn’t live without that!) but more as accents rather than competing everywhere for attention.

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I do have a very clear vision for our home, but I am going to take my time and let it evolve bit-by-bit.

This is the first time I’ve planned a whole house scheme at once. Have you ever done this or do you take more of a take-each-room-as-it-comes approach?

And how has your style or approach evolved over the years?

flowers

Another huge weekend working on the house, this time working exclusively on the kitchen. I actually have a sponsor for the kitchen reno though so I can’t share anything yet.

So here is a pretty photo of a flower from our garden instead!

A couple of days ago with the early autumn weather a bunch of our bushes started flowering. It’s looking so colourful and lovely, both from the street and also the view from the dining room (where I’m currently working from while the office is awaiting completion).

We are so enjoying having a proper garden here.

working bee in progress

This is what our living room currently looks like.

It’s acting as HQ for all of our renovating gear so we don’t have to run out to the garage every ten minutes for tools and supplies.

working bee in progress

We’re making good progress on the kitchen and office and have made a start on the lounge. I took the photo of our master lists earlier in the week so I’ve since had the satisfaction of crossing off a bunch more tasks.

The Man is off at a work thing all this weekend so I’ll be cranking up some tunes (we figured out how to use the house’s built-in speakers which is pretty sweet!) to help me get through more painting.

It’s utter chaos but I’m loving every minute.

attic office progress

House progress photos as promised!

The first project I tackled was my upstairs office as I really want to get it set up as soon as possible so I can get back into the swing of things work-wise.

I started by throwing litres and litres (seriously, I used a tin and a half) of white paint at the room. I actually used an all-in-one sealer/primer/topcoat (One Step by Dulux) on all of the surfaces. Unfortunately the wood panelling and surprisingly even the walls needed FOUR coats so I was well and truly over it by the end of the week.

It was definitely worth all the neck-craning though because it is looking light and bright now.

attic office progress

Next I ripped up the golden yellow carpet. I’ve never taken up carpet before but, happily, it was easier than expected (how often does that happen?!).

I hooked a small screwdriver into the carpet itself (it has a high pile) in one corner of the room to begin lifting it up. From there it was pretty easy to jimmy off the tacking strips (using a larger screwdriver and a mallet where necessary) and yank up the underlay.

attic office progress

Instead of navigating the old carpet roll down the stairs The Man and his brother threw it out the window onto the front lawn which must have been an odd sight for the neighbours!

attic office progress

Behold! We have floorboards!

attic office progress

attic office progress

As you can see, it’s not in the best shape but it will still work for what I want them for which is painting them.

attic office progress

I still have to figure out how to patch a few gaps caused by too-short planks plus fill in all the nail holes, sand and paint.

A long way to go but certainly a marked improvement on this:

house before

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