Sunday Collector Renovation: Landscaping


Thanks to a very efficient builder and his team, our renovations went completely and utterly smoothly. Being our first home I know how lucky I am to be able to say that, as I hear horror stories all the time. Demolition was completed in a few short days, which was hugely rewarding, as we could immediately see the extra space we were creating in our living and dining area. The new kitchen had it’s final measure up a week later, which meant all the cabinetry when in to manufacturing straight away. Being the first home for our young family, we were really careful not to over-capitalise, so instead of changing the house around too much when it came to the layout, we simply gave the bathrooms and laundry major facelifts. Existing bedrooms stayed put – but with new lighting, flooring, skirting boards and window treatments. The magic of a professional paint job never ceases to amaze me either! As I’ve mentioned, we moved in after Christmas, and the feeling of accomplishment now we are living here is hard to describe, I would never have imagined we’d be in this position 5 years ago, it really does feel like a brand new little home for my family.

One thing I hadn’t anticipated is that by knocking out the back wall of the house made our garden a major feature, you can see it in full from the front door. Patchy and yellowing grass, a spindly (kind of dead) Banskia, a green hills hoist on it’s last legs and some tired looking Camellia’s were definitely not in my final vision for the place. Luckily for me, my Aunt is Michele Shennen, who besides from being one of the greatest people I know, also happens to be a very talented and accomplished Landscaper Designer, and wow – does she have some amazing ideas for our home. Michele is known for designing contemporary yet practical and family friendly outdoor spaces, with your chosen budget in mind. It’s been a fun process working with her to bring the vision to life.

Out the back, we’ve gained a huge deck (made out of gorgeous wide blackbutt timber that will age grey), more grass for the kids, a big working vegetable garden (which is a dream of Mark’s) and last but not least – we will be modernising the surrounds to the 1980’s pool area (this will really transform the space, but I’m seeing this as Stage 2 in the landscaping plan). The front garden is going to be a dedicated cactus and succulent area, a direct nod to my love of mid-century design. Michele has workshopped these ideas, and with that comes obvious extra construction costs.

When renovating a property, it’s important not to leave the landscaping budget at the bottom of your priorities because you really can reap the rewards when selling a house that has good outdoor spaces, particularly if you are targeting the first home owner market who may have young kids…you know, those apartment dwellers who are desperate for that backyard dream (putting my hand up right now). I’ve written about People’s Choice Credit Union before, read here – and they’ve recently been named CANSTAR’s 2016 First Home Buyer Customer Owned Institution of the Year SA. You may be interested to know that to celebrate the win, People’s Choice has a highly competitive three-year Fixed Home Loan Package rate specifically for first home buyers. Winning!

With a comfortable little budget in mind, below are some reference shots I’ve pulled from Pinterest over the past year, which explains my vision – with the deck already up, I’m really starting to envision those backyard parties, with a Basil Bangs Chaplin stripe umbrella on the deck, if I’m going to get fussy.

We will eventually cover the dated pebblecrete that surrounds the pool with some wide timber to match our back decking. Painting the inside of the pool is also on my list of things to do, but not a huge priority at this stage.

This house in Portland that featured in Dwell magazine has all it’s priorities right if you ask me. I love the lush grass, and the flow of decking with options for a comfortable seat.

As a contrast to the family friendly backyard, I want a low maintenance cactus garden at the front. This area gets hit with hot westerly sun, and I love that it will complement the 60’s lines at the front of the home.

Top of my list of ‘wants’ for the house was a breeze brick wall in white, similar to above. We’ve managed to incorporate one along one side of the deck, giving us privacy from our neighbours, and something pretty for me to look at.

I’ll be sure to keep you updated on our landscaping progress, providing you with tips along the way!
Briar x

This post was written in collaboration with People’s Choice Credit Union.

Home Renovation Tips


‘Stressful’ is a word I often hear clients use to describe the renovation process. With this in mind, I’ve sat down and put together some advice and handy tips to consider before a home renovation.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetsmeg3Don’t Rush

Before jumping in to your renovation, have a think about how you’d like to live and what you want to achieve in the space. For example, rather than deciding you need a brand new kitchen, could you simply update the appliances and cabinet doors? Sit down in the area you are wanting to renovate, and list things you want to achieve as you would a supermarket shopping list – looking up, looking down and looking sideways as you write – as you can miss an opportunity if you don’t think things through methodically. Pull together a mood board of your favourite materials, finishes and appliances from magazines and Pinterest. You may not be able to afford all the lovely things but you need a place to start, and it can always become a process of elimination. I’ve taken the approach of listing things that are most important to us as a family for this house i.e. I can live with the dated entrance stairs at the front of the house for now, but being such foodies, we can’t live without the beautiful white Smeg gas and electric cooker that’s been selected for the new kitchen (I can’t wait for that baby to arrive)!

smeg2Break it down

Whether you’re lucky enough to have savings in the bank to start your build, or you’re re-financing your mortgage to fund the project – keeping to budget and always knowing how you’re tracking is really important, so if you’re not sure how much things cost, speak to tradies and get those quotes rolling in. I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet up to date and every invoice and receipt has been filed correctly in my ‘HOME’ folder (I’ve been treating the folder as my Renovation Bible). And remember, it’s safe to say that every renovation project usually comes with an unexpected surprise. From the start, try to factor in a buffer of no lower than 10-15%. This extra cash will be helpful if an unexpected expense comes up and you need to find money to pay for it, fast.

Get Help

The more professionals your budget allows you to employ in the early stages, the better. If using a Draughts person, make sure you have a detailed list of the rooms you’d like, their ideal sizes, finishes and number and position of windows and doors. If this seems too daunting, speaking to a Decorator like myself for advice early on is always handy.

An experienced Architect is a luxury, but definitely a good idea. They will also be able to give you a good estimate of cost so you can decide whether your plans are achievable within your budget before you go to the trouble of applying for planning permission with your local council. Starting a renovation without correct permission could result in a fine or create some issues when it comes to selling your home, which is something you definitely want to avoid.

And remember, you will also need to speak to an Engineer if you are moving walls. A professional will advise you if you find you’re stuck on an aspect, they are also great to let you know where you can save money, e.g. “Don’t take that wall out, as your house will fall down with out it” (which were the exact words spoken to me not that long ago)!

Talk to a few Builders

Before choosing your builder, it’s so important to go off recommendations – speak to your architect, your neighbours, and your friends. Good builders are busier than ever at the moment (have you noticed everyone seems to be renovating?), so gauge their genuine interest by how many questions are asked, whether they want to visit the site quickly and hopefully they’ll then write up a scope of work with a quote soon after receiving the brief. Trust me, there is nothing worse than working with a builder that is too busy to take on the job. If time allows and your budget is tight, consider taking some of the load off your builder by arranging elements of the build yourself i.e. outsourcing with your own electrician and plumber and completing tasks like ordering all the bathroom fittings, and arranging things like floorboard installation and painting. Remember to go off good recommendations for every trade you use – I can’t stress this enough.

Keep Close

As soon as your renovation is under way you need to follow the progress closely to avoid any surprises. It is good to check in with the builder a few times a week so that any issues can be discussed and acted upon quickly. Also, it’s never a bad idea to treat your builder and trades to a coffee or a Friday afternoon beer every now and then – good work should be rewarded, as you know.

Look after yourself

Last but not least, to keep stress at bay – remember how important sleep, eating well and some exercise is. Easier said than done, I know – but it’s something I’ve had to address lately with so much going on. I’ve certainly got a clearer head space for the big decisions with good sleep and a bit of exercise under my belt!

Briar x




Painting the interiors of our house will be one of the last things we complete before moving in, but I definitely see it as one of the most important tasks. It’s no secret that a fresh lick of paint can improve a space immediately, so I’m really looking forward to seeing the transformation away from the old cream walls. The previous owners lived in the house for over 40 years so there is a few layers of messy paint jobs on the original timber windows that need to be fully restored, which is why I’ve decided to go with my ‘professional painter’ contact, rather than my ‘it’s a fast and easy job-painter’. I really want the paint finish to be perfect, so I feel paying that little extra for a premium job will be definitely worth it.

I’m loving working on the fun part first, choosing the colours. One guess who has asked me for a pink bedroom (!!). I’ve decided to use Taubmans throughout the home as I LOVE their colour range (Sunday’s room has been in Taubmans ‘Inverness’ for nearly 5 years now and I’m always getting asked what colour it is). Lucky for Sunday and myself, the range of pinks we can choose from for her room is really pretty gorgeous. I also love the handy tools you’ll find on the Taubmans website, and have been perusing it this week – such as the Paint Planner, Colour Tips and the extensive list of How To articles. Seriously worth checking out!

Happy man Raffy was more than happy to watch me test a variety of colours (I gave him a new paintbrush to inspect and it kept him busy for half an hour)! It got me thinking about some tips I like to take in to consideration when testing paint colours (I like to always do a large patch on the wall I’m working with, although some people like to paint pieces of white cardboard which also great ):

Natural daylight is always going to show your truest colour, never have fluro lighting on and remember that incandescent lighting will always bring out warm tones and yellows. And remember, always make your decisions once the test patch has dried on the wall. It usually looks pretty different from when the wet paint has been first applied.

If you’re choosing colours for the whole home, remember to consider how the hues will flow from room to room to create your whole look.

A single colour can take on a very different look when applied in different finishes. Eg. Wall and window frames can remain the same colour, but consider using an eggshell (a matt and less reflective finish) on the walls with a semi gloss version for trims on windows and skirting boards.

I generally like a bedroom to feel restful and soothing so soft, cool colours and neutrals are always going to work. Same rule applies for kids rooms, it’s important not to overstimulate with really intense colours – some bright colours have been proven to lead to irritability.
I’ll be back here soon to let you know the colour schemes we’re going with, followed by the really big job – the EXTERIOR colour choices. Now that my friends, is when this little red brick house of ours is going to shine!!
Briar x

Sunday Collector Renovation


I’m guilty of a rather impatient wait, but we have finally been given notice that our tenants are moving out of our red brick beauty in two weeks. Our first family home is now in a baby arms reach, and I’m really excited. I met with our builder on site this morning and we chatted about everything from floorboard finish to pendant light positioning.

The first cab off the rank with our refurb will be a new kitchen, so I’m currently googling kitchen removal companies who will do it for free (I have visions of trying to do it with Mark and busting a pipe). The day we have a clean space and the site measure happens where I press go on the manufacture of our gorgeous kitchen cabinets will be an exciting one. I can’t wait show you the kitchen concept, it’s a goodie.

I hope you welcome this –  but I’m going to be taking you all on the renovation journey on here and on Instagram. A plus on the delay of our tenants leaving is that I’ve been given lots of time to research, and because of this, I’m working with some amazing Australian brands. I feel like my blog is a good platform to share my tips and tricks and document a project I can truly call my own. Wish me luck!

Briar x

Spring Flower Master Class with Holly Hipwell


Next month I’ll be putting my student cap on and meeting fellow flower lovers at a master class and lunch at The Boathouse in Manly with chief flower enthusiast, the gorgeous and hilarious Holly Hipwell, founder of The Flower Drum. Holly explains: “This master class is perfect for those aspiring florists with an unmeasurable love for flowers who want to explore their creativity and passion with blooms! This class is also ideal for the DIY bride, who wants to take control of decorating for the big day and learn the skills of creating a bridal bouquet and table centrepieces”.Img0497Yay, I really can’t wait. Gaining better skills with flower arranging is something that has definitely been on my bucket list for a while. It’s now just an added bonus that I get to enjoy a delicious lunch at such a gorgeous location and with such a talented teacher. You guys should thinking about joining us on the day?

Saturday 17th September

10am – 2.45pm 
The Boathouse Shelly Beach
1 Marine Parade Manly

Book your spot here.

Holly took some time out of her busy life with flowers and event styling to answer some questions for the blog. Her sparkly personality really comes through in the answers – she certainly is one cool lady!

What will your students learn after a day at the workshop?
Mostly, it’ s about giving people the confidence in constructing arrangements and flower selection… People usually start out quite shy… “Oh I don’t know what to do!” Then the next minute they’re elbowing someone out of the way to get the last peony! I’m always so happy when I can see the satisfaction and joy from each creators masterpiece. This upcoming class is perfect for the DIY bride who wants to take charge and design their own wedding… but also perfect for those with a love for flowers as this class allows you to put your own spin on The Flower Drum style.

What do you love most about running your workshops?
Seeing people get in the zone and creating something they think is beautiful! I love entertaining and making flowers fun! People always think that flowers are so delicate and precious.. and then I come along and dance on the tables throwing petals in the air!

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing what you’re doing today?
Who knows! I’ve never been good at working for other people, I like to be the boss. I’ve always joked that my ultimate job working for OPI chosing names for nail polish colours.

How did your floral/even design career start?
I’ve been running The Flower Drum for about 4 or 5 years now… it all started by the way of a blog – I was documenting all of my floral adventures and creations and quite quickly it took off! I had a lot of experience already working in event production and fashion so I knew how to pull a show together… concept to creation is one of my favourite terms and I love the whole process.

What’s a project you’re most proud of?
A while ago I was commissioned to make a real life exploding flower bomb with a team of pyrotechnics – it was one of the happiest days of my life! Overall I’m just so proud to have created a career from my passion in an industry overflowing with talent.

Where did you grow up, and what do you miss most about that place?
I was born in Melbourne… you can see my first house when you land at the airport! Totally like the movie The Castle – we lived out there because my dad was a pilot, so he was close to work I guess! Or maybe because they used to have outrageous parties and didn’t want to have neighbours close by to complain… Then we moved to Hong Kong where I learnt the art of shopping with my mum at a very young age! We moved back to Aus and lived in Queensland before I moved to Sydney ten years ago. I really love Sydney – well only the best part of it… The Nothern Beaches

Three things you are passionate about?
Espresso Martinis, Having Fun and Other Peoples Dogs.

What is your favourite flower?
By season it changes – my top list
Peonies (of course)
Sweet Peas
Fragrant Roses
Ok Im about to list all the flowers….

1526525_637542789625821_12400096_nWhere do you like to shop for clothing?
I like to fill up my online shopping cart with about 500 things and then I think – what am I doing?! Then I shut it all down. I have a bit of a shopping addiction… but Bunning’s is usually my shop of choice.

Where do you like to dine out?
I love The French in Avalon – Bistro Boulevard.

What’s your favourite travel destination and why?
My house. I spend so much time on the road; I just love staying home when I have time out. I haven’t been on a proper holiday for about two years … every time I start planning one, my diary becomes stacked with bookings so I cant go! I’m busting to get to Thailand– they have a 24-hour flower market and that sounds like my idea of a good time!!

How do you treat yourself with some time out?

What does the future hold?
I’ve been working on some really fun events recently and its been great to work on the whole production process, not just the flowers… I like being in charge! So more Miss Bossy Pants activities I hope. In saying that I still enjoy working on small intimate events. Balance is the key to not getting totally worn out!

Choose one or the other:
Rosé or Merlot: Rosé
Cheddar or Brie: Cheddar… I think for midnight snacks
Blonde or Brunette: Somewhere in the middle
Rose or Orchid: That’s like me asking you to pick Sunday of Raff!
Steak or Kale: Steak
Sneakers or Heels: Sneakers!
Marble or Ceramic: Marble
Hawaii or Tasmania: Tasmania
Straight or Curly: My hair is dead straight, so definitely curly!
Mini or Range Rover: Range Rover (only because I need the room for my precious flowers!)
Nail polish or Lipstick: Nail polish! OPI Mod About You!!!!

Thanks Holly! Looking forward to creating some beautiful arrangements! Briar x

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