Monday, May 30, 2011

Adding an artistic touch to the garden

Garden art can be interpreted in many different ways. It might means extravagant sculptures, urns, water features, birdbaths or stone figurines. Even the good old garden gnome can be considered garden art!

Many people will tell that there are plenty of dos and don'ts when it comes to garden art, but most importantly, it should come down to personal taste. This doesn't mean you should completely discount factors such as style, scale and proportion. However, you shouldn't' simply go to a garden centre and choose something because the style seems "in" at the moment. It's your garden. You will be looking at this work of art all day - so you should love it.

So when making that personal decision, here are a few things you can keep in mind:

- Garden art is a wonderful way to add some boldness and character to a garden, this can work in different ways. For instance, a sculpture can act as the focal point of the garden or be a more subtle feature, that catches guests by surprises and gives them a chance to ponder.

- Be creative in where you choose to position the sculpture. Instead of smack bang in the centre of the garden, thing about a less obvious place so it can give visitors a gentle surprise. Also on the note of placement, try positioning sculptures at different levels, for instance where they have to be looked down or up to, rather than eye level.

- Embrace different materials. Garden art comes in all kinds of materials whether it be wood, stone, marble or glass. The differing textures of the materials create an interesting contrast to the surrounding greenery. Again, choose a material that best suits your tastes and the style of your garden.

- Considering portable pieces that you can move around will allows your garden to almost have a new look every month if you choose! It will also make you reconsider that old garden sculpture in a new way.

- Personal touches. Growing up with a father who spent every waking moment in the garden has given me an appreciation when it comes to garden art. Although, in the past my father has gone a bit too overboard with the sculptures in the garden, one of his best was his modernist interpretation of Rodin's, Thinker in his home in Malaysia (below). So on this note, don't think of garden art as just something you have to fork out a small fortune on. If you're feeling creative, why not create some new additions to the garden yourself or even get the family involved. If you have kids, chances are they have brought home all sorts of wonderful sculptures created during their visual arts class at school. My parents still have a clay bird I made in year 7 (and which I got top marks for!) next to the front yard's water feature. It adds a very personal and memorable touch to the garden.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Kitcheners® Kitchens Kitchen Guide

A Kitchen renovation can be a particularly daunting prospect. Kitcheners® Kitchens Essential Kitchen Ideas e-book shows you how to avoid being burnt by your new kitchen

Australia’s love of property extends to a love of renovations, particularly in kitchens. However this love affair can often turn nasty when so-called specialists offer substandard service and product; suddenly faced with blown out budgets, shoddy workmanship and chronically late delivery on their purchases.

“I’ve met people who were without their kitchen for 6 months as the old one was removed too early, while key components of the new kitchen were delayed” says Michael Kitchener of Kitcheners® Kitchens. Living without a kitchen for even a matter of days is a nightmare, which has compelled him draw on his vast knowledge base and publish Australia’s first Essential Kitchen Ideas e-book to protect you from getting burnt when buying a new kitchen.

The book covers all the bare essentials and critical facts including:

  • Utilising any sized space ensuring it’s designed to its fullest potential. Hence a kitchen that is right for you, not one that simply imitates what was in the glossy magazine.
  • Considering the widest range of components and finishes so you do not have any regrets when it’s too late.
  • Knowing when designers are cutting corners, again before it’s too late. Quality fixtures, fittings and workmanship should insure against it.
  • Understanding timelines so that design to delivery doesn’t feel like an eternity.
  • Safety tips to ensure that the finished kitchen is not a disaster trap waiting to happen.
  • Installation tips as shoddy installers and poor measurement can have disastrous consequences.
  • Budget and payments issues so that bills don’t come in twice as high, nor are you left high and dry after making a deposit.

These are just some of the critical issues that the book addresses. It even offers priceless tips like how to assess a company before you proceed with them.

To download a copy of the free kitchen e-book visit the Kitcheners® Kitchens page and follow the links to their website.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Relax and de-stress in your garden

What do you do after a hard day at work? Do you turn on the TV, watch something mindless and sink into the couch? You could do that, or retreat into your garden - after all it is essentially an outdoor room.

Many of us don't take proper advantage of our gardens. But when we do have a second to explore our gardens, it's very common for us to feel a greater sense of calm and serenity. Being out in garden has an almost therapeutic effect. When we are outdoors we have to opportunity to connect with nature. It is a complete sensory experience. We have a rich source of fresh air, an array of scents (from roses to mint to wet grass), brilliant colour and wonderful textures.

A leisurely stroll around the garden can do wonders when it comes to relaxation - but maybe not so much if your grass hasn't been cut in a number of weeks or if there's a risk you might trip over your latest half-finished garden project.

The good news is that there are some very simple things you can do to make your backyard a healing garden - meaning a space that takes advantage of it's wonderful natural surrounds and calms the body, mind and soul.

Here are some tips to make your garden a peaceful sanctuary.

- We mentioned earlier that being outdoors is a sensory experience, so use plants that appeal to this. This might mean planting gardenias for their beautiful scent or bougainvilleas for their dynamic colour. Be creative in your choices.

- Start a vegetable gardens or kitchen gardens. Gardening is know as one of the most relaxing pastimes. Studies has even found that those that active gardeners live the longest! As an added benefit, you'll also have fresh produce at your disposal.

-Have you ever listening to CD of ambient sounds from nature? You'll probably notice that a lot feature the sound of water, perhaps rain or the gentle flow of a creek. The sound of water is deeply relaxing so include it in your garden! Consider a water feature and enjoy the beauty as well as the soothing sound.

- Healing gardens are to slow you down. Use gentle winding pathways or walk ways that branch off into different areas. Use this as a way to explore different parts of the garden at your own leisure.

- Garden art is a great way to allow yourself and guest stop for a moment to ponder, and contemplate. You might consider subtler touches, such as smaller statues or a large abstract piece that will form the focal point of the garden. The choice is yours.

- Australia is home to some birds whether it be rosellas, galahs or cockatoos. Invite them into your garden with a bird bath or bird house. The happy chirping of birds adds to the sensory experience and you're also giving our feathered friend some relief during scorching summer days.

- Embrace all has to offer. Consider using different natural elements such as stone, wood and peebles and take advantage of the interesting textures.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Choosing a Kitchen Splashback

Splashbacks are essential in the kitchen to not only protect the wall against moisture and cooking debris but also to create a decorative element. The right splashback can make your entire kitchen say “WOW” so Patrick from Wonderful Kitchens has put together a guide to help you choose the perfect one for you.

What is a Kitchen Splashback?

A kitchen splashback is the material on the wall above the sink, cooktop or other benchtop space that protects the wall from oil, grease, splashes, and other kitchen messes that occur when you are cooking or preparing food.

Types of Kitchen Splashbacks

There are many different materials that you can choose from when you are deciding on your kitchen splashback. Each will create a different effect so you need to keep this in mind when making your final decision. Here are some of your choices:

Tiles — tiles are a common splashback material and you can choose between many different shapes, colours and patterns so you can create a truly individualised splashback. However, it can be difficult to keep the grout clean and free of dirt or stains.

Glass — glass splashbacks are becoming ever more popular as they are extremely hygienic and easy to keep clean , the sleek and seamless surface is the ultimate in elegance without visual interruption. The unlimited colour range makes this the most versatile choice in kitchen splashbacks.

Stainless steel — stainless steel is a very modern, clean choice for your kitchen splashback and it is another material that is very easy to keep clean. Be aware that it will easily show smudges, fingerprints, water marks and other things if you are not careful.

Stone – stone splashbacks create a seamless look and continuity of colour with the benchtop and with the limited joins and minimal grouting the splashbacks provide a low maintenance, easy to clean surface that can be installed with the benchtop. Stone also features the unique properties of stain, crack, scratch, chemical and heat resistance.

Metaline – Laminex has introduced the Metaline splashback range which is crafted using an advanced fire retardant aluminium composite panel. Combined with a high gloss paint system, the highly durable surface is both heat and water resistant which means the splashback can be used behind gas and electric cooktops.

Mosaic — mosaic tiles can provide a brilliant feature when used as kitchen splashbacks. These are small tiles that are laid in sheet form and you can create some truly stunning effects. There is a lot of grout to keep clean however.

Mirror — mirrored splashbacks can really open up the kitchen, the latest in mirror splashback technology eliminates material defects common in toughened mirror splashbacks. You no longer have to put up with dots, watermarks and other defects that detract from the striking beauty of mirror.

With so many stunning options available be sure to visit Wonderful Kitchens for more information

Creating a dog friendly garden

Co-exising with your dog in the garden isn’t as hard as you think! A dog friendly garden doesn’t have to mean fortress-like fences or dug-up lawns. A dog friendly garden can be a way that simply transforms your garden to better integrate your pet’s needs and serve an aesthetic and functional purpose. So if you’re considering buying a dog or just want to make your backyard a bit more pet friendly here are some tips!

When it comes to creating a dog friendly garden we have to consider responsible pet ownership.


Safe and sound
Our pets are curious creatures and especially in their younger years, they will pretty much put anything and everything in their mouths. My dog loves nothing more than having a good sniff around the garden. However, there are a number of plants that are not dog and cat friendly, and so are best to avoid in your landscaping design plans. These include:
  • Amaryllis

  • Cycad palms

  • Datura

  • Oleander

  • Azalea/Rhodedendron

  • Aloe vera

  • Daffodil

  • Milkweed

  • Tulips

This is by no means a comprehensive list so research to find what other plants are toxic to our furry friends. Plants that are sturdy enough to withstand the wear and tear of our pets are also a wise option.

Our pets also need protection from the elements. Even if your pet is an indoor animal, chances are they love to still spend time outdoors lazing in the sun or rolling in the grass. When considering landscape design, ensure your pet has sufficient shade – whether it be in the form of lots of trees, a dog house or covered porch.

You will need to ensure your fencing is also up to scratch. This will protect against other animals and will also keep your pet from getting up to mischief. You will have to consider the size of your dog here. A Jack Russell might be able to slip through a loose panel in the fence. A Labrador might just jump over it.

Fun and fitness
Our pets love plenty of space to explore. Lots of dogs love a high vantage spot where they can sit and see what exactly is going on. If you have a feline friend, make your garden more cat friendly by adding scratching posts which will also keep your trees from being damaged. Creating a running track with a gravel or mulch surface is also a good idea which will allow your pooch to run wild without tearing up your precious grass.

Protecting your garden
In general, you might also decide to include gentle hardscape to avoid having your dog tearing up the grass and also to make it more comfortable for them to walk about. Creating a small border using driftwood or bricks around flower beds and any other prized areas in the garden can help deter pets from roaming into these spaces.

There are so many different dog and cat friendly ideas you can integrate in your garden. Be creative! Pets are curious creatures and will love anything that keeps their minds active and offers room to explore!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Indoor plants aren't just for looking pretty...

Ever noticed how a room can have a certain feeling? You might walk into a room and experience a wonderful warm, positive feeling. Others might leave you uncomfortable or even uneasy. It comes down to more than just the colour scheme and style of the room. The energy in the room a crucial role.

As someone who loves yoga and meditation, I’ve always been very interested in the way we create energy and the energy around us. The idea of plants, their energy and placement in the home is strongly based on the concepts of Feng Shui.

Feng Shui is a practice for healthy living which seeks to channel energies a the space in order to bring good health, wellness, luck and create peace and good will within our relationships.

Essentially, anything can give off energy, not just humans. For instance, gardens are known for their wonderful energy. The rich assortment of plants and aesthetic landscape features create a positive energy and atmosphere (a much different feeling to when you’re stuck in a sterile doctor’s waiting room or stuck in line at the bank).

Don’t feel like you’re missing out if you don’t have a garden. The good news is simply using indoors plants in your home can make all the difference.

Indoor plants are known for their many benefits and various studies have been conducted which look into their effects. For instance, when NATO conducted experiments into the oxygenating properties of household plants, several were found to have the ability to remove the chemical gases used in home furnishings. Other studies have shown indoor plants can even improve productivity in the workplace and reduce staff absenteeism.

So what’s not to love about indoor plants? Yes, they do require maintenance so look into what plants are best suited for indoors. Placing appropriate plants in particular areas in your home that get sun or can make all the difference maintenance-wise.

Let's start getting the energy flowing! Here are some facts and tips to help achieve balance in your household by indoor plants

  • Living plants attract and divert energy. Placing plants in the corners of the room will help draw the room’s energy together.

  • Plants that are too large can take out the energy in a room. Smaller plants may add little in terms of energy.

  • Plants reflect active energy so they are happiest in yang (active) rooms such as living and dining areas.

  • Round leafed plants are believed to the most effective but a spiky leafed plant can add a jolt of energy to a usually quiet space

  • Work with colour and energy. Matching the colour of the flowers and pot can create a peaceful feeling

Regardless if you want to use plants to enhance your energy levels or not, they make a wonderful enhancement to any home!

Find a garden centre near you

Garden articles and advice

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Royal wedding...and that sofa!

While wedding fever may have dissipated somewhat, at Luxury Home Design we loved this sofa - which Cat Deeley who presented the CNN coverage of the Royal Wedding, was seated on - and just had to share it with you. The iconic Halo Bensington Union Jack sofa became the focal point of the program where Cat and her guests discussed the wedding.




Also featured in the segment was the decadent Esquire Cognac Flip Coffee Table. Broadcasting for more than 12 hours, the coverage was seen by an estimated 750 million viewers. The famous coverage displayed a fun collaboration, where media, politics and royalty meets design.



The Halo Group has been at the forefront of innovation in the furniture industry since it was established in Britain in 1976. The Group is a world leader in the premium lifestyle market, servicing a global appetite for exquisite hand-crafted furniture and accessories. With its international headquarters based in Hong Kong, Halo supplies a network of retail partners in more than 60 countries around the world.


For more information:
www.haloprivatelabel.comEsquire: www.esquirehomecollection.com

Looking for pool paving ideas?

So we’ve covered some options when it comes to pool fencing, now how do we select the right surrounds for our pool? It’s not always an easy choice especially as there are so many different options out there. Here are some tips for choosing the right material when it comes to swimming pool landscaping.


Why paving?
Paving is an ideal choice for swimming pool landscaping. Good quality pavers are not only cost effective but are low maintenance paving and slip resistant. Natural stone pavers also have the added benefit of being easy to clean and retain their colour over many years. Regular sweeping with a stiff brush will do the trick to remove dust and leaves. For hard to remove stains opt for a mix of chlorine and water.

Pool paving ideas – what material to choose?

Stone, concrete and brick are the main types of pavers available. So what’s the difference? Essentially, stone pavers are made from a variety of natural minerals, whereas concrete and brick pavers are made from a mix of raw materials. Natural stone adds a touch of class and elegance and its natural, durable finish makes it an ideal choice for pool surrounds. Being versatile, natural stone is also able to be cut into many different sizes. Concrete and brick also have their benefits. The colour selection is very broad and holds for a long time. They are also cheaper to produce.

Paving trends

There has been a growing trend toward using larger format pavers and using the same tile for both interior and exterior spaces to create a sense of unity and cohesiveness. Regardless of the trends, it’s important to choose a look that suits your tastes and the style of your home.

A pool isn’t something you can easily hide if you decide you’ve made the wrong decision when it comes to paving. To help ensure a successful end result, allow yourself plenty of time to make decisions about material, colours and the supplier you will use. This might involve a bit of research and thought including talking to friends and family about their experiences, considering your environment and how the area will really be used and having an idea of the size of the pool and square metres to assist budgeting.


Visit Complete Home for more information on pools and pool paving

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Freedom Kitchens Reveals The Key Kitchen Trends for 2011

Europe has long been at the forefront of kitchen design with Australia taking cue from these international trends. Based in Europe, Freedom Kitchens’ consultant, Wendy Morris-Lea, predicts five top kitchen trends that will make their way into Australian homes in 2011.

1. Living Large in Small Spaces

Technology and ease of access to the internet has led to a more flexible workforce; demanding that modern kitchens also become a flexible space. As Wendy Morris-Lea of Freedom Kitchens points out, benchtops are doubling as planning and cooking areas whilst storage drawers are allowing for computer spaces as well as iPods and iPads. "We're not only cooking, eating and socialising within the hub of the home, we can now facilitate online conference calls, presentations and meetings from the comfort of our kitchens," says Wendy. "The world is no longer outside but a virtual space within the home. The only way to spend time together as a family is to do different things in the same space."

2. Illusion of Space

The illusion of space is key to material trends with lighting, reflection and transparency dominating design and interiors across Europe. According to Wendy, reflective surfaces such as mirrored cabinetry provide a clean, contemporary look. "This works particularly well to open up smaller living areas creates a serious 'wow' statement when set against clearly defined visuals of colour," says Wendy.

Lighting in the kitchen is becoming more sophisticated - LED fitted within cabinets allows for more storage space and provides ambient lighting for the homely interior. "This trend is set to grow as more refined and elegant solutions are applied across the environment," comments Wendy.

3. New Traditions
Design classics are being reinvented again and Wendy says it's the modern interpretation of the 1970s that's gaining greatest prominence in the kitchen environment. "Not only are the 70s influencing fashion, home styling is employing the sleek and stylish design simplicity of the 70s," says Wendy.

The handleless kitchen demonstrates a modern classic; it's clutter free and an easy to clean solution. "This has been particularly popular in Mediterranean countries and is filtering through to Northern Europe at speed. The German's have added touch to open systems making the drawers easier to glide open and close without using your hands," explains Wendy. "This is the next step on from the standard soft close drawer and looks set to be the most influential functional introduction for the volume marketplace."

Freedom Kitchens' new aluminium channel system has taken the handless look to the next level - vertical. Recesses offer a streamlined look whilst providing a practical opening system to large doors such as pantries.

4. Understated Decadence
Home owners creating a natural link from kitchen to the living room environment are using colours created from natural dyes such as 'bitter chocolate' and 'platinum pale'. These neutral tones merge seamlessly with home accessories and interior styling. Wendy also says patent finishes in pale tones and metal are becoming stronger to contrast one another. "Greys, bronze, violets and stone tones play a key role in this look," she says.


Functional kitchen appliances like sinks and hobs are becoming more aesthetically pleasing, not only making benchtops more usable and practical but creating a softer feel to the whole room. "Chandeliers are currently favourable as extractors. And new to the market are extractors sunk into the benchtops which hide away, and are raised electronically only when needed to retain the sleek and simple lines," says Wendy.

Solid surface lids with metal inserts cover sinks to allow a durable resting place for hot pans. Glass and stainless steel sliding surfaces offer access and discreet solutions to the sink area.

5. The Look for Less
Savvy shopping is the new buzz word for the consumer as we enter the next decade, with everyone wanting to achieve 'the look for less'. Benchtops are the driver with the craftsmanship of the materials and the rich textured surfaces making them more exclusive and tactile than ever before.

"We see influences from fashion house Armani moving into the kitchen environment and creating tops with slender edge detailing, giving the illusion of floating surfaces adding a lightness and elegance to the material," says Wendy. This has filtered into the solid surface and quartz stone market with the look being emulated in these materials at a fraction of the cost and complexity.

Wendy says that combining benchtops in varying thicknesses to define differing cooking zones remains popular while polished stone and solid surface benchtops complimented with glass in matte textures adds to the exclusive feel for the boutique market.

For more from Freedom Kitchens visit their Complete Home listing page

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pool Fencing Solutions: Glass

Pool fencing solutions are not something that should be considered lightly. Pool fences serve a valuable purpose of keeping an area safe and secure. Although safety is the number one priority, there are also a range of other factors you can consider when it comes to pool fencing solutions. The fencing should sufficiently secure the area and also complement the pool and style of your home.

Increasingly more people are turning to glass whether it be a frameless or semi frameless glass fence for their pools. Glass not only meets safety standards but is an aesthetically pleasing choice that extends the open plan feel –ideal for compact outdoor areas.

Glass pool fencing prices
The price of glass pool fencing will vary. Generally a frameless or semi frameless glass fence will cost more than other materials. Although there are a range of more affordable options, quality glass fencing has an undeniable timeless look. If you are forking out a small fortune on a pool, you want to be able to see it! Glass also has a number of other benefits that make it a favourable fencing solution.

The benefits
A frameless or semi frameless glass fence has the benefit of being unobtrusive. The transparent nature of glass fencing is ideal for parents to keep a watchful eye over kids at play in the pool.

Although glass has a reputation as a fragile material, figures suggest problems with glass fencing are small. Toughened glass is also a beneficial choice to help withstand wear and tear.

Maintenance
Glass, in a normal environment, requires little maintenance. Rain will more often than not, wash off any marks and dirt. For the rest of the time, a quarterly wash with a sponge and some detergent followed by a wipe over with a squeegee will suffice. If the glass is exposed to salt air or near a salt pool, more regular maintenance may be required. Areas with harder water, such as regional areas around the east coast may also require greater protection. Thankfully there are plenty of products available that help protect glass and will make the task much easier.

Remember safety comes first when choosing pool fencing solutions. Each state has difference rules regarding pool fencing so it’s best to first check the regulations before making a final decision.