January 2005


This started out as just a long long list but as I started to impose some sort of order the points fell into one of two camps. Either they were just general musings and ideas for a particular aspect of the way the house was put together, or they related to features that we wanted to have in specific rooms. There’s some overlap and I’m sure also still some gaps, but this is a starting point! Page General thoughts • House shape and overall design • Walls and ceilings • Windows and lighting • Doors and floors • Utilities – power, heating, plumbing, etc Room by room • Hallways / landings • Lounge / general living areas • Bedrooms • Study area • Kitchen / dining area • Laundry / mudroom • Bathroom • Verandah / garden rooms • Storage spaces 2 13 19 26 29

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House shape and overall design


We’d like the house to be very environmentally friendly in terms of the way it is constructed and to live in. However, we want to do it in a way that still means we get to have a house that fits our dreams in terms of “look and feel”. I don’t see why good interior design should have to be sacrificed for sustainable housing; both are equally important to us.

I’ve only just started learning about permaculture. So far I like the principles but not always every instance of the practice, because it seems to totally sacrifice design and “look and feel”. So, I’d like a design that is in line with the spirit of permaculture (ie: put complementary things together, minimise waste in terms of energy, look holistically, etc) but also factors in appearance. It doesn’t have to always be the *most* attractive design option that we go for if that is totally inefficient, but it is important that it looks nice.

Generally, the house needs to feel right in terms of proportions, with different spaces for different moods, clever uses of light and shadow. To me, touch and airflow are just as important to this feeling as the look. I read somewhere about a house being like “frozen music” – can’t remember who said it, but to me that encapsulates how a house is more than just a shelter, it’s a work of art in itself and there needs to be a spirit and flow throughout. I’m looking for a house that feels right. I want a house that I love so much that I don’t feel a yearning to travel, because I’m living in my dream home already and nothing else will measure up

We’d like the house to feel as if it belongs in the landscape. However, this doesn’t mean we want to simply replicate the old pioneer homesteads. I’d like to design a house that isn’t hidebound to tradition just for the sake of it. If I had to choose though, I’d like to have a mixture of the best of American style Arts & Crafts homesteads with dollops of Cape Cod, Australian, Scandinavian and English farmhouse styles.

We’d like the house to look welcoming and friendly from all vantage points (up close as well as from a distance). The symmetry and details of the outside of the house are really important in achieving this. In particular, what the roof is made of has a big effect. Generally, I like slate tiled roofs (especially if done with rubber slate tiles – v. good use of recycled material!), corrugated iron aka colourbond, but only if it’s a bit rusted looking, wooden beams and shingles.




We don’t have a particular shape in mind for the house, other than that pitched roofs and verandahs seem to be a feature of all the houses we like! I adore Cape Cod houses and wooden bungalows; I loathe triple fronted brick veneer. I’m probably more a fan of traditional style houses than modern ones

I’ve always wanted to have a two storey house, because I’ve always wanted to have a staircase and I love dormer windows. So we would like for there to be a second storey, even if it is only small

Ideally we’d like to design the house so that it can be built in stages, so we can live in the first stage comfortably and then extend on from there when we have time / money / inclination. In the first stage we would like to have a good sized bedroom (even if not the master one), bathroom, kitchen, lounge area, laundry, and another room which we can use as a study and guest bedroom.

We’d like to have the potential to use the house for B&B, so in the last stage would like two extra bedrooms included with a bathroom between them (or an ensuite each) and a shared small sunroom / lounge area. Although I’m happy for this to join onto the main house, I’d like it to be in a separate wing, or other such so that we still have our privacy.

We’re open to suggestions on how to incorporate the existing house into the design. The front part of it, with the four rooms and passageway seems like it wouldn’t be impossible to salvage. Retaining those parts would have the added benefit of giving the house an “old soul” which I think would be a nice feeling, especially as I’ve always loved old houses. However, we’re open to suggestions – e.g., if you think it’ll be a huge constraint, then maybe we should treat the old house as being the “guest cottage” and build our own house from scratch.

Given where we’re situated, so close to forest, we need to be aware of bushfire danger. We’d like to make sure that in the design we don’t inadvertently increase the risk – e.g., in terms of having a roof that is a lot more likely to catch embers. We’d also like to design in simple protection features, e.g., a way to plug the guttering so it can be filled with water; a sprinkler system attached to the roof so that when a fire is approaching we can turn it on to make the roof wet. Also, in terms of farm building and tree placement, would like to try and make a natural 7 firebreak (so that the fire is likely to jump over the roof of the main house)

Overall, would like the house to be designed so that it won’t require an enormous amount of rebuilding if we want to stay living in it when we’re older. This doesn’t mean that I want to sacrifice things like stairs or have unsightly railings everywhere, but just to be aware of it. For instance, if we have stairs, either have them leading to a space that isn’t essential, or design in a big size cupboard top and bottom levels with power running nearby that we could retro-fit an elevator into if it ever became necessary. (I’m counting on elevators becoming a lot cheaper in 20 years!). Even more practically, make sure that the rooms and doorways are wide enough to easily accommodate someone on a wheelchair; if we have wainscoting, have the railing bit at the top a little larger than the norm so it could double as a handrail if ever needed, etc. (I got these ideas from the DreamHome book but I’m sure there are loads more)

It would be nice to have some flexibility in terms of furniture arrangement, e.g., to allow for different layouts for winter and summer, like they do in Sweden.


Nicholas Saunders house
I’m including this article in full since the website it’s on is temperamental so I don’t trust that it’ll be there when you go to find it! Even though it’s very extreme and not fully practical, there’s something about the whimsy and spirit with which he designed it that appeals…. Ie: allowing for wonderful flights of fancy as well as thinking practically about how he wanted to live – not just what was expected by everyone else. I especially love the fish tank, rabbit mowing the roof lawn and the duck pond. Not so keen on the cave, but I love the concept of designing something to suit your mood. The late Nicholas Saunders's flat in London's Worlds End was famous for the ducks that swam up into the papier mache living room cave, for the goldfish in the toilet tank and for the egg-shaped bedroom. In the following adapted extract from Me, his autobiography, he tells the story of transforming a derelict flat into a wonderland. “I'd been thinking about how to convert the basement flat in Edith Grove into my home while I was in India and had worked out some aspects down to the smallest detail. I would think up ideas about how I'd like the place to be then 'test' the design by going through an imaginary drama as though it were a stage set. For instance, I'd thought about ways of allowing people to stay the night but not move in, such as hammocks which could be hung from the ceiling in the main room. I wanted to provide a place that would encourage lots of visitors yet also allow me to be undisturbed by them when I was working or wanted to be alone. In the event I kept to the overall plan. The details I'd work out by moving my mattress to that part of the building and visualising how it would be as I went to sleep, then next day I'd draw on the floor and walls and sometimes make mockups with scraps of wood. The site was extremely awkward - a long narrow basement only 7 feet wide and 30 feet long. It was pretty dark, except at the front, and there was another tunnellike space at street level even longer and narrower, and so low that my hair brushed the ceiling. This 'tunnel' led into a broken down workshop behind the house which was the only decent space, something like 15 feet square. There was also a narrow concrete yard 60 feet long running behind the backs of a row of houses, overlooked and overshadowed.


cholas Saunders house (page 2)

The yard would have made a dismal garden, so I made it into a pond which came right into the main room. I made a window the full width from a sheet of plate glass that ended just below the surface of the water, so that it formed an air seal. I cast the pond in waterproof ready-mix concrete, reinforced in places with old gas pipes and wire netting. It filled the entire yard, except for the far end, which I used as a dump for the building rubbish and then covered with earth to grow plants in. (By making a bank, the effect was greatly to increase the area of garden seen from the window. In fact it was also doubled due to the reflection in the pond.) I got some tufted ducks (those diving ducks with whitish sides you see on lakes in the parks) to live on the pond with the idea that they could dive under the glass and come inside. To train them I first tried feeding them spaghetti (which sank) just under the glass, so they would dive for it and come up inside by mistake sometimes. But one duck was a bit stupid and just panicked every time it found itself inside! My answer was to lower the water till it was well below the bottom of the window, then, when the duck was used to swimming into the room, I gradually raised the level over several days. To illuminate the pond I used two car headlamp units (you can get them free when one filament has gone but still use the other) supplied via a transformer. The pond looked so unreal at night that people who hadn't seen it in the day couldn't make out what was going on. Part of the effect was due to the light being reflected off the waves which made shimmering patterns on the end bank. I also fixed a pipe along the top of the window with holes drilled along it which sprayed water at the glass, causing mesmerising wave patterns to flow down it. I think the cleverest part of all - though seldom appreciated - was the combined overflow and emptying device. This was simply a piece of standard plastic soil pipe with a right angle ring-seal bend which acted as a hinge. When the pipe was vertical it was an overflow; when horizontal the pond emptied. The workshop needed a new roof. I made it nearly flat and strong enough (using second-hand steel beams) to support soil. First the roof boards were covered with roofing felt, then a layer of polythene and finally three layers of turf – easier to handle and less likely to turn into mud (and actually no more expensive) than stone-less top soil. It became a lawn and I kept a rabbit up there to keep it mown. That meant I had to keep plants out of its reach: I did this by using old chimney pots filled with earth. For access I had a spiral staircase made by a friend in a very simple way using a 'cage' of posts supporting the steps with a circular greenhouse on top.


cholas Saunders house (page 3)

It all worked well apart from the grass becoming waterlogged in wet weather and having to be kept watered very regularly to prevent it drying out in hot weather. I fixed up a spray system operated by a time switch - (I had designed a device to keep the dampness just right, which consisted of a seesaw with a piece of turf on one end balanced by a weight when it was just wet enough - the sprays would be switched on when the turf was up.) My first plan for the main room was to shape the floor like a series of sand dunes, then cover them with foam and carpet in such a way that you could walk through 'valleys' without going up or down. There were to be a choice of comfortable places to sit upright, lounge or sprawl, but no tables instead, flat and firm enough places to put things on. I thought I could design it so that people would be encouraged to talk and find a position to suit their mood. To clean it I was going to build in a vacuum cleaner with frequent sockets to connect a hose to. The vacuum would be generated by a venturi using mains water. It would consist of a water jet blasting into a T-junction connected to the drain: the dusty air would be sucked by the jet and blown straight down the drain; the washed air would escape at the roof vent. No dusty bag to empty; no expensive liner bags to buy and it would be much quieter. As the air would not have to be sucked through a dusty filter it would use less energy and always work at maximum efficiency. It would probably be illegal in England, but in 'normal' countries where houses have water meters it could be a worthwhile marketable item of domestic equipment. This space to fill got me interested in what were the ideal size and shape of a place for conversation, and I made observations wherever I went about how far from each other people sat, and in what layout. As a result, I designed a 'cave‘ - a nearly round room with domed ceiling about twelve feet across, but it was not for another two years that I built it. This was quite a lot smaller than the room it was in, but I intended to use the space for little caves leading off the main one, each with a different character: one with two seats facing a small table for playing chess, one for a minilibrary, one for writing letters, one as a soundproofed meditation cave and one with a waterbed. That would still have left space for a labyrinth of tunnels to crawl through, and perhaps a slide – why shouldn't grownups play too?


cholas Saunders house (page 4)

I actually made only the main cave and one sub-cave. It was made out of papier-mache, and had a floor raised to chair height made of chipboard supported on legs cut from broom sticks. To construct it I first built the floor, then made the shell from wire netting. I stapled the ends of each width of netting to the floor, then arched them over, pulling them into the shape I wanted by stretching them with wires to the ceiling. Then I stitched the widths of netting together with more wire and covered it with pasted sheets of newspaper. To do this I had to get someone to hold one sheet on the outside whilst I pasted another on to it through the netting - this was the tricky part, especially as it wasn't always possible to get to the outside. A better way (which I used later when I made the sub-cave) was to put on the first layers of paper before erecting the netting. Then I built up about five more layers of paper all over and some extra where people would lean, and finished it with lining paper. For the middle I built a table which could be changed in size. When it was up I had a table that eight people could sit around - they sat on the edge of the raised cave floor with their feet under the table - or, with the table down, the whole cave became a sit-on-cushions-on-the-floor room except for the small central fixed part of the table. For lighting I had 200 fairy lights, each bulb pushed through from the outside - just five strings of ordinary Christmas tree lights - controlled by one dimmer. You could choose from a bright shadowless light to an effect like stars at night. There were no decorations except for rugs and cushions. It was extraordinarily successful. It was quite strong enough and I'm sure that the physical dimensions were right. Apart from being very unusual, it really did have a good atmosphere. What I'm not sure about is how much the long and interesting view up the pond contributed - would an ordinary window or a fireplace do instead? Maybe I'll try again one day and see. For the lavatory I had a flush tank made out of glass - in fact it was an aquarium with holes for the pipes and handle. I fitted it with a bright coloured plastic ballcock and syphon and kept a goldfish in it! I made two modifications to make life more tolerable for the fish: I drilled a small hole in the syphon to break the suction before it emptied the tank, and adjusted the ballcock so that a little water always dribbled through; this was both to aerate the tank and prevent a sudden temperature change.


cholas Saunders house (page 5)

The bedroom was the masterpiece of the whole flat. It started out as a nasty dark basement room only seven feet wide. I slept in there in every possible orientation until I found the best position (so that I could see the sky while lying down) and then I visualised what space I'd want around me. The result was an egg shape completely curved except for a flat oval floor covered by a mattress. It had a small rounded window in the right position to see the sky, and another opening near shoulder position into a cubby-hole where I had a clock, light switch and controls for the ventilator and blind. Even the door was curved and rounded. The light was outside the 'shell', shining on a blind between the original window and the shell window so that no lamp was visible in the daytime. To plan it, I laid a hosepipe around my mattress, which I curved until I found the 'right' shape. Then I erected studs, floor to ceiling, to produce an oval cage. From one third the way up each stud I fixed a diagonal to a smaller oval on the floor, and this was repeated on the ceiling, so that the shape I wanted was correct in plan but octagonal in elevation at any section. Then it had expanded metal lathing nailed to the inside (horrible stuff, it springs and cuts you) which I bashed until I formed the curved shape I wanted. This was finished with plaster - I got an old plasterer in who said he used to do cinema ceilings like that in the thirties! It took half a ton of plaster and ended up so solid you could have removed the timber frame without it collapsing. The room had really strange acoustics - you could hear your toes rubbing against each other clearly. And being so smooth and white it wasn't possible to tell the size: people tended to think it was much smaller, which I think was because one tends to assume walls are vertical rather than sloping outwards. I had planned to make an alarm clock in the little yard just outside the window by keeping a live cock there. At night it was to have a completely light-tight box to roost in with an electrically operated door: this would open at whatever time I set the alarm to and a light in the box would also come on ... so the cock would crow and wake me up. I had one funfair sort of amusement - I used the scaffolding I had left over from previous building work to make a swing boat on the roof. I made a small wooden swing boat just big enough for two people facing with legs around each other, and hung it so that it swung from the edge of the roof right over the pond. It had cords which you could pull to 'work' it, and it was suspended from 20 feet above the roof so you could get up quite a speed. It was very exhilarating but also quite frightening as you could sometimes lose the 'flight path' if you went very high, and I was scared of hitting the scaffold poles, though I never did.


Walls and ceilings


I adore high ceilings, for their airiness and ability to make even small rooms feel big, as well as their practicality in terms of giving you loads of space for shelving. I also like them as they give me places to hang chandeliers which don’t look as good with low ceilings. So we definitely want high ceilings in at least some places. However, I don’t like cathedral ceilings, or double height ones, those ridiculously cavernously spaces you find in a lot of modern American homes. I find I don’t feel secure in them.

It would be nice to play around with ceiling heights, to create a sense of cosiness within alcoves for instance. I don’t want it so low anywhere that I’d bump my head, but I’ve seen it done very cleverly as a way to signify a change in space designation even within a big open plan area

We love our conservatory here, it would be nice to have a similar feeling area in the Amherst house too. It might also make it easier to bring light further into the house. I really love skylights as well.

I love the idea of this raised up skylight with a shelf around the base for standing plants on. You can imagine having wires across that they could grow across to create a lovely filtered light. This is another example of how we could creatively bring the garden indoors


We’re not afraid of interestingly shaped ceilings. I know they can add to the expense dramatically if they were to be professionally made, but I figure provided we do it ourselves it shouldn’t be out-of-reach. We wouldn’t want to go overboard on this though, so only do it if it adds significantly to the room feel

Breakfast parlour at John Soanes Museum in London. As well as the gentle arches, what I especially like is how little pieces of mirror have been incorporated into the walls to add to the light. Overall though, this is perhaps a little too formal / classical to feel comfortable in, but I like the spirit behind it

Front parlour ceiling at Castel Battlo, an apartment designed by Gaudi in Barcelona. I love the organicness of this. I wouldn’t want this kind of ceiling everywhere but as a special feature it would be great. I’m guessing we could sculpt it out of plaster built round some kind of wire mould?

From the attic laundry at Castel Battlo. There is something a little unsettling about them all in a row (makes me feel like I’m in a whale!) but the airiness of it was spectacular and I liked the symmetry and way in which the lights from the windows played on the walls.


In at least some places, I’d like to have interesting textures and coverings for the walls. E.g., fabric (maybe covered by a protective perspex or glass sheet), cork, antique tiles. I like wainscoting too

Pargetry in Saffron Walden

Amazing cork tiles on the wall of the tiny bathroom at Lawrence of Arabia’s cottage in Devon (near Dorchester). They had a wonderful texture and it felt like a softer version of wood panelling


As I mentioned when we met, I’m collecting antique tiles so I can create a kind of patchwork display wall. To the right are pictures of a selection of them to give you a flavour for the mix of styles / colours I’m gathering. I thought it would be wonderful to have this patchwork in a bathroom or maybe even on an outer wall like a verandah. Also, with any that are part of a set I could use them in other places to make a kind of picture. We did this in our bathroom here (see below) and I love it, it’s like a piece of art for the bath!


In some areas we want to make our own wallpaper. For instance, I’ve always wanted to cover part of a hallway wall with old New Yorker magazine covers. I’ve subscribed to it ever since I lived in NYC so have nearly a decade of backissues now. Some of the cover artwork is just gorgeous.

It would be nice to be creative with walls, eg having some which are room dividers which can be folded back flat against the wall to have it opened up or closed. This might be a way of accommodating the wish for a dining area that can be used for formal occasions, but can be used for other things the rest of the time. Also, maybe we could use both sides of the folding walls for paintings, like at the John Soanes museum (see storage section)

Walls don’t necessarily always have to join at 90 degrees. Having some of them at angles can make for interesting spaces, although I wouldn’t want to do it everywhere

This was the kitchen in a Gaudi-designed apartment in Barcelona, which also doubled as a passageway through the flat. I especially liked the angular lines to this; it’s open plan and yet more interesting than just straight 90 degree lines all the way through. The angles made it feel less like a galley kitchen than it otherwise would have done

We saw a great trick for making ceilings appear higher at a farmhouse near Cambridge. They had the wall colour stopping at the picture rail and then just white on the wall above it and on the ceiling. The clever thing was that the ceiling didin’t join the wall at 90 degrees, instead they’d made it a curved join by shaping the plaster. It meant that your eye couldn’t pick out precisely where the wall ended and the ceiling started. Now, I’m hoping that the rooms in our house will be high enough already that we won’t have to resort to such measures, but it might be useful for areas like the attic


Windows and lighting


Rather than just having big picture windows for giving views, it’d be fun to also play with different window shapes. E.g., to have a mosaic of smaller windows, each framing a view rather than just one huge window expanse in a hallway. It’s not that I don’t want any big windows, just I’d like to mix it up a bit.

I like having windows up high in rooms e.g., above door frames. It makes a huge difference to the amount of light that flows through the house and the feeling of spaciousness. Even the kind of glass is important – we replaced the hideous lined safety glass above our doors in London house with clear glass, and suddenly it felt so much nicer.

Unless there’s a reason for it not to be (e.g., because using stained glass panels), we’d like all the windows to be double-glazed. I don’t mind PVC units in some places but I hate the ones that look obviously plastic. The compromise we reached in London was to have custom made wooden double-glazed units at the front and back of the house (including the conservatory) where you’d really notice it, and then PVC units along the side. 21

We really like wooden plantation shutters and louvres. We had some made to measure for our lounge room here and they’re wonderful. I also like roman blinds, bamboo blinds, etc generally. I’m not that big a fan of curtains, other than very simple ones

At Oakley Plantation in St Francisville, US. The shutters were designed so that the air was always moving up on the verandas to keep the house cool. It worked amazingly well. Also, that house in the ABC series SeaChange had great shutters

I like the idea of having glass shelves across some windows so you can use them for displaying small things that look better lit up

I I love dormer windows! They look wonderful from the outside and they also create interesting alcove places inside


I’ve been collecting antique stained glass windows of various sizes for the past few years with the idea of using it in a house in Australia. Now we have Amherst, that’s where it’s destined! I’d like to use it around the house and maybe also in the garden – either as actual windows or simply standing up on window ledges to catch the light (some panels are a bit too delicate to go back into a window frame). Some could even possibly be used as door panels. Here’s a selection of the glass I’ve collected so far to give you the idea

We have a set of 14 matching stained glass panels: 7 windows which are 51 x 34 cm and a further 7 which are 51 x 36 cm. These aren’t in window frames anymore but they’re all in good condition so could easily be put back. I have two of these bluebird panels, both are in picture frames at the moment leaning against windows

The latest addition, I collected these just after Christmas. We have four matching panels in total, each measuring with frames approx 45cm x 104cm..

This too is in a frame at the moment hanging on an interior glass wall in our house here. I have a series of 5 of these windows. They form a country scene, with houses, mountains, stream, etc. They’re all still in their original wooden frames and in great condition


I like the idea of windows being interestingly framed or of unusual shape. Not portholes though, for some reason I’ve never liked them except in houses by the seaside!

I love window seats of all shapes and sizes, although they ideally should be big enough to sprawl on with cushions, not just perch on the edge

I’d like for windows to have ledges wide enough to serve as a shelf so I can display things on it and prop things up


I’ve also been collecting interesting light fixtures, here are a selection. Although (with the exception of the giant one) these are all being used in our London house, we plan to bring them back with us when we move.

This is a giant lampshade we bought on Ebay in the UK for peanuts and then shipped to Australia. It’s now sitting in a crate at Amherst – it’s so big and heavy we figured it would be safe there (it takes two people to lift!) It was originally from an old hotel up north that was being renovated. It is huge – 48 inches in diameter – and held together via the tiffany style leadlighting with a heavy iron frame. We’re open to suggestions about how best to use it, but one idea is for it to be the centrepiece to a room, and echo its spiral pattern somehow in the roof

We have a set of two of these antique glass uplighters At the moment we have just this one shade but on our last visit to Venice we found a great shop with hundreds of them in loads of colours, so we’re going to buy more next trip. I think they’d make wonderful lights for the verandah, hallways etc.

We have this big antique floor bamboo lamp with three arms which swing around and are designed to look like flower petals. It’s one of my favourite things.


I would like there to be wall lights not only overhead. Also, would like to plan in for there to be powerpoints on the floor in the middle areas of a room (where we would put a sofa/side table) so we can have table lamps without having to worry about cords running underfoot

In all rooms it should be possible to dim the lights. As a general rule, I like interesting light fittings and ones which can be moved around. E.g., pendant lights which are on a chain and can be raised or lowered; unusual chandeliers

It is OK if some of the mood lighting is candles rather than electrical. For instance we have a hanging chandelier that holds candles and a giant candelabra that when fully light with 12 candles is incredibly bright.

Interesting example of mood lighting which could work really well on the verandah perhaps… it’s just tea-lights inside concrete block shape things but amazingly effective


Doors and floors


I like panelled doors – even ones that are fake panelled (like we have here in London), they just add a bit more character to what would otherwise be a big flat panel of wood. Unless of course the wood was beautifully grained / polished of course. We have quite a few antique panelled doors at the house already

I dislike sliding doors except for very well made glass ones. This is because they never seem to shut properly and often come off their tracks, and they remind me of the horrid sliding doors of my youth! Even on cupboards I’d prefer to have a proper door rather than a sliding one

I’m very fussy about the kind of latches and door handles, the little details make such a huge difference to the finished effect

Whatever coverings are on the floor, they need to be easy to maintain. I don’t mind if a small section requires a bit of extra effort (e.g., an area of white carpet) but overall want it to be easy to look after e.g., just with a daily sweeping.

Ideally I’d like a mixture of floor coverings around the house. Wooden floors are wonderful provided they’re not the kind that you have to polish all the time or worry about getting scratched. Painted wooden floors are more practical perhaps. I especially love parquetry floors. I also like good quality laminate flooring as its so easy to look after, you just sweep it clean and they’re really soft underfoot because of the foam backing. I like carpet too although only in solid natural colours. I like coverings like seagrass matting etc too but it’s not that brilliant when you spill things on it! We had a rug here that we ended up having to throw out as you just couldn’t get the red wine stains out.

We bought a mold in Barcelona for making tiles of similar shape to those Gaudi designed for the pavements outside his houses. They’re really cool, so for a small area we might be able to do that


I really like tiled floors, especially when they aren’t huge expanses but used for emphasis. The only problem with them is that they’re quite cold underfoot unless you have underfloor heating. I would never had floor tiles with white grout again either, it’s a nightmare to keep clean

I like the idea of having a pebble or cobblestone floor in parts, maybe in the bathroom or back entrance / laundry area. They feel wonderful to walk on in bare feet and you can make great patterns out of it 29

Utilities – power, heating, plumbing, etc


We’d like the house to be designed to be energy efficient, but not to the extent that it destroys the look and feel. For instance, I know wrap around verandas are good for keeping the house cool in summer, but I wouldn’t want them everywhere if it meant that in winter it would be dark and gloomy inside

We’d like the house and surrounds to be designed in such a way as to keep the house naturally cool in summer. However, because I wilt badly in the heat, I’m guessing we might need some back-up cooling at least in one room, especially if we’ve made compromises on the house design for aesthetic reasons. If so, I’ve found an air conditioner that might suit – it apparently saves 90% in terms of power versus normal systems and can run on solar.

At this stage we’re planning on having a fully solar powered house. Even though the electricity passes our property and we could in theory get connected, in practice it’s going to be not that much cheaper. If we have a decent solar power system we won’t have to worry about how much power we use. Plus at least in some ways it will be more environmentally friendly (although I know it’s not clearcut because of what it takes to make the solar cells in the first place). However, I really don’t like the look of solar panels so I don’t want them to be in view of the house. An idea we had was to put them on the side of a barn roof that faced away from the house, and maybe in places on the main house roof if they were in areas that were hidden from view (e.g., if there’s a central dip or something in the roof)

It’d be nice to have a ducted vacuuming system, assuming they work well? I’ve never had one but have heard good things about them


We’d like to have fireplaces throughout the house. I love fireplaces with classic mantles and tilework, provided it isn’t too carved and ornate, but I also like simpler styles – e.g., brick, stone hearths. Ideally we’d like to have a mixture of real woodburning and fake gas fires. Especially, fake gas fires in the bathroom and bedroom/s – they’re amazingly realistic now and they’re very easy to look after.

It would be great for any rooms which have a wood-burning fireplace in them to also have a hatch on an outside wall so that we can load in firewood from outside. The house my Dad built in Healesville had this and it was brilliant; it was set up so that under the house there was a place for wood-chopping and storing wood… Dad could chop it and then stack it up straight onto the ledge near the hatch

Fireplaces need to be able to be shut off when not in use so that we don’t get cold drafts coming through. It also would be good for any wood-burning fireplaces to be on an inside wall so they warm the room behind too (maybe even have a vent or something to help this)

We don’t want anything too sleek/modern/steel, but don’t mind being quirky in some of the fireplaces, as per the pictures below. However, for the main fireplace in the lounge I’d like that to be a big traditional hearth

Specially made driftwood, etc which is fire resistant

This is an Australian company, the fires apparently burn on ethanol so they don’t need flues


Central heating
We’d like the house to be warm in winter and to have some form of central heating. I dread the thought of waking up in winter in bed and being able to see my breath in the air, like I grew up with!

The property isn’t able to be connected to mains gas, so whatever gas systems we have need to be able to be fuelled via gas tanks. Ideally we don’t want to rely on gas too much as we’ll have to buy it and it’ll be a pain to get the tanks refilled.

I like UK style radiators (which are heated by hot water circulating) but, unless they’re beautiful old fashioned cast iron ones – which they won’t be as they’re too expensive – I’d like them to be covered. We have radiator cabinets across all of the ones here and besides making it look nicer, it creates handy little shelves too

Don’t want a form of central heating that makes things too dry / dusty, at least not everywhere

Our old Rayburn wood-burning stove (see kitchen section) has an attachment to it for heating water which we have, as well as the insulated tank. We could use this for some of the heating, but we don’t want it to be the only system as otherwise it will be too hot in summer

We saw a fabulous Heat Exchange system done on a Grand Designs episode. It works along the same principle as a fridge. A big “coil” is buried in the ground and gets heat from the sun through the soil. It transfers this heat into the house. Apparently it gives off a low level heat well suited for underfloor heating. The price for the system in Ireland was approx 10,000 Euros in 2003/04 and it seemed to me like it would work brilliantly at Amherst and be a very cheap and low maintenance way of heating the house in the long-run. They said it was used a lot in the US and Scandinavia, not sure about Australia but happy to be pioneers in it as it obviously works. This is one supplier we found for the UK which has more information about it, if it’s not something you’ve come across before


TV and Internet
We couldn’t survive without fast Internet access at home - it’d be like living with TV or books; plus I need the connection to support freelance consultancy work / ebay business / etc if I get bored or need the money. Hopefully by the time we move there it’ll be possible to get DSL broadband but until then we know we can at least get it via satellite. If we do resort to satellite, this means we’ll need to have a satellite dish located somewhere on or near the house, so we’d like this to be well camouflaged. Having broadband is so important to us that it was the first thing we checked when we were thinking of buying the property… we can cope without power, water, telephone connections but to not be able to access broadband internet would have stopped us buying the property. Bigpond ( offer a satellite system that looks OK (although it’s less than half the speed we have here in London currently and has stupid download limits, it’s tolerable and I’m assuming they’ll fix it in the next few years).

I’m also expecting we’ll have satellite TV, although don’t know if that uses the same dish as the broadband or another one.

We would like the house to be compatible with wireless networking (WiFi). The only thing I can imagine this affecting may be the choice of materials for the walls – e.g., we wouldn’t want them all to be solid, although shouldn’t be overly concerned about this as we can always get round it by buying more wireless ports or resorting to a mixture of wireless and wired networking. Overall though, I’d like there to be internet access in every room of the house and also on the verandah and garden room: “The most important factor in Wi-Fi is location. Distance saps wireless strength, and so do most construction materials. Keep your base stations away from solid walls and doors, as well as any metal objects or computer equipment. Put them near windows or hollow walls instead. Our test home's lightweight California stucco walls turned out to have impenetrable wire mesh inside them. To reach outside, we placed the unit in sight of a window facing the pool. Most home window glass is transparent to microwaves as well as light, so a window is better than a wall or a door”.


Hallways / landings


Hallways set the tone for a house as much as the rooms. If they’re inviting, friendly, engaging then it helps the house to feel happy. Stairs and landings are important not just because they take you upstairs to new spaces, but also because they give you new vantage points on where you’ve just been


In the main entrance hallway we would like there to be space for a grandfather clock. We don’t have one yet but I’ve always wanted one so I’m going to get one here and bring it back. I’d also like there to be a place for putting flowers or a few pot-plants, candles, etc


We would really like to have at least one section of the house two-storey. This is as much for the views over the (future) garden as it is because I’ve always wanted to live in a house with a staircase! I would like the stairs to be square rather than spiral shaped and to be filled in underneath so that we could have a cupboard or alcove under the stairs. I’d also like the side of the stairs to be framed in well via banisters but still quite “airy”


Overall, we’d like hallways to not just be thoroughfares, but also to have places and a reason to pause in them. They should be generously wide. I also like hallways that change shape as you go along them, e.g., with a wider space in the middle where you have chairs, etc, like we have in London. Taken to the extreme, I’ve seen some houses that worked well in terms of flow which didn’t appear to have hallways but instead a series of short lobby-like spaces off from a main room

Our hallway in London has the effect I’m looking for but it is on too cramped a scale. I’d like it to be a lot wider


As part of making the hallways feel like rooms, I’d like to have built in storage all along them for books and to display beautiful things. I’d also like there to be little nooks here and there to encourage you to sit and read. Maybe even make one of them the size of a single bed which we could fill with cushions… then it could double as an extra spare bed when we had lots of guests


Hallways need to have natural light, whether it be from a window at one end, a series of windows high up, or on one side, or skylights. We collect paintings so I suspect the hallways will function as a display space too


We would like a big space in the hallway where we can hang coats, hats, put bags, outside shoes, etc. Some of this could be on display but also would be good to have a cupboard. There needs to be space for seating near this, whether it be a bench or a proper chair. Also a space for a mirror. We have two really nice coat-racks already, maybe one could go at the front door and one at the back

We’d like a place to put and sort mail, ideally somewhere near the entrance and a cupboard where we can store the paper shredder and put papers for recycling


We just bought some amazing railings via ebay from an old church that we figured would work well for a landing or staircase rail… ““A beautiful set of art nouveau crafts railing over 36ft of totally original craftsmanship, these date c1910. The most gorgeous oak, copper and iron work all totally original and undamaged. All oak is perfect as is hand made iron and copper work, no damage or restorations. This lot has 4 sections, that when joined together create 2 complete rails, one straight one curved, the straight one measures an overall size of 18ft and the curved one an overall size of 18ft. The 4 large metalwork sections measures an overall 75 x 37 x 3cm thick and the 4 smaller ones measure 51.5 x 36.5 x 3 cm. The oak rails measure 9 x 5.5 cm, ends are obviously larger with the scroll. This is all magnificent craftsmanship, these all slot together and fix with an internal screwing mechanism and are concealed by oak pegs. The scrolled oak ends are removable”



*** ** *

Essential, “must have” in any design Would love to have, only give up if all other options exhausted Would really like, but willing to sacrifice if we have to

*** *** *** ***

Space for flowers, candle, etc at entrance Wide hallways with reasons to pause, not just thoroughfares Built in shelves along halls Space for hanging coats, putting shoes, etc with seat at entrance

** ** ** **

Two storey house with square staircase Comfy seats in alcoves and window areas in the hallways Natural light in hallways Use oak, iron and copper railings from Ebay

* *

Space for a grandfather clock Place to sort and store mail


Lounge / general living areas


Living rooms are places for relaxing and socialising, and a real hub and showpiece for the home. They’re a slightly more formal place you can entertain people than in the kitchen.


We’d like the room to be quite airy and light-filled in parts, but also have some cosy corners and alcoves. It needs to be large enough to accommodate two large sofas (or armchairs) placed opposite each other with a coffee table in-between. I want the room to be able to support having large pieces of furniture in it without feeling crowded. For the lounge, I’d like there to be comfortable seating for 8 people at least, with flexibility to bring in more chairs


I’ve really liked lounge rooms I’ve been in where the main seating area is the middle of the room with none of the sofas backing onto a wall. That means that the pathways for walking through can be behind them. It also makes it feel bigger

I don’t want there to be just one “living room” like area, but instead for there to be lots of places like this spread out over the house. However, there does need to be a central room where we have the TV and which would be the focus for entertaining – e.g., where we’d set up the Christmas tree


I’d like to have the television and other entertainment devices hidden away in builtin cupboards. We have about 4 VCR-type boxes that attach to the TV as well as stereo etc, so the cupboard needs to be roomy and have shelves that can easily be moved around. Also, it would be great if it were able to roll out on casters at 90 degrees, so its easy to get to the back of them for wiring up. The cupboard fronts need to be slatted or mesh or equivalent, so that the remote controls still work

An idea I’ve seen done to hide the TV which I think works brilliantly is to have it hidden behind a painting which can slide upwards when you want to watch TV

The TV needs to be in a position where you can watch it during the day without sunlight shining on the screen


I like room dividers like open plan shelves or half height walls which can create separate zones in a room but without making them feel cut off

I’d like there to be a big open fireplace for a real wood fire. Maybe this could even be in the middle of the room and be open on two sides

In the main living room, we’d like to have an area we can sprawl around with cushions, by the fire and while watching TV. It’s really retro, I know but I’ve also always liked sunken sections, e.g., around a fireplace. We had one in the library at my primary school! I can imagine it working out really well, e.g., having plush comfy carpet in the sunken area for lounging on with polished floors elsewhere

I know that often people use the living room as a guest room too by having a sofa bed.. I’d prefer not to do that, or at least for there to be still one area around the TV that was kept free of this.

I’d like there to be places for indoor plants and displaying framed photographs, etc

We need to have a place to put our upright piano. It needs to be on an inside wall 50 and, ideally, in some kind of alcove

There needs to be another large sized room for Dave to set up his bar and a place to hang out with his mates. Maybe this could be in the ground floor with doors opening onto the BBQ area. It needs to have enough wall space for hanging up his collection of music posters. It also needs to have connections to water and power. Because he’ll often play loud music in the evenings, it needs to be as far away from the bedrooms as possible. It could even be in a separate building across a courtyard, although I don’t want it to be too removed from the house. This place is in addition to Dave’s “shed” for setting up his workshop etc, although they might be adjoining.



*** ** *

Essential, “must have” in any design Would love to have, only give up if all other options exhausted Would really like, but willing to sacrifice if we have to

*** *** *** *** *** ***

Living room includes some cosy alcoves Able to house large furniture including 2 sofas facing each other Cupboards for hiding away TV equipment etc Open fireplace for real wood fires Space to sprawl out while watching TV Separate area for Dave’s bar and music

** ** ** **

Airy and light-filled living room Main seating area in the middle of the room TV positioned so that the sun doesn’t shine on it Place for the piano in an alcove

* * *

Room dividers Sunken area Part of living room that is kept free of being a guest bedroom




Bedrooms aren’t just places for sleeping in, they’re also places for lounging in and escaping to when the house is full of visitors and you need a break! Also, they’re spaces you almost live in when you’re sick. I want to have lots of little nooks around the house that you’d feel safe/comfortable falling asleep in, but the bedrooms need to feel the safest of all, places where you can snuggle into blankets, close your eyes and the world goes away.


We’d like the bedrooms to feel spacious but cosy and secure. They should have lots of natural light but not to the extent that it can’t be blocked out. It’d be wonderful to have a skylight which you could see the stars through at night (but not right above the pillow as don’t want to get sunburned if we ever sleep in!)

Ideally all bedrooms, but especially the master one, should be big enough to have things like big chest of drawers, an armchair, dressing table, blanket box, etc without feeling cramped. We’d also like it to be big enough that we could have a four poster bed without the roof feeling dwarfed. I don’t know for certain yet that I want one, but I’d like the option!


We’d like the master bedroom to have french doors opening onto a secluded part of the verandah or garden, or even it’s own small balcony New Orleans style for bedrooms on the second floor. In fact it would be lovely to have at least one big bedroom upstairs as it would feel more private. If other bedrooms could have this kind of thing that’d be great too

I’d like to have a fireplace in at least the master bedroom, ideally with a fake gas fire for ease of use and so we don’t have to store wood in the room. Ideally this needs to be positioned where you can see it from the side of the bed but be a good distance away so there’s no risk of accidentally kicking anything onto it


We’d like all bedrooms to have built in cupboards and plenty of storage. However, we don’t want them to look like your stereotypical built in wardrobes – ie: not a wall of sliding doors, not built in an N shape framing the bed. For instance, maybe some of the storage could be in the bed base itself it it were a purpose built platform that you climbed up, with big drawers.

I’d also like clever storage for shoes as I seem to have quite a lot – e.g., one of those sliding pull out multi-level drawers, or a narrow depth cupboard which just has lots of shoe-box sized alcoves. Or, simplest approach which we’ve done here was to recess the shelves etc inside the wardrobes back enough so we could hang shoe pockets on the backs of all the doors

In the master bedroom I’d like to have an adjoining space that could serve as a dressing area… one idea I had was that there could be storage built in either side of a hallway leading to the bathroom

Speaking of bathrooms, I’d like the best and biggest bathroom to be an ensuite to the master bedroom, but it should also have a second door so you can access it without going through the bedroom.

Bedrooms need to spaced well apart from each other or have walls which block out sound quite well (e.g., guests snoring!) Also, they need to be apart from other rooms in the house where people might be being noisy (e.g., the lounge, kitchen). I like the idea of having a separate bedroom wing In the first phase would like the study aka guest bedroom to be suitable for converting to a nursery, in case of emergency. We’re not planning anything but who knows what living in the country will do to us. 

I would like there to be a switch in the master bedroom at the door, which stops the electricity from flowing through any of the circuits in the bedroom. Ie: so that we can go to sleep without electrical currents within a few metres radius of us. This sounds weird I know, but I stayed in a spa hotel in Germany once which had this, and it was the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had. It wasn’t that there was a sound that you noticed had gone when the switch was off, but it did feel more calm. Maybe it was all in the mind, but I don’t think so… I had some friends do a test for me, switching57 it on and off and getting me to say which it was, and I got it right every time.


*** ** *

Essential, “must have” in any design Would love to have, only give up if all other options exhausted Would really like, but willing to sacrifice if we have to

*** *** ***

Spacious bedrooms with natural light, but cosy and secure Master bedroom big enough for lots of furniture, 4 poster Lots of built in storage space

** ** ** ** **

Doors opening onto secluded part of verandah or private porch area Fireplaces in bedrooms Adjoining space in master bedroom as a dressing area Best bathroom is en-suite to master bedroom Bedrooms designed so sleepers aren’t disturbed by sound

* * * *

Skylight so you can see the stars Clever storage for shoes in the master bedroom Guest bedroom/study able to convert to nursery Switch in main bedroom that cuts off all electricity flow in the room


Study area


A study for us is multi-functional. It’s a place for the computer and dealing with paperwork. It’s also a library / reading room and another place for guests to sleep


We’d like to have high ceilings in the study because it means we can have lots of bookshelves built from shoulder height upwards. This gives a lot of storage without making the room feel cramped.

We’d like for the study to have natural light and a nice view from the windows of trees and garden areas that are relatively secluded. We don’t want it to look out 61 over the BBQ area for instance as it will be distracting!

We’d like there to be a bed, ideally a small double bed which is built into the study. This could have storage built all around it, and normally function as a couch unless we have guests staying

We’d like for the study to be either in a separate room or alcove with a door that closes to help shut out noise and signal that you’re concentrating / busy.

An idea for making the study multi-functional is to have a mezzanine area that you reach via a ladder where we have a mattress for guests to sleep. We had something similar to this in a flat we rented in Earls Court and it worked really well. It doesn’t need to be full height, so long as there’s enough space to kneel upright 62

We’d like there to be space for a comfy armchair in the study too and places for table-lamps etc so that it can be made to feel quite cosy if we wish

We’d like to have a fireplace in the study, although it could just be an alcove where we can put a fake gas or electric fire

The study needs to house the computer and all its paraphernalia, plus also storing general house / financial documents. This means we need a roomy cupboard for hiding everything away in and lots of space for hanging files, folders, etc.

We’d like a recharging cupboard somewhere handy, probably near the PC – ie: somewhere which has lots of power-points and small shelves, where we can plug in various devices to get recharged, like phones, ipod, digital cameras, etc



*** ** *

Essential, “must have” in any design Would love to have, only give up if all other options exhausted Would really like, but willing to sacrifice if we have to

*** *** *** ***

Lots of built in storage Clear space for the computer (ie: big cupboard with powerpoints) Natural light In a separate room / alcove that can be shut off

** **

High ceilings Built in double bed doubling as sofa and reading area

* * * *

View of trees and gardens from windows Recharging cupboard Space for an armchair and tablelamps Fireplace


Kitchen / dining area


The kitchen is the heart of the home and where I expect we’ll be spending a lot of our time. I’d like it to be the kitchen of my dreams. It needs to be the kind of space that is comforting and uplifting for everyone, even people who don’t like cooking


We’d like the kitchen to be designed with lots of bench and storage space. It might be nice to include some flexibility in terms of shape – e.g., an island section on a trolley or able to swing around.

I don’t like the style of the kitchens in these photos, but I like the concept of the moving bench


We’d like to have an old-fashioned style kitchen table in a position that gets a lot of natural light. I’d like this to feel like somewhere you could spread out, not be cramped for space.

I like the idea of having a skylight or glass roof section above the table although don’t like either of these decorating schemes

I like the positioning of this table in an alcove surrounded by windows, but don’t like that it is built-in; it feels too much like a caravan.


We’d like there to be a comfortable more informal place to sit in or adjoining the kitchen. We like some open plan designs where a lounge area adjoins the kitchen, but would like the areas to still feel separate

We need a place to store cookbooks in the kitchen, as we have a lot, and unless they’re close at hand they don’t get used. Nearby, there needs to be a place to sit and peruse them


We need lots of space for displaying and storing dinner sets and glassware as we have quite a lot of crockery! Most of these are full sets, inherited from grandparents, etc so it would be nice to have somewhere to keep them that isn’t jumbled at the bottom of a cupboard. I’d like to have them easy to get to and at least some of them in view as that will make it more likely we use them. Most of this storage should be behind glass so that it’s protected and doesn’t get dusty

We have an old Rayburn wood-burning stove which we bought on Ebay for a song. Besides needing a polish up, it’s all in working order, and even has an attachment to it for heating water. It’s the closest thing to an Aga I’m likely to get so we’d like to have this installed in the kitchen in a fireplace, where there is space to have an armchair etc nearby – they’re so cosy to sit beside in winter. But, we need to have a modern stove too.

I’d like there to be a linen cupboard in or near the kitchen for storing tableclothes, napkins, tea-towels etc as I have quite a collection which I regularly use


There needs to be a huge pantry / larder because I tend to be a hoarder even now, and suspect it will be even worse when we are growing our own food! It would be great if this could also include an “appliance garage”, where things like bread machines, mixers, fruit juicers, etc can be easily accessible.

I already have the antique cast iron ends to build one of these racks

I’d like one of those hanging racks in the kitchen to store pots

We need space for an enormous freezer, although it doesn’t have to be in the kitchen itself, it could even be in a shed. We need a big American style fridge with at least a small freezer compartment in the kitchen though, ideally disguised so it’s not a white monstrosity

We need to have two sinks. Ideally I would like them to be butler’s sink style (ie: white porcelain, square and deep) rather than the eponymous stainless steel

I’d like space for a dishwasher in the kitchen. I know water may be short, but I’d like to have the option for including one even if it’s only used when I’m sick or on special occasions 71

We’d like to have clever fittings and built in fixtures – e.g., a bin built into the worktop for scraping in vegetable peelings, that can also double as place to fill with ice and beer for parties. Also clever taps, like with pull-out nozzles, and a tap built in over the stove so you can fill up pans with water easily without having to lug them around.


We’d like a proper cupboard for storing cleaning things, so they’re not just jumbled under the sink.

We’d also like a proper area for rubbish, easily accessible to the kitchen but hidden (eg: in cupboards under the sink). This needs to be set up to make recycling easy ie: separate sections for bottles, plastic, compost, hard rubbish, newspaper, etc and space for things like can crushers etc that help minimise rubbish volume. Ideally this needs to be big enough so you don’t have to empty it every single day

If it doesn’t make the kitchen look too horrid, we’d like it to be designed in such a way that it would be easy to get “approved” to produce food to sell at markets. Just in case I decide to make jam. 

We’d like to have a dining area that we can use for the occasional formal dinner party at special occasions. It needs to be somewhere that it wouldn’t look silly to have candles, flowers, fancy table settings (ie: not at a table that’s in full view of the kitchen). But, we don’t necessarily want a dedicated formal dining room, would rather it be a space that we use for something else and then on the few times a year we want to use it for formal dining we can rearrange the furniture. We need to be able to sit 8 people for a formal dinner, and up to 16 on more informal occasions or at times like Christmas

We need to have a larder / cool-room area for storing vegetables and things that we grow and need to keep fresh for long periods. This could be combined with the wine cellar maybe?


I’d like to have somewhere within easy reach of the kitchen where we can eat outside. This ideally would be somewhere that you could get sunshine when you wanted (e.g., breakfast) but was shaded during the heat of the day (e.g., lunch)


We’d like there to be space outside that can function as an outdoor kitchen. Maybe this could even be where the Rayburn stove goes, if space is short in the kitchen?



*** ** *

Essential, “must have” in any design Would love to have, only give up if all other options exhausted Would really like, but willing to sacrifice if we have to

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Lots of bench and storage space Display space for storing dinner sets and glassware Include wood-burning Aga-like stove but also modern stove Huge pantry / cool-room / larder American style fridge in kitchen Old-fashioned kitchen table with lots of natural light Area for sorting and storing rubbish Formal dining area Somewhere to eat outside

** ** ** ** ** **

Clever fittings and built in fixtures Hanging rack for storing pots Enormous freezer for food storage Two sinks, ideally butler style Comfortable informal lounging place to sit adjoining kitchen Bookshelves for cooking books

* * * * * * *

Flexibility in terms of shape – e.g., section on trolley Special cupboard for kitchen linen Appliance garage Space for a dishwasher Cupboard for storing cleaning things Kitchen that meets standards for food production (to sell) Outdoor kitchen area


Laundry / mudroom


The laundry is primarily a place designed for function and chores, but this doesn’t mean it can’t be an inviting beautiful space. The better it is laid out, the nicer it will be to work in.


The laundry needs to have two proper troughs and some bench space – e.g., so we can use it for arranging flowers and for messy projects, like candle-making and things. I’d also like for there to be space for a sewing machine. In fact, it would be good for the laundry to be larger than you might otherwise think needed, with extra cupboards for storage, as I’m sure I’m going to find myself trying out all kinds of hobbies that will have junk associated with them.


I’d like there to be a discreet place for drying clothes, rather than only a hills hoist. For instance, in the laundry itself perhaps there could be a pole up high so I could hang shirts on coat-hangers to dry (we do that here but it’s hung from the edge of a bookshelf!). Dave also suggested having a clothes line under a section of the verandah, which would be useful too – although it would need to be somewhere that was out of sight of the main sections. Maybe there’s a section of verandah that is a “working area” rather than for lounging.

I would like to have an airing cupboard and a nice place to do ironing

Ideally in the laundry or else in a hallway somewhere I need to have storage for bed linen, of which I’m afraid I have a lot. Some people buy shoes, I buy bed-linen.  It would be wonderful if this could have long rods for hanging folded sheets and duvet covers, with alcoves next to them for storing pillowcases etc. Also, there needs to bigger shelves for storing spare blankets, quilts, doonas. It would be great if this was made of cedar too, to help repel moths

The laundry doesn’t have to be part of the main house, it could be in a separate building, provided it’s close by. But I would like it to be in its own room, not shared with the kitchen etc. Also, it needs to have all weather access and be nice to use in all seasons, so I don’t put off doing the washing when it’s raining for instance!

I would like to have space for a washing machine that is top loading (rather than front loading), so that you can add things during the cycle when you find you’ve forgotten them. Also, I’d like to have space for a dryer

I’d like to have some drying racks that pull out from the wall for drying woollens flat, so that you don’t end up with them draped all over chairs

If we have an upstairs I’d like to have a laundry chute



*** ** *

Essential, “must have” in any design Would love to have, only give up if all other options exhausted Would really like, but willing to sacrifice if we have to

*** *** ***

Bench space and two troughs Storage for bed linen Laundry as a separate space, nice to use in all weather

** **

Space for a top-loading washing machine Lots of cupboards for storage

* * * * *

Airing cupboard Discreet place for drying clothes Space for a dryer Drying racks for woollens Laundry chute




The bathroom is one of the most important rooms in the house. It’s a place to dream, relax, rejuvenate as much as to get clean. If there’s any room in the house which is allowed to be over-the-top, luxurious and over-sized relative to function, then let it be the bathroom.


The main bathroom (which needs to adjoin the master bedroom, as well as have another entrance) should be spacious with plenty of room for an armchair as well as a full size deep bath… ideally one that is freestanding with space to walk around all sides (or at least easily accessible for cleaning)

I’d like the bath to be a centrepiece of the room. It could be one of those lovely old antique roll-top tubs which I’ve always wanted, or a sunken bath. It needs to have plenty of space for candles and pot-plants around the bath, as well as a place to put wine glasses, books etc (either on a shelf next to the bath or a little table)


In the main bathroom we don’t want a separate shower recess, at least not one of those glassed in units. Instead, we would like to have a kind of wet-room area for showering which is more open plan.

Amazing wet room in the suite at the Sun House hotel in Galle, Sri Lanka we stayed a few years ago. The glass windows were kept permanently open, with just very thin virtually invisible flywire behind the grills. The shower just came straight out onto the floor, it was wonderful.

We would like the shower head to be one of those watering can types, but with an inner section so you can have it coming out on the economical setting. I’m also toying with the idea of having some kind of water recycling unit for the shower so that when it’s on the “watering can” setting a lot of the water used gets recirculated so it’s not as wasteful. Obviously, you could only use this setting when you were already pretty clean, but it would be nice to have as an option so that I 85 could still take long showers without being too wasteful

Bathrooms need to have enough storage for towels etc as well as all the usual bathroom clutter. As with all storage, I’d like to err on the side of too much rather than not enough, so we can easily hide away things like hairdryers, foot massagers, etc. This could be in built in cupboards or freestanding armoires

Example of Nature Loo nonflush composting toilet ( but there are other providers too

We would like to have non-flush toilets so that we don’t waste water. I’ve seen a couple of new models for composting toilets that don’t smell and look more like a normal toilet (ie: with porcelain base and normal looking seat/lid. I’d like to have a fish-tank on the wall behind each of these toilets, taking the place of the cistern in a normal toilet. Alternatively (or as well as), we could have a fish-tank as a kind of room divider in the master bathroom between the toilet and the bath area 86

I’d like to consider some of the more creative types of bathroom plumbing. For instance, having the bath fill via recessed outlets high up on the walls or ceiling so that it splashes down like a fountain. Or having a bath that is unusually shaped or has unusual water flow, like Kohler’s overflowing bath.

Kohler’s sok overflowing bath (the water overflows into a channel alongside the bath and is continuously recirculated. No idea how much this costs except no doubt it’s expensive, but I bet we could craft our own version if it really was unaffordable

I’m not fussed about whether there are two basins in the bathroom or not, I’m happy to just have the one provided there’s enough storage and bench space around it. Also, I’m happy to live without a whirlpool / spa bath

The bath taps need to be positioned on the side rather than on an end, so that it is comfortable for two people to sit in the bath at the same time. Or they could be at the end but coming from a spout higher up on the wall so it wasn’t in the way

There needs to be a full-length mirror on the wall somewhere in the bathroom, probably actually tiled in, and space for a bookshelf


We would like to have natural light in the master bathroom, with at an absolute minimum a window looking onto plants. But ideally, would like to be able to fling open doors and feel like I was having a bath outside (with privacy still of course)

All bathrooms should be accessed via a door from a hallway or entrance lobby kind of place (except for doors from bedrooms). I don’t want them to be accessed from a door off the dining or lounge area. Also, I’d like them to be positioned so that the sound is muffled when you’re in there and ideally on an external wall so that there can be some natural light and air. I also don’t want them to be accessed via a sliding door since in my experience they never shut properly.

We’d like to have a separate room which has a toilet and a small basin which we can use for everyday and parties, etc. This should be a small room but a comfortable size to move around in and with space on the walls to hang pictures, have a small bookshelf, etc. We could live without the toilet in a separate room in the first phase plan but would like it factored in for the full version.

We would like to have a wood-fired sauna somewhere but it doesn’t need to be in or adjoining the house, I’d prefer it to be in a separate hut in the yard so we had an excuse to go walking in the garden in winter. Perhaps it could be adjoining an outdoor bathroom? I really like the old-fashioned kind you find at cabins in Finland. We would like it to be designed for 2-3 people, and the shower for it can be on the outside. This site might help


I would love to have a bathroom we could use in warm weather which was outside, but this couldn’t be the only bathroom as we’d need somewhere else warm to use during winter. Just to be clear on the styling of this… it would be (at least partially) outside and have a very “back to nature” feel, but wouldn’t be roughing it. The best analogy I can think of is when we went camping in Sri Lanka and stayed at this safari place… we slept in tents, but in a four poster bed with big canopy mosquito net. To me, that is the way to camp!!! 



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Essential, “must have” in any design Would love to have, only give up if all other options exhausted Would really like, but willing to sacrifice if we have to

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Spacious master bathroom with place for an armchair Deep full size comfortable bath Space for candles, wine glasses, reading material around bath Non-flush composting toilets Full length mirror on wall somewhere Natural light and opening windows with a view onto greenery/garden All bathrooms accessed from hallway area (except from bedrooms)

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Wet room area for shower instead of a cubicle Lots of storage Master bathroom has two entrances Bath taps positioned so two people can comfortably sit in the bath

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Watering can showerhead with recycling system Fish tank in place of toilet cistern/s Creative bathroom plumbing Bookshelf, place to store magazines Separate toilet room in addition to main bathroom Wood fired sauna Warm weather outdoor bathroom


Verandah / garden rooms


Verandahs and garden rooms are key to everything, because one of the main reasons we’re moving to Amherst is to have the space to make a big garden. These rooms are the “blurred” space inbetween and will help to bring the garden indoors. They’re also places I envisage us spending a lot of time so they mustn’t be an afterthought. Plus, the shape and positioning of verandahs make a big difference to how friendly the house looks from a distance


We would like to have good sized airy verandahs with space to have a table and chairs, hang a hammock, have a swing. Overall, I’d like to think of the verandah’s as being rooms in themselves, or at least extensions of the rooms they adjoin.


Verandah’s don’t need to be the same shape all the way round. I know traditional farmhouses in Australia are square shaped with identical big verandahs wrapped around. I’d prefer something with differences in shape as it’s more interesting. I like the idea of having a wide walkway area (with space for a chair and potplants and to walk past), then arriving at a bigger room-sized area with table and chairs. Maybe the floor area of this could even extend beyond the roof of the verandah so you could sit in the sun if you wanted.

I would like to have some more private parts of the verandah that you can’t reach unless you come in from the garden or just one particular room. I don’t just want one big wraparound verandah that you can walk all around


We would like to have at least a section of the verandah able to be enclosed by mosquito net so we can sit out safely at night with candles and not be eaten alive! Also, when it is very hot it would be a place we could sleep. I’m thinking of a screened porch feel rather than a sunroom

We’d also like to have a section which we could enclose somewhat in winter and where it would be possible to let our pet farm animals join us. e.g., if they were ill or particularly friendly and cute. I guess the primary requirement for this area is that the floor needs to be easily washable! 95

It would be nice to have an outdoor sleeping area coming off the main bedroom, maybe even accessible from more than one bedroom. I envisage this as being a place that had views and you could see the stars, but which could be protected from insects via screens or big hanging mosquito nets, which might even be more romantic! Also, in my mind, I see it as being on the second storey


We’d like to have a hideaway reading room / study in the garden. This needs to be not too far from the house so it’s easily within reach, but somewhere that feels apart, a place to daydream and think. I especially like the idea of this room being reached by crossing over a pond. I’d also like it to have a wood-burning stove in it so it’d feel cosy and still be usable in winter. It should also be big enough to have a small double bed in it tucked into a niche in the wall. This would be a reading sofa piled with cushions normally but it could function as a guest bedroom too. It doesn’t need to house a computer but there needs to be WiFi access

This is built on stilts over a pond. I just adore everything about it and would love to have a place like this in our garden – near the house but apart. The only thing I’d change is that I wouldn’t have a desk inside, it’d be more for lounging than a pseudo study

It doesn’t necessarily have to be at ground level. Maybe it is a treehouse. Perhaps it could be above a storage shed, or even above the laundry if that’s in a separate building (although if so, I’d like the “working” areas to have a different entrance. I like Vita Sackville-West’s tower at Sissinghurst. It’s too formal and grandiose for us but it has a nice feel, and there’s something special about being able to look out across gardens. But, I don’t want to lose the sense of place and security that the hut in 97 Michael Pollan’s book “A Place of My Own” has, so probably ground level is better.

It would be lovely for the garden room to be flexible in shape, e.g., via having the walls made of screens that you could roll back however you wished. It needs to be able to be suited to use both during the day and at night, and also suited to one or several people using it at the same time. I’d like it to be quite whimsical in feel too.

I love everything about the room in these pictures. Especially love the luxury hippy whimsy of having a hanging swing bed and lots of lanterns! I can imagine sleeping out on this in summer, it’d be like camping out but without any of the discomfort. 


We’d like to have outdoor fireplaces. This is partly for BBQs and toasting marshmallows, but also for the atmosphere they create and the flexibility to use the spaces even when it is getting a bit colder at night.

We’d like an area we can sit outside at night and have a party BBQ


I need to have a shady garden area that is enclosed by the house (except for perhaps a small part of one wall so as to provide access from the outside – although it is *very important* that it be snake-proof). The reason for this is to have a very protected area which I can mollycoddle with lots of water and shade cloth as required, so I can grow my favourite plants which won’t survive elsewhere. Also this space is essential to keeping me sane when it is stupidly hot. It needs to be quite large, like a big lounge room…I envisage it as having large tree-ferns, hydrangeas, a small water feature (maybe water trickling down a sculpture or in a small channel beside the pathway, not a classical fountain), space for big pots of delicate plants and tender climbers, steps down from verandahs. I picture it as being large enough to wander through, a bit overgrown so it beckons you in, with a few tucked-away sunkan places to sit. Probably it needs to be built in a large concrete pool like thing to ensure water is trapped in the soil and to stop snakes. I see it as having some kind of beams or wire up high which could support mosquito net and shade-cloth, which we could rig up like a sail perhaps. Maybe on one side there could be a small verandah; on others doors could open straight out onto the garden – for instance, it would be lovely to have the bathroom opening onto the garden, so you can fling the doors open and feel like you’re having a bath outside. I know having plants close to the house isn’t ideal from a bushfire perspective, but these plants are of a kind less likely to burn and it’s a risk I’m prepared to take.




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Essential, “must have” in any design Would love to have, only give up if all other options exhausted Would really like, but willing to sacrifice if we have to

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Large airy verandas, extensions of rooms Screened porch area Outdoor fireplace and BBQ area Shady “secret” garden area enclosed by house

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Different shaped verandas, not just something you can walk all around Hideaway garden room doubling also as guestroom (at least in summer)

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Some secluded parts on verandah Outdoor sleeping area


Storage spaces


Storage spaces might not necessarily be rooms of their own but it’s important that they be thought through as if they were. Houses that don’t have enough storage always end up feeling cluttered and you can never find anything. I want to err on the side of having far too much storage rather than not enough


I would love to have an attic. Not just for the storage, but also because of the potential it offers for exploring forgotten things in 10 years time. Attics are special places, they feature in lots of stories, and I’ve never had one.

We need to have a place to store wine, ideally a proper wine cellar. This doesn’t have to be accessed internally, it could be from a trapdoor in the verandah for instance, but it needs to be secure and to satisfy all those things you need in terms of constant temperature for storing wine. Maybe it could be combined with the coolroom / larder for storing vegetables?


We would like to be clever in terms of our use of built-in storage. E.g., all window seats should have drawers or a top that lifts up so we can store things in them. We’d like lots of built-in storage because it seems to take up less space (and is loads cheaper) than freestanding units.

As you’ve probably gathered by the emphasis on bookshelves in each room, we have a *lot* of books and would like to have built-in storage for them. To give you an idea of the scale, we have in London already around over 30 metres of bookshelves that are filled to overflowing and growing, and probably have that many books again in boxes in Australia. I’d like to have ample shelving in Australia for books as I hate the sense of running out of space for books and feeling like you have to give some away (especially given the ridiculously high price of books in Australia!)

In addition to all the ideas for bookshelves already mentioned, another great idea I’ve come across is to have them built into pillars. The bookshelves in the South Drawing room at John Soanes Museum are the best example I’ve ever seen of this (it is only a few minutes walk from where I work so I go there quite a lot). Essentially, between the main room and the huge Georgian windows there are several columns. On the middle sides of each column are shelves full of books – you can see them where I’ve circled. It’s wonderful because you can fit a lot of books in without it disrupting the style of the main room. Also, because the main room still gets light yet there’s this more private area behind the columns next to the windows. It just has the feel of somewhere you’d love to take a book off the shelf, sit on a chair and read in the sun, but yet you’re still close to and part of the main action taking place in the big room.


We also have a lot of paintings, of various types – a lot of oil paintings but also a lot of lithographs. Dave’s Dad and my Mum are artists so our collection is always growing. In addition to hanging space for paintings in the hallways and rooms, another idea I got from John Soanes museum was to have effectively huge walls that were on hinges that you could swing out. These not only could let you change the shape of the room if you got bored (e.g., to create a little guest bedroom alcove when it was needed, or just to change it with the seasons), but also it gives extra space for hanging and storing paintings.

This is the Picture room at John Soanes museum… I wouldn’t want to have a dedicated picture room like this, but the principle of works on a broader scale. If the hanging panels were made longer then they could double as room dividers and let us creatively change the shape of rooms

Ideally so I have flexibility to rearrange when I get bored without leaving holes in the wall, it’d be nice to have an unobtrusive rod or an old fashioned picture rail which we can hang paintings from



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Essential, “must have” in any design Would love to have, only give up if all other options exhausted Would really like, but willing to sacrifice if we have to

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Place to store wine, ideally a wine cellar Lots of built in storage, especially bookshelves Lots of space to hang paintings

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Picture rails or rods to hang paintings so don’t put holes in wall Walls that are on giant hinges you can move around

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Attic Bookshelf pillars


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