Category Archives: interior design

Bamboo Flooring

Screen shot 2015-04-10 at 7.37.49 AM

Three years ago we installed an attractive, low-cost laminate floor in our lounge and hallway. Sadly, it did not take long for buyer’s remorse to set in: 20 minutes to be exact. That’s how long it took to put a noticeable gouge in the new floor while shifting a large wardrobe back into place. Next it took a week for our kitten to wee under a sideboard, which seeped between two pieces of flooring and caused the ‘Wheatbix’ substrate to swell and warp. Later I heard from a man who used to work in a factory manufacturing such flooring. He said the process involved toxins and that he had left the job for health reasons. Thrifty: yes. Eco: maybe not. The laminate floor was a conspicuous outlier in our renovation in that it did not represent an investment in durability and performance. I have learned my lesson. Recently we were in the position of covering a wide swath of 1980’s linoleum with some sort of ‘floating floor’ but not another cheap laminate.The term ‘floating floor’ refers to any flooring product that has no nails, screws or other type of brackets to hold it down. It is usually applied on top of a thin foam/foil material, and simply ‘floats’ on it. One of my colleagues at recently wrote an article on sustainable building materials. Four flooring types were included: FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood; natural-fibre carpet; cork; and, bamboo.

Screen shot 2015-04-04 at 8.12.12 AM Screen shot 2015-04-04 at 8.12.34 AM

(If you want to read the entire article, go to, and open the web page for Green Living.) After a bit of research, my wife and I decided to go with bamboo. The reasons included: durability, scratch resistance, eco-friendly, and easy to install.

Screen shot 2015-04-10 at 7.37.31 AM

Thanks for helping. 

Alongside energy-efficiency and reusing materials, durability (aka, resilience) is a cornerstone of eco-thrifty renovation. Regarding durability, bamboo has been tested to a Janka Hardness Level of 15.3 kilonewtons. So what, you may say, until learning that rimu has a score of 3.6 and kwila measures 8.2. Even ironwood only reaches 10.5 on the Janka scale. Screen shot 2015-04-04 at 8.24.26 AM In terms of its eco-cred, here is what the website, has to say: “Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on earth, with some species growing several feet per day. Bamboo flooring is a renewable and sustainable resource.” Additionally, our floor was coloured using a process called “carbonisation”, which means that there is no need for toxic stains or worrying that the finish may scratch off. The bamboo strands are pressure heated, which turns them a beautiful coffee colour throughout.

Screen shot 2015-04-10 at 7.37.39 AM

New meets old.

But all bamboo floors are not created equal. We went with what is called “solid strand woven bamboo flooring” made from long kiln-dried fibres mixed with resin as a binder, and then compressed. This process results in the densest and hardest of bamboo flooring options. This also results in a product that is easy to install for what I would consider an intermediate DIYer. Don’t get me wrong, the floor clicks together marvelously, it is just all the cutting around the edges that requires some skill and confidence. In order to get a clean look, keeping tidy edges is key, especially because you have to leave expansion/contraction gaps all the way around. Screen shot 2015-04-10 at 7.37.22 AM Many rooms have four corners, but our new kitchen has 16! What may have been a one-day job in a rectangular room turned into a two-day job for us. Patience is essential for a good finish, along with a new blade in your circular saw. I reckon a couple extra hours of focused work is worth the 25+ years of life the bamboo floor will give in return, not to mention its stunning looks.   Peace, Estwing

No Return on Investment: Selling a Home at a Loss

Bang! Bang! Is it duck season or messenger season? From my observations over the last few months it is clearly the latter in Wanganui.

The overwhelming overreaction to the independent expert analysis from economist Shamubeel Eaqub appears to be indicative of why Whanganui is still spinning its wheels and failing to progress after decades of whinging: decision-makers in our city appear to refuse to accept all forms of constructive feedback and suggestions to adopt new ways of thinking.

When dialogue is shut off before it begins we are ensured that no change will occur. This is a consistent pattern I have observed while living here. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t this what puts the P in Provincialism? Forget adding an H to Wanganui, let’s just go ahead and rename the city “De-Nile.” Egypt won’t mind.

I will admit that thinking different is not easy, but failing to do so can be expensive. Let’s take housing and renovation as an example. Conventional wisdom is that investing in property will always give a positive return because house prices always rise. Everyone in Wanganui knows this.

More convention urges us to put in new kitchens and new bathrooms as these add value to our homes and we will easily recoup the investment when it comes time to sell. Everyone in Whanganui knows this too. Screen shot 2014-11-01 at 8.07.10 AM

New Kitchen: No Return

Nek minnit, QV.

About a year ago I was taking photographs of the absurd process of bulldozing sand from Castlecliff Beach into the Tasman Sea when the driver walked over for a chat. We had a great conversation about sand, wind, waves, Council, America, and Detroit (my “home town”). But what really concerned him was the recent valuation of his home. After spending heaps of money renovating the valuation did not come close to reflecting his investment. Screen shot 2014-11-01 at 8.07.52 AM

Refurbished Lounge

Real estate agents tell me that many clients struggle to “claw back” any and every dollar they have spent doing up their homes. With rare exception, I suspect that most homes purchased and renovated within the last eight years are being sold at a loss. My family is looking at this very proposition ourselves, which is especially disconcerting because we invested heavily in energy efficiency in addition to the new kitchen and bathroom.

 Screen shot 2014-11-01 at 8.07.26 AM

Beachy Bedroom

When it comes to the energy performance of a home, QV does not recognize a price premium. In other words, if you spend $30,000 on solar energy, super-insulation, double-glazing, etc. don’t expect to recoup that investment when you go to sell. Even if that investment will save the next occupants $30,000 in power over ten years it is not recognized as a valued asset of the home.

Justifying this position, the friendly QV man who came to our home after we challenged its mind-bogglingly low valuation told me, “The market does not show that it values energy efficiency.”

Screen shot 2014-11-01 at 8.08.31 AM

Floor to Ceiling Native Rimu

But to what extent is this a chicken-and-egg scenario? If QV does not value eco-renovation then potential buyers will look at the valuation and be less willing to pay for what it cost to do the work in the first place. On the other hand, how many enlightened buyers will it take to prove to QV that the market does value energy performance?

To review, evidence suggests:

  • doing up a kitchen and bathroom do not increase the value of a home in Wanganui;
  • improving the energy performance of a home in Whanganui does not increase its value.
  • doing both…R.U. Nutz?

Screen shot 2014-11-01 at 8.07.39 AM

Repurposed Doors and Coal Range

So the moral of the story is that unless you plan to remain in your home for a very long time it is highly unlikely that you will break even on the costs of renovation. Of course this will not come as welcome news to many people in our community.

Go ahead and shoot me. It is a good day to die.

Peace, Estwing


Workshop: Low-Input / High-Productivity Gardening

Thoughtful design and management of a vege garden can increase productivity and decrease the hours of labour. Invest two hours in this workshop and save dozens of hours weeding your garden.

Sunday 9th November, 3-5 PM. Registration and deposit required.

06 344 5013,

Getting Down to the Nitty Pretty

This weekend I fought through a sinusitis induced haze to complete an important mission, buying test pots of the paint we will use in our kitchen and bathroom.

We are planning to use earth plaster to cover the walls in the majority of the house, but are using paint to cover the walls in the two “wet” areas. We are doing this out of the need to complete these areas fully before our building consent expires. The areas that can wait a bit longer will get the earth plaster treatment in due time. (Due time being within the next few months, or year, or 18 months…).

I know that MC already mentioned our addiction to Grand Designs. Thanks to a special delivery from our neighbor and the aforementioned sinus attack, we’ve been watching a lot of Grand Designs episodes lately. A lot, a lot. And I have to say that the major lesson I’ve learned from Kevin McCloud, as he gracefully talks us through projects that didn’t quite work out, and ones that were a great success, is that design is intentional.

Our approach to interior design thus far has been less than intentional. Gathering bits from op shops and auctions has left us with a rather eclectic bunch of materials to work with. We have gold curtains, a kiwiana mint green stove, and two beautiful leadlight cabinet doors with various shades of blue.

Once the idea of paint colors came to the foreground it became apparent that I would need to do some designing to pull together all of the elements. Otherwise, as Kevin says, it might come off looking like a “dog’s breakfast” or even worse a “pig’s ear”. Neither of which are desirable, by the way.

In my internet travels I came across a site called Pinterest. If you love inspiration boards (I do), if you love design (I do), or if you just simply love finding new random things on the internet (I do), then this is the site for you.

Scrolling through all sorts of inspiration I have created a folder about our kitchen. It features some of these beautiful ideas:

And even more if you can believe it. They have led me to create this mock up of our kitchen design:

Yes. I am a huge nerd.

So what do you think? Pig’s Ear? Dog’s Breakfast? or the sweet accomplishment of a successful design? Am I wrong in thinking that light blue is the tie together color for our kitchen? Is there another option that stands out to you? We’ll see once we get the sample up on the wall. But if you have any thoughts in the mean time, please share them.

– June Cleverer