Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vinyl, Lino, Carpet Squares ... a whole new frontier

I thought I knew a fair bit about building, building terms, finishes. materials. I know at a glance what a four by four looks like, I know what rio bar is, I know the different between cement and concrete, I even know the correct mix of sand, cement and aggregate to make a good mix.  I don't get caught out when a tradie asks me to go down the hardware store for a long weight, or even a 3 inch hole.

This is possibly the vinyl we will go for in the Kitchen & Bathrooms

But yesterday I went on a whole new builders journey - into the commercial world of fit-outs. I learnt what coving means, (and I like it), I got over my fear and loathing of carpet tiles (and I like them), I learnt about how soft close door hinges work (and I like them too) and I learnt that stone bench tops come in 3m lengths but laminex is 1200mm.  We also confirmed to ourselves what makes a good salesman, and what makes a bad one.

Mr K and I spent a very exhausting day going out to the industrial area of Perth and visiting Kitchen/Cabinet makers, tile showrooms, carpet showrooms, vinyl warehouses. I think we have come away with a better idea of what we want, at least I hope we have as time is running out.

So, what is coving? When you lay vinyl floors (and yes, I know you are asking vinyl floor?  Are you mad?) you can lay them loose or glued down. As we are using vinyl in the kitchen, the shower room and toilets, it has to be stuck down and completely water tight. To do this they cove the corners, and run the vinyl up the wall as a skirting. Think hospital floors.  Its a very effective way to make wet areas sealed, although not very cheap.  From a cleaning perspective, I love it.

Cross section of the coving process

What it looks like

Carpet Tiles were a new frontier too. We all have memories of those ill fitting, curling at the edges, scratchy, blue or pink carpet tiles. But they too have come a long way, and you can get all manner of designs, colours and qualities. I like the idea that we can replace any damaged or stained tiles, I like that we can put them down last after we have painted and made a huge mess, I like that they actually look pretty smart. They cost no more than a fitted carpet. Mr K is still not very convinced.

Wish our office view was this good!  But the floors could be

We are leaning towards a charcoal grey.
Finally, the Kitchen. We have one quote and waiting on another to get a kitchen company in to build and fit instead of us doing a flat-pack kitchen. We want it to look really nice, so worth spending a little more more on it, plus if we get it supplied and fitted then its one less job for us to do. Of course it costs a (lot) more, about double the price, but I think it will be well worth saving the money in other areas. We are getting towards the pointy end of this project!

Kitchen will be kinda like this, but with a yellow splash-back. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

I'm just a suburban hen...

... I know the heading is a bit corny and probably the young ones won't know what it means at all. It's a play on words of a song from 1978, a Perth boy called Dave Warner who had a mild hit - "I'm just a suburban boy".  Nothing at all to do with chooks and everything to do with my strange mind.

Anyway, here are my much coveted, long anticipated girls - Daisy and Mabel. They are Australorps, bred by my 10 year old nephew. Tommy (the Border Collie) is self appointed minder. He takes his job very seriously. I get two eggs most days and the girls are very chatty and friendly. If you call me, and I don't answer, you can be pretty sure I am sitting down with the girls.

Tom thinks working hens with the 'eye' works like it does on sheep - it doesn't!

They love their greens

They are trying to find a way to get to all that green stuff!

Daisy in the front

My first egg in the egg basket my Dad made me (after I showed it to him on Pinterest!)

Mabel, in front and Daisy behind. I had just turned over some soil and they loved it.

My daily gift from the girls .. their yolks are so big and dark yellow - makes perfect poached eggs.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A New Office - Part Three - The fun bit

The new office and how we planned it. 

This is the fun part, well it's the fun bit until we start having to consult the budget anyway. Being creative is so expensive!  So how do you start this great big lumbering project? I use Microsoft Project (thanks David for putting it onto my PC :-) and start by creating the big categories first:

  • Lease
  • Preliminary Research
  • Preparation to Move
  • Final Plans and Budget
  • Quotes and Bookings 
  • Business Services
  • Enable Services
  • Demolition
  • Rebuild
  • Decorate
  • Purchases
  • Move
  • Set-up New Office space
  • Clean up and finalise lease at old office
Ideas for the wall panels behind reception desk

Then I go back to each category and fill in every single step that needs to be done. I ended up with five pages of individual tasks - and that's just the draft. As we go along there are always extra steps to add, something we have forgotten, an extra bit to add, an unforeseen problem that needs a solution.

After this list is sketched out, the managers all got together and went over it, adding their two cents worth and fleshing out a time schedule so that it all gets done on time. We have a little time on our side this move, certainly more than we had last time we did this.

Ideas for the staff kitchen

We are up to the final plans and budget stage, with a lot of the quotes and bookings being done this week as well. It's a constant juggling game, the budget has been up and down like a whore's drawers, we lose a bit, gain a bit, lose a lot, gain a bit. I think we are over our original budget but not by a lot (yet)!

It's an expensive business this office fit-out caper - we have a very limited budget of $70,000 which is chicken feed in the world of fit-outs. Some things may have to take a number and sit down for a while, but they are things that we can live without for now and do when money permits. We won't compromise on the customer facing areas, or the comfort for staff areas - got to keep both happy - so they will be done first.

Sofas for the reception area

So, we have a 95% complete plan, a schedule that is (so far) on track, a budget that looks pretty reasonable, funds in the bank and ready to go. Its been a week of Mr K meeting tradies onsite, handing out plans and instructions, getting back quotes and tweaking. More homework on wall finishes, carpets, paint choices, kitchen fit-out (good ole Ikea), cabling options, signs.

We officially take over in a little over a week (1st September) so want it all systems go for then. 

Its about to get LOUD!

Boardroom idea

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A New Office - Part Two - How?

So, in the words of a old school friend of mine who was shipwrecked and lived to write a book about it - How do you eat an elephant?

What it looks like now

Well the answer is obvious ... you don't ... elephants would taste horrible and besides they are such wonderful animals how could you kill one to eat? I guess the rhetorical question might apply if you were a lion, in which case the lion would answer (after he had finished a mouthful, lions are very polite you know) - "one bite at a time".

A Before Photo - to go - pink carpets!, beige walls, vertical blinds - yuck!

Is this how we tackle the move to our new office? One bite at a time? Sure feels like we are moving an elephant! Before we can actually move, we need to do the fit-out of the new place. If we were a mining company or had unlimited cash flow, we would get a fit-out company to come do it for us for about 10 times the cost. We don't have unlimited funds, we have a small loan (small in terms of business, not small in terms of retired people) from my wonderful parents, and that's it so - we can do it ourselves!

Therefore we get smart, work hard and chew like crazy. The plans are almost finished - that was a task and a half on its own. There was only a very rough plan of the office, with no measurements and not entirely accurate. So Mr K and I had to measure every wall, window, partition, pillar, doorway and enter it into a plan making program (Good old Google and Sketchup). Now we had an accurate plan, it was time to get creative and move stuff around on paper.

One thing it has is LOTS of good storage and shelving

Easily done on a piece of paper, but the reality is every wall we moved has to be pulled down and removed in real life. Every line we drew back in, is a wall that has to be built. Mindful of this, yet needing to change the spaces we currently have, Mr K and I worked on a plan that will do both.  I am pretty happy with it so far, but experience has taught me that what works on a plan, does not always work on the ground.

That's OK, we have talented and experienced builders on the job - my Dad and Mr K.

Still in the planning phase, we don't get official possession to start work until the 1st September, we are using this week to get all the trades - plumbers, electricians, data cable, glass partitions guys, sign-writers etc to meet us on site and get quotes and ideas and schedule the works.

View out the front door

Come the 1st, we are into demolishing and clearing out what we don't need. 

Then the next phase begins.  It is a lot of work ahead, but I am just a bit excited!  The next post will be the new plans, the finishes we have selected and the scope of works.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Big Growly, Grey Cat

Back in December, I wrote about a carrot and a stick. A Shaguar - oh Behave!  Seems the carrot got caught and is now sitting in our carport!

Yes. Mr K got his much coveted Jaguar. Its so cute how a (almost) 50 year old man, reverts to a small excited boy who got a bike for his 6th birthday. That smile, the one in the picture, is reserved for the grey cat - I have caught him a few times now, out in the carport with his hand lovingly stroking her, with that grin on his face!

Now, anyone who knows Mr K in the flesh, will know that he is not a car-washing-every-Saturday-then-blowervac- the driveway-and-clean-the-pool kinda guy. He does 'man chores' if and only when they really, really need it. BUT, this Jaguar, that we have had for 2 weeks now, has been washed 3 times, polished once, vacuumed twice and had the leather inside all wiped over. (I know, my Mum will have gasped at this abomination). This is a man who can walk over cat sick for weeks, uses the same coffee cup for days without washing it, decides if a pair of worn undies are clean enough by sniffing them!

So, it must be love. For Mr K to take such care of her, it has to be the real thing.

The nice part - he is sharing his new love affair with me. I got to drive her down the shops the other night. I was terrified. It took me a full 15 minutes to back out of our driveway - I was so nervous I would scratch it. It tells you how to reverse, to watch out for things on your left, right, back front - even peeped loudly when I was about to back over the dog! It turns on the lights automatically, the windscreen wipers when 1 tiny drop of moisture falls.

Then when I got to the shops, I parked right down the back of the carpark, despite it being night and a dodgy area, just so no-one in their common old Ford would dent the door. I packed the shopping carefully in the boot, terrified the milk would tip over and spill. I drove home like a 100 year old Kalamunda granddad on his way to bowls. 

Secretly, I love it too. The walnut burr finish, the black leather, the way it thinks of your every comfort.

Oh and another proof of Mr K's starry eyed passion - he has not smoked in it at all, and said he never will!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A new Office - Part One - Why we are moving

With so much to tell you all, I barely know where to start!  So I will pick the most pressing story, one that will go on for many months to come, so best to make the introductions now.  Part One, is why we are moving in the first place. It was not an easy decision - its not an easy task moving your whole business to a new location.

The tech help desk area

(I have to interject here however, just to say, that since I have been doing Uni writing instead of blog writing, there is this nagging little voice on my shoulder that says this writing should be accurate, researched, peer reviewed, edited, proof read and presented with a cover sheet and crossed fingers. I am trying hard to ignore this little voice, otherwise I simply wont get anything written.)

OK, back to the story. Our business is currently run from a basement in an old lane-way in the heart of Perth. On the surface, the lane-way looks a bit trendy; there is an Irish Pub, a Brewery, Japanese and Thai restaurants, a hipster coffee shop, model agencies, boutiques. You get the picture. But lurking beneath this facade is an old building, in desperate need of some love, not just some cursory patch ups when the tenants scream loudly (and we do, often).

The flood after the water main burst

Drying up after the flood

In a word, our landlord is a dick, without the capital D! He just doesn't care about his tenants at all, certainly has no respect for heritage and old architecture. I actually suspect that his long term plans are to push it all down and put up a office block and car parking. We have been in this basement office for six years now, and boy, did we put a LOT of work into this place. The day we got the key there was a poor old homeless man sleeping in our doorway. Going down some dark grotty stairs we were greeted with a damp, musty smell - the place had been vacant for years.

There were half-assed partition walls, 12 different types of carpet, no air-conditioning, or even any fresh air! We took it on as at the time Perth was in the full flight of a mining boom and there was NOTHING to lease in the city at all. With the help of my wonderful Dad, staff, kids, friends and bank overdraft, we turned the basement into a rather industrial and groovy office space and showroom. We paid well over $120,000 for the privilege, with no concessions on rent - and when we leave we have to leave behind all that we did - a huge aircon unit plus 2 split systems, a fresh air system, cabling, glass and timber partitions, fully painted, carpeted, storage shelves and cupboards, a sink and water (there was none at all when we moved there)

But all that work was ok, we were happy to make the basement a bright light place to work and for our customers to come to. We knew we would never get any assistance from the landlord, but we did not expect him to be so difficult to deal with when we had issues that were out of our control. Like when the tenants next door, a food preparation business, had an industrial size dishwasher that leaked into our boardroom everytime it was run. Dirty, greasy, smelly water that seeped under the walls, into our carpet and furniture, day after day. We complained for months to get it fixed. It took them 6 months, after I threatened to call in the health inspectors (that the food place next door did NOT want) to get any action to fix the problem. We still have a boardroom table that is damaged from this, and no compensation.

The leaking dishwasher into our boardroom

On another occasion our power kept tripping out. Annoying for most business's but when you are an IT business, any power outage is disastrous  It went on for weeks and weeks. We reported it to our landlord .... we heard crickets.  We got our electrician out, he said it was a fault with the main power board - which belongs to the landlord and we don't have access to. We reported it again. The landlord, in his usual fashion, took his own sweet time to even reply to us, meanwhile our power is cutting out almost daily - all our servers dropping off, phones gone, not to mention we are in a basement so when there is no power it is pitch black! OH&S anyone?  In desperation we got our electrician back, and found the maintenance guy who had a key to the powerbox. It was a faulty fuse, took 5 minutes to replace but being 3 phase power cost $850. We sent the bill to the landlord - he refused to pay it as he had not authorised it. Told us we should have reported it and he would have got his electrician to fix it. Arrrrggg.

So, now that our lease is about to be renewed, we go to the landlord, to ask what the new lease will be (expecting that it will be pretty much the same thing, with the yearly 5% increase). In his usual punctual fashion, he got back to us a month later saying he was putting the rent up 25%, wanting a bank guarantee of $55,000 (despite the fact we have paid our rent on the 1st of every month for the last 6 years without exception) plus increase our insurance. 

We counter offered - no rent increase, no bank guarantee, we will increase insurance but we want the landlord to fix the wobbly tiles in the foyer. He refused.
Front reception - Dad built all the timber paneled walls and we put in all glass partitions

So we walk. While we were waiting for the landlord to get back to us, we did our homework and had a good look at what was for lease in Perth. A LOT! The mining boom is waning, and there are so many vacant commercial tenancies that we could bargain hard and get a far better place for a much better deal and with a landlord that will actually talk to you.

As a side note, we are not the only tenants to leave this place. And as we do a lot of the IT support for these business's that are leaving, we get the inside story of why they are leaving. For all the same reasons we are. Its the ones who stay I feel sorry for - as when a tenant leaves, all the outgoings get divided amongst the remaining tenants. At the moment, we are paying one of the highest outgoings in Perth, with no amenities to show for it.

Next episodes will be the planning of the new office, fitting it out, moving, and finally the big opening party!

Monday, August 12, 2013

..... (waving very sheepishly) ... Hello :-)

One of the images we had to discuss ... interesting huh!

Remember me? My dear little blog. Not sure you are going to forgive my absence, but I had good reasons. Really I did. Still do, but I missed you so much that I have found a way to make time for you. Plus, a very special lady and fellow blogger inspired me today with her latest post - thank you Rae.  And a few weeks ago a lovely lady and follower (Hi Judy!) said she had missed you too - isn't it nice to be wanted!

We can put the blame squarely on Uni, that big old brute just demands all my time and energy. But you know, I don't have nearly as much fun there, and I certainly don't get to be creative like I do here. True, I am learning a lot and its interesting stuff I am learning, but it really does take all the fun out of writing. At least this unit has - Engaging the Humanities 100.  

There is one major essay to go, due in 2 weeks and then onto the next unit.  This is why time has been robbed from me little blog. Instead of having semesters or as we called them terms, we have study periods. Four a year, consisting of 13 weeks. They run consecutively with no break from one to the next. So this current unit ends on 25 August and the new one starts 26th August. No break at all, even at Christmas time! So really I am doing the equivalent of 2 units per semester. 

And with this last unit having 6 assignments to submit, plus 2 tests to study for, its a very heavy workload. In between the assignment work, we have a weekly lecture, with discussions we have to attend online afterwards, a reading list - usually 3 or 4 chapters, or articles, and a power-point presentation that wraps it all together and then asks a whole lot of questions that we have to answer and discuss in a discussion board. (Oh that's fun! Discussing all manner of things with doey eyed young feminists :-))

Uni has been great for my mind, saved me from getting too upset about not being able to live on my little farm, kept me 'up' when sometimes I want to drop 'down' and taught me a lot about things I never knew I needed to know!  Its a discipline that I both love and hate in equal measures.

So, I am back here for some creative outlet - perhaps not everyday, but at least a few times a week. And it feels great to be back. I wont leave you again little buddy, promise :-) Besides, I have SO MUCH to tell you ...

  • Mum and Dad's 50th Wedding Anniversary
  • A new car
  • Moving our business
  • I got chooks!!
  • Dad's 75th Birthday
  • What the boys are up to
  • New recipes
  • Oh, soooo many new books to read/have read
  • Interesting assignments 
  • How the garden grows
  • The chooks are laying
  • A weekend away in Denmark
  • A weekend away in Dunsborough
  • An intern from Austria
  • And many more photo's and fun
Most of the family on a log ... Mr K and Boo missing.