Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Solid Teak Rainwater Bath

The nature-lovers and simplicity-dwellers are sure to like this. An unusual and stylish bath, the Rainforest bath is the first to have a hand-made wooden bath.

Hundreds of caringly curved timbers are crafted to make this unique boat bath. Each of these are made in natural Teak hardwood which are waxed for smooth hard-waring finish.

The taps must be wall-mounted or floor mounted. Please note that the bath is without over flow and also the colors may vary as each bath is individual. Each of these retail for $25,105.

Via - Loadedshopper

Simon Turner

Rotating Gas Fireplace

Share the heat with everyone and be the envy of Australian homes, with this Diva Gas Rotating Fireplace, produced by Spartherm.

Control the gas pressure through a remote control and comfort yourself to get heated with the fireplace that rotates as per your convenience.

A glowing sphere of warmth sliced open on two sides to reveal the inner splendor this contemporary fireplace can rotate at your will. This handy function likewise allows you to directly feel the cozy heat of the Diva fireplace wherever you may be in the room. Running on gas, the Diva is easy to use and functions at the touch of a button.

Simon Turner

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Multi-Functional Pool Table

Pool tables typically dig a huge hole in our pockets resulting into their own marketing pitfalls. Hence, they’re out with new ways to justify their huge expense and massive real estate usage.

Moreover, they need recuperate from their downside caused by all the whacko games offered by Nintendo Wii.

To save their shrinking markets, the Pool table manufacturers are out with a new mantra, the “Fusion” Pool table/dining room table created by Aramith, our long-time leading manufacturer in the billiard industry. The multi-functionality Fusion table combines a dining table, a pool table and a game table all in one. How about a good game of pool after dinner?

Simon Turner

All That: Glitterbox Chandelier

This exclusively designed chandelier breaks all the design barriers and revitalizes the concept of the chandelier, whilst celebrating the rich traditions of this evocative and emotive expression of cut crystal. Vertical Glitterbox Chandelier is designed by George Beadle for Swarovski. Completely out-of-the-box concept, this stands tall. It includes 80 ‘twinkling’ 1 watt LED lights.

You can opt from clear, golden teak and peridot and for $US52,000, these glittering columns are sure to add uber-glamor to your d├ęcor.

Dimension - 98.5″ h a 8″w x 8″d

Simon Turner

The Billionaire Club: The Home of Bill Gates

The Home of Bill Gates

Medina, Washington

Net Worth: $58 billion

Gates' 66,000-square-foot compound is built into a hillside on the edge of Lake Washington, near Seattle. Out-of-shape visitors can skip the 84-step hike to the ground floor and opt for an elevator ride instead. Among its enviable amenities: a 60-foot swimming pool with an underwater music system, a 2,500-square-foot gym and a 1,000-square-foot dining room, which seats 24.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

This 'Ol House

Where To Start When Renovating an Older-Style Home
The Interior: Things to Note:

Water Stains - stains can be found most commonly in these two places, ceilings and floors. Ceilings usually indicate a leaky roof and that the whole ceiling will need to be replaced. Floors mean either the ceiling has leaked so much onto the floor that now the floor is warped, or that a pipe from a bathroom, water heater, or kitchen is broken. If a pipe is broken, it could mean tearing out the walls to find the source, and if you don't find it right away, the cost to find it adds up and up and up.

Sloping Floors - walk into the home and take a good look at the floors. You will be able to see slopes easily by looking at the baseboards and the floors relation to them. Walk on them and you can tell if you go downhill. Start thinking of foundation problems, or settling issues. We have even seen supporting beams cut to put a pipe through, thus causing floors to sag under the unsupported weight.

Charred Attic Trusses - many historic homes used coal fireplaces instead of wood. The burning embers would sometimes leak through chimney mortar and cause attic fires. In the home above, during the inspection we found a 2200 square foot third level was completely charred. The good news was that by speaking with neighbors, the fire had been 60 years before and the wood was so thick that the fire barely affected the structural integrity. You might not be so lucky and find the damage was so great that the entire truss structure must be replaced.

Original Plumbing & Wiring - if the home still has cast iron pipes and the original electrical system, then you are in for a huge cost to replace these items. But to do a project right and to keep the old wiring from burning the house down, they really need to be replaced. For a 4000 square foot home, it might cost you $15,000 for the electrical and another $15,000 for the plumbing, and that is just to install it. It doesn't include building the bathrooms, or installing fixtures.

Wall and Trim Paint - take a good look at the paint on trim and determine how thick it is. Over the last hundred years there is no telling how many coats have been applied and how much of it is lead based paint. Lead based paint is a health hazard if ingested, especially by young children. It is best to get rid of all paint in the home through stripping (a timely & costly process). But once the original wood is revealed, sanded, and stained, the value of the home has greatly increased in the eye's of a buyer.

Cracks in the Walls - if you see alot of cracks in the walls, beware! Most likely the walls are the original plaster and have been taped repeatedly over the years. As soon as you go to hang a picture with a nail, the "walls will come tumbling down". Replacing the plaster is expensive as most likely you will have to use thicker Sheetrock and account for the higher ceilings. Sometimes the cracks are also a sign of settling issues or structural problems. Best to have a contractor take a look at it to assess any problems.

Cracked Windows, Rotten Sashes, Broken Pulleys - if the original windows are still in the home, make sure to open each window. Check for rotten wood around the frame and on the sashes and cracked windows. If the window won't open, chances are the rope pulleys are broken and need to be repaired. See the costs starting to add up?

How Fix Your Home's Leaky Windows

One of the most common problems found in older homes is a window that leaks air.

In the winter the cold air comes in, condenses on the window, and in some cases freezes. In the summer, your precious air conditioning is sucked out into the warm atmosphere causing your compressor to go into overdrive. What do you do? Here are some options that will not only stop that whistling noise, but save you money as well.

Loose windows - some older homes are not properly weather-stripped. Applying the proper type is the least expensive fix. For some homes, a spring bronze weather-stripping can be used, which is a strip of brass that is inserted between the sash and the jamb. If this is not available, you can also buy a vinyl strip that does on the outside and inside of the window sashes.

Insulation - it might come as a surprise to you, but some older homes are not properly insulated around the windows or in the exterior walls. Fixing this problem might take some time and cause some headaches for you will have to take off the window trim or some of the drywall (maybe even plaster if your home is old enough). The best advice is to call in a professional insulation company who can do the work right and give you an estimate of cost.

Worse case scenario is you might have to replace the window. Vinyl windows are the norm today, but if you have a historic home with double hung wood windows, finding a company that manufactures them could prove difficult. Either shop salvage companies that specialize in old home fixtures, or call someone who can custom make the window.

Simon Turner

LUXURY ESTATES: The $US125million Finest Estate in America

"Fleur De Lys" - The Finest Estate in America

350 Carolwood Holmby Hills, CA 90077

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber House Hunting in Sydney

Naomi Watts and her actor boyfriend Liev Schreiber are looking for a family holiday home in Australia.

The couple and their 7-month-old son Alexander were spotted viewing property in Sydney on Feb 17.

Rumours are making rounds that the acting couple is looking for a home in Sydney neighbourhoods Bronte, Tamarama and Bondi, so that Watts and Schreiber are able to live close to the actress' best pal Nicole Kidman.

Born in England, Watts was brought up in Sydney.

Simon Turner

Interest in Renno's Rising

SYDNEY'S home owners have shrugged off rising interest rates and started renovating again, with the value of renovations and additions increasing for the first time in 18 months.

But the jump in renovations came amid a slump in overall building late last year, sparking speculation that interest rate rises were starting to bite into economic activity.

The jump in renovations - a 7.9 per cent increase in the three months to December, according to Bureau of Statistics figures released yesterday - breaks a fall in NSW renovations since mid-2006.

Home-buyers tended to renovate soon after they purchased a property, which means most of the work would have been done in buoyant inner-city property markets. But the national chief executive officer of Masters Builders Australia, Wilhelm Harnisch, said the high cost of property in inner-Sydney would prompt more people to start renovations, which would be cheaper than moving house and paying stamp duty.

This means that it is likely that alterations and additions will be a growing feature of the Sydney housing market.

Give Your Interior Walls Texture From Outside

Interior trends are increasingly looking outside for inspiration, and River Rock - a new premium textured special finish paint from Dulux - epitomises the latest direction in effortless, natural style for the home. It draws inspiration from the great outdoors, resulting in a grounded, confident finish.

The beaded texture gives rooms a depth and sensory appeal, and is a lovely link back to nature. River Rock delivers a seamless shift from outdoors into the home, particularly for those who live in urban dwellings and otherwise miss out on that connection with nature.

The palette, comprising 30 directional earthen colours, gives plenty of scope for new moods in the home. European Stone, Spring Sage and Thistle Ridge are some of the softer shades on offer for rooms exuding understated sophistication. Warm, instantly-inviting environments would look to Oyster Farm, Weathered Rock or Charcoal Wash. Those with a penchant for bolder, dynamic colours can turn to Wild Rivers, Mulga Downs or Anglers Dream for striking feature walls.

Dulux knows that leading fashion comes and goes, and with that in mind River Rock has been developed so that walls can take on a new look and feel when it is eventually time for change. It is available nationwide from Bunnings, paint specialists and hardware stores, in 250ml sample pot, 2L, 4L and 10L sizes. RRP starts at $17 per litre.


Simon Turner

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Surfing on the River Thames

Who knew? London has 60,000 surfers, according to the British Surfing Association, a fraction of the roughly half million enthusiasts throughout the UK. Up till now British surfers basically had two options: don wet suits and brave the crowds at Cornwall and other close-to-home spots or hop a flight to catch the waves abroad.

But a GBP 20m outdoor wave machine along the Thames set to open in 2011 could create an urban surfers’ paradise in East London. The attraction is part of a huge planned sports complex called Venture Xtreme that will also include rock and ice climbing walls, mountain bike and skateboard courses, what’s touted as the world’s longest artificial cave system and a vertical wind tunnel that simulates a skydiver’s freefall.

Venture Xtreme’s backers hope it will give active Londoners an exciting alternative to an after-work health club visit, the Guardian noted. An hour’s session in the surf reportedly will cost GBP 30, higher than rates charged by Adrenalina, the smaller wave-machine-in-a-mall-sporting-goods store we profiled earlier this month, but cheaper and more convenient than a day trip to the English coast.

And in fact, Venture Xtreme is the latest among several new and extravagant sports complexes located within major urban areas. Like Dubai’s famed indoor downhill snow-ski slope and a similar attraction called Xanadu now under construction in the New Jersey Meadowlands near New York City, Venture Xtreme will give city dwellers easy access to experiences they would otherwise need to travel for.

Buyer Beware: How to Spot Illegal Building Work

If you are looking at buying a property, Marquette Turner always recommend that you carry out a building inspection before you make any concrete decisions.

Recent national statistics on building faults show that those buyers in South Australia are most likely to discover something to be wary of. Those in New South Wales are statistically the safest, but nonetheless the figures are alarmingly high.

VIC: 33%
QLD: 23%
WA: 24%
NSW : 22%
SA: 43%
TAS: 30%

Often home buyers are not aware of the illegal building and could find themselves in lengthy court proceedings or having to undertake costly repairs in relation to wiring, plumbing or structural repairs. Some of the basic signs of illegal building include:

- Wiring which has not been correctly and neatly arranged.
- Unsympathetic additions using materials which do not blend with the original home.
- The removal of walls inside the home to 'open up' the interior of the home.
- The building of extensions over gully traps.
- Ceilings that are lower than regulation height.
- Toilets positioned directly off areas such as kitchens where food is prepared.
- Lack of adequate ventilation in toilets, laundry, and bathroom areas.
- Staircases which do not conform to regulations.

Many of these problems are either under the floor or in the roof wher many prospective buyers cannot normally access. Therefore, get a detailed inspection before you act.

Simon Turner

Dream Homes: Paul Mercurio of Strictly Ballroom

FOURTEEN years after Strictly Ballroom made women weep and men take up dancing, Paul Mercurio has settled in a bayside suburb with his wife, Andrea, their three children, Elise, 16, Emily, 14, Erin, 10, and two dogs.

Black-and-white photographs of Mercurio in motion for the Sydney Dance Company decorate the lounge walls at Casa Mercurio. When he was dancing for the SDC, Mercurio earned raves from the greats: Rudolph Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov. Wife Andrea Toy also danced for the SDC and when they were travelling the world together, they fell in love and eventually married.

"We are nomads," he says. "Very much used to being on the move. We've now been here for more than 4 1/2 years, the longest we've ever lived somewhere and the longest I've lived anywhere since 1981. "No wonder we have the `itchies'! A renovation means we can be here long-term." Asked if he still dances, Paul scoffs: "Are you kidding?"

About the closest he gets to a dance floor these days is judging Channel 7's Dancing With the Stars. Shunning Hollywood for family life in Australia after Strictly Ballroom has led to some career sacrifices and a variety of jobs. In 2001, he spent five months in Vancouver choreographing robots in the Alex Proyas film I, Robot, starring Will Smith, before heading home to sell computers for a few months. Later that year he got the call to play Guy in The Full Monty.

The Mercurios like where they live, but the house does not suit them. Two bedrooms between three girls, two of them teenagers, has proved troublesome. "The girls want a room each. This is what's motivated everything," Mercurio explains. Architect Adam Woledge stepped up to develop a design brief for the couple. Mercurio gave a guided tour of his house recently to Archicentre and to Woledge. The brick house has been renovated at least twice by previous owners, once to the front and once to the back, obscuring its original character.

Woledge thinks the house was probably built in the 1960s. The front gained a huge master-bedroom ensuite and walk-in-robe which Paul and Andrea like. The back of the house has a narrow, exposed brick extension under a steep, timber-lined ceiling giving it a rustic character. Meanwhile, the boxed-in rooms in the middle of the house could use some of the fluidity associated with Paul's dancing.

Other than the need for an extra bedroom, the Mercurios are eager to resolve a pokey laundry set-up and shift the central bathroom to an outer wall with a much-needed window. Out the back, they want to extend the house with a combined kitchen, dining and living area linked to a year-round entertaining area with swimming pool. The wishlist includes a revitalised garage to store Mercurio's motorcycle and an office from which he can work and brew beer.

With motorcycling, brewing is one of his favourite pastimes. For the Mercurio household, the kitchen requires special consideration. "The great thing about the kitchen is it's the hub of life. We spend a lot of time here," Mercurio tells Woledge. "One of us will be cooking and someone will be standing there with a glass of wine chatting or you'll be cooking and the three kids will be chopping up stuff.

"I want an open-plan kitchen with a big bench, stools and a massive pantry." Several weeks later Woledge comes up with a design concept that leaves the existing house untouched through to the lounge and third bedroom. Opposite the third bedroom, Woledge converts the existing kitchen into a large bathroom. On the other side, he designs a laundry with easy outside access. The west wall of the family dining area would be knocked out to make a bigger and better space, creating the open-plan of the Mercurios' dreams under a single pitch skillion roof.

A row of clerestory windows to the north, set high in the wall, would keep the area bathed in natural high light and encourage a natural cross-ventilation path. "The large open living spaces are well suited to the everyday demands of contemporary living and the opposing skillion roof forms provide a good, modern touch," Woledge says. "There is a strong visual link to the rear private open space and also expansive north-facing clerestory glazing to take advantage of natural daylight." The new kitchen is not only open to the dining and living areas, it is more spacious and ideal for parties. There is also an extra-large island bench and extra storage.

"I like this," Mercurio says, pointing to the floor-to-ceiling pantry lining the east wall. By extending the lounge into the back yard, Woledge's plan creates room for a fourth bedroom (much to Emily and Erin's delight). It sits flush on the southside, with its own access. Woledge has made great strides in rezoning the house. A heavy-duty sliding door at the entrance of the kitchen/living room will be handy to muffle any revellers if others are trying to sleep.

Out the back, he turns a liability -- the garage -- into an asset. "The garage occupies much of the rear yard but it is structurally sound and removing it would be somewhat onerous," he says.
"What we have done is incorporate a free-standing pool house and office -- which is linked to the garden -- with the capacity to act as a covered pavilion. "Upstairs, Paul would have his office and on summer days, from the balcony, he could watch the family swim in the kidney-shaped pool."
Story — Archicentre's Shane Moritz

Friday, February 15, 2008

Michael Jackson on the Brink of Losing Neverland

Trying to raise USD23 million in mortgage finance for a home is not easy in today’s credit squeeze environment. This stark reality is facing Michael Jackson who now faces losing his fantasy land home Neverland.

The mortgage broker trying to find fresh financing for Jackson on his $23 million loan held by Fortress Investments is finding it near impossible to find a willing lender. If Neverland is not refinanced, Fortress can foreclose and sell the ranch at auction. Recently, Fortress laid off $300 million in loans to Jackson on HSBC.

The refinancing resulted in Jackson's paying off around $20 million in debt, but it still left him cash-strapped and unable to deal with the Neverland crisis.

Neverland Valley Ranch is a developed property in Santa Barbara County, California, It operated as his private amusement park and home when the facility opened in 1988, but is no longer in operation. The property is over 2,800 acres (11 km²) in size contained among other things, a zoo and a theme park, with a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, zipper, spider, sea dragon, wave swinger, super slide, dragon wagon kiddie roller coaster and bumper cars. It is named after Neverland, the fantastical island in the story of Peter Pan, where children never grow up.

Jackson has not lived at Neverland since 2005. Two weeks after he was acquitted on charges of child molestation and conspiracy, Jackson decamped to Bahrain. Within a year, Neverland was shut down when the pop star fell behind on wages for the remaining employees and did not maintain insurance or workmen’s comp for them.

Simon Turner

David Beckham's Spectacular Brazilian Venture

One of the most famous soccer stars on the planet David Beckham has announced plans of a football academy in Natal Brazil. He describes the new facility as one of the best in the world. During his visit he explains that Natal is a place of tremoundous excitement owing to new hotels and property in the area. The husband of posh spice also feels that Natal Brazil is an area that will attract celebrities and other football stars.

David Beckham has announced a scholarship program available to local Brazilian children in order to actively reach-out to schools within the region. He hopes that the children will benefit from on-site coaching and access to the top class facilities, much in the same way as his Academies in London and Los Angeles.Rubens Barrichello, Brazilian F1 champion, is also involved in the development, as well as Norwegian multi-millionaire businessman Torben Frantzen, brother of Findus founder Geir Frantzen.

Natal, the capital of the Brazilian state Rio Grande do Norte, is about 2600 km north of Sao Paulo along the northeast coast of the country. This city of 710,000 residents is an increasingly popular target for international investors and real estate developers. The spectacular location along the ocean and miles of undeveloped beaches north and south of the city make it ideal for those who are looking to get into an area that is up and coming.

Natal and the areas surrounding it is currently the target for over a billion dollars (US) in development. There are at least 10 golf courses planned or under construction and dozens of new housing, apartment and resort developments are also under construction. The city and surrounding communities are a major tourist destination for domestic travellers in Brazil. The area is being marketed as an international tourist destination as well, and the city is becoming increasingly popular among foreigners.

Simon Turner

The Hotbeam: Solar Powered, Glowing BRICKS!

The SolarBrick from Hotbeam is a self-contained solar powered light designed for traffic and decorative uses. This device is waterproof, easy to install and can be driven over by vehicles. The SolarBrick is available in 6 bright colours. It comes in 2 standard sizes, 200x200x60mm and 200x100x60mm.

Rechargeable batteries currently used in conventional solar devices need battery replacement every 2-3 years at best. They also have a narrow working temperature range. The SolarBrick uses a ultracapacitor called the EnergyCache to store its charge. The EnergyCache enables the SolarBrick to be used in any environment without maintenance for more than 10 years and has a wide operating temperature range of -40?~75?C.

During the day, solar energy is converted to electricity through the solar cells and stored in the ultracapacitor. At night, the inviting soft glow from the light emitting diode (LED) is automatically turned on. Full charge takes 1 hour under direct sunlight and 6-8 hours under shade. The light stays "on" for more than 12 hours from a fully charged ultracapacitor.

Public Space: Walkways, driveways, pool-side, decks, landscaping, lawns
Commercial: Plazas, shopping malls, showrooms, shop windows
Traffic: Roadsides, airports, pedestrian crossings, sidewalks, median strips
Architectural: Building entrances, corporate signage
The SolarBrick can also be installed vertically on the sides of buildings or structures.

Stays illuminated for more than 12 hours
Quick recharge. 1 hour charge under sunlight, 6-8 hours under cloud or rain
No maintenance. No expensive wiring labour required
Lasts more than 10 years
Automatic on/off at ambient illuminance levels of 150~300 LuxHot
Available in 6 attractive colours: amber, blue, green, orange, red and white
Super-strong polycarbonate housing with high compressive strength
Tolerates environmental extremes. Works in temperature range of -40? to 75?C
Waterproof, UV protected and scratch resistant
Non-contaminating materials

Find out more from

Simon Turner

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Celebrity Mansions: A Bird's Eye View

Take a tour aboard this chopper and view the mansions of such stars as John Travolta, Shaq O'Neill, Tiger Woods and more.

The Hidden Spells of Smells

Aromas affect us on a subliminal level - which is one reason we often underestimate their power. But thanks to a mix of ancient knowledge, recent research and new technology, change is in the air. Smell after all has a mysterious ability to plug straight into our memories and emotions - and their discoveries look set to shape our lives in subtle but significant ways.

What makes smell so powerful? Humans can recognise close to 10,000 aromas, and we breathe about 30,000 times a day. Smells are processed by the limbic system, an old area of the brain relating to memory and emotion. While responses differ across individuals, cultures, genders and age groups, certain scents can spark vivid feelings and recollections

There are signs that we're rediscovering our sense of smell. Supermarket aisles are packed with a growing array of air fresheners, home deodorisers and scent dispensers. US company Demeter sells a range of home fragrances, including Wet Garden, Never Lonely, Between the Sheets and the Christmas-themed Egg Nogg.
The ancient art of aromatherapy is also enjoying a boom, with essential oils being used in millions of homes. The typical blend names - relax, energise, focus, harmony, romance - suggest the moods we want to conjure up in our private realms. But it's the retail world that's leading the pack in the more sophisticated uses of aroma. Smell is a powerful hidden persuader, and many businesses are using "ambient scenting" to influence our shopping behaviour.

Recent studies show the careful use of scent, combined with lighting, music and store layout, can affect the way we shop. Pleasant smells shorten our perception of time, create positive associations, cheer up staff, and make us likely to browse longer, impulse buy, spend more and visit again.

While these aromatic discoveries are new, the basic principles are not. "Fragrance has been used for thousands of years to excite, arouse and tantalise," says Mark Gordon, marketing manager of fragrance specialist Ecomist. "Bakers in the 1960s would place fans near the ovens to push the smell out into the street and entice people in. We've just advanced technologically on that idea
The company's in-house Parisian perfumer, Yves Dombrowsky, has developed 180 fragrances which can be diffused through homes or shops with a small computerised dispenser. Gordon likens it to a high-tech offshoot of aromatherapy, minus the burning candles. Two of Ecomist's niche scents - the floral/spice mix Ronan, and the seaspray/citrus blend Ozone - have proved popular in display homes; surf shops go for the Mango blend, while cafes prefer Blueberry Muffin.

Australia has been relatively slow on the uptake, but aroma marketing is gaining ground. Morrison has worked with fashion chain Supre to study the combined effects of music and scent. The conclusion? For Supre's target market (teens and young women), a mix of vanilla-scented air and loud dance music does wonders at the till.

Globally, the profit power of smell has infiltrated the realms of gambling, education, pop culture, fashion, interior design and the internet. When a Las Vegas casino pumped a floral scent into its slot machine area, gamblers spent 45% more. A US children's museum recently ordered a "dinosaur dung" aroma, and researchers are exploring the use of scent in schools and hospitals to improve learning, treat phobias and speed recovery. Singer Shania Twain has released a daffodil-scented "fragrance disk", and you can buy alarm clocks that emit a coffee scent, curtain fabrics embedded with tiny perfume capsules, and a gadget that lets you sniff products online, or concoct and email your own scents.

Top 10 scents to make you ...

- Feel safe, secure and nostalgic talcum powder
- Be more alert peppermint, citrus
- Relax lavender, vanilla, chamomile
- Perceive a room as smaller barbecue smoke
- Perceive a room as bigger apple, cucumber
- Buy expensive furniture leather, cedar
- Buy a home fresh baking
- Browse longer and spend more tailored floral/citrus scents
- Get road rage unpleasant smells rotting rubbish, air pollution
- Become sexually aroused a pumpkin pie/lavender blend (men); the sweat of nursing mothers (women)

Note: Individual memory plays a role. If you've had a traumatic experience involving vanilla, you probably won't find that smell pleasant.

Est 9819 0726; Douglas and Hope 9417 0662; Husk 9827 2700; Kleins 9416 1221; Manon bis 9521 1866; Peony 9882 0662

Robot Servant's Will Soon Be A Reality

Robot servants for the home will become a reality within ten years.

Technology unveiled at the world's biggest gathering of industry leaders heralds the arrival of 'house-bots'. Sophisticated new robots have been developed essentially as toys are opening the door to wider acceptance of the technology.

Among the latest examples unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show(CES) in Las Vegas were the Spykee series from Wow wee. However, even more sophisticated worker robots are in the pipeline, such as the iRobiQ, from South Korea.

The robots - like iRobiQ - which are linked into the home's own technology and broadband internet service, will effectively become the technology hubs of the home.

Voice commands to the robot would be translated into wireless signals to turn on the washing machine, change the TV channel, dim the lights or change the music.

iRobiQ can also be programmed to wake you up in the morning with a song, tour the house during the night to provide security and even order a second low-grade robot to vacuum the floor.

In South Korea she is even programmed to help teach children English, both through the spoken word and letters which appear on a screen on her chest.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Colour Tips For The New Season

Colours can affect moods and emotions. We look at what colours are suitable for different room types. Colour can be created through both paint and furnishings.

The science of colour is nothing new. About 2000 years ago ancient Egyptian and Chinese civilisations used colour in healing, and looked to nature for cues on how to use it in their daily lives. Your preference for certain colours is very personal, and there is a lot of psychological research into why certain colours appeal to certain character types. Studies show colours have different effects on our moods and emotions.

Consider the nature and function of a room before you choose interior colours. Also, Marquette Turner suggest that if you are painting simply to sell the property, don't get too personal. Make sure that colours are neutral.

Mitchell Hartmann

"Give your room a makeover" using online service Design My Room

"Give your room a makeover" is the proclaimed purpose of Design My Room, which launched into beta in August. The site lets users test out interior designs either on sample rooms provided by the site, or by uploading a photo of the real room they have in mind.

They can paint, furnish and decorate the room by selecting from thousands of products—from sponsoring brands Armstrong, Benjamin Moore, Kohler, Smith & Noble, Whirlpool and others—and then dragging and dropping them wherever they want. Rooms created by professional designers are also available for inspiration and copying. Users can save multiple versions of their room and offer them up for rating and comments to friends or the site's audience at large.

Then, once they've settled upon the look they like, shopping for the items they've chosen is made easy via an automatically linked shopping list, which keeps track of their selections all along.

Basic members of Design My Room are given one free project, which they can save and redesign as often as they like. A "plus" membership enables 5 projects for USD 4.95 a month, while premium members get 25 projects for USD 9.95 per month. Uploading a room photo costs an extra USD 25.

"When my wife and I renovated three years ago, we had to sign out samples from retailers and lug them around—a heavy piece of granite, a cabinet door, ceramic tiles, carpet swatches, paint chips. They must have weighed 50 pounds," explains Jesse Engle, vice president of business and product development at Massachusetts-based Swatchbox Technologies, which created "Next time, we do it all on the site."

In addition to the obvious benefits for users, category-specific sites like Design My Room give brands a clear line of communication with the consumers most likely to listen. Style-forward consumers are eager to create and share content, acting as curators for peers who are looking for inspiration. Time to apply this concept to the niche of your choice!

IKEA Organises Furniture Swap

Over the past few years, swapping clothing, books, music and movies has taken off around the world, with groups meeting for swaps offline and online. Now, Marquette Turner has learnt from it's sources that flat-pack behemoth IKEA is organizing a furniture swap at its Amsterdam store: a husselmarkt. The swap, which will take place on February 9th, will let up to 250 people bring in furniture—which doesn't have to be made by IKEA—and swap it for items brought in by others. IKEA will also add 12.000 euros worth of furniture to the mix.

The event is part of a marketing campaign that encourages customers to think like designers, which includes experimenting by rearranging furniture they already have (roughly translated, husselen means to shuffle, or move around). To help people redesign their living spaces, IKEA offers a tool on that lets users draw a room as it's currently arranged, and then move around pieces on-screen. Any furniture that no longer fits their rearranged room can be brought to the husselmarkt.

It might seem contradictory from a business point of view: if people swap, they'll buy less. But IKEA knows that once a consumer rearranges a room, or gets a new couch (even if it isn't strictly new), they're likely to want a new rug, lamp or table to complete the makeover.
Will Australia's IKEA follow suit?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Cost of Being Heritage Listed

Their owners think that they're just ordinary chimneys, letterboxes and driveways but to council bureaucrats, they are irreplaceable state treasures.

Such is their historic and social significance they have been nominated to be preserved forever on the NSW Heritage List alongside buildings such as Sydney Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building.

Nineteen otherwise ordinary suburban homes in Toongabbie, Epping and Wentworthville have been singled out by Parramatta City Council. Most were built about 40 years ago. The nomination documentation cites special heritage-worthy features including a "metal letterbox stand", "massive brick chimney", "mature palm trees" or "traditional symmetrical form and appearance".

In one case, inspectors praised the way a house "integrates the carport".

The proposal is part of the council's draft local environment plan, a document prepared by all local government areas to guide land use and planning decisions.

Owners of the properties are furious. They have been told the value of their properties will fall by as much as $60,000 if the heritage-listing goes ahead.

Buildings entered on a heritage database cannot be knocked down and a development application must be lodged with council for any changes to the house that could affect its heritage significance.

Pensioner Sylvia DeMeur, who owns one of the houses in Toongabbie, said she was horrified to discover her unpretentious bungalow was being considered for heritage status.

Although her massive brick chimney is said to introduce "verticality into an otherwise horizontal architectural composition", Ms DeMeur believes her Lamonerie Rd property has no historic value.

"If it was built by convicts or 100 years old, that's fair enough, but this is just an ordinary fibro house that the next-door neighbour could have built," she said.

She said her chimney hadn't even been used in the two-and-a-half years she had lived there.
She also said if the listing were successful she would be financially worse off in the future.

Her frustration is shared by Darrell Hooper, whose Wentworthville property was included in the list because of its "original metal letterbox stand and the pebble-impregnated driveway".
Mr Hooper said the idea that his fibro property was deemed worthy of preserving for future generations was crazy. "Why would they want to heritage-list a place that's all asbestos?" he asked. "The beams running through the house are rotting, the windows are rotting but they don't know that because they didn't even come into the house."

Mr Hooper, who has been living at the Doig St address for nine years, said while he realised the importance of protecting significant landmarks such as sandstone buildings and churches, he was afraid of the consequences.

"My plan in the future was to demolish the house but, if they heritage-list it, I won't be able to do anything, not to mention how hard it will be to sell," he said.

It is up to each council whether or not to nominate buildings for heritage listing.

According to the NSW Heritage Office, more than 25,000 heritage items have been identified as having local significance.

Among the more renowned landmarks already listed are Hyde Park, the NSW Art Gallery, Sydney University and St Mary's Cathedral.

While it is common for residences to be listed, the bizarre reasons for these latest inclusions have left property valuers scratching their heads.

Kristian Nguyen, of John Virtue Valuers in Parramatta, said there was a market for heritage-listed properties but the 19 residences flagged were very ordinary.

"The homes don't really have any significance. They were mainly built in the 1960s and '70s and are your typical cottages," he said.

As a result, Mr Nguyen estimated the value of these properties would severely diminish.
But Parramatta City Council is determined to press ahead.

Mayor Paul Barber said the decision to update the area's heritage listing, which was about a decade old, was necessary to provide others in the future with a link to our current way of life.

"It is council's view that, if we fail to preserve our local heritage, our reference to the past will be lost for future generations," he said.

The final version of the local environment plan will be on public exhibition from early next year.

Sunday Telegraph

Detonate or Renovate? Japan's Tradition

Homes in Japan last for only 30 years. The government wants to change that!

Even though Japanese houses are supposed to be built to withstand earthquakes, few of them defy demolition for more than a few decades. The housing stock is amazingly young: more than 60% of all Japanese homes were built after 1980 (see chart). That is because there is almost no market for old homes in Japan. New legislation to be put forward this month will try to remedy that.

The roots of Japan's unusual housing market go back centuries. Buildings were often razed by earthquakes or fire, so durable houses were rare. Earthquake insurance largely did not exist until the 1990s (and even today is little used).

In post-war Japan land has value but buildings do not. The law separates the ownership of the land and the structure, so the two are distinct in Japanese minds. After the war, the government sought to foster private home-ownership by offering tax incentives for new buildings. The policy was a great success. Arguably too great: by 1968 there were more homes than households to occupy them.

At the same time, tax burdens abound for selling land with old buildings. After around 30 years homes are demolished for new ones to spring up. Because the lifetime of houses is short, cheap construction materials are used and the buildings are not maintained. There is no tradition of do-it-yourself home upkeep. Just as there is little interest in secondhand furniture or clothes among the sanitation-obsessed Japanese, so too home-owners prefer to build anew rather than refurbish the old.

There is also a dearth of institutions and expertise that might oil the gears of a market in old houses, from surveyors to judge the quality of a property to banks that assess its value and provide a mortgage. As a result, where 89% of British homes have had more than one owner, and 78% of homes in America and 66% in France, only 13% of Japanese homes have ever been resold.

But attitudes today are changing. The constant rebuilding places an unnecessary drain on people's financial resources, says Koichi Teramoto of the Ministry of Land. A couple easing into retirement may demolish their house to sell the land in order to move into a smaller abode that they must then build from scratch. Although better-built homes cost more up front, they cost far less over time—as much as one-third less after a few generations, according to Mr Teramoto.

The ministry also worries that the constant demolition is terrible for the environment. The costs to the wider economy are also great. A home is more than a man's castle: it is typically his most important financial asset. Not in Japan. For most of the post-war period land prices soared, so the lack of a housing resale market was not a problem. But since the bursting of the property bubble in the early 1990s, most land prices have fallen: some are as much as 80% off their peak. That houses also depreciate in value constrains consumption and adds to deflationary pressures; which in turn pushes people to be particularly cautious savers (more than 50% of Japan's household wealth is kept as cash in bank accounts) and helps to keep interest rates barely above zero.

To remedy the problem, the prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, this month plans to introduce new tax rules to encourage the construction of more durable buildings. Under a draft of the “200-year homes” policy, national, regional and municipal property taxes may be reduced by between 25% and 75% for up to seven years for houses that adhere to robust building standards. Mortgages for such homes can be longer (50 years as opposed to the traditional maximum of 35 years) and building approvals will be simpler.

Property experts think these measures are too timid, however. They argue that a true market for used homes needs standardised methods of construction, as well as more transparency about the quality and value of houses. Far more generous tax incentives are vital too. Until then, homes in Japan will continue to fare like the country's ubiquitous electronic gadgets: be treated as disposable.

Jan 3rd 2008 from The Economist print edition

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Buy Your Own Island

For centuries, the rich and famous have owned private islands, but while the picture of palm trees, white beaches and turquoise waters sounds alluring, there is an even greater allure.. PROFIT!

A private island is one of the best investments money can buy. Buying the right island in the right time and place can be one of the most profitable investments you could ever make. You have not only an affordable retreat for family and friends, but a strategic investment that increases exponentially in value over time.

In the 1950’s many of those haunted by the evils of war, or who had traveled through the South Pacific dreamed of escaping the world to their own private island. The strong increase in sales quickly drove prices up and in 1973 Donald McCormick the author of “How To Buy an Island” wrote…

“Many islands have risen in value over the past forty years by more than 500%”.

During the past 20 years demand for private islands has grown steadily, while the supply remains the same. Increasing demand and diminishing supply is a time-honored formula for a good investment.

Islands are a limited commodity, and offer an incredible investment as they appreciate rapidly. Demand is a so an important factor. Indeed, the supply-demand balance is perhaps much more significant than for other real estate as one cannot just create another island.

Right now, there are less than a thousand islands for sale around the world, some have houses, electricity and water, some have nothing but sand and a few palm trees. Prices range from as low as US$20-30,000 up to $56 million. Over the last 10 years the price of islands in some areas of the Caribbean has increased by up to 300%, that’s over 30% per year, a great investment in any terms.

The trick with purchasing an island as an investment is to buy in the right area at the right time. How? Well you must find an area with all the necessary requirements such as beauty, accessibility, stable government etc but where the market is just beginning.

It’s not too late, there still are places left where you can live out the dream of owning your own tropical island.

Michael Marquette of Marquette Turner points out: "The value of an island depends on various factors such as location, size, proximity to the mainland, accessibility, climate, topography, existing infrastructure, other developments, local communities, redevelopment potential, political stability of the mainland country and the legal and taxation implications of owning an island".

Whilst buying your own island may seem a little unlikely, it's worth remembering that you'll only ever reach as high as the goals you set!

Also read: Islands of the Rich and Famous

Simon Turner.

Islands of the Rich & Famous

Owning your own island is perhaps the ultimate demonstration of success. Here's a short list of just some of the islands in the world owned by such people.

Johnny Depp - Little Halls Pond Cay, Nassau, Bahamas
Nicholas Cage - Leaf Cay, Bahamas
Ian Fleming (James Bond Author) - Goat Island, Tobago
Gene Hackman - island in British Columbia, Canada
John Wayne - Taborcillo Island, Panama
Paloma Picasso, daughter of Pablo - Petalous Island, Western Greece
Steven Spielberg (film director) - Madeira, Portugal
Richard Branson (Virgin entrepreneur) - Necker Island -British Virgin Islands and Makepeace Island, Australia
Rod Stewart - The island of Great Britain, Nakheel’s “The World” Dubai, UAE
Diana Ross (Pop Diva) - Taino, French Polynesia
Ted Turner (Founder of CNN) - St Phyllis Island, South Carolina
Bill Gates (Microsoft) - Forsythe Island, New Zealand
Malcolm Forbes - Laucala Island, Fiji
Aristotle Onassis - Skorpios island, Greece
Forbes Family - Naushon Island, Massachusetts
Bacardi Family - Island near Granada
Disney family - Echo Island, San Juan islands, Washington
Du Pont family - Cherry Island, Chesapeake Bay Maryland
Heidseck Family (Champagne) - Illiec Island off the coast of Brittany
Bjorn Borg - Kattilo island, Sweden
Baron Rothschild - Bell Island, the Bahamas
Marlon Brando- Te’tiarao, French Polynesia
Wouldn't it be great to add your name to this list!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

When To Carpet, When to Tile & When To Use Wooden Flooring

As a sweeping statement Europeans, especially Scandinavians and Germans prefer wood flooring as do most Amercians.

However, one can never guarantee who is going to view your home and given the multi-cultural nature of Australia, and particularly the Sydney market, when it comes to renovating with the ultimate aim of selling your property I would suggest catering for the middle ground and aim for wood flooring on the ground floor, carpeting in the bedrooms and tiled flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms.

When it comes to laying wooden flooring, please ensure that it is actually wood that is used rather than laminate – at a pinch one could use wood veneer but makes sure it’s at least 7mm thick.

Quality does count and so the thicker and wider the wood the better, just make sure it’s not at risk from warping due to overheated or damp conditions and that it is fitted correctly.

It would be a bonus if the floorboards underneath the carpeted areas in the bedrooms were in good condition then it would give the incoming owner the flexibility to strip the carpeting away and restore the floorboards if they so desired.

How To Do Up a Property That's Run Down

One of the most popular kinds of home show on TV at the moment are the ones that focus on buying run down houses, doing them up and selling them for a profit. This is known as "flipping".

The only reason for the person buying the house is to do some work and then sell it on again quickly for a profit. The idea is to make a quick profit and then move onto another property.

The profits from flipping houses can be quite large, especially if you know what you're doing. Depending on how much work you need to do on the property you should be able to turn them round pretty quickly.

Deciding whether the house is suitable for flipping usually requires looking at why the house is being sold. It's not really desirable to flip houses that are in reasonable condition, remember the worse the standard of the house the cheaper it should be. Most companies that specialize in doing this will look for a property requiring a fair amount of work. Flipping houses make them much more desirable to people.

The idea is to buy a house at much less than its market value due to its poor condition. People want to buy perfect houses and so will be put off even if only tiny things need doing. If there are only small repairs to do you should be able to get the house back on the market within one month. The price when selling the property should cover the mortgage, renovation, costs associated with selling, and provide quite a nice profit.

Fix it properly
Many companies that renovate houses do so properly. When flipping houses they do not just make cosmetic fixes, they will also go beyond this. Thus, you should do a pre-purchase pest and building inspection so that you can work out exactly what needs doing. You may find out that you need to spend more on renovation than you expect. This will ultimately reduce your profit, or even wipe it out completely.

A frequent type of home that is targeted by flipping home companies are foreclosed homes. This is because they do not attract as many people and so are often cheaper, they can be as low as 60% of the actual market value and only nee a little work to get them in order. These kinds of homes allow the company to do up a house very quickly and make a good profit.

Most people will try to get profits on the first couple of houses with the intention of buying houses with the profits without having to borrow money. In time this can become a very successful business and you'll be able to pay less on each house. If you are able to find houses in your local area to flip then you will already know more about the market which could be beneficial. Good Luck!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Give Your Home a Facelift

The inside of your home may look spectacular, but is the exterior looking a little tired? Maybe it's time to give it a facelift.

The first decision lies with the type of finish you are after. There are many options – you can render with oxides to obtain a coloured finish, use paint-like products for a smooth finish or apply a textured render.

Whether you will be rendering yourself or have decided to get in a tradesperson, you will need to contact the manufacturer first. They will be able to give you specific advice on the rendering process, how to get the best from their render and what to expect of the finished product.

Once you have decided which product you are going to use you can get started. There are generally two main ways of rendering your fibro home. Option one is to remove all the cover strips of the fibro, place an adhesive base or bonding agent over the fibro and then render it.

The only drawback for this method is there will be no improvement in the thermal insulation for your home.
Your second option is as you suggest, covering the existing fibro with “blueboard” and rendering on top of that. In this case, the blueboard will help to increase your insulation.

As I have mentioned the type of render you go with will determine the process so my advice is to contact the manufacturer and a tradesperson and then go from there.

Simple Ways to Improve Your Life

Most fundamentally, recognise that happiness is a state of mind and not something which can be defined objectively. You can change your state of mind in many ways including the following suggestions.

More importantly than anything else, live with a partner whom you love and respect and who feels the same about you.

Kiss and cuddle and compliment often and regularly buy unexpected little gifts.

If you have a son or a daughter. Tell them often how much you love and admire him/her and do anything to help him/her.

Have a cat or a dog and stroke them often.
Keep in close touch with relatives and a small circle of friends. You can't beat their love and support.
Conversely, if there is a person in your life who is a negative influence and who is dragging you down in some way, don't be afraid to get remove such a person from your life.
Smile a lot. Smiles make you miles better - and you smiling will make others smile. As Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810) put it: “Always wear a smile. The gift of life will then be yours to give.”
Laugh a lot. If you need some help.

Say what you mean and mean what you say. Honesty really is the best policy.

Be politely assertive. Say how you feel and explain what you want. Friends and colleagues can't be mind readers.

Give lots of compliments. You will make others feel good about themselves and find that this gives you pleasure too.

Give small gifts to your friends. To give is even more pleasurable than to receive.

When your birthday or Christmas is coming, prepare a list of the presents you'd like and give it to a partner, relative or friend to 'manage'. That way people won't struggle to choose a gift for you and you'll receive what you want and like.

Use your credit card as a convenient way to pay for your major expenditures on a monthly basis - not to obtain credit at an outrageous level of interest.

Don't gamble. There's enough uncertainty in your life without you adding more - and anyway, in the long run, you can't win. (A little flutter on the lottery is allowed.)

Give regularly to the charities of your choice. Make at least one of those charities an organisation addressing world poverty. Regularly increase your contributions as your income rises.

Wear the most expensive after-shave (usually men!) or perfume (usually women!!) you can afford. It will make you feel good.

Whether male or female, get your hair done. This will always make you feel better about yourself.

Surround yourself with pleasant smells. Have flowers, pot-pourri or scented candles in most rooms of the house and in your office.
Every so often, spend a little time observing the night sky. As you contemplate the distances and time involved, it will put your life and your concerns into more perspective.