Thursday, December 18, 2014

Shades of Grey - How Hard Are You?


We encountered an unexpected requirement when it came to choosing the stone for our benchtops in the kitchen. We had our hearts set on having Carrara marble for the benchtops, but were strongly advised against this. Why? - I have seen hundred of beautiful counter tops in Carrara in interior design magazines, most in very well spec'd homes where they looked oh so glamorous. 

It transpires that marble is just not hard enough for kitchens. You can't put hot pans down on it or it might crack, if you spill your red wine on it it will stain, even if treated to prevent fluid uptake, and it will inevitably develop a pitted surface over time loosing its sheen becoming drab. 

What's a boy to do? It was time to get scientific. After some research I found a universal scale called Moh's Scale, used to grade how hard various stones are. We needed a stone which was much harder than marble, but still gave us that timeless Carrara look.

Moh's Scale:

For a kitchen surface to be usable it really should score a 6 or above. In term of absolute hardness Talc scores a 1, Calcite (most marbles) a 9, while Quartz scores a 100 (10 x harder than marble). Diamond scores a 1500! In practical terms you can easily scratch marble with a copper coin, but not quartz.

So, not wanting a granite top (our hearts really set on a particular look) we found some quartzite stones that resembled Carrara marble. We settled on this top stone, with its undulating waves of grey coursing through an off white stone (paler than it appears in this photo)...


Other choices included this stone, which had a whiter background colour, but the seams of grey, although completely natural, seemed to look like a man-made Corian top with an almost printed look...


Then there was this one, which was completely white with no grey to it, which almost had a milky appearance. Not marblesque enough...


So, now having settled on the stone, we have sent the templates for our bench tops and centre island off to the quarry in Greece where they will LASER-cut the stone to the exact shape required, including the nosing profile...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Getting a handle on things...


We have been looking at all the different period styled brass door fittings over the past year. There are a bewildering array, mainly out of Europe and the US, of ornate styled handles. The sky's the limit when it comes to detail, but the price is the limit when it comes to ensuring WBP is completed.

We settled on the handle above as a compromise between style and price. One can't find anything ornate in NZ, the nicest brass handle available in the country doesn't even compare...


It's not even made in NZ, it's made by Carlise Brass.

Then there were the ones I really liked, such as these handles by Beardmore (The company who made our large lion face door knockers)...


But alas, the quotation to fit the manor out completely in this beautiful brass was astronomical. Another contender was Baltica, based in Lithuania (yes, we did a virtual tour of the world over the last 12 months trying to find the perfect handle on a reasonable budget. Their wares include:


But in the end we settled on Domino Brass. They make good quality solid cast brass fittings and their range is not disappointing.




Friday, December 12, 2014

Construction Progress...

Here are a few pictures of the progress as of last week. The cornicing should arrive next week and then they can crack on completing the walls and move on to the flooring.

Below: a view of the foyer from the front door.

Below: A view of the staircase from the ballroom hallway.

Below: The jungle of flues and various fireplaces. This was one disappointing aspect of the build, that the fireplaces had to protrude into the rooms so much. They are 600mm deep, before the 300mm deep mantlepieces are fitted, meaning they will protrude into the rooms by 3 feet. At least the rooms are large enough to cope with this. 

It was also a pain that under law each fireplace must have its own flu (so back to back fireplaces on the lower floor with back to back fires above require 4 flues coursing up through the walls, and chimney pieces wide enough to hide the flues at 400mm wide each (1.6m plus 1.8m fireplaces = 3.4m blade walls!).


Below: The staircase from the top.

Below: The lift shaft from the top.

Below: The dentils waiting to be fixed to the eaves around the outside of the manor.

Below: Detail of the frieze band onto the top of which the dentils are fixed.



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sphinxes finally find their home...

The sphinxes have made it to their final resting place, as guardians of the entrance to the gardens from the cocktail lawn. The penultimate time I was home the raised cocktail lawn was a brown mess of soil and weeds, but since then Peter has sprayed, harrowed, rolled, sown and rolled it again and thanks to the spring rain it has been transformed from that patch of dirt into a burgeoning formal lawn in just 4 weeks...


So, with no more ground work required we were able to take the sphinxes out of their crates and have them placed just so...

Above: View of the pair from the upstairs balcony.

I am enjoying seeing things starting to come to fruition, especially because the space now starts to take on some scale and perspective.

Above: View from ground.

Below: The view across the raised lawn towards Badger's Wood. The walls are yet to be plastered and the travertine steps yet to be set.


Keeping a watchful eye...

Some more photos of the spring growth...

Above and Below: Badger's Wood from Upstairs and Downstairs respectively.

Above: View of manor from Lime Walk, with the Bois de Marie to the left.

Below: Our first crop of hazelnuts starting to develop on the trees in the Bois de Marie

Below: A panorama from the end of the lime walk.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Stop and Smell the Roses...

Here are some photos taken last week of the roses in our potager garden...


Above and Below: The view into the potager from the vineyard.

Below: The deep red Dublin Bay.

Below: In the pink - some old fashioned roses with wonderful perfume.

Below: A profusion of cream and white blooms...

Below: 'Sunset' and 'Wildfire'

Below: The pale mauve blooms of the roses at the end of the vines (they have gone over somewhat).

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