Fireplace 101

I think that it is apparent that winter is upon those of us here in the Southern Hemisphere now – the cold mornings, the late rising sun and the woolly winter clothes and boots that get dragged out of the cupboard. But it’s not all grey skies as winter has its fun too, like onesies, hot chocolate and of course those nights by the fireplace.

While I do not claim to be an expert on keeping warm, when it comes to fireplaces there are a few practical things you might want to consider based on your lifestyle.

Calore Fireplace Inspirational

Calore Fireplace Inspirational

Open vs closed?
Gone are the days when an open fireplace smokes you out of your home on the coldest day of winter, but other things to consider would be safety and residual smell from the coals the day after. If you have pets or children, you may want to steer clear of an open fireplace – as much as you would like to convince yourself that it will be fine accidents happen. The second safety aspect of open fireplaces to consider is that they “spit” bits of hot coal out, so use a protective guard to prevent burning your flooring or even worse, yourself. Depending on the wood you use, even if the open fireplace does not smoke out your home, the remaining coals, if left for more than a few hours can leave a home with that distinctive smell. Open fireplaces are also said not to be all that energy efficient, sucking in the cold air through any open vent in your home as the hot air rises up the flue.
Closed fireplaces, while, safer than an open one can still burn you, so consider building a protective guard around it.
Closed fireplaces obviously do not smoke out the home if the vent is used correctly and you can leave the coals in them until it is used again. The closed fireplaces are also often built into the wall, making them appear more streamlined with a room.


Built In Fireplace with Child guard

Built In Fireplace with Child guard

Fuel used
In South Africa, one seems to have the choices of wood, gas or anthracite. Obviously the model of fireplace you choose will determine the type of fuel that is used. Consider that wood can have a smell and only certain woods can be used, especially in open fireplaces. Pine wood will create a build-up of gum on the inside of the flue and can catch alight if not cleaned annually. Gas has potential health risks and the initial cost can be quite high, but is a lot more tidy and a flue is not necessarily a must here.
Anthracite or alternative pellet fuel fireplaces are still a relatively “new” thing and initial installation can be expensive, but this is an extremely efficient heating method.

Open hexagonal fireplace

Open hexagonal fireplace

Size & location
Make sure that the size of fireplace you choose is appropriate to the size and layout of your room or home. Open plan homes will require large kW heat output fireplaces and consider venting and how well the house is sealed against the cold.
Generally, the location of the fireplace will depend on where you wish to maintain the highest level of heat – normally in a living area. No fireplace will really be able to heat an entire home unless you vent the heat through the home, which we tend not to do here in South Africa!

Now that you have more basic knowledge on fireplaces, you can decide for yourself how you are going to keep warm this winter…




Making small bathrooms bigger

The trend is a lavishly large, open plan bathroom, right? Sure, maybe in the magazines and movies, but our bathrooms at home are the best of what we can make of them, still needing to fit in the shower, basin, toilet and sometimes a bidet and/or even bath. I would like to give you some stylish tips on how to make a small bathroom space appear that much larger – the do’s and don’t’s.

Kiddies bathroom

Corner baths, wall storage and shelf heated towel rails save space in small bathrooms

Tip one: DO prioritize your bathroom choices
If this bathroom is not the only bathroom in the house, chances are that you may only need a bath or shower in a few years time. We decided to put in the shower floor, shower mixer and the rail set, but with no shower frame or glass. (We needed  the bath as this was a child’s bathroom.) This allowed us to use the shower floor as platform to put the baby bath on when bathing Ryan – no bending over and killing your back. Most baby baths can be bought with a frame and we stood this on the shower floor within reach so that the hand shower could be used to fill the bath. We can later convert the rather poky shower space into a proper shower using frameless, clear glass that creates the illusion of more space.

Tip two: DO use a drawing or paper cut out scale

Upon discovering that there was in fact not enough space to fit in that much needed bath in our soon to arrive baby boy’s new bathroom, my husband and I had to make a plan! We literally sat with cut out shapes in a centimeter scale and rearranged all of the “origami” bathroom items until they fit and there was still enough space to get out of the shower, bath and toilet – it sounds silly, but don’t forget about that and the door that will need to open and close.

Tip three: DO use corner baths and floating furniture

Corner baths can be very appealing and often fit into difficult, small spaces. They more than often normally have steps in them too, which means you can sit on the step and even bath the baby when you sit on the step.
Floating furniture creates the illusion of space as they are open underneath and are a lot easier to clean too!
Using toilets that have the concealed flush cistern in the wall are also a great way to save a few centimeters of space.


Child's bathroom

Small bathrooms bigger with screeding and floating cabinets

Tip four: DO NOT make the space too busy
Do not use small tiles or busy tiles for flooring. Larger tiles with fewer lines make the space appear larger. Even try to use mosaics that have slightly larger tiles. We decided to go with screeding on the floor as it was the best way to create an open, seamless look in our small bathroom.
Use wall mounted space cleverly and keep the space as simplified as possible. My one condition about my children’s bathroom would be that it would not be scattered with hundreds of toys, and while I had an illusion of making a built in storage piece underneath the bath (which can most definitely be done), I decided that window sills and walls can make tasteful and practical storage spaces in small bathrooms. Also, I used a “shelved” heated towel rail where you can pack the towels.


Inspired by the simple life

Fynbos Header

This past week took me on a journey to the Cape Winelands where I stayed in a stone cabin in Tulbagh for 4 days. While I went there in part to find myself, I also found that the simple, nature inspired means of building is in fact very beautiful, but also very, very clever.

Use what you have around you – this is how our ancestors have been doing it for thousands of years and perhaps we should take a page from that age old book and incorporate this into our own lives, especially if it looks this beautiful?

The cabin I stayed in was, as mentioned, made of stone. This type of stone is clearly indigenous to this area as the ground is saturated with it. It would in fact be very easy to gather up enough of the correct size to accommodate a small cabin like this of 30 square meters or so.

Raw wood trusses

Raw wood trusses inspired by the simple life

The next thing that caught my eye was the natural, raw wooden trusses used for the pitched, open ceiling. They are finished in a clear varnish, which I think shows off the rustic nature quite nicely. The poles appear to be made from the either pine or blue gum (the latter I think is more likely). The retreat is running an alien tree removal program, which making using these flora species all the better for building materials – bonus!

The last little feature, I thought quite the splash of luxury – excuse the pun. The little 2 x 1 m splash pool is built into the patio and works by a simple “fill when needed, empty when not needed principle”. At the time when I though about it, I thought, “Gosh, that doesn’t seem all that eco-friendly, now does it?” But when I thought about it some more, I realised that if you are using it a few times a year with your own source of water (either borehole or a spring), you can simply and inexpensively use a small pool like this to cool down instead of an air-conditioner, right? I think so…

*Images are of cabins at Blue Butterfly Retreat in Tulbagh*

Splash pool inspired by the simple life

Splash pool inspired by the simple life

60’s furniture in 2015

Think VW beetle, peace symbols and funky bee hive hair –  think 1960’s.
We all know that fashion, decor and trends go around and keep coming around. Does this mean that I need  to keep my bell-bottoms for when they come in fashion again – the answer is NO!

The best thing about trends is that we can keep up with them easily. This is my trend spot for the month – 1960’s furniture is back in!

The trend seems to be tables and chairs with skinny, tripod type slimline legs and bright colours like orange, yellow and red.

Globe, Tulip & Egg Chairs

Globe, Tulip & Egg Chairs *Images from

The above image shows great examples of the types of chairs that are currently on trend and make lovely show pieces in the homeI would place either the Globe or Egg chair in the bedroom or study and use as a reading chair or even to have an afternoon snooze in if you find them comfortable enough. Use these 1960’s chairs to soften a corner of a room or use as a centerpiece.The kids will love these and use them as space ships I imagine. The Tulip chair can definitely make its come back in the office environment – commercial or home office alike.

Mid Century Slim leg table in glass

Mid Century Slim leg table in glass

This mid-century slim leg coffee table is a great inspiration from the 1950’s to 1960’s. We are going to see a lot of glass being combined with a raw wood look with the furniture again as the trend moves towards the combination of organic and more hard, modern surface finishes. We see this slim leg design in chairs, tables and bedside tables. What is great about them is that for rooms where spaces are limited, the furniture has an open air feel, especially now that glass added to the mix – it’s almost as if it’s not there, but don’t be fooled, if it is a good quality, it is sturdy.

Something to consider about this type of furniture is that the underside is open, so the tables and chairs should be used in the middle of an open space and not against a wall. The bedside cabinets are great, but make sure that plug points are behind the cabinet, otherwise you will see cables and this can look unsightly.

I realised that I have a piece of 1960’s in my own home. We recently had a cabinet made for our tv unit. Obviously it is custom made for the space. We used a semi-gloss white finish combined with a raw recycled wood that gives a retro, old school finish.

Let’s skip the cheesy parts of the 1960’s and focus on the great pieces making their well deserved return in 2015. Enjoy!

1960's look tv cabinet

Wooden mosaic creates a retro 1960’s look

*Coffee table from Mr Price Home online store