Gorgeous Green House

The Renovation Journey of a 1940’s ‘Traditional’ to 2015 ‘Contemporary, Green & Gorgeous’


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Gorgeous Green Dream Kitchen

It’s a cliche that the kitchen is the heart of the home.  For families who love to cook and eat together, though, it is true. After many years of cooking (often alone) in a kitchen separate from the rest of the house I was excited about designing a space that was more open plan, with the main cooking and prepping area integrated with the dinning and lounge, but with a scullery area tucked out of sight.

View from dining room/lounge

View from dining room/lounge

I trust you will agree, that even if you have no interest in the green stuff, this is a beautiful kitchen.  You know you’re getting the green info any way, so here goes:

We chose bamboo for the cabinetry as it is the most extraordinary sustainable product.  It grows up to 10 cm per day (is actually a grass) and is as hard as nails by the time it is processed into a ‘plank’.  A far greener option than any wood you could choose. Better still, it has been heat processed to give it this gorgeous caramel colour, which will never scratch off like a stain/coloured varnish.  So for those of you who have been put off all the ‘blonde’ bamboo that’s mostly available this other option may be of interest.  Darryn Kemper from Woodkraft Kitchens did the installation.  Wonderful precision craftmanship, thank you Darryn, it was a joy watching you work!

Bamboo cabinetry edges close up

Bamboo cabinetry edges close up


I love the way the lamination is visible on the edges of the panels and doors – proudly announcing that this is a special material!

Composte work surface with 60% recycled content

Composte work surface with 60% recycled content

We found this fabulous work top product from Samsung.  It has aproximately 60% recycled content in it.  Natural granite is hard pressed to compete for beauty and no hillsides have been demolished in the process.  This particular composite has unusual copper coloured flecks in it – a beautiful tie-in to the colour of the bamboo.  Tracey and her team from Flintstone Granite and Marble did a wonderful job on the installation. Lots of tricky elements and cut outs all executed beautifully.

Recycling bins

Recycling bins

We thought long and hard about the re-cycling storage.  At one point we were thinking about ‘post boxes’ to outside bins. This could have led to a lot of broken glass so we went more conventional with large pull out drawers with off-the-shelf plastic bins lined with the bags that they go to the re-cycling depot in. I’ve made the bags out of large feed sacks simply by sewing on handles. Works like a charm.

Worm food drawer

Worm food drawer

After years of having containers with the worm food (vegetable, fruit cuttings) sitting on bowls on the counter top a special drawer was planned to scoop the peelings into as we go.  Far less unsightly.

Scullery area, small induction geyser under sink

Scullery area, small induction geyser under sink

We were also concerned about heating water and really wanted to stick to installing one solar geyser in the house.  The kitchen is at the furthermost point from the geyser which would not really have been practical as heat would have been lost over the distance. Our solution was this tiny induction geyser that sits under the sink.  It heats only 10L at a time, more than enough for a sink of dishes.  Perfect!

All the appliances are energy efficient.  Shop around and ask all the specific questions.  It is not just the expensive brands that do green appliances.  I am particularly thrilled with the induction hob.  After being a confirmed gas lover for many year (instant heat) I wasn’t easily convinced that it would work as well.  I am delighted to report that the heat is quicker, hotter and ‘off’ quickly to.  It is so easy to clean and ‘disappears’ into the work surface.  Best of all uses very little electricity, so it made sense as we are generating our own, not to bring another non-renewable product into the home.

Induction hob

Induction hob

The taps are also cleverly designed to minimize water use..  Grohe have a wonderful range of water wise sanware to choose from.

The splash back has no green credentials, but for those that are interested it is not mirror but brown glass painted black on the back which makes it somewhat reflective.  A beautiful final touch!

Bonus pic:  Dendrobium aggregatum growing on Bridelia next to verhanda

Bonus pic: Dendrobium aggregatum growing on Bridelia next to verhanda

 

 

This kitchen is a joy to cook in and we look forward to many many years of feeding family and friends from the beautiful space.

 

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The Indigenous Gardener Magazine Covers the Gorgeous Green Roof

logo2Six pages of gorgeous images and step-by-step guidelines to create a living roof.  The Indigenous Gardener Magazine has done a wonderful job.  Be inspired!  Enjoy!

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Natural Swimming Pool Ticks All The Green Boxes

We started with a traditional sterile pool

We started with a traditional sterile pool

Swimming on the hottest of summer days for many of us is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  What is not so enjoyable is the consequences of exposure to chlorine and other chemicals a traditional pool requires to be ‘healthy’. Sore eyes and itchy skin are experienced by most.  Others suffer more extreme effects such as eczema, rashes, asthma, allergy and breathing problems.

At the commence of the build the pool became a pond.

At the commence of the build the pool became a pond.

Our alternative can be to mimic natural healthy water systems and instead of suffering the toxic effects of chlorine, we are nourishing our skin and hair and experiencing the holistic full sensory benefits of water that is bursting with life and colour, buzzing with dragonflies and other insects and soothing the soul with the tranquillity of a mountain pond or stream.

Design Options

Tilapia added to eat mozzie larvae

If extremely close proximity to swimming, flying and buzzing creatures is not for you, the design of your pool can keep the wildlife at a distance (literally). You can still have a pool with a traditional aesthetic combined with the benefits of the plant filtration process the natural pool provides. Your design is limited only by your imagination!  Re-creations of the rustic old swimming hole are very popular but contemporary designs are equally adaptable.

Our builder was provided very sophisticated drawings detailing the swimming vs planting zones.

Our builder was provided very sophisticated drawings detailing the swimming vs planting zones.

Essentially, whatever the design you need to ensure that the planted area is roughly 50% of your swimming area.  You can integrate the plants into the swimming section, have them alongside or even around the corner!  As long as you install a pump that can move the water the required distance you can create any look you desire.

How does it work?

The planted area also known as the ‘regeneration area’ is responsible for cleaning, filtering and oxygenating the water that passes through it. Native (indigenous) aquatics also consume nutrients that could otherwise create algae bloom.  Animals and insects will be attracted to this area for its plant life, but these in turn will control any pest issues such as mosquitoes from laying their larvae into the water.  Plants are anchored in gravel and this assists with filtration as well.

Regeneration zone in 3 tiers allows for aeration.  Note how little gravel and water is designed for each section.

Regeneration zone in 3 tiers allows for aeration. Note how little gravel and water is designed for each section.

Aeration

Providing for water circulation is vital. It will clean and oxygenate the water and additionally add to an environment that mosquitoes do not enjoy. Without adequate oxygen, your pool could become stagnant, harbouring odoriferous anaerobic bacteria.

Breakdown commences.  New contemporary shape designed to fit into the boundary of the old

Breakdown commences. New contemporary shape designed to fit into the boundary of the old

Carefully consider your volumes and distances of movement as this will inform the size of the pump you will need.  Visualize how waterfalls or fountains can be introduced into the design as in addition to looking beautiful they sound lovely and can mask the sound of traffic or noisy neighbours.

Sunlight

Ensure that your regeneration zone receives plenty of sunlight.  Most aquatic plants need good quantities to thrive.  The healthier your plants the healthier your water. Your goal should be to achieve crystal clear drinking standard water!

The structure is in. Swimming area foreground, planted section behind

The structure is in. Swimming area foreground, planted section behind

Building Materials

Your options are vast.  People are creating natural pools by simply digging a hole, lining it with bentonite, synthetic material or rubber and then covering the bottom with 10 – 15 cm of gravel.  Not everyone is comfortable with the rustic (but very economical option) so more standard pool materials are also used.  If you can, it is advisable to line the pool the with fiberglass rather than marbelite as it repels algae far more effectively.

Care and Maintenance

No more PH testing and constant addition of chemicals.  But with all things a little care makes them work better.  Position your weir on the side of the pool that the wind normally blows the leaves to.  You can still use a conventional automatic pool cleaner and insert a leaf catcher like the Gator to collect surface debris.

Planted up and close up of on of the three 'waterfalls' in contemporary design.

Planted up and close up of on of the three ‘waterfalls’ in contemporary design.

Some people install a UV filter to assist with killing of algae. It is possible that they may also kill off many beneficial organisms so we have not done so.

The plants will at times need thinning out and excessive decaying material should be removed.  Overall though, once your system is established you will discover that you  have far more time to enjoy your mini wetland rather than work it.  If you live in the Northern hemisphere you do not need to drain the pool in Autumn.  Except for topping up now and then, you’ll fill the pool only once.

Selecting Plants

Be sure to choose plants suited to your climate. Your best bet is to obtain your plants from a native (indigenous) plant supplier as they will fare best. Try and get as much diversity of species as you are able as different plants offer different cleaning and filtration properties. Be sure to include submergent plants such as for their high oxygen output.

Finished result.  A beautiful green and healthy place for us to play and relax for years to come.

Finished result. A beautiful green and healthy place for us to play and relax for years to come.

Diversity of species will also attract diversity of wildlife for you to enjoy.

My pool is in Durban, South Africa and these are the species I have managed to source so far:

Cotula nigelifolia

Ranunculus

Ethulia conyzoides subsp. Kraussii .

Ludwigia adsendens

Ludwigia stolanefora

Crinum campanulatum

Ethulia conyzoides subsp. Cypes

Floscopa scandens

Berula  erecta

Isolepsis Live Wire Grass Seeds

Eleocharis

Carex acutiformis

Plectranthus mirabilis

Zantedeshia aethiopica

Kniphofia

Dissotis princeps

Mentha longifolia

Now we are just waiting for Spring when the water will be warm enough to jump into.  In the meantime we are already enjoying the plants and the wildlife and are amazed out how clear the water is in just a few short weeks since we planted.


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Architects Come to Visit: photo competition

Chen Sagnelli

Chen Sagnelli

We recently hosted a group of enthusiastic architects from Sagnelli Associate Architects.  They were challenged by Chen Sagnelli to take photos of any elements of the project they were inspired by. These they then presented to the team.

Ian Rall was the winner and its easy to see why. His images are beautiful and arty and the Gorgeous Green House looks incredible.  There were lots of lovely pics so I’ve included a cross section of some of the others.  It was really fun having them and hopefully they will be inspired to discuss with their clients the opportunities in going green without compromising on aesthetics in any way. Enjoy!

IMG_2296 (Copy)

Ian Rall

Ian Rall

Ian Rall

Ian Rall

Ian Rall

Ian Rall

Ian Rall

Ian Rall

 

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

Dhiagan Chetty

Dhiagan Chetty

IMG_1892 (Copy)

Dhiagan Chetty

Chen Sagnelli

Chen Sagnelli

Chen Sagnelli

Chen Sagnelli

Chen Sagnelli

Chen Sagnelli

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

image (9) (Copy)

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson


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Daily News Covers The Gorgeous Green House

daily_news

Today the Daily News published the third article on the most Gorgeous Green House on the planet!

Click HERE to read the on line version.

Thank you Lindsay Ord and Marilyn Bernard for getting this information to a wider audience. Fingers crossed it will inspire and motivate others to look at some greening options in their own home.


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Photo Update (part 2)

Pond at front door in.  This is a vitally important element  as it will be stocked with Tilapia fish whose waste will feed the plants on the vertical garden behind.

Pond at front door in. This is a vitally important element as it will be stocked with Tilapia fish whose waste will feed the plants on the vertical garden behind.

Master bathroom mosaic/tiling done in double shower. Very happy!

Master bathroom mosaic/tiling done in double shower. Very happy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original outbuilding (now demolished) had huge concrete sink outside, presumable for doing laundry in.  It is now re-invented as the mint planter under the tap - perfect!

The original outbuilding (now demolished) had huge concrete sink outside, presumable for doing laundry in. It is now re-invented as the mint planter under the tap – perfect!

 

Solar geyser in!  Fantastic.  This is such an easy energy/money saver  (minimum 40% on your electricity bills) so a win all round.  Please visi

Solar geyser in! Fantastic. This is such an easy energy/money saver (minimum 40% on your electricity bills) so a win all round. Please visit this post to see why we didn’t go the heat pump route

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Induction geyser  in!  Visit this post if you are curious as to why and induction geyser when we have also installed a solar geyser.

Induction geyser in! Visit this post if you are curious as to why and induction geyser when we have also installed a solar geyser.

 

My first Knipfophia of Autumn.  Will it turn into a red hot poker?  Time will tell as I have no idea which one it is.

My first Knipfophia of Autumn. Will it turn into a red hot poker? Time will tell as I have no idea which one it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, another yellow beauty, not commonly found:  Agrolubioum tomentosum.

And finally, another yellow beauty, not commonly found: Agrolubioum tomentosum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, our enormous pit that will house the water harvesting system.  This HUGE project is so exciting and the technology so amazing it will get a post all of its own.  Suffice to say its 9m X 3m X 2.5m deep and has taken weeks to build.  Happy to report that not a grain off soil went off site, its it the roof garden and being spread around the property.  Watch this space!

And finally, our enormous pit that will house the water harvesting system. This HUGE project is so exciting and the technology so amazing it will get a post all of its own. Suffice to say its 9m X 3m X 2.5m deep and has taken weeks to build. Happy to report that not a grain off soil went off site, its it the roof garden and being spread around the property. Watch this space!


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Photo Update

The build seems to have accelerated, or maybe its just because we are starting to get to the best bits.  The most exciting installation, so far, is the vertical garden.  I’m going to be really mean though, and not show you a single picture yet because it is so magnificent, and the landscape artist James Halle is so talented, it has to have its very own post with lots of elaboration.  Watch this space!

Floating staircase

Floating staircase

The shuttering has come off the ‘floating’ staircase, and although this is not a green aspect of the build it is so beautiful I just need to show it off!

The interior painting has commenced.  There are loads of eco-friendly paints on the market these days.  They are much lower in volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) which basically means toxic stuff our bodies don’t like.  Confirm this with your paint supplier though because you won’t automatically get a low

Low VOC paint primer

Low VOC paint primer

VOC paint as there are still mixed perceptions about its efficacy.  Rest assured, they are equally effective and no more expensive than traditional.

veggie box

Mesh lining veggie box

The veggie garden now has 3/5 veggie boxes installed.  We are using a plastic timber product. These recycled planks are now widely available.  They are 100% recycled plastic so get great green points.  We lined the base with chicken mesh too keep out the moles.  Galvanized rods secure the sides from bowing out. This stuff will last forever, looks attractive, is easy to install and cheaper than recycled brick options which we had considered

3/5 Veggies Boxes Installed

3/5 Veggies Boxes Installed

Trichocladus crinatus

Trichocladus crinatus

I was really excited to see my Trichocladus crinitus (Black Witch-hazel) in flower. This small indigenous tree is quite rare and the petal form delicate and unusual.

Insualation Made From Recycled Plastic Bottles

Insualation Made From Recycled Plastic Bottles

There are lots of eco-friendly options for insulation these days.  We’ve gone with a product made from recycled plastic bottles.  The recycled newspaper product was a close contender.  The team on site report that the green stuff is really great to work with as it doesn’t shed prickly bits like the more traditional pink products.

 

Off Shutter Concrete

Off Shutter Concrete

The off-shutter concrete wall has had its first of two buffs and polishes.  It looks fabulous. I love the industrial /contemporary aesthetic and the honesty of the material.  Its a great ‘hard’ contrast to the green abundance of the garden.  Very happy with how its turned out.

Erythrina humeana

Erythrina humeana

The Erythrina humeana (Dwarf Coral Tree) are exquisite at the moment.  A really showy splash of red at the bottom of the garden.    

The pool has a new rectangular shape and fits snugly into the space of the old.  The reed beds are almost complete. It’s going to be great fun planting them up.  I’ll be sharing much more information on how to install an eco pool.  Suffice to say at this stage that the plants will do all the filtering of the water and no harsh chemicals will be required.  The plants and water provide the foundation for the wetland eco-system and we look forward to the

New Rectangular shape to pool

New Rectangular shape to pool

Reed beds constructed

Reed beds constructed

bird, amphibian and insect life we will be attracting.

Next to the veggie garden we have two of the Baunia’s in flower at the same time.  Gorgeous!

Bauhinia natalensis

Bauhinia natalensis

Bauhinia tomentosa

Bauhinia tomentosa

The whirly gigs are on site. Prith and Eamonn are finding them quite amusing.  Definitely a first for them as they are usually found in industrial builds.  We are putting them in to draw and pull up the cool air that will pass over the pond outside and into the hallway.  The best way to reduce the need for air conditioning in this space.

Whirly gig

Whirly gig

So overall fantastic progress!  And still so many of the best bits to come:

  • Vertical Garden (as promised)
  • Roof Garden
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Eco Pool
  • Veggie garden
  • Chickens
  • Bees
  • Worm farming
  • Grey water recycling
  • Solar system
  • Induction geysers
  • plus…plus… plus