Thursday, January 26, 2012

A desk for Charles and Whyte

I've been obsessing over long, white desks since we moved into our house two years ago and last weekend, I finally got my hands on one. So keen was I, that in one weekend I picked it up in a trailor from the other side of Melbourne then sanded it and gave it three coats of white paint. We now have everything required for a project like this at home so the only outlay was the payment of $192.50 to the friendly eBay seller. Yee haa. Let's just say we have way too many sanders and tins of paint these days.

You may remember that I did up the below desk only 18 months ago (details here), and as much as I like it and its spacious drawers, it has never been long enough for both the Mister and I to sit at comfortably. Not sure whether to sell it or keep it in on the other side of the study as a sewing table.

The criteria for a desk this time was very similar to last: drawers along the top rather than down the side, less than $500 (preferably much less!), sleek but not too modern so it would suit our older Victorian style home and, most importantly, white. Length was the only difference this time around and I'm happy to say the new one is 180cm long compared to 110cm of the old. I used Pinterest to keep all my office and desk inspiration pictures together. You can view my board on Pinterest here - I'm still lusting over some of those office spaces.

And yes, I bought the Ikea Ingolf chairs in anticipation before I found the desk! Better storage options have had to wait until the desk was found so we can find something that fits around it. For now, we have a mix of old Ikea cupboards we bought for storage in previous houses but I'm hoping for something more coordinated to create symmetry around the desk and perhaps some over desk storage or shelving.

I'm getting a little ahead of myself though. For now, I need to appreciate the most recent updates to this room. A little 'before and after' of the desk should help.

Nothing like a little project with your own two hands to make your heart sing!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cafe Love: Elceed, North Melbourne

Aubergine and orange features in the collections of vintage furniture and interior at Elceed make a bright edition to the North Melbourne cafe scene.

Discovering fabulous new places to eat is one of my favourite things to do. I also love watching and supporting small businesses and seeing people follow their passions or live their dreams. So I was pretty much skipping down the street after visiting Elceed cafe in North Melbourne when they opened in late October. I've continued to feel just as excited on further visits at lunch time after the ten minute zoom over from the office and on more leisurely weekend visits, sometimes after a pleasant cycle down Dynon Road.

 Clockwise from top left: The view of Elceed from Queensberry Street; classic cakes and treats made in-house always beckon from the front counter; the main room at the back is welcoming and relaxed; delicious pies and pastries are all house-made (shown here in the front display cabinet). 

So why am I so enraptured by Elceed? On top of ticking all three of my eating out boxes of interesting, well-done food, top service and a delightful setting (my holy trinity of the eating out experience), it has an X factor about it derived from being run by people who are boldly and passionately following their dreams. Owner-Manager Hannah has more than six years experience in the industry, including stints at favourite cafes of the inner north and west, Cornershop in Yarraville and Fuel in Moonee Ponds. She is also the sister of a close friend and is as determined as she was when I met her more than 15 years ago. Hannah and partner Bill spent ten days transforming Elceed from an untouched Italian coffee house to the modern eatery it is today. Bill made the impressive wooden bench seat that runs the length of the main room at the back, as well as the bench under the huge window they had installed to overlook the courtyard and create a charming light-filled space.  

Clockwise from top left: Elceed's main room at the back; Elceed's chai tea is an organic premium black tea blended with exotic spices by Zee Tea; the bench along the window overlooks the courtyard; Vanilla rice pudding with raspberry jelly and flaked almonds $12.50. 

Elceed is filled with eclectic finds collected from vintage stores and auctions around the state, adding colour and interest to the newly white space. Seating is a fun mix of orange vinyl bar stools and quilted dining chairs, wooden chairs upholstered in an orange retro print and, my favourites, a set of 50s style dining chairs covered in aubergine to tie in with the dado railing. Each visit, I love noticing even more playful, stylish details and seeing the place evolve.

Out the back is a courtyard with many rustic and quirky features to keep you interested over a bite to eat. Tall Tolix stools slip under a raised table fashioned from an old door, while bird cages dangle from a little shed. Rather than fight against North Melbourne's industrial past, this space embraces it with vintage surprises in every nook. The blue and pink owls by Bill's tattoo artist cousin mark the male and female toilets respectively and provide a burst of colour.

As for the food, I am keenly making my way through the menu and I can't get enough of the Supreme coffee. The Elceed BLT with avocado smash ($12.50) is so simple, fresh and tasty. Ditto the mushroom bruschetta with Meredith Dairy goat's cheese feta, olive tapenade and candied prosciutto ($14.50). Sorry, no photos of these even though they are two of my favourites.

Corn fritters with sour cream, salsa, rocket and pesto served with bacon (pictured) or salmon ($15.50). 

The highlight of the corn fritters is the delicious pesto, made in-house like nearly everything at Elceed. The actual corn cakes were really good but the corn flavour was quite subtle and as a corn fiend, I was hoping for a definite sweet corn fix. I'm told there have been a few tweaks made to the recipe so I'm keen to try the new (and I'm sure improved) version. And there lies the joy of Elceed. A business not looking to plod along idly, but one keen to keep on growing and improving by the day.

Baked egg special with red thai curry and sourdough ($14.90). The Mister devoured these and described them as "yummy"! There is a daily baked egg special and another daily special, always something enticing like the french toast with rhubarb, strawberries and rosewater syrup that I indulged in the other day!

Pea and broad bean smash with mint, ricotta and poached eggs ($14.90).

Elceed has some great options when looking for fresh, healthy breakfasts and this pea and broad bean smash is no exception. I felt like I'd made a good choice with this dish and the snow pea tendrils were a nice touch.

Elceed does interesting combinations that excite me although the flavours are subtle enough to hold broad appeal. As their confidence grows, I hope to see injections of bolder flavour to raise that bar even higher. I also hope I continue to get a seat! It seems word is getting out as more customers are there each time I visit. I'm so impressed by what Hannah, Bill and the Elceed team have accomplished in such a short space of time and I hope my heart keeps singing every visit.

Elceed on Urbanspoon 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Book Banter: The Perfectly Imperfect Home

Happy New Year! Hope you all had a lovely Christmas with lots of beautiful food and good company. The Mister and I enjoyed the usual tour around Victoria for all the family gatherings and then flew to Brisbane to visit more family over New Years (between us we have five siblings in Queensland!). It was wonderful to see most of our families and a few of our friends. We even managed two surprisingly comfortable and fun sleeps in the new double swag from Santa!

It's back to work and reality now but we have lots of big plans for 2012. Many are house related, like painting the exterior and working on the front garden, while others are leisurely, like a little overseas adventure (yipee!) and indulging in fine foods. I'll try to keep you updated. Back to the house though, I have been so inspired by a new book I bought at the end of last year called The Perfectly Imperfect Home. It's authored by Deborah Needleman of Domino magazine fame and the much-loved book of the same name. I pre-ordered it on the Book Depository prior to its release and loved it so much that I ordered another for a special person that I owe a little treat to (said person has not received it yet so it could be YOU!).

The title of this book alone makes my heart sing. A perfectly imperfect home - just what I'm going for. According to Deborah, the point of decorating is to create the background for the best life you can have, with all its joys and imperfections. Amen to that. While this is a visually beautiful book, it is also understanding of the practicalities and realities of daily life and it doesn't discriminate. There is plenty here for those of us with small homes, modest incomes and the need to DIY rather than hire decorators and other professionals all the time. In saying that, I found the information on the 'rules' of decorating appealing and loved learning about some proper or traditional elements to include in the home. With sections like 'lampshade literacy' and style cheat sheets, this is a helpful read as well as an enjoyable one.

I loved the author's encouragement to break some of these rules if it works for you and embrace unexpected elements. There is much about creating a home for your own life and enjoyment, not the author's or anyone elses (bar your visitors and overnight guests!). A wonderful chapter titled 'A bit of quirk' even mentions happy accidents of a well-lived life.

Watercolour illustrations by artist Virginia Johnson are the making of a coffee table book sure to be more timeless than those with photographs. They are divinely gorgeous and enhance the whimsical touches and recommendations throughout.

Since devouring this book before Christmas, and considering the chapter 'Bath as a room' which challenges the tendancy to think of a bathroom as a decorating afterthought, I have been itching to make some changes in our own humble bathing room. So far, I have painted over the tile strip in Dulux Domino (as I did in the kitchen), added a black and white striped rug and some black and white striped knobs to the vanity doors (from Provincial Home Living) but I'm still stewing on some other ideas. The fact I'm still thinking about it is the sign that this book made an impression.

It is too hard to pick favourite chapters, but others worthy of note are 'Dinner with friends', 'Glamifications', 'Cozifications' and 'Delicious Scent'. Too many wonderful ideas and tips to pass on here so read it for yourself. I highly recommend it. Here's to a perfectly imperfect year for us all! Xx



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