Deco shine is grounded in modernity

In an area of town often feted for bayside cachet and its attendant attractions, Elsternwick can get overlooked. Big mistake.
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This neat suburb, with its superb period buildings both residential and commercial, lives on the border with bay heavyweights Brighton, Elwood and St Kilda but the heft of the Nepean Highway, which separates it from the water, gives it a different feel altogether.

Along the leafy streetscapes here are some fabulous art deco houses that would easily stand among Melbourne’s best.

A particularly good example of the style is here at Seymour Road. All the rich timber, elegant leadlight and decorative ceilings are on display, but it’s the extension and renovation – a sympathetic revision of deco brilliance – that makes this place shine.

The exterior is lovely, feature brickwork marking out classic patterns on the taupe render facade.

The main entrance sits centrally, but a stair takes you up from the side, almost as if to make you have more of a look before you plunge inside. Despite their urbane period look, art deco houses can be unexpectedly playful. Lovely.

Once inside, those usual suspects we so adore fly their stylish flag effortlessly. First, there are the grand dimensions of the entrance hall – wide and deep and trimmed with luminous timber.

The first left off the hall is the main bedroom, and its clean elegance doesn’t disappoint. In here, diamond leadlight windows in deep timber frames look over the front garden, and a fine decorative ceiling adds the requisite grand touch.

A generous dressing suite sits just beyond and, while you might search for the en suite here, you won’t find it. The downstairs bathroom is more than close enough and worth the short trip around the corner to avail yourself of its original delights – terrazzo floors, shower and WC ”rooms”.

Back across the hall at the front of the house is the excellent sitting room with a feature-brick fireplace flanked by timber display cabinets and a particularly beautiful ceiling – the deeply recessed, decorative circle is a stunner.

Another set of leadlight-and-timber doors takes you into the fine formal dining room with another handsome fireplace and a terrific window seat.

Two openings on either side of the fireplace take you into the thoroughly modern back section, but the delineation between period and progressive is subtle and finely wrought. The back presents, essentially, as a large glass rectangle, accommodating kitchen, dining and family spaces with airy aplomb.

The timber cabinetry of the galley-style kitchen at the western end looks for all the world a contemporary take on a period fitout. The look is further polished by the CaesarStone benches, ample storage and sleek modern appliances. The hanging cupboards and range mean you get good delineation and a look from kitchen to dining and out to the back garden.

A large sliding door set centrally in the space takes you out to the deck that ever so slightly, and appealingly, hangs over the sparkling pool.

Surrounding the water is paving that leads to an entertainment area and wide sideway. The mature, verdant garden provides excellent privacy.

Back inside and upstairs there is a superb small retreat off the landing, and a screened balcony running across the south face can be accessed by the two pretty bedrooms up here. A bright bathroom, with gorgeous timber dado panels and circular windows, completes this study in period class married to contemporary shine.

Surrounding area:

Elsternwick is nine kilometres south-east of the city centre

Famous for: Rippon Lea Estate; being the home of the ABC; beautiful period houses and shops.

Serviced by: Elsternwick station on the Sandringham line; tram route 67; shopping on Glen Huntly

Road; Elsternwick Park.

Close to:  St Kilda, Brighton and the bay.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Start making the ice – it’s going to get hot

South Bank should be a popular place this weekend, with the mercury tipped to soar.Can’t escape the heat or discussion about the weather?
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Don’t expect that to change on Saturday.

Brisbane’s top temperature is predicted to be five degrees above the January average of 29 degrees this weekend and with a rise in the mercury comes an increase in whingeing.

Brisbane is predicted to reach 34 degrees, Ipswich 39 and the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, buffeted by the sea breeze, 32 degrees.

Compounding the heat hater’s despair – there is no immediate relief in sight, unlike last weekend when promises of a cool change helped people limp towards Monday.

Senior forecaster with the Bureau of Meteorology, Bryan Rolstone, said the wind was to blame.

“The winds have changed and when that change went through [on Monday], south easterly winds followed it and brought up the cool from the southern latitudes,” he said.

“But of course that didn’t last and the winds eventually turned round to the north and we have north easterlies now bringing down the humid air from the Coral Sea.

“And of course it is hot over the interior because we have northerly winds as well. So it is just a change in the wind direction, which has changed all the temperatures.”

And that hot summer wind won’t change back in a hurry.

“But what will happen is after the weekend, the air flow will become more easterly rather than northerly so it will gradually come from the easterly direction, which comes from the ocean, so temperatures will drop off very gradually,” Mr Rolstone said.

The southeast will also miss out on the cooling summer storms – those will be found west, Mr Rolstone said, so the Darling Downs and Ipswich could expect some relief, but as has been the story this summer, the coast will miss out.

“What will happen is once the easterly winds become established, that will bring in some very light showers from the east,” Mr Rolstone said.

“That will come in late at night or early in the morning – Monday morning, Tuesday and Wednesday – but not much in the day, a few millimetres at best.”

But what is in Queensland’s favour is those winds that are bringing the heat aren’t strong enough to whip up the extreme fire conditions which have created a nightmare for firefighters in New South Wales and Victoria.

“They had very strong north west winds and of course very high temperatures and that led to the explosive fire situation down there, but we don’t have that wind factor, so it won’t be as high,” Mr Rolstone said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

He says, she says: Toyota 86 GT

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How much: $29,990 plus on-road and dealer costs

Vital statistics: 2.0-litre 4-cyl; 147kW/205Nm; 6-sp man; 7.8L/100km, 181g/km C02

She: Well, Toyota really took it to 11 with this car, starting with surely the best-looking Toyota body since the 2000GT. To see it is to love it, and to drive it … well, as we found during Drive Car of the Year (DCOTY) testing on the track and around Goulburn, the more you drive it, the better it gets. What’s not to love?

He: The 86 certainly gets better the more you drive it. I didn’t love the engine at first, and thought it lacked punch compared with turbocharged rivals. I took a while to gel with the little Toyota, but four days with the 86 made me very reluctant to give it back.

She: I have heard mutters about a lack of grunt, but I see this car as a continuation of the pure balance of an Alfa Romeo Duetto or original MX-5, though the aggressive styling does suggest it has more oomph. The handling is brilliant and I found the ride better than expected for a sub-$30,000 drive. Were you looking for stonk off go, or a bit more haul through corners?

He: The grunt deficiency is more noticeable between bends – there’s nothing wrong with the way it corners. But I agree that the car is much more about balance and driving feel than outright speed. The 86 is unlike the hot-hatch brigade in that it asks you to trade everyday practicality for poise and outright pace for precision. It’s a game-changer, and that’s why the 86 won our awards, in its own category and outright.

She: It’s particularly impressive as the Performance Car Under $60,000 category was a serious ripper! But I reckon it is practical. For most of the week I had the 86, it hosted four big adults all eager to see what it could do and, despite some major weight handicapping, it still performed. Speaking of which, I have a couple of drive gripes. It needs a digital speedo and bigger, BRZ-sized brakes. Oh, and an entirely rethought palette of interior finishes. The basic lines and ergonomics are fine, but that faux carbon fibre is nasty.

He: Were your friends still on speaking terms after being subjected to the back seat? It’s pretty small back there; I certainly wouldn’t want to jam into the back seat for longer than a couple of minutes. You’re right, the interior isn’t the classiest, but there is a minimalist retro charm to it. The digital speedo and bigger brakes would be nice, but the $5500 dearer 86 GTS addresses some of the base GT’s shortcomings. That said, for $29,990, the entry-level 86 takes some beating.

She: The price offers outstanding value, and that’s ultimately how the 86 clobbered its opposition at DCOTY. And the simplicity of design and engineering will help it hold that value, I think. It’s on my list as my ideal affordable second car when I don’t need to schlep hoards of teenagers around town. Where does it sit in your life?

He: It’s certainly not a car for schlepping! As a twentysomething petrolhead with no kids, my demographic is right in Toyota’s sights. I think it’s a fun car with great dynamics, but probably not practical enough for a single-car household. I would buy it, but only if it shared the garage with a second vehicle capable of swallowing furniture from time to time.

She: I love a good thrash around a track, but it’s not often I hanker for the same car as a daily drive. For me, the Toyota 86 is that rare exception – maybe because I can actually afford it. And it’s an MX-5-slayer if they knock the top off.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Fast lane

Big fry… since when did a tinny have a windscreen and fibreglass hull?Seen the new McDonald’s – sorry, Maccas – advert on telly that paints the fast-food giant as the quintessential Aussie tuck shop?
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You know, the one where the tradies in the HQ ute harass a couple of wallopers and don’t get their battered old Holden defected off the road. Or themselves capsicum sprayed.

Anyway, there’s a scene where a father and his daughter (at least, we hope it’s his daughter) are walking back to their car and boat, the latter being described in the voice-over as a tinny.

Now, we’re not claiming to be marine engineers here, but a tinny is a small aluminium tub with an outboard and a faint aroma of dead fish. The boat in the ad appears to be made of fibreglass and runs to luxuries such as a windscreen and a stern-drive rather than an outboard motor. This could explain why the product pushed towards you by a spotty yoof in a silly hat never looks like the one in the poster above the counter.Inside running

Audi interiors have long been applauded for the logical, accurate information they convey to the driver. But now it seems the company just can’t bring itself to be anything less than utterly accurate … even when it’s trying not to be.

The latest word from Ingolstadt head office is news of a yearly sales total for 2012 with the word ”around” in the headline. So we figured the news would be of sales ”around” the 1.5 million mark.

Well, it was and it wasn’t. Our guess was on the money, but was w-a-y too vague for Audi, which described its 2012 total as ”around 1,455,100” sales. Give or take …Rules are rules

Still with the nice people at Audi, the good news just keeps coming. Now, it seems, the 1770-kilogram, almost-five-metres-long, 220kW, $143,800 A7 Sportback can be had with – wait for it – five whole seats. According to an Audi spokesman, the A7 Sportback has been a four seater since its launch in mid-2011, but now you can fit five backsides in the big hardtop.

But it’s not Audi’s fault. No, you can thank Australia’s capricious Australian Design Rule requirements. While other markets have been offering a five-seat version of the A7 Sportback from day one, the seat itself didn’t conform to our peculiar regulations. The problem was the provision of child-seat anchor points. While foreign-market A7 Sportbacks had two such restraint mounting points (as did ours in four-seat form), the local rules demand a child-restraint anchor-point for each and every seating position in the rear.

And since the Australian requirement is one out and one back, there was no rush within Audi to re-engineer the rear seat to allow for the extra mounting-point.

Is it, perhaps, not time our local design rules fell into line with the rest of the world?Drivers wanted

Still on our rules and regs, and it seems the inflexibility of our law makers has us missing out on newfangled gadgets – at least initially. This week, in discussing its upcoming driverless car technology – the first iteration of which will appear in the new S-Class limousine later this year – Mercedes-Benz says Australia wouldn’t be the place to introduce the ground-breaking technology.

”We would not start with these sensitive technologies in Australia, and I think not in the States, too,” says Professor Thomas Weber, the head of research and development for the brand. While he says autonomous driving will be developed globally, the potential legal minefield that is the good ol’ US of A was just too much. And Australia? We think that would also raise pulses beyond acceptable levels. After all, those crazy Germans somehow manage to keep themselves alive at speeds Australian authorities think drivers will self combust.Stretching it

Stretch limos are an acquired taste, let’s be honest. And if you’re transporting a group of young, er, ladies to a hen’s night, then maybe a stretched Hummer or Chrysler 300C is the perfect solution.

But can anybody explain to us the recent rash of stretched limos in the classifieds lately? They include a stretched FJ Holden, an HSV Commodore Group A with an extra few metres grafted between its axles, and – the ultimate sacrilege – an early ”split-window” Volkswagen Kombi with what looked like a whole extra Kombi welded into its midriff.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Design is key when every drop counts

Water-friendly appliances and efficient fixtures and fittings can save households a lot of money. Photo: Getty Images.There’s nothing like a 30 per cent rise in the water bill, to be faced by most Melburnians in 2013, to focus the mind on ways to save water.
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The good news is there are many ways to make plumbing easier, particularly when building or renovating. Water-friendly designs, such as grouping bathroom, laundry and kitchen together, can reduce plumbing, hot-water use and hot-water tank size.

”Good design can solve a lot of problems if you have the luxury of starting from scratch,” says architect Ric Zen.

Phil Alviano, a sustainable building adviser for the Master Builders Association of Victoria, agrees. ”Renovating or building new is the perfect opportunity to fit a [rainwater] tank and have it plumbed to the toilet, or to the washing machine as well,” he says.

Those with an existing house can also save water. Modifications range from rainwater tanks – about $2000 for the tank and plumbing, Mr Alviano says – to cheap, easy-to-install fixtures and fittings.

The technology is becoming more efficient and cheaper, but there are downsides. Installation can be expensive and complex. Some systems need regular maintenance.

Brent Yttrup, Burbank Australia’s head of research, design and documentation, says many new estates have a third-pipe system – the lilac pipe – which brings recycled water from the sewage treatment plant for toilets, garden watering and even laundry.

This ”is almost a must-have” on new estates, he says, and can be run to the toilet and washing machine for about $500 extra. But that water still costs, so many opt for 5000-10,000-litre rainwater tanks to harvest roof water. Some estates require this. Remember hauling shower water to the garden during the drought? Grey-water waste systems that reuse bath, shower and washing-machine water are increasingly popular, Mr Alviano says.

Depending on the land’s fall, these can run from pipes to the garden, or to a tank and piped out within 24 hours.

However, these are expensive if the house is on a concrete slab, but less so if there is below-floor access, with the average about $1500, including pipes, Mr Yttrup says. The water must not reach stormwater drains or a neighbour’s property. Also, bleach and detergents that are high in salt or phosphorus can damage soils.

Filters must be cleaned every three to six months. Mr Zen, who has this system, thinks this will be a big drawback for some: ”I am not sure that people will be prepared for that work.”

Mr Yttrup says other measures include a heater close to the hot-water tap so cold water is not wasted while the hot water arrives, or a ring main that runs water around the house so the hot-water pipe is near the outlet.

And there is the manifold system: ”Instead of pipes all the way around the house, there is a separate line to every hot-water tap. It’s more direct.”

But installation and running costs such as electricity for pumps must be weighed against the money saved on water. Water-friendly appliances, including dishwashers and washing machines, with front loaders using less, and four-star shower heads are a must, Mr Yttrup says.

Caroma’s Profile 5 toilet has a handbasin on top of the tank, so hand-washing water runs into the tank for flushing.

These changes can be made in any home. Fittings and fixtures can be changed easily and cost effectively says Mr Zen. ”Shower heads and flow restrictions on taps, for example.”

Also, check for leaky taps in toilets, Mr Alviano says. Place food dye in the cistern; does it appear in the bowl? Turn off all taps then check for pipe leaks; is the water meter still running?

Mr Yttrup says warm-season grasses save about 70 per cent of the water used on traditional varieties such as couch and buffalo.

But Mr Zen, whose practice, Zen Architects, specialises in sustainable buildings, says the first thing he does with clients is discuss their water use. Reduce that sufficiently and you won’t need expensive, high-maintenance technology, he says. Alviano agrees: shorter showers and low-flow taps produce less grey water.

”The biggest one of all these is just behaviour; it starts with your attitude around water,” Mr Zen says. ”It is the cheapest thing you can do and has the most impact.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.