Before & After Smart Reno; On a tiny budget A dark, rundown terrace is gutted and refashioned into a light-filled family home

Lucky FIND a home

THINGS DIDN’T look promising during the first year of Rachel Brown and Stuart Davidson’s quest for a home. Even though search radiated further and further out from inner-city Sydney, they were repeatedly priced out. – Then they struck gold – overnight. “We found a house on a website in Rockdale with best recliners, which is just south of the airport, and made an offer. With the help of a super-helpful agent, 24 hours later, it’ s ours,” Rachel says. They paid 1405,000, and after settlement rented out the place on a six-month lease while they drew up a renovation game plan. It was going to be a big job, and they had just $30,000 to completely overhaul the old, decaying, pre-WW2 house.

HELPING HANDS Stuart’s father is a builder and was able to* recommend best-value suppliers-” and give free instruction and advice; Stuart’s uncle is a plumber; friends and Stuart’s two brothers were willing to help with labour. So with the exception of electrical work, waterproofing and sanding, Rachel and the boys did all the work themselves. It took 41/2 months, and the couple moved in just one week before their wedding.

Let’s GO for home renovation


Demolition After the house passed its check for structural integrity (conducted by a builder), the team could begin. On weekends, after work and during school holidays, they knocked out the internal dividing walls in the rear section of the house, tore Gyprock and wooden panelling off walls, and pulled out all the fittings in the kitchen and bathroom. Floors were ripped out (see page 103), revealing a fascinating collection of pre-war newspapers and other long-lost curiosities.

Time factor: about 6 weeks.

structural check for home re-fashion
structural check for home re-fashion

Structural check for home re-fashion


Stuart’ luncle the plumber came inland laid new pipes. The couple had to keep the old plumbing in the laundry because of budget.

Time factor: 1 day. ?

Who lives here? Homewares designer Rachel Brown, her husband Stuart Davidson, new baby Pietta, and Ruby the kelpie cross

  1. Home shop New mum Rachel runs her Attia Homewares business from home. She specialises in beautiful ceramics and wooden servingware. Visit the site to check out the range.
  2. Home work Stuart is a high-school teacher. School holidays came in very handy indeed for the renovations!

ATTBR: Big difference Here’s the finished living/ kitchen/dining area, taken from a similar camera angle as the image opposite. The now-renovated bathroom is behind the door at rear. Rachel had a slipcover made (from a Mokum fabric) for their Ikea “Klippan” sofa, and had cushions made from leather from NSW Leather Co and Warwick Fabrics fabric. The hide is from Spence & Lyda, Surry Hills, NSW.

living kitchen dining area
living kitchen dining area

living kitchen dining area

Ladder time


The exterior wall to the left of this paragraph – you can see it better on the previous page – was remodelled. Part of the wall was knocked out to accommodate new, large floor-to-ceiling glass doors, and the part of the structure where the old brown exit door was (see page 100) was rebricked. The ceiling was patched and the electricals were rewired. This involved scraping back long sections of wall, replacing the old wiring and electrical hardware, and then filling in the walls again. Vents for the exisiting reverse cycle air-conditioning were replaced. The brickwork was bagged with a mixture of sand and cement to achieve a roughrendered look that would later be painted, and cornices and ceiling moulds were installed.

Replacing wiring and electrical hardware at home
Replacing wiring and electrical hardware at home

Time factor: approx 3 weeks.

AFTER: Arty accessorising An Ikea PS cabinet is home to a mini gallery of white homewares, a mix of vintage and contemporary pieces that Rachel has gathered over the years while working as a stylist. The rear wall was constructed of lining boards laid horizontally. “This creates the illusion that the room is wider than it is and contrasts against the room’s height,” Rachel says. The door to the bathroom was found on the side of the road.



Quite a few of the original floorboards in the hall and bedrooms were rotten; most of them in the rear section were. All were ripped up; salvagable ones from the rear were used to repair the floor at the front. Rachel and Stuart would have liked to use kauri timber for the living/ kitchen area to match the hall but, when quoted at $6500, they had to find an alternative. They settled for 150mm Cyprus pine from Sydney Flooring (cost: $1300), which they laid themselves and had sanded and stained by a professional. As for the stain, they had wanted to use Feast Watson “Black Japan” black timber stain, but it would have cost at least $4500, so they settled for a dark Cabots stain plus a matte polyurethane sealant.

Time factor: 3 days.

AFTER: Lovely living

Rachel and Stuart love the seamless look of the plain white walls; those in the living area were bagged to let the shape of the bricks show through, rather than being rendererd. They’ll install a Jetmaster heater in the fireplace, which has a gas point, once they’ve saved up. Rachel bought the Mogens Lassen for Jorgen Wolff folding leather chairs from Great Dane Furniture long before she was married; they were made in 1946. The “All Stops To… Watsons Bay” screenprint (see was a wedding present.

Clean & fresh

Furniture renew with classical table set and reclining chairs as relax spaces in living room
Furniture renew with classical table set and reclining chairs as relax spaces in living room

Furniture renew with classical table set and reclining chairs as relax spaces in living room

The kitchen was built and installed by ZW New Concept of Granville, NSW. Corian was installed as countertops on benches as well as on the Ikea. Best recliners were setup in living rooms as a relax space in the house as a suggestion by recliner reviews site. [Read more…]

Milan Furniture Collection

Porto: New to Piero Lissoni’s Roll collection, this commodious bookcase can be equipped with a sliding door of wood finished in a gloss lacquer. 35 Via per Cantu, 22060 Montesolaro, Italy; 39-031-780-237; circle 316


Cappellini: Designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, the Samourai armchair has a stainless-steel base and a body made of three separate polyurethane parts, which can be creatively upholstered in different fabrics or leathers. 102 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-966-0669; circle 317


Molteni & C: The simple yet sexy lines of Patricia Urquiola’s Clip bed seem right at home in the boudoir. But the striking shape of this upholstered piece was actually derived from a rather banal accessory found in any office: the paper clip. The sinuous headboard shifts into a number of positions, and the fully removable cover comes in a range of materials, including leather. 50 Via Rossini, 20034 Giussano, Italy; 39-0362-3591. circle 318

Kartell: The doughnut-shaped Ploof seating series is just one of many furniture-fair debuts by the prolific Philippe Starck. 45 Greene Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-966-6665; circle 319

[Read more…]

How big is too big

Retail outlets and customer interest

Consumer interest in giant-sized retail outlets such as home furniture, big-box stores, discount mass merchants, and category-killer specialty stores seems to be waning as customers seek more convenience. Core consumer groups such as singles, young parents, and wealthy empty nesters are beginning to turn away from the potentially confusing size and variety of these megastores. Toys “R” Us has rearranged many of its stores into its customer-friendly Concept 2000 format, and other retailers are taking similar actions.

It’s 8 p.m. on what should be a slow Monday night, weeks before the official start of the Christmasshopping season, but parking already is at a premium in front of the Barnes & Noble superstore in Paramus, N.J.
retail outlets
retail outlets

retail outlets

Big-box retailers

While most other retailers in this sprawling regional agglomeration of home furniture, big-box retailers, discount mass merchants and specialty stores are winding down after an uneventful Monday, the 60,000-square-foot book emporium is bustling. An in-store Starbucks cafe, sections dedicated to music, computer software and used books, and enough sofas and armchairs to furnish a Morris County mansion have drawn customers from miles around.

Collection of megastore for selling various furniture for home and office such as model table, chair, even kitchen set
Collection of megastore for selling various furniture for home and office such as model table, chair, even kitchen set

Collection of megastore for selling various furniture for home and office such as model table, chair, even kitchen set

“I’ve heard [B&N] is a great place to meet people,” said Sloatsburg, N.Y., native Jenn ScanIon, a 23-year-old social sciences major, as she checks out a new paperback. “It’s supposedly replacing the bar scene,” added her companion, Glenn Norton, 28, of Park Ridge, N.J.

Retailers are increasingly turning the shopping experience into a social event, cramming a bevy of attractions and distractions into their hangar-like environs. Supercenters and warehouse clubs big enough to house the Spruce Goose are coupling radial tires and Ring Dings under one roof.Consumer electronics behemoth Incredible Universe is mixing karaoke and McDonald’s hamburgers with CPUs and VCRs, while megabookstores like B&N are hosting lecture series and poetry readings. But is bigger truly better?

Some retail experts and Wall Street analysts are beginning to warn that megastore formats packed with an endless selection of SKUs are alienating core consumer demographics from affluent empty nesters, who in theory ought to have the time to navigate the stores, to time-pressed young parents and single shoppers. While the die-hard bargain hunter may relish the allure of discovery amid a maze of aisles, less-driven shoppers often find the same format frustrating or intimidating.

Tradeoff of selection versus convenience

In the tradeoff of selection versus convenience, the growing legions of time-strapped Americans have demonstrated a preference for the latter, opting for prepared meals and pricier quick-hit trips to convenience stores and strip malls. Yet mass merchants have been expanding at a staggering pace into larger-format stores like Wal-Mart’s general-merchandise-and-food supercenters, which measure on average 188,000 square feet, and the 184,000-square-foot Incredible Universe consumer electronics/computer “gigastore.” For some, like B&N, the strategy seems to be working, but some observers think the trend soon may reach a point of diminishing returns.

“The big boxes are readily expanding in view of demographic [data] that reflects the opposite trend,” warned Gary A. Wright, a Denver-based retail consultant. Older consumers, for One group, are turned off by the prospect of parking on the fringe of a huge parking lot situated just off a highway, then lugging bulky packages back to the car, Wright said. Young parents with cranky kids in tow don’t have time to figure out a bewildering store layout. Single shoppers don’t necessarily want to waste precious afterwork or weekend hours indoors.

Disguise the size

Recognizing this, some retailers are learning to disguise their size. Instead of packing a bewildering assortment of SKUs onto floor-to-ceiling shelves, many are going with a more logical presentation. Wider aisles, shorter shelves, in-store boutiques and enhanced lighting have given them a look more akin to leaner, smaller competitors, despite having double or triple the SKU count. Many, in their advertising, are playing up not their vast selections, but rather their ability to provide personalized solutions to consumers’ problems, all while getting them into and out of the store quickly. And food retailers are building up offerings of prepared foods, offering the promise of greater convenience at the food preparation end of the process even if consumers must navigate large stores to pick up the products.

In an effort to shake its dubious reputation for unpleasant shopping experiences, Toys “R” Us this summer reformatted scores of stores, shedding the warehouse look in favor of a bright and spacious layout dubbed Concept 2000. It reduced SKUs by 4,000, lowered shelves and widened aisles. TRU plans to convert 55 stores in 1997, bringing the total to 98 stores by 1998.

“Customers think we have more products because they can see more,” says TRU’s vp of store planning, Mike Gerety. “The response has been overwhelming. The customer is clearly spending more time in the store and usually, hopefully, that equates to more sales.”

TRU is banking on similar results for its largest format yet, KidsWorld, which opened in Elizabeth, N.J,. and Fairfax, Va., last month. KidsWorld was designed “to pull all the synergies of the business into one format,” as Gerety put it. At between 85,000 and 95,000 square feet, KidsWorld is more than double the size of the traditional stores and holds thousands of TRU SKUs and those of its apparel and toddler siblings, Kids “R” Us and Babies “R” Us. There also is a candy store, a diner featuring Pizza Hut morsels, a Kids Foot Locker, a photography studio, kids hair salon and mini-amusement park.

TRU’s push comes at a time when specialty kid furniture such as recliner for kids, tables for kids, and toy retailers like Noodle KidDoodle, Zany Brainy and Imaginarium believe they can carve out a viable niche in the $17.5 billion toy store industry by stocking their shelves with educational and lesser-known brands and training knowledgeable, courteous sales staffs to create a less intimidating shopping experience. And the big guys are taking notice. Despite the added attractions at KidsWorld and Concept 2000, TRU maintains the primary goal of their reformatting initiative is to improve customer satisfaction.

Mass merchant Kmart is taking another tack to put a smaller face out to consumers. Under new chairman Floyd Hall, it has adopted a “high-frequency” strategy that stresses convenience by placing high-turn items near the store entrance to communicate to the time-strapped consumer that Kmart can be an in-and-out shopping experience. Next year, 400 Kmart stores will be converted to include an in-store Pantry, akin to an 8,700-square-foot supermarket, stocking some 7,000 SKUs such as paper products, pet supplies, beverages and eggs. To build on the perception of manageability communicated by the Pantry, the rest of the store has been reformatted with wider aisles, larger “airport” signage to identify departments, and improved interdepartmental sight lines to generate impulse purchases elsewhere in the store. Adjacencies have been rethought too. For instance, the “Kidsworld” department (children’s apparel and toys) has been moved to the front of the store next to the ladies department. “It’s all focused towards our core customer: women between the ages of 24 and 49 with kids at home,” said Bill Gryson, Kmart’s vp of special projects.

In the face of encroaching competition from discount mass merchants, drug chains, c-stores, supercenters and even gas stations, supermarkets also have been reinventing themselves. A new breed of megasupermarket, including Minneapolis-based Byerly’s and Wegmans of Rochester, N.Y., have created destination stores that draw customers in with an enticing lineup of prepared foods, quality private-label products and even cooking classes. Many are shifting emphasis from meal ingredients to meal solutions, offering a lure of convenience that can offset the large size of many of the stores. A new Wegmans in Pensfield, N.Y., includes a “Fresh to Go” section that stocks pasta sauces, soups, salads and 87 varieties of fish that can be cooked on-site at no extra cost, said Columbus, Ohio-based Elaine Pollack, director of Management Horizon’s Retail Intelligence System/Food, Drug, Mass.

The tradeoff between convenience and unlimited selection

The tradeoff between convenience and unlimited selection is a distinction that retailers would prefer to keep blurred, since consumers really would like to have both. In the past, retailers tried to overwhelm the consumer by creating the image that their store had an unmatched selection “to give the customer the feel that, ‘Oh my god, if this store doesn’t have it, nobody will,’” said Wright.

One format that tilts to selection over convenience is the flagging warehouse club. Their bulk packaging and membership fees have turned off all but small business owners and few have been able to establish a blueprint for mass appeal. Market leader Sam’s Warehouse Club, operated by Wal-Mart, now is resigned to this fact and will open just 10 new locations in 1996, matching the 1995 level, said Howard Eilenberg, a retail analyst for LJR Redbook Research, N.Y.

flagging warehouse and big-box
flagging warehouse and big-box

flagging warehouse and big-box

“I think membership warehouses and what they’re trying to do is pushing the envelope for what is too big,” Wright said.

Behemoth category killers are the biggest culprits at emphasizing their enormity, injecting an amusement park4ike feel to create a festive shopping experience. Some, like their defunct predecessor, the hypermarket, which swelled to over 230,000 square feet of retail space under one roof, have done a poor job managing their size.

Tandy’s Incredible Universe, the four-year-old electronics chain designed by Disney consultants, has received failing grades from Wall Street. From the outset, IU has been marketed as the ultimate consumer electronics/computer retailer, mixing an unmatched 85,000 SKUs, every-day low prices, interactive displays and entertainment to attract people to out-of-the-way sites and keep them there for the better part of the day. The stores, called “shows,” are replete with disc jockey booths, a rotunda and stage for merchandise demos, karaoke machines, a McDonald’s and Kidsview, a high-tech amusement area, to keep every member of the family occupied.

“The dwell factor is very important to us,” says Henry Schiarelli, IU’s vp/gm. “Admittedly, some people are overwhelmed, but we do a high repeat business” that’s greater even than Tandy blockbuster Radio Shack.

Wall Street analysts, chalking up the repeat business to the store’s faddish nature, are extremely pessimistic about the concept, saying the infusion of entertainment is distracting to the discerning techno shopper. And because IU is typically located in fringe areas, shoppers only frequent it on weekends, keeping sales well below what one analyst estimated to be the magic $325-per-square-foot breakeven point. As a result, analysts are forecasting the chain’s losses to double to $75 million this year; a disappointing holiday season could spell its demise, they predict. IU is proceeding cautiously, foregoing further expansion until sales pick up.

Big-box retailing

The closely watched IU experiment has provided valuable lessons to other big-box retailing execs, especially for furniture store and electronic products segments. One, in a noncompeting category, recently said he would only open larger-format stores one at a time, so that consumer demand could be monitored and adjustments made, and also will resist any temptation to bombard shoppers with side attractions.

For those sticking with large formats, specialty retailers are increasingly being imitated for insights into making the shopping trip more satisfying. Automotive aftercare outlets market themselves as the place to go for one-on-one consultation for perplexing repairs, while ads for the leading home improvement centers seldom refer to the store’s overall selection, but instead feature particular departments within the store and helpful staffers who can get the shopper out in a hurry.

If consumers are showing signs of resistance to some big-box formats, one exception so far seems to be the supercenters being set up by Kmart, Wal-Mart and, to a lesser extent, Target, which marry groceries and general merchandise items under one roof in a manner that allows dual-wage-earner families to consolidate shipping trips.

Analysts remain bullish on the com cept, which should double in the next three years to 1,500 with projected revenues exceeding $100 billion, said Mary Beth Whitfield, a principal retail consultant for Price Waterhouse’s Management Horizons unit in New York. By driving repeat business, “It’s a win-win situation,” said Redbook’s Eilenberg. “They’re getting market share from food retailers and getting additional sales in the general merchandise side.”

[Read more…]

Tips to decorate your home

Decorate it yourself: with the home depot and home decorators collection, you can complete your room from inspiration to installation






1 Start with a focal point for your room, such as the Home Decorators Collection fireplace shown here, available at The Home Depot.

[Read more…]