Susan Templer

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Owner and principal of Templer Interiors, interior designer Susan Templer specialises in all aspects of residential interiors, with particular emphasis on kitchen and bathroom renovations and new build projects.

My Renovation – Christmas Update

Christmas has come and gone, New Year’s Eve a few days away and where am I on the renovation? Exactly where I wanted to be! It’s not often that can be said about a project of this size. I am almost afraid to tempt fate by admitting it, but so far, so good, with everything on track for continuing on after the break.

Product purchases have not always been smooth sailing. I never did find the white marble tiles I wanted, but I have found something even better, wait till you see the photos, that powder room will be amazing! From late November on I was ready to tear my hair out over vendors who would not return calls or emails. What’s wrong with these people, don’t they want to make a sale? But that’s okay, I found other avenues to the products I want and my purchasing is done.

The kitchen is almost complete. It has been functional for several weeks and I’m loving it! Once the new pendant lights arrive, the walls are painted, the mosaic repaired and the floors refinished, it will look as great as it functions. And it really does work so well. There’s nothing like a personalised custom kitchen to ramp up the pleasures of cooking. I highly recommend it to everyone ;-)

And the new deck is finished! We really wanted this for summer, preferably completed before Christmas, but the timing was always going to be touch and go. Waiting for the permit, waiting out the builders’ schedule on other projects, it was mostly fingers crossed on this phase. But the stars aligned and it all came together quickly, with the last nail in place within a day of the break.

My tradies have turned out even better than expected and I couldn’t be happier with my crew. My amazing builder came in under budget and ahead of schedule for both the deck and kitchen. The kitchen cabinets are built with a craftsman’s deft touch to every little detail. Everything works, no annoying leaks anywhere and so far I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing.

Best of all, the whole process has been pretty much painless. With good coordination in the scheduling and lots of follow up, there has been almost no down time. And we had a working kitchen of some sort for all but a handful of days. As project manager as well as client and designer, I will unabashedly take some of the credit. But there is no question that picking the right crew has been the number one key to the success of this project.

Phase 3 begins in less than two weeks. This is the really big part of the project, when my skills at organising will truly be put to the test. Stay tuned.

By |January 3rd, 2013|Blog|4 Comments

My Renovation

Plans have been in the works for a big interior renovation on my home since early this year.  The last time I designed a renovation for myself, I was still living in San Francisco. It was one year before our move to Auckland and it was decided that a new bathroom would be an important selling feature. From decision to builders on site took 2 weeks, with all materials in place.  Granted this renovation is much larger, but 9 months to get ready was a surprise.

Now that time frame is not at all unusual when I work with a client. But since I had the basic layout in my head even before we finalized our home purchase, I expected it would go quickly. What I had not counted on is the nature of shopping for materials in this big, sprawling metropolis, devoid of one central design center.

So I used this as an opportunity to educate myself. I can honestly say that now I can direct you to all the tile shops in Auckland and speak knowledgeably about the products within. Same for plumbing, flooring, lighting, furniture, you name it, I know where it is! Except that you can’t count on those products being there when you go back to buy them! But I get ahead of myself.

My house is on two levels. Currently the main living area is upstairs, but that will change so that we live equally on both floors. We will replace the kitchen, add and delete closets and shelves, all new lighting and re-work the function of some of the rooms.  But walls and layout stay mostly intact.

Downstairs will change entirely. We will add walls to create rooms where there is one open rumpus space, build a new master bath, new laundry, walk in closets off of our new master bedroom. Since I already had a pretty good idea of the overall design, my first step was to select my products. There are essential details needed for any designer before sitting down to draw up installation plans. For example, I can’t lay out a kitchen until I know all the appliances, and for a bathroom I need to know the size and type of lavatories and taps. So I went shopping.

I got everything selected, all the big and small decisions sorted, then settled down to draw. I am an old fashioned girl, so I do hand drawings. I have an Autocad program, I have even taken a few classes. But I prefer the old way. With pencil to paper I work out all of the installation details of every little corner. And design and re-design as it comes to life in front of me. That also took longer than expected, as I learned to work in metric. That’s okay, it’s all done, it’s gonna be great and I’m happy!

Along the way I met with builders and various trades, including a wonderful joiner who so impressed me I decided that I would not bother with anyone elsefor my cabinets.  Then I met another builder who impressed me in the same way, so he’s on board. A great electrician, plumber, tiler, painter and we’re off! Start date scheduled, with each phase following along to a projected March completion date. So it was time to start buying some of those things that I had selected all those many months ago. And so the trouble starts.

First stop, the limestone tile for the master bath. Which of course is no longer in stock! That means more shopping unless I want to wait 5 months, which I don’t.  For the powder room, I want Statuario marble, that beautiful white stuff with the simple grey veins. I don’t need a lot, it’s a small room. But I want it in tile, and I want the real stuff, not porcelain, which I have yet to find. The simple side lights for the mirror cabinet are also not available in the style I want. And now I am worried about my plumbing fixtures.

Which all serves to remind me that I live in New Zealand now.  A small country far away from everything.  All the things I love about this place are also all the things that frustrate me. I was determined that my project would run smoothly, on schedule and I would not run into the usual delays that infect most projects here. And I am still determined that will be the case. I will have my beautiful home and I will use locally sourced products and materials!

So watch this space. Before and after photos and more on The Process, including how you live through it  all, coming your way in future posts!

 

 

By |October 14th, 2012|Blog|2 Comments

Even Better Roast Chicken

Last year I posted my favourite, perfect roast chicken recipe here. Since then I have tried a number of recipes, with different cooking methods, each claiming to be the best way to roast a chicken. And I have played around with my own variations on that theme. Of course, the absolute best, most succulent chickens will always be the ones you have brined or marinaded. But for quick and easy, and always perfect, here is my even better version.

All of the instructions from the original recipe remain the same, with a slight variation in cooking times and temperature only, as follows:

  • Heat oven to 220 degrees C
  • Add chicken, oiled and seasoned, back side facing up
  • Cook for 30-35 minutes, watching that the skin does not char
  • Remove chicken from oven (skin should be a rich mahogany colour) and follow original recipe instructions for flipping and adding veggies
  • Return to oven and immediately lower temperature to 200 degrees C
  • Cook for 35-40 minutes until juices run clear and legs bones pull away easily
  • Rest, carve and enjoy!
By |July 16th, 2012|Susan's Recipes|0 Comments

Tile Design for Kitchens and Bathrooms

I’ve been thinking about tile design lately, maybe because I am designing my own renovation and so I’m thinking a lot about all design details. Or maybe it’s because I just love tile, and tile design. The trend today is for very simple, plain designs. Often described as “clean” it is essentially the absence of detail or colour. We have all seen this look: one colour throughout a bathroom, perhaps with a darker shade on the floors than on the walls. A nice trend that adds interest even to the one colour simple designs are all of the new brick tiles, rectangular rather than square shapes, in various sizes. But the trend for simple has these tiles installed in straight lines, like soldiers on parade, rather than the more classic offset installation.

But what do you do when you want something different? A little pizzazz, a little ooomph, or even just a little colour? It’s not that hard to make simple interesting. And if you are daring, I have some more extreme examples, so keep reading.

Simple, classic, yet still interesting is a good place to start:

tile design

There isn’t much design needed for tile layout, anyone can do it. But what makes this example work, and look great, is the attention to detail. Most important with any type of stone is to match the pieces before installation. This particular white marble – and there are hundreds of quarries around the world so be assured that not all white marble will look the same – varies in the veining, from subtle to very agressive, and even in the colour – some of the white was not white at all, but tinged with green.

Here is a way to use large, relatively inexpensive tiles in an interesting and special way:

tile design

The wall and floor tiles are the same, just in two colours. It’s a beautiful, dramatic tile because of it’s size and modern shape. And yes, available in New Zealand. But what’s different? It’s use on the walls – this is generally a floor tile – and that it is running vertically up the wall, making low ceilings feel taller. But most interesting is that little accent strip. This is a very beautiful art glass tile that has been inserted at intervals around the walls to lend interest and draw your eye.

Here is another simple way to add something special:

Tile design

A sheet or two of expensive glass tile, using just two or three rows, running around a floor or on a wall, can elevate a basic tile installation. And at relatively low cost because of the small amount your will need.

Or use the same treatment to highlight a special keepsake:

tile design

This is a hand painted tile picked up on trip to Mexico. It has great meaning, is very personal and in this application, helps create a very unique kitchen splash.

What about classic design gone modern? Have a look at this updated villa fireplace surround:

tile design

Any tile will do, and how much more interesting is this than brick or stone slab?

Sometimes a little accent can go a long way:

tile design

This is an inexpensive porcelain tile, the kind we all love to use, with the look of stone but the durability of a man made product. Simple squares laid on the floor, in the shower and up the walls. Not that special. Except when you add a colourful trim piece as a cap, plus a dramatic wall colour, and your inexpensive little guest bathroom is design magazine worthy. And without breaking the bank!

Another simple idea that will add interest to your basic white brick tile design:

tile design

You don’t need to find these specific tiles, the design idea is the same with any tiles. Whatever tile runs on the wall, pick a height to add a detail strip. Often a decorative tile with a design within is the easiest to add into your field tile (the field is the main tile used). In this example, we have not used a special decorative strip, simply a different colour tile in a different shape. Then added a small feature strip top and bottom to highlight, accentuate and add colour.

The same bathroom, using the same tile in a different application:

tile design

Using the same accent tiles in the back of the shower alcove lends interest to the alcove and also ties the wall tile in with the shower tile design. Another little trick to add interest here: the brick shaped tiles that run horizontally on the walls are run vertically in the shower. This is interesting and gives the illusion of height in this small room.

Which brings me to shower alcoves. I am absolutely mad for alcoves! Especially in bathrooms, where space is at a premium, I love to use all of those gaps between the framing boards for storage. For one of my favourite projects, we put five alcoves into one bathroom! There were two in the large shower, one above the tub, and two set into the walls for flower vases. But alcoves are also the ideal place to have some fun with tile. It’s a tiny area so the expenditure is low, but what a dramatic impact it can have! Here are just a few examples of fun alcoves I have designed:

tile design

tile design

tile design

tile design

Okay, sorry, the turtles are not in an alcove, but I couldn’t resist adding them here ;-)

Some final ideas for you to think about when planning your tile designs, some simple, some not so, but all very special:

tile design

tile design

tile design italian stone tile

And finally, here’s a sneak peak of my custom mosaic backsplash, that moved all the way from San Francisco with me, and will soon re-appear in my Auckland home:

custom mosaic glass tile backsplash

Happy Tiling!

By |February 19th, 2012|Great Design Ideas|0 Comments

Selecting Wall Colours – Some Tips

I am one of the lucky ones. I can visualize the finished look of a room and I have an instinct for what works well together. I suppose that’s why I do what I do. We all have our special skills, and I suppose this one is mine. But with a few basic  tips you too can be on the road to having colour throughout your home.

WHITES – If you have visited a paint store recently you know that not all whites are alike and that there is a staggering variety to choose from. White will take on the colours of the environment and therefore it is very important to pick the right white. For example, in rooms with lots of beige or taupe, you must use a very bright, pure white. Any white with cream or yellow undertones will look dirty against the beiges. Alternatively, if you have warm colours in the room, either other paint colours or in your furnishings, a bright white will be too harsh. Here you would opt for a softer white, with a very slight yellow undertone. These rules apply for ceilings as well.

TRIM –  White is still the preferred choice for door and window frames, crown mouldings and baseboards. Use the brightest, richest white, while staying within your preferred shade, either a pure, clean white, or a softer tone. And always use a semi-gloss finish. The gloss paints are not only easier to clean, but because they reflect light, the trims are highlighted in a very appealing way. Just be sure that they are well sanded and any imperfections corrected before painting as gloss paints also highlight all the faults! And all trim throughout the house should be the same colour to create a pleasing flow from one space to the next.white trim, blue walls, painted walls

DOORS – There is no set rule on what colour to paint your doors. Some people prefer them to match the trim and the same throughout the house. Others prefer the door to match the wall colour, which means you may have a different colour on either side of the door. This is personal preference and I vary my decision based on the rest of the colours and where they are used in a room. For example, if I have painted an accent wall red, then a door on that wall might also be red, though the trim is white. This assures that the door is not a big distracting block of white. But if the whole room is painted red, then the white door is exactly what I need to brighten up the room and set off the red walls. Another example, and often a point of confusion, is what to do with the doors that open onto a long hallway, particularly if the hallway is not white. The only rule here is, whatever colour is selected, all the doors on the hallway side be painted the same colour.

COLOUR – Yes, it can be scary to move out of the white and beige comfort zones. But bringing colourful walls into your home is the easiest, and least expensive way to make a big impact on your interior design. I will touch on this more in a future posting on colour theory, how different colours make us feel and how they work in a room. But first, think about what colours you love, because these are the ones you can live with, and in. Give some thought to other colours in the room, but because of the huge choice in shades of a colour, you can always find something that will work. Using the example of the red walls again, the shade you select can vary from the cool pink and magenta reds, through to the bright lipstick reds, move onto the deep jewel tones, and finally to the soft and warm rust and terra cotta tones. Each of these will interact differently with other colours. But rest assured that if you want red, there is a shade out there that will work perfectly for you!green walls white accent bookcases

ACCENT WALLS – The safest way to experiment with strong colours is to create a feature wall, which is one wall in a room that is painted a different, darker colour. Feature walls work well placed opposite an entry, but the more important consideration is the orientation of the room and what will be against the feature wall, so it can work as a backdrop or a frame. In a lounge, this might be the wall where the TV and entertainment center sits, or the wall around the fireplace surround. If you have a very large window or glass door, this could be the accent wall, with the window or door frames trimmed in white, and the colour framing the glass and the outlook beyond. In a bedroom, the accent wall could be the one your bed is placed against. accent wall paint colours

green walls white accent paint colors

CEILINGS – Here is the hardest design trick of all, what to do with the ceiling! This subject alone could take up an entire article, with lots and lots of varying opinions. The standard then, both easiest and safest, is to stick with white. I like to use the same white on the ceiling as is used throughout for the trims. But always, always use flat paint! Do not let anyone convince you otherwise. Because lights are either in the ceiling, or reflect up to the ceiling, any other finish but the flattest flat paint will show up every tiny fault and mark. Except for one very important exception to both rules – bathrooms. I always have the ceilings of a bathroom painted in the same colour as the walls. This a great trick for making a small room look bigger. Even if the walls are dark, that dark ceiling, contrary to popular belief, will expand the space. And in a bathroom, the ceiling paint should always be semi-gloss, just like the walls. This will go a long way towards protecting the finish and cutting down on mould.

ROOM TO ROOM – The open plan way we live today means that when you are choosing new colours for a room, you must also consider how they will work with colours in other rooms that open onto each other. If you want to repaint the dining room red, but your lounge is green, this is an important consideration. Not all reds go with all greens, and more important to decide is if you want to see these colours together, as you may depending where they are in relation to each other. You may need to change the shade of red, select a different colour, or also repaint the lounge.accent walls, open plan, paint colors

feature wall colours

 

TESTING COLOURS – Working with paint chips, narrow down your choices to three shade of each colour. Then, do not paint patches on your walls! I always cringe when I see this because it doesn’t work. The only time it might is if you are testing feature wall colours on the feature wall itself. Instead, get yourself a few pieces of good sized, heavy white board, such as foamboard or posterboard. Buy paint in the colours you have selected, hopefully these will be available in small test pots. Paint the boards as you would the wall: primer is not necessary, but be sure to do one coat, let it dry, then a second. Once the boards are ready, you can now move them around the room. Using boards this way you can see your colours in different light, on different walls, and up against other colours in the room. And you can move them from room to room. You can also assess each colour on it’s own without a lot of other patches to distract you. A much better way.

The last thing to remember is that if you don’t like it, you can always change it! Happy painting!

By |January 23rd, 2012|Blog|4 Comments

Quick Tomato Sauce for Pasta

This is a quick, and also very easy, recipe with lots of options and modifications available. It is particularly nice with leftover grilled sausages or roast chicken. If you always have the staples on hand, you will always have an easy dinner to fall back on.

1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 med brown onion, chopped
2- 3 med garlic cloves, sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced (optional)
1 cup zucchini, sliced thin, or other vegetable, cut in bite size pieces to substitute
1 can diced tomatoes
1/4 -1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp capers, drained
1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried rosemary (I use the Fresh As brand)
Salt & Pepper
250 grams short pasta, such as Fusilli or Penne, cooked to package directions and drained
grated Parmesan, to taste

1.  Heat olive oil in a large non-stick pan over medium high heat until shimmering. Add onions and garlic and saute until soft
2. Add mushrooms (if using), and saute until they begin to soften and most of their moisture has cooked off. (If using a longer cooking vegetable instead of zucchini, add now and saute for 1-2 minutes, combining well with other ingredients)
3.  Add 1/4 cup white wine, bring to boil while scraping the pan, and cook down by half
4. Add seasoning (except salt and pepper), combine well and cook for 1 minute
5. Add tomatoes and capers, cook for 1 minute while stirring to combine all ingredients
6. Add broth and more wine if needed, bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer low, uncovered, for 10 – 12 minutes
7. Add zucchini (if using), cover and cook until done
8. Add salt and pepper to taste
9. Optional:  Add leftover grilled sausage slices, roast chicken pieces or smoked fish, cooked shrimp, etc, for the last few minutes until warm
10. Add cooked pasta to the pan and stir through well to combine with sauce and other ingredients
11. Plate up and grate Parmesan over to taste

Serves 2 – 4

 

 

By |January 16th, 2012|Susan's Recipes|0 Comments

Home Renovations – Tips on Surviving the Process

As a designer, I always get the same questions:  Where do I start?  Do I need an Architect? An Engineer?  But especially,  How do I survive the process? Here are some answers to common questions from people considering a renovation project

HOW DO I SURVIVE THE PROCESS?

Move out! Of course, this is something that most of us can’t afford to do, even knowing that with any renovation there will be considerable inconvenience   But there are some things you can do to ease the process. Designate rules of the house for the workers:  which bathroom to use, which door to come in and out of, where to dump trash.  Make sure they clean the job site daily. Come to an agreement on starting and quitting times, including any weekend work days. Whatever you do, the process will be difficult. But it is a short term inconvenience for a long term benefit. (And who knows – you may even get to like the radio station they listen to!)

BUT WON’T MY HOUSE BE A HUGE MESS?

Yes, it will, but there are things that can be done to cut down on the mess. Move everything out of the areas to be worked on. Cover all furniture in the vicinity or transportation path of construction.  Make sure your builder adequately protects flooring and furniture.  And confirm that they are using good dust seal materials on all doorways leading to the work area. Dust is the absolute worst part of this whole process and whatever you do, expect to be cleaning it away for months after the project is completed. However, if you have followed the steps above, particularly insuring that the builder has properly sealed all work areas, you will have done everything possible to minimise the amount of cleanup.

MY KITCHEN IS TORN UP, HOW DO I FEED MY FAMILY?

The most difficult home renovation to get through is the kitchen. You can expect to have your appliances out of commission for a good long while, 4 weeks if you are lucky, but 8 weeks or more depending on the size and complexity of your project. Takeaways or eating out every night during this time can not only break your budget, but will ruin your health and your waistline! So here are some survival tips.

If you can schedule the project during months when the weather is conducive to outdoor cooking, this would be ideal. Invest in a great barbecue, if you don’t already have one, along with a great bbq cookbook. You can make just about anything on the barbie, even pizza and dessert! But any time of the year, set aside a room in the house to be your temporary kitchen. Have the builders move your fridge in here, along with your microwave, toaster and any other small electrical appliances. If it’s not bbq weather and you have a wood burning fireplace, be adventurous and experiment with roasting some sausages or other meats there. Unless you have a large, useful laundry sink for washing dishes, splurge on disposable dishes and cutlery for the duration, as trying to washes dishes in a bathroom sink or tub will get very old, very quickly. If you have a large freezer, the weeks ahead, start preparing dishes that are suitable for freezing in large quantities, and then store in aluminium containers in meal size portions. Whatever you do, it will be inconvenient, but you can minimise the pain and try to have some fun in the process!

I DON’T HAVE TIME, WHO WILL MANAGE THE WORK?

A professional designer can be a very important addition to your renovation team. And one of my specialties is Project Management. In addition to producing all of the drawings and helping you source your products, I can also help run the process from beginning to end. And at a fraction of the cost you would be charged by an architect or specialist project manager!

In addition, to helping you narrow down the dizzying array of products choices and saving you money by passing along trade discounts, I receive all products you purchase through me, handle any problems that may arise and assure that products are available when needed for installation.

For a busy person trying to live through a major renovation project, such as a new Kitchen or Master bathroom, it helps to have a coordinator. I speak both yours and the contractor’s language and am therefore ideally suited to help you manage the fine details that will keep the project running smoothly and on schedule. With this kind of help, you can concentrate on taking care of your family, while I manage your project so that it runs smoothly and on schedule!

 

By |December 26th, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

Home Renovations – How to Get Started

As a designer, I always get the same questions:  Where do I start?  Do I need an Architect? An Engineer?  What about building consents?  What about Builders?  How do I survive the process? Here are some answers to common questions from people considering a renovation project.

HOW DO I GET STARTED?

The first step for even the smallest project is to have a plan. This plan should be very detailed and written down, with drawings and illustrations as needed. Try to think through all of the smallest details to address on your plan. For example, in addition to choose light fixtures, think about switches and outlets. Where will the light switches go, do you want them turned on in one place or two, and which lights will be controlled by which switches? What about electrical outlets, how many do you need and where will they go? What style and colour should they be? What about trim, for doors, windows, baseboards and ceilings? We tend to think about the big things, but forget about the multitude of small questions that will arise during construction. If you are doing your own designs and drawings, make sure to take very accurate measurements, and then re-check everything at least two more times. Being off by even a few millimeters when you order products can create major problems and huge unexpected expenses.

For all products that require installation, purchase and take delivery of everything before work begins. For items that are too large or impractical to have delivered in advance, have them pre-purchased and stored for you, ready for delivery on request. The biggest delay in building projects are caused by products not being on site as required. If you have everything lined up and ready to go before starting, your project will proceed smoothly and be finished in the minimum timeframe. And confirm that your builder follows the same practice. If you have done your part, you don’t wan things slowed down because he hasn’t done his.

HOW DO I CHOOSE A BUILDER?

The best way to find a reliable builder is on referral from someone you trust. Direct experience from someone who has worked with a builder is a good starting point. Ask for names from any other professionals you are working with, such as your architect or designer, or vendors you are buying products through. But regardless who makes the recommendation, be sure to check references.  Ask for contact details of former clients and completed projects. Call a few and ask some important questions. Was the builder on time? Did he run a clean jobsite? Did he come in on budget? How was his work crew to get along with? Ask to look at examples of work done on projects similar to yours. When inspecting these projects, make a point of looking past the shiny new fixtures and fittings to try and ascertain the overall quality of the workmanship. Clues to look for are smooth walls, clean cuts on any timber finish work, level installation of work done by the builder. Be sure to have a friendly chat with the homeowner, asking important questions about their satisfaction with the process and the results. Get quotes from 2 – 3 different builders, making sure that the quotes include good details and explanations on the scope of work being quoted. But be careful not to hire on price alone. The least expensive may not be the worst builder, just as the most expensive won’t guarantee the best outcome. Do all of this research with due diligence. But in the end, go with your gut. All other things being equal, make sure the builder and his employees are people you feel comfortable with. You will be spending a lot of time together!

WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR BEFORE SIGNING CONTRACTS?

With completed plans and final decisions on all your product choices, you will be in a position to get the most accurate quotes from all of your vendors, including the builder, sub contractors and cabinet maker. You will have determined the most accurate budget possible, but always factor in at least an additional 10% for the unexpected, particularly when you are opening walls and getting into foundations. If your builder doesn’t advise this himself, that’s a red flag. Any quotes from builders or subs should include a detailed description of work to be performed, a payment schedule and guarantees. Invoices for product purchases should clearly specify model numbers and description, state  return and warranty policies, along with the process for resolving any errors. A small mistake can lead to major headaches and difficulties if it is not clear who is at fault and who will be financially responsible for resolution. Then make sure that you follow these policies. If a product purchase invoice states that any errors must be reported within a certain time period, be sure these policies are followed to the letter, either by you or whoever has been designated as project manager.

WHAT IF I WANT SOME HELP?

A professional designer can be a very important addition to your renovation team. And of course I will recommend myself as your best choice! I can give you all the information you will need to proceed, including all necessary drawings and builder referrals. As a qualified and experienced design specialist, I can often take the place of an architect, particularly on interior renovations, and for a fraction of the cost! I will create a plan, procure building consents and produce all design and technical drawings to complete the installation, including specialty items such as mechanical and electrical plans.

In addition, I can help you narrow down the dizzying array of products choices and will save you money by passing along trade discounts. I will help you weigh the relative merits of different product lines, and save you money by suggesting products that offer the best value and durability.  And as a designer, I have sources, and product choices, that are not available to the general public.

For a busy working person trying to live through a major renovation project, such as a new Kitchen or Master bathroom, it helps to have a coordinator. Designers speak both yours and the contractor’s language and are therefore ideally suited to help you manage the fine details that will keep the project running smoothly and on schedule.

 

By |December 26th, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

Banana Bread

I have been making, and perfecting, this recipe for close to 15 years. It’s really, really good, everyone says so, and comes out perfect every time. As long as you follow my little tips , and get to know your oven. The basis for my recipe is from Ethan Becker’s 1997 re-issue of his mother’s iconic “Joy of Cooking”. With my tweaks and improvements, it is still the best of over a dozen other recipes I have tried. Although this is called a bread, it is quite sweet, and perfect for breakfast with tea or coffee. Enjoy!

Tip #1 – do not over mix the batter. Where the instructions say “just until combined” be sure to do just that
Tip #2 – use the ripest possible bananas, they can’t be too ripe. The riper the bananas, the sweeter and moister the finished bread. And do not use pre-frozen bananas – they get too watery and will make the finished bread too wet
Tip #3 –  Follow the order of mixing and adding ingredients exactly. It does make a difference to the finished texture
Tip #4 – As simple as the process and the instructions are, the little things do matter. Such as pre-toasting the walnuts, and using the exact quantities of ingredients. Always level the dry ingredients in your measuring cups and spoons, and use dry measure, not wet measure cups (as a rule, glass or clear measuring cups are for liquids, metal or plastic measuring cups are for dry ingredients. Spoons are for either)
Tip #5 – When toasting walnuts, be careful they are not overdone. In a 175 C oven, spread whole walnuts in one layer on a baking tray, then toast until they are fragrant and shiny. As soon as the kitchen begins to fill with the smell, get them out of the oven. Then break, or chop them into small pieces
Tip #6 – If you have the option on your oven, do NOT use the fan/convection setting. Use “Classic Bake” or non fan operated function only

Begin with all ingredients at room temperature.  Position a rack in the center of the oven and set to 175 C. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch (215 x 115 mm or close to)  loaf pan with butter and set aside.

1 1/2 cups high grade flour (not self-rising)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

80 g unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar

2 large (#7) eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large, or 3 small, ripe bananas
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

1. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl, mix together and set aside
2. In a separate bowl, mash bananas until there are no visible lumps, add walnuts on top and set aside
3. In a small bowl, very lightly beat the eggs,  mix in the vanilla and set aside

4.  In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until lightened in colour and texture (a stand mixer works best, but a hand mixer, or beating by hand will work just as well)
5. Slowly add the dry ingredients and beat until well combined and grainy
6. Gradually beat in the eggs and vanilla until just combined, do not over mix
7. Fold in the bananas and walnuts until just combined, do not over mix

8. Scrape the batter into the pan, spreading the top so that it is flat and even
9. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes. It is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top will rise and split, this is normal

Let cool on a rack, in the pan, for 10 minutes. Then shake out of the pan, turn right side up, and allow to cool completely on the rack. All baked goods are best on the first day, but tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature, this bread will last well for 3 – 4 days.

 

By |December 22nd, 2011|Susan's Recipes|0 Comments

Favorite Food and Recipe Links

I am mostly a cookbook person, with upwards of 125 at last count. I prefer having a solid book in my hand, preferably with gorgeous photos, to searching online for recipes. That said, there are a few that I frequent, along with food blogs that include recipes. Here then, a list of my personal favorites:

Cooks Illustrated  The best website for guaranteed to be perfect recipes! Cooks Illustrated is part of the America’s Test Kitchen family, which started out as cookbooks. Not surprising then that their books also rank among my favorites. This is a subscription website, with a few free recipes, but you will have to sign up to access the huge mother load. Well worth it, for the recipes and so much more available online. Including a truly revolutionary, fool proof pie dough!!

Epicurious  one of the first and still one of the best

Dorie Greenspan  my favorite food blog, including recipes. Dorie is the queen of baking, in fact, her book “Baking” taught me how to do just that and led to a few dozen more books and a minor obsession. Her recipes are foolproof,  her writing is always entertaining, her recommendations to be relied upon, and she even share the occasional savory recipe

Cafe Fernando a food blog like no other. Entertaining, educational and always fascinating, not to mention the name tells you nothing about the content. I won’t tell you more, just check it out

Nick Malgieri Nick is another highly regarded baking master, with down to earth and easily accessible recipes

NOTE: if you come across the ingredient “corn syrup” called for in any of the American recipes, particularly when making cake frosting, DO NOT try substituting! In Auckland, you can find both light and dark corn syrup at Martha’s Backyard on Lunn Avenue in Mt Wellington. She also has Crisco shortening, best for the pie recipes (NZ shortening is different and may alter the results)

Julia Child  because she is incomparable, need I say more? The Baking with Julia series was amazing and produced a wonderful cookbook, co-authored by Dorie Greenspan

Mexican Specialties  probably the best Mexican food in Auckland (though I hear there are some new contenders on the horizon), with recipes coming soon to the website. And their little store will have most of the ingredients needed for any of your Latin American recipes

Chow and Chowhound  all things food and foodie, with an Australia/New Zealand forum that you can sign up for here

Millys Kitchen  the best kitchen store of course, and now they have recipes online too. I prefer the huge Parnell warehouse location, though the Ponsonby store has it’s charm

Foodie  all things food and foodie New Zealand with a great newsletter that you can subscribe to

Foodlovers  a lot like the previous listing, also with a newsletter and loads of recipes and forums

Dineout  not recipes, at least not usually, but an invaluable resource for any foodie. A wealth of great information on restaurants and related topics, love their forums too!

Dish Magazine and last, but certainly not least, if you can buy only one food magazine, this has got to be it! I have tried them all, and still do on occasion but whether Kiwi, Aussie or American, there is no comparing to Dish. The best recipes hands down, always perfect the first time.

I hope you have enjoyed my list and have found some new and enlightening resources.

Happy eating! And Happy Holidays to all!

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By |December 21st, 2011|Susan's Recipes|0 Comments