Getting creative in the bedroom – Adrian Ramsay

Getting creative in the bedroom – Adrian Ramsay

Getting good things in small spaces is what Adrian Ramsay is all about and in the feature article in the latest Your Investment Property magazine he gives us a great example of this in how to design a bedroom.  We discuss that with Adrian.


Kevin:  One of the challenges we find in real estate as we have a requirement to put things in smaller places is just how can we creatively use these small living areas? I was fascinated to read the feature in the latest Your Investment Propertymagazine, which came out about a week ago. It was an article around my next guest, the CEO of Adrian Ramsay Design house. Adrian Ramsay is in fact the CEO of his own company.

Good day, Adrian. How are you doing?

Adrian:  Good day, mate. Yes, really well, Kevin.

Kevin:  Yes. Good article in Your Investment Property magazine about the bedroom.

What are some of the key things that you find in getting good things in small spaces?

Adrian:  I think that you have to look at the whole space. for starters. One of the key things there is keeping a color pallet that actually transitions comfortably. Not necessarily exactly the same, but just keeps it a gentle transition. Because what happens is your eye doesn’t have to adjust to a sudden change.

That doesn’t mean you don’t use feature walls or something in your coloring, but like if you were chopping your floor up into three or four different surfaces, you’re more likely to run into problems than if you keep it consistent. Or if you have hallways and living rooms, if you’re keeping the shades tonal as they run down through those, your eye extends down the line.

Obviously, light is always a huge one, and the other one is getting variation in your ceiling heights. Something I learned from looking at Frank Lloyd Wright’s work years ago now was just the way he would steal a bit from one room and put it into another room in the form of like a bulkhead. So he might add some space into the living room and take it out of the bedroom, but only 300 mm from the ceiling down or something like that.

You’re more likely to do that one the opposite way around, by the way. You’re more likely to add the 300 mm into the bedroom because it’s going to be the smaller room, and then make it a bulkhead in the other room.

And in doing that, it extends the ceiling in one part and it reduces it in the other. But it doesn’t actually change the volume from wall to wall. It changes the effect of the volume in the room.

Kevin:  Yes, you deal with bulkheads, I think, in step one of the article. But they can also occupy a lot of space, can’t they?

Adrian:  They can. You have to be really careful with them. Often, they become service ducts and stuff like that, and suddenly you have plumbers or electricians or air conditioning guys designating what size they’re going to be. So, you have to be very mindful of where you position them and how you position them.

I’ve often used them as a way to, say, take power off a power point to put lighting above a bed when I don’t want to rip off wallboard, I don’t want to chase into walls, and I don’t want to chase into ceilings. Because in a lot of apartments, the ceiling is actually the floor below. It’s just got a spray coat over it. It doesn’t have battens and there’s no extra space.

So, I’ll often use something to bring myself up the wall with a small buildout on the wall, but then a low bulkhead in the ceiling so that I can spread the lighting around.

Kevin:  Yes. The article is just fantastic because it gives you so many great ideas on what you can do inside a very small space. And I have to say that there’s some really creative furniture that’s come out that allows us to put a lot into a very small space, Adrian.

Adrian:  Totally agree; there is. The furniture market has really met this, and one of the things that I see has happened there is (a) we have a lot more urban, inner city living, so the furniture market has… In Australia, different from overseas. Take somewhere like Europe; they’ve always had small spaces.

You have to remember that in Australia, we have the second biggest homes in the world outside of America, so if you’re looking at that and you go “Europe have shoe-horned themselves into tiny spaces and the Japanese have done the same,” and then when you look here, this new urban density living that we do in cities with apartments and stuff is actually relatively new to us. It’s been a holiday home before, it’s been an investment property, but now we are going into our urban density as city dwellers more and more.

And because of that, the furniture market has responded to it by going “How has Europe dealt with that before?” And other big cities. And then they get clever about it: storage solutions, the way the pieces are made modular so that they can fit into lift-shafts, all of those things.

Kevin:  Yes, you have to bear all that in mind. I noticed, too, that wallpaper is making a bit of a comeback, and I’m really pleased about that because you can get so much feature into a wall with design and with color, can’t you?

Adrian:  Yes, I totally agree. Wallpaper has been a cold climate off the back of Europe and also Melbourne, Victoria, Tazzie, those kinds of places, and places like New Zealand. At one stage, it meant you didn’t have to finish the wall behind it, so it was cheaper for the plasterer. He’d just bang up a bit of plasterwork and then he’d put wallpaper over it.

And I think that mainly the trend has been off the back of the show The Block. Those guys are obviously working in New South Wales or in Victoria, and with that, what they tend to do is they’re using it as a feature thing. And even up here in Queensland where we tend to paint things white, there’s a big call for wallpaper. We’re using it more and more and more.

And when we’re designing a whole structure – not just a redesign or a remodel but if we’re designing a new home for somebody – then when we get through the actual design phase of the bones of the house, then we’re doing the interior, we’re going “Those walls need to be plastered for this and these walls need to be plastered for that,” and we’re featuring wallpaper in our design brief right from the time that we start drawing from the slab.

Kevin:  Yes. Now, the renovation that’s featured in Your Investment Property magazine – which, as I said, is out right now – your budget for that was $200,000 and the total spend was $220,000. Is that quite normal, the 10% over? Is that how you would do it?

Adrian:  I have a process that I developed over the years, which I call design magic, and I say, “Look, there are things that you’re going to be looking for that you want extra.” If you have a budget of $200,000, start out that you’re going to spend $180,000.

Kevin:  I was going to say $180,000, yes.

Adrian:  Bring your budget back, and once you’ve done that, then you have the opportunity to actually go “I have that extra piece.” I say to clients “You’re not going to keep that money; we’re still going to spend it. Don’t think that you’re going to the Bahamas; that money is actually going to get spent in here, but it’s going to be when you ask us for something extra.”

Our budget over-runs in that particular one was we spent an additional $24,000 removing the asbestos from the place. They came with a $200,000 budget, we trimmed it, and then we trimmed it back at the time to about $190,000.

And then I said to them, “Look, when this is being renovated, we have asbestos in these different areas, and I know that for you guys in particular, you had feared about how much asbestos is in it.” Now, we had asbestos ceilings, asbestos in most of the walls, and don’t forget in that case, we were actually doing a four-bedroom apartment as well, so a big apartment.

And so I got onto the guys and we got the builder to getting various different quotes. And our asbestos removal quotes ranged from about $40,000 to about $18,000. We went with the guys at about $24,000, so that was our biggest budget over-run, but it wasn’t actually something that we’d ever budgeted to do.

Kevin:  Just very quickly – we’re going to have to move – in removing asbestos, is it more expensive to do it in an apartment block than it would be on a single house?

Adrian:  Oh, yes.

Kevin:  Yes, I thought it might be.

Adrian:  There are a lot of complications, especially because by the time you’re doing an apartment block, you have to air monitor the whole space. We shorted out the entire building a couple of times with the amount of water that we were using, and you have to be water vac-ing it, everybody is going in and out through a sealed space, and there are guys sitting there with monitors. So, the cost of doing it over a regular house…

And also in a case like this, every ceiling was asbestos as a spray-on, so it had to be scraped off the ceilings and made damp for the guys in the space suits when they were bagging it and removing it from there. And asbestos removal costs have gone up considerably.

Kevin:  Yes, those asbestos ceilings, they were great in their time but horrific to rectify nowadays.

Adrian:  Yes, just awful.

Kevin:  Mate, great talking to you. Thank you so much for your time.

Adrian Ramsay has been my guest, he’s the CEO for Adrian Ramsay Design House, and you can read all about his renovation in the latest edition of Your Investment Property magazine, which is our right now. It’s the July issue. It comes out in June. I don’t know why they do that, but that’s what they do anyway, Adrian. They like to be one step ahead of us.

Adrian:  Get a jump on the month. Maybe they’re trying to get the profits in before the end of the financial year.

Kevin:  That’s a good idea. Mate, great talking to you. Thanks for your time, Adrian.

Adrian:  Awesome, Kevin. Thank you. Take care, mate.


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