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ISSUE 18.06 LM 1.50 where sold.

ISSUE 18. APR 06

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HOMEWORKS Welcome to

HOMEWORKS 18 edition. th

It seemed fitting for the spring issue that we explore the “3 R’s” of being environmentally conscious – reduce, reuse, and recycle. Captain Planet gives the best advice: “We must use what we have intelligently and sparingly.” In an already overpopulated island, we seem to be trying to cram more and more buildings in. The “uglification” of unplanned architecture is not a new issue. We’ve been told time and time again that conservation is the key. It’s a concept that is not difficult in Malta; so much of what we already have is laden with character and sensible architecture. Having said this, proper conservation is no piece of cake; it’s a process that should be well considered and analysed before beginning. Astrid Vella contributes her foresight on the pitfalls of converting a house of character, warning that it may not be as easy as it looks. Her article offers expert advice and apprises converters-to-be what to look out for. (page 95) Cheryl O'Meara-Sims has found the perfect example of Maltese organic architecture. This country conversion makes the most of the environment in which it was built. Read about the Sammuts' exciting conversion on page 18. Architectural designer Maria Scerri converts a relatively new house in Tal-Ibragg, transforming the space from rustic to recent. (page 48) Established and renowned architect Martin Xuereb converts Jo Anne Pace’s space in St. Julians, shaking it out of Mediterranean 70’s and bringing it to practical minimalism. Jo Anne shows us the courage it takes to get rid of the superfluous. (Page 30) Conservation is not just relevant for dwellings – there are a multitude of other aspects that can be sustained. Daniel Talma gives us a brief introduction on solar power. He elucidates all the complicated aspects that may seem intimidating at first, but once explained, actually make a lot of sense. This feature also has an energy saving section at the end, explaining how we can do our bit for the environment. (Page 40) Zillah Bugeja writes about where we’re at with recycling as opposed to where we should be. (Page 58) Mona Farrugia writes about her last trip to South Africa and their ingenious use of organic architecture. (Page 90) Emmanuel Piscopo shows us that even trees can be preserved. His article on tree transplantation gives us insight on how these living things like (and don’t like) to be moved. Mr. Piscopo also provides us with a peek of what flowers spring will bring us. (Page 80) True to this issue’s theme, we want your response. Look out for the readers’ poll on page 26, as well as smaller questionnaires at the end of articles. Homeworks readers are our best consultants, helping us understand how to keep bringing you inspiration, improvement and style to the best of our ability.

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ROCK N' ROLL BY CHERYL O’MEARA-SIMS

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ADAPTATION AWARE

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058 GO FOR GREEN BY ZILLAH BUGEJA

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TREE TRANSPLANT BY EMMANUEL PISCOPO

OUT OF AFRICAHHH... BY MONA FARRUGIA

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SOLAR SOLUTIONS BY DANIEL TALMA

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007 HOMEWINNERS 009 HOMENEWS

SIMPLY SMART BY MARIA SCERRI

018 ROCK N' ROLL 026 READER'S POLL & QUESTIONS CONQUERED 030 ADAPTATION AWARE 040 SOLAR SOLUTIONS

095 CONVERSION COMMITMENT BY ASTRID VELLA

048 SIMPLY SMART 058 GO FOR GREEN 068 SEA THE FISH 072 THE CELLAR 080 TREE TRANSPLANT 090 OUT OF AFRICAHHH... 095 CONVERSION COMMITMENT 003

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OUR READERS WRITE ON ISSUE 17 EVERY ISSUE WE INVITE OUR READERS TO SEND US THEIR COMMENTS AND OPINIONS ON WHAT THEY LIKE OR WOULD LIKE TO SEE IN HOMEWORKS... “A big thank you for this great magazine. I’m always looking forward to the next issue. My suggestion is to provide a section of top ten items. For example, I would be interested in a top ten selection of carpets, including prices and shop names. Another example is having a mixture of ten different items like mirrors, lampshades, decorations and where they can be found.” Alison Galea

HOMEWINNERS

“Thank you for another issue of Homeworks. The last issue on antiques was my favourite. What I would like to see in future issues of Homeworks is how to create space in a kid’s room to give him/her an area to play in, how houses in Malta were painted and decorated in the past, which plants live best inside (not limiting oneself to artificial flowers) and art by local artists. I’d like to see articles on exhibitions and works of art currently being created.” Dunstar Hamilton

HOMECOMPETITION

17TH EDITION…

ISSUE 18 PRIZE

NEEDS YOU!

WE WANT YOUR FEEDBACK!

CONGRATULATIONS TO JONATHAN BALZAN – OUR SEVENTEENTH HOMEWORKS READER SUGGESTION WINNER. JONATHAN HAS WON THE TABLE LIGHT FROM STEM INTERIOIRS, WORTH LM42.00. Jonathan wrote: “I find Homeworks to be the only magazine on the island which dedicates all its contributions to material related to home necessities without having to resort to other articles to fill up its pages. It helps you choose, design, redecorate and enjoy your house! I would like to see an article dealing with measures one should take to combat the humidity plague and its effects on the building and contents, particularly during these periods when walls turn black and the house looks like an abandoned nest.“

Please forward your ideas outlining what you would like to see published within HOMEWORKS. The person submitting the most interesting idea/concept will receive a Lechusa Pot from Playmobil worth Lm40.00. Send your ideas to: HOMEWORKS Feedback, P. O. Box 48 Msida, Malta or email: info@writeon.com.mt

HOMEWORKS

HOMEWORKS HOMEWORKS READERS are invited to submit interesting photographs and a brief description of their homes which may be distinct in their architectural design. Of particular interest are homes that offer outstanding elements of both interior and exterior living spaces. HOMEWORKS will select the best submissions for future features. Send a photo and information to the attention of The Editor, Writeon Ltd., P. O. Box 48, Msida, Malta or info@writeon.com.mt (photos will not be returned)

Issue 18.06

EDITOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR ART DIRECTION DESIGN DESIGNER PHOTOGRAPHY CONTRIBUTORS

HOMEWORKS is published by writeon ltd. every two month and is distributed with The Sunday Times

LISA BORAIN ZILLAH BUGEJA MARC SPITERI MAS COMMUNICATIONS JIMMY MAS KURT ARRIGO ZILLAH BUGEJA, MONA FARRUGIA CHERYL O'MEARA-SIMS, EMMANUEL PISCOPO MARIA SCERRI, DANIEL TALMA, ASTRID VELLA

SALES & MARKETING 2133 9999 ALBERTO E SERRA PRE-PRESS AND PRINTING PROGRESS PRESS POSTAL ADDRESS / E-MAIL WRITEON LTD. P. O. BOX 48 MSIDA, MALTA info@writeon.com.mt

Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from the Publisher is prohibited. All rights reserved. Dates, information and prices quoted are believed to be correct at time of going to press but are subject to change and no responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions. Neither the editor no publisher accept responsibility for any material submitted, whether photographic or otherwise. While we endeavour to ensure that firms and organisations mentioned are reputable, the editor can give no guarantee that they will fulfil their obligations under all circumstances. © 2006

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HOMEWORKS is a registered trademark of WriteOn Ltd.

THIS EDITION:

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HOMENEWS

THE LATEST INDUSTRY HAPPENINGS 1

1. FUTURE HABITS Future Habitats introduces a new range of designer sockets from Schulte. Schulte Elektrotechnik is a German company specialising in the manufacture of sockets for busy work areas including kitchens, offices and conference rooms. The EVOline Port is a retractable profile with modular connections for power, data and multi-media. EVOline Dock, on the other hand, is a tabletop docking station with modular connections ideal for desks. Future Habitats, Upper Constitution Str., Mosta.

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2. CONTEMP Contemp are continuing to expand their vast range of international brands. They will be launching their new range of Sandra Rich Vases, comprising of floor vases with interesting designs. View the full range at Contemp, 119, Naxxar Road, B’Kara.

4. BONDS Bond’s of Notabile Road, Attard, sole agents for Colombini Group have just received the new range for 2006. New colours and models extend an already vast range of main and spare bedrooms, kitchens, wall units and office furniture. Being modular, all furniture is extremely flexible and can be made to fit any room and customer requirements. 4

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5. C.FINO & SONS The new outlet at Fino is now open and ready with top brands like Ligne Roset (accessories), de Buyer (cookware), Guy Degrenne (dinnerware), Mikasa (glassware), Chase Erwin (silks), Romo (fabrics) and Bassetti (bed linen). Engagement and wedding are also accepted.

3. COSAS Five years after first setting up in Naxxar, Cosas have recently opened their second outlet at Fond Ghadir, Sliema (next to Gelateria Lungomare). Here one can find gifts, furnishings and ideas for decorating the home and garden, such as hand painted ceramic pots and ornaments, hand woven rugs, mirrors, and hand-painted ceramic tiles.

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6. DOMESTICA Berloni has just launched its latest, trendy kitchen, the Meteropolis, in a coffee colour. The highly versatile units, which can fit any shape of room, come with tempered, sprayed glass door fronts that can either be sliding or hinged. The Berloni showroom is in Valley Road, Birkirkara, where a comprehensive range of Berloni furniture for the home are on display. 009

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HOMENEWS

THE LATEST INDUSTRY HAPPENINGS

1. PACE ASSOCIATES Urmet has just launched the UTOPIA 4“ TFT colour video door phone in hands free version, dedicated for those who seek perfection even in the most minor details of their home. Designed by De LUCCHI the Utopia Monitor comes in various colours such as white, blue, yellow and green. Distributed by: Pace Associates Limited, 134 Stefano Zerafa Street, Marsa.

1 2. TECTRON The Parquet Warehouse has launched the Witex latest innovations. Within this new range are beautiful timbers from the motifs that drive extraordinary finishes. The designer-oriented surfaces with many new timber floor reproductions put the accent on style and unconventional living. The wood types are Premium Beech, Mediterranean Cypress, Premium Oak, Walnut Style, Amazon Ovangkol, American Rosewood and African Zebrano. The Parquet Warehouse. 230, 21st September Avenue, Naxxar.

3. P'N'G TILES P’n’G Supplies Ltd are introducing another brand, Alcor. They are offering the newest and most modern collections from this company at extremely reasonable launch prices. These collections, together with the vanity units by Inve, will give you the opportunity to have the modern bathroom of your dreams at a price you can afford. The showroom is at P’n’G Tile and Bathroom Centre, 190, Fleur-de-lys Road, Fleur-de-lys.

3 5. HOMESPACE Home Space launches its 2006 collections and has made a special effort to present clients with an exciting and innovative concept in contemporary furniture --- a personalized style reflecting the latest trends in top-notch interior design featuring soft furnishings, new rugs, bed linen and now also original and digital wall art canvases and murals. 122, Misrah il Barrieri, St. Venera.

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4. WALLART Following the success of digital art on stretched canvas, Wallart is expanding further to zest up your interior. Monotone walls are a thing of the past as this fresh concept comes to life. Order your Wallart Murals exclusively at Homespace to bring life to your walls.

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6. IDEA CASA IdeaCasa introduces the Teak Collection and more... With spring well on its way and sale season over, IdeaCasa of Valley Road, B’Kara, introduces a new collection of Teak Bedrooms and Kitchens. A fantastic selection of living rooms and dining rooms, space-saving children’s bedrooms as well as the latest designs in loose furniture and furnishings are now available. 011

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HOMEIDEAS Designer Sockets for Kitchen Islands EVOline Port is a retractable aluminium profile with modular British sockets, designed to be used in kitchen islands, conference tables, and desks. EVOline port is easy to install and available in a range of finishes, including stainless steel, brass and lacquered silver plastic. Moreover, the Nightlight model will discreetly shine a light corona in midnight blue or ruby red. Additional modules include connections for data and multi-media. Prices starting from Lm40.00. Available from Future Habitats, Upper Constitution Str., Mosta. Tel: 2142 0596.

Cutlery on the move – this Guzzini cutlery set is suitable both for your barbecue area, for taking on picnics or even the boat. They come neatly packed and there are a variety of colours to choose from. Prices starting from Lm36.49 See the full Guzzini range at the Domestica Showroom at Valley Road, Birkirkara. Tel: 2144 7604. www.domestica.com.mt

Pretty kitchenware, ideal for both indoors or outdoors. Found at Ambiente, San Gwann. Tel: 2137 6481. Prices starting from Lm 6.95.

Typhoon Pastel Asian Accessories. Typhoon’s unique blend of east meets west design cool comes to the table with a gorgeous range of stylish and trendy sugar almond coloured and vibrant bright accessories. In beautiful packaging, these stunning products make fabulous gifts for the well-laid table. View the complete range at Living Interiors, Luqa Briffa Street, Gzira. Tel: 2134 1166. Starting from Lm3.95.

Bodum Eclia Bone China Dinner Set Bodum has created a wide variety of timeless, visually classic styles. In their modern and simple way their only purpose is to show your delicious creations from their best profile – their very own. You may view the complete range exclusively at Living Interiors, Luqa Briffa Street, Gzira. Tel: 2134 1166. Starting from Lm3.50.

Iittala Origo crockery sets have rapidly become a classic standing the test of everyday use over time. The shape of Iittala Essence wine glasses embodies the art of simplicity. Iittala Ego cups and saucers offer coffee culture a modern perspective. Starting from Lm1.85. Wedding lists accepted at Core, Upper Valley Road, B’Kara. Tel: 2144 3449. www.core.com.mt

A range of stylish, squared white fine porcelain dinner sets and large platters, which may also be purchased individually are available at Junction 66, Tower Road, Sliema and Arkadia, Gozo. Tel: 2133 4451.

DELECTABLE IDEAS Homeworks18 Book.indb 15

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HOMEIDEAS

A wide variety of soft furnishings available at Tanti Interiors, including a vast choice of upholstery fabrics with armchairs starting from Lm95.00. A new range of lamps is now also in stock. Visit it us at Tanti Interiors, 52, Mrabat Street, Sliema , SLM 13. Tel/Fax: 2133 0094.

Schelly chairs are available in over 60 different fabrics and leathers. BoConcept’s current offer means a great deal on this fantastic chair in white or red leather. H87cm x W83cm x D93. At Lm35.00 monthly (x12), one of these can be yours. Available at BoConcept, San Gwann. Tel: 2137 8011/12. www.boconcept.com.mt

ROWINA lift reclining armchair. The ideal armchair for your total control and comfort at a touch of a button. This model offers a full reclining position or lifting position electronically. Available in black, green, brandy and beige top buffalo leather starting from Lm299.00. Manual versions are also available at Lm170.00. Value Direct, 180, St.Paul’s Street, St.Paul’s Bay. (Veccja Area) Tel: 2157 8597 / 9949 9337.

Quattro Corner Sofa, available in over 60 fabrics/ leathers and more than 8,000 combinations. A timeless design customizable to any personal or family oriented space. H78cm x W281 x D233cm. Sofa combination in image, from Lm60.00 monthly (x18). Available at BoConcept, San Gwann. Tel: 2137 8011/12. www.boconcept.com.mt

One of the latest additions to the Chateau d’Ax range of settees is the Loren model. Quality, craftsmanship and superior materials make the Chateau d’Ax collection of outstanding value. Chateau d’Ax uses only unique first grade leathers. Prices starting from Lm593 (inc. VAT, delivery and installtion).For a wider range of settees and furniture visit the Fino showroom in Mriehel or visit www.fino.com.mt. Tel: 2144 0735.

Hero Sofa in Micro fibre fabric with removal covers. Mirror image also available. H87cm x W280cm x D180cm. Comfort, value and design for Lm42.00 monthly (x18). Available at BoConcept, San Gwann. Tel: 2137 8011/12. www.boconcept.com.mt

The right sofa can last a lifetime and selecting it should be a carefully considered process. Visit the all-new Shopping Complex, opening soon at Fgura, where you will find a wide range of three, two and one-seaters, with/without chaise lounge in leather, microfibre and the latest fabrics. B4, Fgura. Tel : 2180 1092. B4, Mosta. Tel: 2143 2003.

COMFY TITLE IDEAS 017

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ROCK N' ROLL A FAMILY FIGHTS FOR AN UNLIKELY RENOVATION IN A CAVE. CHERYL O’MEARA-SIMS TALKS TO THE SAMMUTS ABOUT TRIALS, TRIBULATIONS AND TRIUMPHS.

PHOTOS MAS STYLING CHERYL O’MEARA-SIMS

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‘ROCKY RIDGE’ IS AN UNUSUAL BUILDING DUE TO THE FACT THAT THE BULK OF ITS LIVING SPACES ARE FORMED FROM NATURAL HILLSIDE CAVES. The adjacent building, that houses the kitchen, bathroom and study, was added on some time after the Sammuts acquired the plot 15 years ago. Creating a building that would work with the natural formation of the rock was never going to be easy. Tony’s sensitive selection of materials such as the reclaimed stone has given the building a softer, aged effect that works perfectly with the texture of the rock. Before you approach ‘Rocky Ridge’ your

attention is immediately drawn to the textural garden landscaping surrounding the building. The planting varies enormously to include cacti, palms and a colourful array of both indigenous and cultivated flower varieties. This has the effect of the whole plot blending seamlessly into the surrounding countryside. Toni Sammut worked patiently and carefully to create a well designed family home. When the

plot was first acquired it was a bombsite of rubble and mess. The age of the original cave inhabitants can be dated back to 1867 due to an inscription in the rock face. The land had been left to ruin and animals were kept in the caves that now house the living room, bedrooms and chill out room. The Sammuts clear vision left them undaunted by the task ahead. The only concerns they had would be the potential problems in obtaining planning permission in order to realise their dream. It took nearly two years to obtain planning permission and complete the build. “Dealing with the planning authority takes a lot of patience and determination. Many times we nearly gave up with frustration,” says Joyce, Tony’s wife. A full survey is always advisable when taking on a project of this scale, especially where natural formations such as caves are concerned. The Sammuts employed an architect to verify the site, 021

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HOMEWORKS 'THERE ARE MANY ADVANTAGES TO CAVE DWELLING, THE NATURAL INSULATIVE PROPERTIES ARE A DISTINCT ADVANTAGE TO ENERGY CONSERVATION.'

The Sammut's make the most of their 180O views having three distinct outdoor entertaining areas.

including the foundations, and put their ideas into a solid plan before Tony could start work. Unusual projects of this type need a lot of careful forethought and consideration. Tony’s methodical approach is demonstrated in the quality of the build. He kept his eye on the aesthetics from the outset, his attention to detail is apparent at every turn. Simple additions such as installing electricity had to be carefully considered. Cables were chased into the rock face then covered with a unique cement mix to mimic the rock and disguise any disturbances. There are many advantages to cave dwelling, the natural insulative properties are a distinct advantage to energy conservation. The natural sound insulation creates a peaceful calming atmosphere, away from the elements. For these reasons, man has chosen the cave as his habitat for as long as we have existed and will always continue to utilise these natural formations. Where sound insulation used to protect us from wild animals it now protects us from traffic noise! It’s important to work with, rather than fighting against, any awkward elements that may arise. A bit of creative thinking can turn a problem into a unique feature. In the cavernous rooms where animals were once housed there are the old feeding troughs. Rather than trying to cover these, the Sammuts have turned them into design features with up lighters, mirrors and willow sticks. Another feature that the Sammuts worked around was the flow of water that falls over the exterior rock face into the courtyard during the winter. 023

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IT’S ABOUT CLARIFYING THE PRINCIPALS OF YOUR OWN PERSONAL BRIEF AND BLENDING THAT WITH YOUR STARTING POINT SO YOU CAN WORK TO FIND YOUR ULTIMATE PERSONAL SOLUTION.

Contemporary styling works well with old world features.

Rather than re-channelling the water, they created drainage for the water to continue flowing down the hill. They now enjoy their very own water feature in the shape of a natural waterfall running over the rock face and into their courtyard – another inspiring combination of nature and design working together. Room to room, there is a real mix of styles throughout the house, from contemporary to more traditional. This is due to the generational differences in tastes that often occur with older children living at home. Somehow the backdrop of the rough rock face in each of the rooms pulls the styles together as the common thread and connecting feature. The caves have a changing living feel to them. Lighting brings them alive as they change throughout the day.

An old watering basin from where the animals drank has been tastefully styled.

The clever positioning of windows in unusual places creates a flood of light at certain times of the day, bathing the rock in a honeyed hue and totally transforming the feel of the room from hour to hour. At night the position of ambient light and directional up lighters warms and highlights the irregular pitted texture of the rock.

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HOMEWORKS Boundaries of the exterior and interior are blurred and there are doors positioned in most rooms that can be thrown open on a sunny day to enable you to cross the courtyard, rather than use the corridor to reach opposing rooms. The use of flowers and plants both inside and out bring a sense of freshness to the living spaces. Where light is an issue, artificial trees are used to add a touch of greenery and bring the outdoors in. Why does this build feel so right? Good design shouldn’t be about ostentation. It’s about clarifying the principals of your own personal brief and blending that with your starting point so you can work to find your ultimate personal solution. With much consideration about how you can translate your needs into your given space, whether a conversion or new build, your project will naturally evolve into an amazing space that fits your lifestyle. Off the peg contemporary architecture has it’s place but if you want a design classic that will never date, taking a closer look at the Sammuts’ methodical approach and attention to detail can point you in the right direction. HW

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STOCKIST DETAILS: TALL ARTIFICIAL PLANT: IL QRONFLA LARGE MOCHA AND CREAM ONION VASES - RED GLASS CIRCULAR PLATTER - TALL BLACK VESSEL CANDY STRIPE VESSEL - CURVED, BRIGHT, GLASS CANDLE BOWLS, RED SPOTTED GLASS VASE: FARRUGIA BLUE AND WHITE PATTERNED CERAMIC BOWLS: CERACINA CERAMICS STUDIO

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PHOTOS: MAS STYLING & ARCHITECTURE: MARTIN XUEREB WORDS: LISA BORAIN 030

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HOMEWORKS

ADAPTATION AWARE

RENOVATED TWICE BY MARTIN XUEREB, THIS HOUSE IS OWNED BY A BRAVE COUPLE THAT KNOW THE COURAGE IT TAKES TO CONVERT.

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“I

am totally in love with my house! You know what it feels like to love your house? It’s great. you just want to be home all the time.”

Jo Anne Pace is positively esctatic about her home's recent conversion. This story is much akin to the shoemaker who had no shoes. Jo Anne has been the project manager of architect Martin Xuereb for roughly nine years. She has been in charge of many, many conversions, watching all sorts of houses go through the alteration of dreary to dazzling. She had wanted to convert her own home “for ages”, but just never seemed to be able to get around to focusing on her own space. She finally put her foot down about three years ago and decided to go ahead. The house was originally built in the 60’s. Jo Anne and Peter bought the house 14 years ago and asked Martin Xuereb to renovate it straight away. “Martin was a good friend of ours and he knew what to do with the space we had. It was so outdated when we bought it and Martin’s idea was to give it a real Mediterranean look and feel.” Three years ago they

decided to renovate again, this time a complete metamorphosis. “We changed absolutely everything, everything! I don’t think anything is the same. I wanted a more contemporary look, so the general layout had to change entirely. The important thing to me was that the space was both functional and comfortable. The way it was, the sitting room was with the dining room and it was formal and not very realistic. It was neither practical nor comfortable in the slightest. The living room was tiny and awkward. Now that we’ve used the garage space to open it up, it’s so much more spacious.” From working with Jo Anne for so long, Martin Xuereb knew her taste and what she needed: “Jo Anne’s problem was that she wanted a bigger space and was restricted by a very traditional house with the dining and sitting area on its own. The kitchen didn’t have a pantry so there was a lot of clutter. The entrance hall was met by a wall, which means there was no perspective and the hall looked really small.

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1. The garage space was blocked off by a wall, leaving very little space for the living area. 2. The entrance hall was met by a wall, which means that there was no perspective and the hall looked really small. 3. The kitchen was full of clutter without a pantry or storage space. 032

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HOMEWORKS

Even the sofa was upholstered to fit in with the conversion.

“Jo Anne’s problem was that she wanted a bigger space and was restricted by a very traditional house with the dining and sitting area on its own.“

The wall between the former sitting room and the garage was knocked down to create this space. 033

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HOMEWORKS

Jo Anne had beautiful antique furniture that I didn’t want to ignore. The idea was to blend whatever she had that was permanent with modern items. I wanted to keep the décor mostly neutral to create the modern feel, but I also wanted to put touches of bright colours here and there. Not only does this make the space interesting, but it also keeps the door open to future change. You can keep everything and just change the small things when you get fed up.” Even the sofa's height was increased and it was re-upholstered to a neutral brown. A bright orangey-red chair became the focus of the sitting room, alongside a Jackie Xuereb (Martin’s daughter) painting that hangs above the sofa. The entire basement was gutted and a garage was put in. The existing garage became an extension to the living room, opening up the space and making it appear more open-plan. The dining room had two doors on the side that were turned into large indoor apertures and another door was cut into the wall. This part of the house is home to the antique pieces, making it the only area that is not entirely contemporary. By adding the windows and door, the antiques don’t have to battle with the design; a smooth fusion makes it all harmonious. Jo Anne says: “I inherited a lot of antique pieces so I got rid of what I didn’t like and kept what I did. This is the hard part. I think this is something a lot of people have a hard time doing.

The brief for the kitchen conversion was to get rid of the clutter as well as to section off different areas without having to block anything off.

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"You have to fight your own sentiment in the name of design, of being comfortable in your own space. You have to be brave and it’s necessary if you want a complete conversion. There were some things that I just wasn’t willing to let go of... the dining table for example, I inherited it from my grandmother and I love it. It’s essential for me to have a big dining table because I like having lots of people over. If I’m going to entertain at all, it might as well be for a lot of people!“ The lighting was also a very vital part to the change – not only did it so heavily control the atmosphere, but it also helped to divide the spaces.

“YOU HAVE TO FIGHT YOUR OWN SENTIMENT IN THE NAME OF DESIGN, OF BEING COMFORTABLE IN YOUR OWN SPACE.”

Martin says, “I connected the living room and the kitchen with lights and soffits. I do this a lot when I need a subtle space fusion. Through the lighting and the soffits, I achieved a continuous flow of areas. It really helped divide the room and the various heights are for the different uses of the rooms – for example, the ceiling is lower for the eating area and higher for the cooking area. The living room is also slightly divided in this way.” The terrace was changed and given a curve so that there would be a lot more space for the family to actually enjoy. This is what the conversion was all about for Joanna – she wanted a home which she felt comfortable in and which the family could relax in. “We haven’t converted the upstairs bedrooms yet, but that’s my next big challenge...straight after I finish with these projects that I’m currently working on!” HW

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Solar Solutions

IF WE HAVE ONE RESOURCE THAT’S AMPLE, IT’S SUNSHINE. SOLAR PANEL IMPORTER DANIEL TALMA TELLS HOMEWORKS ALL THE THINGS WE NEED TO KNOW BEFORE MAKING THE DECISION TO OPT FOR SOLAR ENERGY.

PHOTOS: MAS

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hotovoltaic cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. When sunlight strikes a PV cell, electrons are dislodged, creating an electrical current. Photovoltaic cells power many of the small calculators and wristwatches in use every day. More complex systems provide electricity to pump water, power communications equipment light homes, and run appliances. Beyond the utility power line, PV is often the lowestcost means to provide electricity, and almost always simplest and cleanest to operate.

electricity at the rate of one kilowatt (1000 watts) for one hour. So, for one unit, a 40W (watt) lamp will light continuously for 25 hours and a 1000W (1 kilowatt) heater will provide heat for one

Originally from the Netherlands, Daniel Talma has been living in Malta for two years. When he arrived he was very surprised that solar power was not always used. Although in the Netherlands they don’t have as much sun as in Malta, they use solar power on a large scale.

For domestic use, Enemalta charges the following tariffs (including the surcharge) per year: meter and consumption charge on the first 600 units is Lm12.00 per year. The second block varies according to number of persons in the household: 2c (+ 67.5%) = 3,35c/kWh 4c (+ 67.5%) = 6,7 c/kWh 4,5c (+ 67.5%) = 7,54 c/kWh

“I decided that when I moved here, I would try to change that. Malta has so much available sun – it is ideal for solar energy. I think there is a myth that a PV system is too expensive or does not pay back. Daniel spent a lot of time talking to the government, giving information to people, attending environmental fairs and generally trying to spread the word. “A lot of energy went into talking to the government and these talks resulted in new incentives for PV systems. It is worth the effort to me. This is my contribution to the environment.” How normal energy works financially: Normally, one unit is consumed by using

hour. The cost of each unit varies according to category (domestic, commercial or industrial) and to the prevailing tariffs. A fuel surcharge of 67.5% on the billed consumption of water and electricity is added to the bill. This surcharge is to be revised on a bi-monthly basis to reflect international fuel price fluctuations.

Where the solar part comes in financially... An example for a two persons household: Your yearly consumption: 12000 kWh Your bill: Lm 815.86 1050 units @ 3,35c = Lm 35.17 5350 @ 6,7c = Lm 358.45 5600 @ 7,54c = Lm 422.24 If you install a PV system that would generate 3000 kWh per year, then you would cut the top part of your bill by 3000 kWh, which means a saving of Lm 226.20 per year. The more the Enemalta kWh price rises, the more you save. For everything above 6,400 units, you are paying the highest rate of 7,54c. By using a PV system you can reduce the electricity consumption that will affect the highest bracket of your bill.

Demonstration project on vertical facade PV systems. These arew typically used on building facades. 041

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A lot of people work during the day, so when people are out, their solar energy can be sold to Enemalta. When you come back home, you buy it back for the same price. This is called net metering. In the unlikely event that you produce more electricity then you consume, (so your bill would be lower then zero) you will receive a credit in your account for the surplus units exported to the national network at the rate of 3 cents per kWh. With good quality components the average lifetime of a PV system is around 25 years and good quality panels have a performance guarantee for the first 25 years but will most probably live longer. Inverters have a design lifetime of about 20 years. A 1kWp PV System will produce at least 1400 kWh per year. If you multiply this by 25 (years), you get 35,000 kWh. If you divide that by the initial costs, then solar energy costs on average around 6,4-7c per kWh. The advantage is that it is always going to remain at this price, whereas normal energy prices are always going to rise. COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS... A common misconception is that your conventional energy can be completely replaced with solar power. This is not the case. Solar power only replaces 10-40% of what one usually consumes, all depending on the size

of the consumption. The lower your energy consumption, the more you save. Solar energy is not a back-up system. When the main electricity is off, so is the PV system. The questions you have to ask yourself before investing in solar are: How much do I want to invest in solar? How much do I want to save off of my bill? What kind of roof do I have? (Is mine all flat and facing south, or is it tilted and facing north?) The best thing to do is to check the roof in the morning and in the evening to make sure it’s in the sun. It’s vital that it’s always in the sun, facing south at the right angle to get maximum power. Don’t listen to anyone that tells you otherwise! INCENTIVES.... Under EU regulations, 5% of energy must be renewable by 2010. At the moment, our renewable energy is very low, so the government is offering aid to help promote solar energy. Along with the introduction of net metering, the government incentive (for private use) when you choose to invest in a PV system is that you get 20% of your investment back with a maximum of Lm500 if you install a 1kWp system. For the second kWp, you will get a maximum of Lm250 and if you install part of a second kWp you get it pro rato. Enemalta changes the metre free of charge.

“OF COURSE, THE BIGGEST INCENTIVE OF ALL IS TO HELP THE ENVIRONMENT AND CREATE A CLEANER, SAFER PLANET FOR ALL.” A solar powered street light 043

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ENERGY SAVING

YOU DON’T HAVE TO INVEST IN SOLAR POWER TO HELP THE ENVIRONMENT. HERE ARE SOME ENERGY SAVING TIPS THAT CAN BE FOLLOWED BY ALL:

PV panels are available in a multitude of colours. 044

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+ Switch off all standby equipment such as TV radios DVD. + Switch off all power supplies not being used, such as chargers for mobile. + Fill the electrical kettle only with the required amount of water. + Paint the roof of the house in white to reduce heat absorption by roofs, especially in summer. Special insulation material can also be used. + Check distribution panels for lose connections; lose connections can increase currents and also heat. + Rectify heat problems from electrical wires. Warm wires mean that that you are wasting electrical energy to heat. + Insulate walls that are single and open for the north facing winds so you decrease the heat loss in winter. + Insulate the roof by means of insulation to reduce the direct summer heat from the sun. If the roof is ready + Switch off thAe TV when you are not watching it + Replace your old CRT computer monitors by TFT ones. TFT uses less energy, and do not generate much warmth, which means that your airconditioning does not have to cool the room so much in summer. + Portable computers use less energy then towers (and have the advantage of being immune to power cuts). + Use a dehumidifier in winter. The dryer the house, the easier it is warmed. And it is much better for your health. + Close doorways so as to avoid cool/warm air movements. + Clean electrical boilers from limestone build-up and set the temp to more than 60C. Switch off the supply during the night and when the premises are empty. Put a timer on your boiler. Depending on the size and use, you only need to switch it on every night for 1-3 hours. + Buy low energy consumption equipment like light bulbs, LED lights. Most electrical equipment has an energy consumption label nowadays. + Clean electrical supply lines form electrical harmonics. + Nowadays homes can make use of special equipment to enable better use of energy, as well as experience energy savings in real monetary terms. Remember that preventive maintenance is one of the best measures towards energy saving. HW

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HOMEWORKS

DESIGNER MARIA SCERRI REDESIGNS A DUPLEX MAISONETTE WITH AN EMPHASIS ON FUNCTION AND PRACTICALITY OF SPACE .

Simply Smart

PHOTOS: KURT ARRIGO WORDS & DESIGNER: MARIA SCERRI

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arah and Sean are expecting. It’s not that they weren’t pleased with their previous Mediterranean rustic style duplex maisonette; it’s just that they wanted to make things as simple as possible for when the baby came. The couple were interested in a contemporary style with an emphasis on functionality and practicality of space. The brief was quite extensive; they wanted to re-design the entrance, change the existing stair material leading to mezzanine, the flooring had to be practical and not stain, the kitchen needed to be more contemporary and practical, the existing living room needed a bar as well as more storage space (as their spare bedroom that was previously utilised as a box room for brooms, buckets etc. was to be transformed into the baby’s room). Probably the most important request was to add

recessed wall light fittings as there wasn’t enough light in the sitting room. Major changes, such as the extension of the upper level room by utilising part of the existing roof had to be carried out with the result of abundant light, sound and comfort. The total area of internal space was 135sqm, with the external area being 65sqm. As Sarah and Sean had to move out temporarily during the conversion, my major concern was to keep to the deadline date. After I devised several concepts furniture layouts to study the space and its circulation, I decided to remove the stairs from their existing central location and have the living areas reading as one large open space. As the stairs were partitioning the kitchen from living room, they shifted location a few times, until after due consideration to the

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furniture concept and budget, it was decided that best position for the staircase was directly above the stairs going up to the first level. They were cast in concrete in a serrated manner as a feature for the underside, as well as to give texture to the very clean space. Once the position of the stairs, and therefore the furniture layout was concluded, further brainstorming was carried out for furniture detailing, which had been presented in sketch form. On the first floor, the existing mezzanine was extended in order to increase the floor area as well as link the mezzanine to the rear roof. The double height space was maintained and modulated for the best transmission of natural and artificial lighting between the two floors, as well as maintaining a visual link between the two floors and creating vertical interest. The project was a combination of

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bought items and custom-made units. Previously agreed with Sarah and Sean in the furniture layout, the kitchen was bought, while custommade items were designed to carry on visually with the kitchen; to look like they were a complementary continuation of what was purchased. For example, the kitchen was designed to have customised cupboards with relatively large storage space for carpets, heaters, hanging coats and a broom cupboard. The lower unit had smaller shelves designed to store photo albums, an extra set of plates, etc. The TV unit also needed to have a lot of storage space but also had to incorporate a plasma screen, DVD, amp, a drinks cabinet, open shelving for frames and small decorative objects. For the shelving, I opted for Wenge timber in order to break the length

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1. The top floor had to be designed as a completely different ambience. 2&3. The removal of the stairs was necessary for the creation of the living areas to become one large open space. 050

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The kitchen needed to be more contemporary and practical. 051

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HOMEWORKS and uniformity of the white unit as well as to give it a richer look by using a dark, warm material. The unit hangs on metal supports above and below, to carry its weight and also all the stored items. Strip lighting on the underside of the unit helps emphasize the gap, giving the effect that the unit is floating, as well as lighting up items placed on the timber platform. The unit depth is 550mm. However, this depth is camouflaged by use of vertical gypsum wall lining, which also covers the metal supports, thus having a practical as well as an aesthetic function. The small internal yard next to the living room, which originally had a chamfered edge, was squared off and replaced by laminated opaque glass, becoming a feature and a light box at night, giving a warm glow to the sitting and dining room when the lights are out. This is excellent when watching TV. The top floor was designed to have a completely different feel – light and airy with a sense of elevation and space. The floor was covered in a white, self-levelling resin that was chosen for its ease of cleaning, durability and stain-resistance as well as its aesthetic features. Light timber was used for the timber units upstairs to further emphasise the lightness and to contrast with downstairs, almost taking you away entirely from the warmth of the grey floor and warm, dark timber on the floor below. Sarah and Sean wanted a bar and a rinsing sink upstairs by the terrace for rinsing plates in summer when the roof would be used for barbecues. The bar was cast in situ in concrete, left raw and varnished to contrast with the whiteness of the resin floor. The end product resulted in a sequence of space and light effects varying in mood, from warm and serene to cool and vivid. The direction was to create a space that could carry off various mood settings, depending on the occasion and situation. HW The couple wanted a bar and sink by the terrace. The bar was cast in situ in concrete left raw and varnished to contrast with the whiteness of the resin floor. STOCKIST DETAILS CANDLES : GALA CANDLES BY THE LAWN CO. LTD. CUSHIONS : BO CONCEPT PLANTS : PETER CALAMATTA NURSERY THROW : BIGGIE BEST 053

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HOMEIDEAS

Ideal for the living room, bedroom or dining room, this chandelier compliments the other shown. Wall lights, table lamps and floor lamps also available. See the full range at Degabriele Gift Shop, Zabbar Road, Paola. Price starting from Lm32.00. Tel: 2169 6945.

A variety of ornaments from the world famous “SIA”. Come and have a look at this vast range at Ambiente, San Gwann. Starting from Lm7.95. Tel : 2137 6481.

Organise and re-use your shopping bags with the Sac-Soc. Simply load your plastic bags into the top end of the Sac-Soc and remove them from the bottom, one at a time, whenever you need one! The Sac-soc holds up to 80 bags and is available in a variety of colours in a cotton (Lm2.35) or tapestry (Lm2.75) finish. Great for the home, office, boat and outdoor recreation. Available at Cosas, 7, St. Paul Str., Naxxar (Tel: 2142 1110), Fond Ghadir, Sliema (Tel: 2131 4498), and Arkadia, Gozo (Tel: 2210 3000).

A rustic/classic light aimed mainly for the kitchen / living area. Also available with one and three lights. Apply at Degabriele Gift Shop, Zabbar Road, Paola. Price starting from Lm32.00. Tel: 2169 6945.

Aimbry 2006 collection. Just arrived, sophisticated and stylish lighting for your home. Combining great looks and exceptional value to enhance any home. Lampshade No 670: Lm23.75. See the range at Contemp, 119, Naxxar Road, B’Kara. Tel. 2144 2116 Iittala Tools are a high quality range of pots and pans. Stunning design suitable for a variety of cooking techniques including induction hobs. Iittala cutlery represents simplicity of form balanced by sensual oval handles and intriguing diagonal prongs of the fork. Starting from Lm1.58. Wedding lists accepted at Core, Upper Valley Road, B’Kara. Tel: 2144 3449. www.core.com.mt

These white ASA vases are highly versatile, with clean, minimalist lines. Either free standing or suitable to decorate any piece of furniture, they are available from the Domestica Showroom at Valley Road, Birkirkara. Priced from Lm6.77. Tel: 2144 7604. Website: www.domestica.com.mt.

INSPIRATIONAL IDEAS 057

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GO FOR

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GREEN HAVE WE REACHED STALEMATE IN OUR STEPS TOWARDS RECYCLING ? WHILE WE’RE STILL AT THE TIP OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEM, ZILLAH BUGEJA FINDS THAT THE PUBLIC MIGHT ACTUALLY CARE.

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nce in a blue moon there’s a water cut and we creatively reuse the liquid that has suddenly become more precious than champagne. But once the shortage is over, do we go back to our old habits? Recycling has a regretfully nerdy connotation. Chances are you would have turned the page if I had used The Word in the title. It’s a turn-off. Guilt combined with frugality equals boring. Then there is the feeling of uselessness, that the little you can do is just a drop in the ocean.

However, every little does count. Being proactive may not yet be cool, but it is politically correct, and everyone who does care is already doing something about it, collecting firewood from the beach, taking their own egg box to the grocer’s or writing on both sides of a sheet of paper. The only waste recycled locally on an official level is organic waste, which is turned into compost at the Sant Antnin Waste Treatment Plant and clean white office paper waste, which is recycled into tissue products by Paper Malta Ltd. The rest of the waste being collected separately, including tyres and electronics, is sorted, pre-treated and exported for recycling. WasteServ, the official entity responsible for waste, has around 50 Bring-in Sites for the public to deliver plastic, paper, glass and metal. However, Friends of the Earth (Malta) feel that the Bring-In Sites are too few. “A door-to-door collection system would cater for people who are unable to leave their homes and a collection system for organic waste would easily create compost.” During an EU funded project implemented in Pembroke and L-Iklin, FoE (Malta) imported and sold over 100 compost bins. “FoE (Malta) believes that should an adequate waste collection system be in place, more peopleould start separating their waste.” Dr Adrian Grima, coordinator of Inizjamed, separates waste at home in Pembroke ‘with a passion ever

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BEING PROACTIVE MAY NOT YET BE COOL, BUT IT IS POLITICALLY CORRECT AND EVERYONE WHO DOES CARE IS ALREADY DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT ...

since the scheme started’. For his two sons, Samwel 8, and Rafel 5, separating waste is ‘absolutely normal‘. Christine Debono, winner of the 2003 Baileys Woman of the Year, does what she can, by taking glass, plastic and paper to any of ‘the big skips’. She laments the inconvenience of taking office waste paper to the Sant’ Antnin plant during working hours. At the University, however, used paper and batteries are collected by Sant’Antnin staff once a month and office equipment parts are reused as spares.

In the private sector, one company is leading the way. The Edible Oil Group of Companies recently won second place in The World Challenge, a worldwide competition organised by the BBC recognising projects that benefit the environment. EORC collects burnt up edible oil and turns it into Biodiesel. Before this scheme, all the burnt-up edible oil would finish up in our sewers and the sea. All diesel cars produced after 1993 can use this environmentally friendly fuel and Edible Oil’s delivery trucks and company cars have been

doing so for three years. A friend of mine who runs his Mercedes on Biodiesel, even claims his car is now running better and more economically than ever. What about the schools? Charlot Cassar, head of St Edward’s College Middle and Senior School, explains this school’s proactive stance. “It is all about creating awareness. I cannot expect every scrap of paper to be recycled, but if in the future these children have their own businesses, or a say in the matter, then this awareness will surely

bear fruit. Our boys have access to recycle bins for paper and plastic, including basins for paper in individual classrooms. Last year we recycled 80kg of paper.” Dr Paul Pace B.Ed.(Hons.) M.Ed., Ph.D. (Brad.) who lectures and conducts research in Environmental Education and Science Education, gives his views on the ideal recycling situation. “The removal from the market of products packaged in non-recyclable materials, and a reduction in the cost of

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recycled materials is absolutely doable. Yet some industrialists and importers consider environmental concerns as trivial mpared to economic gains.” What is the biggest obstacle to the success of recycling endeavours: practical considerations or people’s mindset? “If the people’s mindset is right, most of the measures would not be considered an added burden but as a welcomed suggestion.”

Being affluent should no longer be ‘in’ and it is definitely not responsible behaviour. We need to distinguish between striving for an improved quality of life (which we should all be working towards) and a high standard of living (which we should avoid). Sustainable development is the name of the game: developing without jeopardizing the opportunity of others (whether present or in the future) to do so as well. Hence decisions need to strike a balance between

environmental concerns, societal concerns and economic concerns. “All of the world’s environmental problems are the direct result of unsustainable lifestyles seeking immediate gratification over respect for others and social justice. These lifestyles have resulted in situations in which one third of the world is dying due to diseases caused by overeating... while the other two thirds are dying of hunger!“ HW

Is ‘buying smarter’ just as important as recycling? “It is more important. Our main strategy should be waste minimization. Most effort is focused on the last of the 3 Rs: recycling. The first two (Reduce and Reuse) are things that we can do without any resources.” Do we need legislation and fines for recycling to be practiced everywhere? ”What is really needed is coordinated action and effective environmental education campaigns that aim at building pro-environmental values rather than just providing information.” So, can the man in the street be persuaded to recycle when he is just getting used to being affluent? “That is the whole point.

DO YOU RECYCLE? Answer the following survey and WIN a stainless steel rubbish bin from Topline's Gifts & More. Do you recycle: O Glass O Paper O Plastic O Metal

How do you recycle? __________________________ __________________________ _______________________ Have you been educated on the subject of recycling? If so, how? __________________________ __________________________ _______________________ Do you find that there is a lot of opportunity to recycle in Malta? __________________________ __________________________ _______________________

HW

Send your answers to: Recycling Questionnaire, Writeon ltd., PO BOX 48, Msida or email at info@writeon.com.mt

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HOMEIDEAS The new ethnic collection from LEONARDO CALABASH VASESA is a range of three transparent orange / red uniquely shaped vases with integrated black coloured spots, together with a spherical base and an elliptical neck, which gives the idea of tribal drums. These vases range from a floor vase, which brings out the ambience of any home, to the smallest for more of a subtle option. Exclusively available at Junction 66, Tower Road, Sliema and Arkadia, Gozo. Tel : 2133 4451.

Bajada Solar Systems, with over 20 years experience in renewable energy, can offer a wide range of renewable energy products such as photovoltaics, wind turbines, pool heating and air conditioning. Bajada Group represent top renewable energy brands, thus ensuring quality, reliability and a guaranteed after sales service. Starting from Lm200.00. Contact Bajada Solar Systems at 103, Valletta Road, Paola. Tel. 2169 7629. www.bajadagroup.com

Solistar solar heaters employ injected high-density polyurethane insulation of 50kg/cbm, ensuring minimal heat loss from the stainless steel water storage tank. This translates to minimal use of electricity, which is essential to maximise returns on your investment. With a five-year warranty and the back up of a reliable supplier, your investment will be secure for years to come. Solistar products may be viewed at B&M Bathrooms, situated on the B’kara by-pass. Systems starting from Lm495.00. Tel: 2144 0710. www.bmsupplies.com

Simply beautiful pictures by Camelot. Every image is created with a textured finish. Camelot has launched their fantastic new range, now available at Contemp, 119, Naxxar Road, B’Kara. Tel. 2144 2116. Panel No 217: Lm55.00

Get that sleek parquet look with these innovative wooden rugs. Now available in various shades and sizes at affordable prices starting from Lm9.95 by Gifts&More at Topline St.Andrew’s Rd., St.Andrew’s. Tel: 2137 2256.

Stem Interiors offer a new design concept for the individual. From statement lighting to bespoke furniture made in a variety of woods, you will find inspirational ideas to fulfil a modern lifestyle. Coming soon to Stem Interiors is the latest collection of wallpapers and fabrics by Harlequin. Black chandelier: Lm195.00. Stem Interiors, Hughes Hallett St., Sliema. Tel: 2133 2019.

Cheval mirror “My Way”. Dimensions 160 x 66 x 66. Price Lm 158.00. Available at Design House, Sir Adrian Dingli Street, Sliema. Tel: 2134 6474.

MISCELLANEOUS IDEAS 067

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SEA THE FISH

HILTON MALTA’S EXECUTIVE CHEF, JOE VELLA, SHOWS US HOW TO CHOOSE AND PREPARE FRESH FISH

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FISH.

PHOTOS: MAS

hen you buy a large whole fish, it is usually sold gutted with the head left on. When choosing the size, expect that the fish will lose around half its weight through filleting and skinning. Smaller whole fish, such as Trout or a small Sea Bass, weigh 300-400g and one fish is enough per person. For flat fish, such as Sole, allow 300-340g per person.

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open when tapped briskly with the back of a knife. Pull out the beards from the side of the mussels.

FRESH FISH IS EITHER BOUGHT WHOLE, GUTTED OR CUT INTO FILLETS OR PIECES. THE FOLLOWING

SQUID - An unprepared squid,

Joe Vella After all the fins have been cut off with a pair of kitchen scissors and the fish has been gutted, scaling is done with a sharp knife. Scaling is best done from the tail towards the head with a suitable blade or a special fish scaler. The belly of the fish is then cut open with due attention being paid to the innards. Its dark parts should be removed with a small brush and small sharp knife. To fillet a fish, take a sharp knife and make an incision into the skin along one side of the spine, from the head to the tail. Release the flesh whilst running the knife along the central backbone. Then turn the fish over to repeat the procedure from the other side To remove the skin from a fillet, place it with the skin facing downwards on a work surface. With one hand, hold the tail firmly and insert the knife between the skin and flesh. Move the knife in a sawing movement from tail to head, keeping the fish as flat as possible. Keeping the skin taut at the same time, gradually peel it away.

LOBSTER - A lobster at around 700g in its shell will feed 2 for a starter; one at 400-500g will provide one main course. Some of the lobsters we get here in Malta are imported (usually from Canada), while others are caught near St. Paul’s islands.

weighing 175g serves one person as a starter. As a main course allow 2 the same size or a larger one of about 300g per person. Cleaning: Rinse the squid. Pull the head and tentacles away from the body and the innards should come out at the same time. Run a finger inside the body to check that it is clean, and rinse briefly. Cut off the tentacles above the eye, squeeze out the beak and rinse.

CRITERIA SHOULD BE OBSERVED TO ENSURE THE BEST QUALITY FOR ALL FISH:

FRESH, CLEAN AROMA LIGHT PUPILS SPRINGY FIRM FLESH

RECIPE

CASSOULET OF PRAWNS WITH VEGETABLES INGREDIENTS 10g Chopped onions 1 Teaspoon fresh cream 5g Crushed garlic 50g Fresh red prawns 10g Zucchini Teaspoon chopped coriander 1 2 Teaspoons Crayfish sauce Slice Grilled zucchini Puff pastry case 1 Balsamic reduction Salt and pepper

METHOD - Heat the saucepan with some olive oil. Start cooking the onions and garlic until soft, put the zucchini and prawns in for 3 minutes, add the Crayfish sauce and fresh cream. Finish off with some chopped coriander. To serve, heat the puff pastry case, pour the prawn mixture in the case, drizzle some balsamic reduction in the middle of the plate and position the grilled zucchini. Lay the case of prawns on top and serve immediately. HW

MUSSELS & CLAMS - Mussels and clams are sold by weight or capacity: 500g (equivalent to about a pint in old measures) yields around 16 mussels, which is the right amount for one person; a quart bag should be enough for 2 people. Cleaning: Rinse in a bowl of cold water and with a handful of sea salt, scrub the shells to remove any mud. Discard any broken clams or mussels and any that are open or that remain

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CELLAR N

ot all wines are ideal for storing. Many wines mature quickly and are at their best when drunk young (Pinot Grigio, Beaujolais, Valpolicella, Soave, Frascati, etc). In either case, the correct storage of all wines is important. Ideally, wines should be stored where the temperature is constant but cool. Avoid areas of direct sunlight, such as kitchens or anywhere where the temperature fluctuates considerably. Temperature, humidity, stability and darkness are the key factors to the successful storing and maturing of wines. The ideal temperature for storing a wine is between 7--12° C. However, a gradual change that may increse up to 15° C is unlikely to affect the wine.

THE LUXURY OF HAVING A CELLAR IS SOMETHING THAT FEW ENJOY; YET IT IS IN A CELLAR THAT WINE IS TRADITIONALLY STORED TO MATURE AND REACH ITS PEAK. THE CELLAR HAS AN ENVIRONMENT WITH ALL THE ATTRIBUTES NECESSARY TO HELP A WINE DEVELOP, AND ALTHOUGH ALL OF THESE QUALITIES MAY NOT BE ATTAINABLE, BILL HERMITAGE OF DELICATA SHOWS US HOW TO SET STANDARDS THAT CAN BE ADAPTED TO THE PARTICULAR ‘STORAGE’ AREA YOU SELECT AT HOME.

The benefits of a cellar would be the insulation created by the soil surrounding it and the building above it, which would protect it from sudden fluctuations in temperature and excessive heat. If your storage area is at the top end of the scales, store the white wines below the reds, as the rising hot air will have less effect on the reds than the whites. Humidity is a characteristic of most underground cellars. Wine bottles closed with a cork should always be stored on their sides to keep the cork moist. If the cork were to dry out it would shrink slightly, allowing the ingress of air and oxidization of the wine. Excessively dry storage areas can also gradually dry out the cork and cause them to shrink. Wines closed with a screwcap should be stored upright. A humidifier is the technological answer for those without a cellar. Even keeping a bowl of damp sand, soil or gravel in your storage cupboard would help.

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HOMEWORKS Dampness also encourages a variety of fungal infestations, most of which are harmless to wines and can simply be wiped off. Never treat anything in your cellar or wine storage area with chemical fungicides, strong smelling chemicals, disinfectants etc., as the odour will penetrate both the cork and the capsule, affecting the taste of the wine. For the perfect maturation of wine, stability is all-important and a cellar usually has this natural attribute. Any movement or vibration of the wine will shake up the sediment thrown off by a maturing red wine. For those people without a cellar who want to store some wine for maturing, they should choose an area that is free from vibrations, draughts or sudden tremors. A good way to test an area is to stand a glass of wine or water on a level surface and watch for any ripples of concentric rings on the surface. Darkness is another natural attribute of a cellar. Light can be harmful to wines, especially to those in clear or pale bottles (e.g. Graves, White Burgundy, Sauterne and some Champagne, etc). Rose wines (although very few age) will change colour rapidly, taking on a brownish colour. Avoid storing wines directly under bright lights or fluorescent strips as the heat given off will damage the wine and speed up the maturation process. Similarly, the heat generated by machines such as fridge motors, cookers, washing machines, computers and televisions, should be taken into consideration when storing your wine at home, even on a temporary basis. Always bin or rack wines with the tops facing out, so that they are easier to identify from the capsules. This also enables you to keep an eye on the corks for any fungal or insect infestation that might occur.

CELLAR TIPS 1. MANY WINES MATURE QUICKLY AND ARE AT THEIR BEST WHEN DRUNK YOUNG. 2. WINES SHOULD BE STORED WHERE THE TEMPERATURE IS CONSTANT BUT COOL. 3. AVOID STORING WINE IN AREAS OF DIRECT SUNLIGHT OR ANYWHERE WHERE THE TEMPERATURE FLUCTUATES CONSIDERABLY. 4. TEMPERATURE, HUMIDITY, STABILITY AND DARKNESS ARE THE KEY FACTORS TO THE SUCCESSFUL STORING AND MATURING OF WINES. 5. THE IDEAL TEMPERATURE FOR STORING A WINE IS BETWEEN 7-12째 C. 6. WINE BOTTLES CLOSED WITH A CORK SHOULD ALWAYS BE STORED ON THEIR SIDES TO KEEP THE CORK MOIST. 7. WINES CLOSED WITH A SCREW CAP SHOULD BE STORED UPRIGHT. 8. NEVER TREAT ANYTHING IN YOUR CELLAR OR WINE STORAGE AREA WITH CHEMICAL FUNGICIDES, STRONG SMELLING CHEMICALS, DISINFECTANTS ETC. 9. TO STORE SOME WINE FOR MATURING, CHOOSE AN AREA THAT IS FREE FROM VIBRATIONS, DRAUGHTS OR SUDDEN TREMORS. 10. AVOID STORING WINES DIRECTLY UNDER BRIGHT LIGHTS OR FLUORESCENT STRIPS AS LIGHT AND HEAT ARE HARMFUL TO THEM. 11. ALWAYS BIN OR RACK WINES WITH THE TOPS FACING OUT, SO THAT THEY ARE EASIER TO

Finally, remember that hot air rises, so the top of your storage area will be the warmest. If you have to store wines there because of limited space, make it the full-bodied red ones, as they tend to be slightly more tolerant to heat. HW

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HOMEIDEAS The BoConcept Fahrenheit Mattress is a new ergonomic mattress that provides wellness and makes you feel re-energised. Let’s face it, you will spend around 8 hours a day on a mattress for the rest of your life. Fahrenheit mattresses are made frmo visco-elastic foam which adapts to your body, no matter your shape or body weight. From Lm239.00. You can also choose to pay over 12 months and get some great sleep now! What’s more they come with a 15 year limited warranty. Available at BoConcept, San Gwann. Tel: 2137 8011/12. www.boconcept.com.mt

Relax chaise lounge in Black Cava leather. This chaise comes with a convenient adjustable back and a swivel side table, the price Lm38.00 monthly (x8). H83cm x W176cm x D70cm. Available at BoConcept, San Gwann. Tel: 2137 8011/12. www.boconcept.com.mt

Floor lamp lounge “Five Fingers Economy”. Prices starting from

A wonderful collection of angels, figurines and ornamental plaques in which they each reveal a different expression and meaning through a simple placement of the hands, turn of the body or tilt of the head, exclusively available at Junction 66, Tower Road, Sliema and Arkadia, Gozo. Starting from Lm3.35 . Tel : 2133 4451.

Lm 140.00. Available at Design House, Sir Adrian Dingli Street, Sliema. Tel: 2134 6474.

For the stylish home Gemco are proud to present this new range of modern light fittings made in top quality glass and polished chrome, which comes in a full range of coordinating items.This fitting: Lm150.00. See the extensive range of light fittings at Gemco Ltd., Msida Valley Road, B’Kara. Tel: 2148 8919.

HI-TECH LUXURY AND STYLE Introducing the new SONY NWA3000 20GB MP3 Walkman. Beautiful and sexy body weighing just 182 grams, with long battery life of up to 35 hours. Unique incredible features will fascinate your demand for music listening and load up to 13,000 songs and play non-stop. Available in 2 colours (Violet and Silver), the new SONY NWA3000 not only incorporates a range of great features, it also offers the ultimate in ease of use through an appealing user interface and fantastic visibility. Priced at Lm166.00. Available from Forestals, Sliema (Tel: 2343 6205), Birkirkara (Tel: 2343 6206), Valletta (Tel: 2343 6249) and Matrix shops, Bisazza Street (Tel: 2343 6232) and Bay Street (Tel: 2343 6239). www.forestals.com, info@forestals.com

Wallart brings life to your walls. Any image you supply or choose from their catalogues can be printed on canvas and stretched to hang on the wall. Supply Wallart with your own photo and they will create a unique graphic style for you. A 60cmx90cm print will cost just Lm72.00. Tel: 2141 9820, 7991 4306. ed@keyworld.net

INNOVATIVE IDEAS 075

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HOMEIDEAS New ! Country LinenTM .Like a fresh, floral breath of spring air through an open window on a sunny day. Available from leading outlets in Malta and Gozo. Prices starting from Lm2.35. All ceramic items shown are also in stock. Trade enquiries: The Lawn Company Limited. Tel: 2138 0639, 9947 0926.

Want a floor that harmonises perfectly with your personal taste and style of living? Want a 20-year warranty? Want a floor that is easy to install and offers a wide range of colours and designs? Then Quick-Step is the answer to all your questions. For a free quotation or the new 2006 catalogue visit at Roxy Home Furnishings, 800, High Street, Hamrun. Tel: 2122 4537 or Email: info@roxyhome.com

Space saving, steel, drawer units also available in three drawers starting from Lm22.95.To view other styles of free standing units ideal for de-cluttering, bathrooms, offices or bedrooms visit Gifts&More at Topline St.Andrew’s Rd., St.Andrew’s. Tel: 2137 2256.

MONOCHROME MAGIC ....... Give your worktop the edge with this sophisticated mix of black & white accessories including Scales, Kettles, Espresso Pots, Knife Blocks, Bread Bins, Mug Trees ....and more. Available at Living Interiors, Luqa Briffa Street, Gzira. Tel: 2134 1166. Starting from Lm3.95.

The Collection of 12 Zodiac Figures was created by Christel for the Royal Copenhagen and are made in the finest white bisque porcelain. Featured here are Leo, Capricorn and Sagittarius. Each figure retails at Lm65.00 and are available at Gio. Batta Delia, Republic Street Valletta. Tel: 2123 3618, email: customerservice@giobat tadelia.com

Wireworks Oakwood Bathroom Range

What about relaxing on a leather reclining armchair whilst watching your favourite programme or reading your favourite newspaper after a day’s work, for just Lm95.00? Roxy Home Furnishings brings comfort to your home at affordable prices. Roxy Home Furnishings, 800, High Street, Hamrun. Tel: 2122 4537 or Email: info@roxyhome.com

Wireworks has an evolving collection of products for the home, designed and developed exclusively to inspire, satisfy and fulfill your expectations of the products you use everyday. View the complete Oakwood Bathroom Collection, exclusively at Living Interiors, Luqa Briffa Street, Gzira. Tel: 2134 1166. Starting from Lm29.95.

ELEGANT IDEAS 077

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HOMEIDEAS Bassetti at Fino Lifestyle The renowned Italian brand of bed, bath and table linen, Bassetti is now exclusively available from the new Fino Lifestyle Home Ideas store within the Fino showroom in Mriehel. Bassetti offer a wide range of linens including duvets, quilt covers, sheets, towels and even table runners. For a full range of Bassetti and other homerelated products, visit the newly opened outlet – Fino Lifestyle, in the heart of our showroom. Bassetti bed set Lm106 (inc VAT). Tel: 2144 0735

The Ypsilon professional range is designed to meet all bar needs, from traditional and fashionable bars to your home. A complete range of stemware and tumblers with an exclusive design to valorise every use. Prices start from Lm3.50 (set of 3). OK limited, Naxxar Rd., San Gwann. Tel: 2138 7495. Arkadia, Level 2, Fortunato Mizzi Str., Victoria, Gozo. Tel: 2155 8333.

B4 demands more from everything, and this is especially true of their ‘living space’. B4 offers timeless designs and sumptuous comfort in modern furniture, tailor made just for you! Go and see the wide range of designs, colours and fabrics at the new B4 Complex, opening soon in Fgura Tel : 2180 1092.

The advantage of installing a Maltezos Solar system is that the initial cost is recovered within 1 1/2 years of installation, with a 5-year guarantee. Maltezos solar ware heaters have been distributed in Malta through Satariano for the past 15 years with over 3,000 units installed. The range starts from Lm300.00 for their integrated system. For more details visit Satariano, Valley Road, B’Kara or call on 2149 2149.

L'occcitane. New harvest stocks now in. Starting from Lm0.50. Ambiente, San Gwann. Te: 2137 6481

Mirror Romance Dimensions: 103 x 70 x 2. Price Lm 110.00. Available at Design House, Sir Adrian Dingli Street, Sliema. Tel: 2134 6474.

Hand knotted rugs. Using the designs and colourations developed by the Brink & Campman design studio, these rugs are being knotted in Nepal. The pile is a blend of Tibetan and New Zealand wool. The woven collection is a cosy rich highpile carpet. Starting from Lm69.00. View rug gallery at Core, Upper Valley Road, B’Kara. Tel: 2144 3449. www.core.com.mt

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HOMEGARDEN

TREE TRANSPLANT IF A TREE HAS BEEN AROUND LONG ENOUGH, IT CAN ALMOST BECOME PART OF THE FAMILY. “DON’T LEAVE IT BEHIND, TAKE IT WITH YOU!” EMMANUEL PISCOPO SAYS. HE TELLS HOMEWORKS THE INS AND OUTS, SHOULDS AND SHOULD NOTS OF MOVING THOSE TREES. Although it may seem an enormous task, the process of transplanting can be done by yourself if the correct equipment is hired and the following guidelines are kept to. You have to realise that trees are heavy – a 30cm tree trunk is over 2 tons. It’s really essential to have good digging and lifting equipment. The first step is to dig out the tree. An established tree has roots everywhere; there are no unneccessary roots, they are all useful. When digging, quite a few roots have to be cut away. Balance the amount of leaves on the tree with the amounts of roots that you need. The leaves need to be hard-pruned, so that when the roots are cut, there will be a balance. The exception is palm trees – in the case of these, it is better to leave a lot of leaves on the tree, even though they will shrivel anyway. In digging out the tree, one needs to get a good-sized root bowl in relation to the trunk. A trunk that is 10cm in diameter will need a bowl of 60cm (30 cm on either side). For a trunk of 30cm, a root bowl of over 1m in diameter will be needed. In each case, go down a minimum of 60cm or if the soil is shallower, until you reach bedrock. An important point to remember when excavating is that if any uncovered roots are thicker than 2.5cm, they have to be carefully

sawn off and not just pulled away by digging machinery. To get to the desired root bowl, dig a bit bigger and further out so that if any roots are damaged, they can be cut back to the root bowl. It is imperative that no roots are left protruding or dangling off the root bowl. They have to be cut fresh, right up to the edge of the bowl. Roots that are left protruding will only die and even attract disease to the system of the tree. It is advisable that where the roots are cut, some rooting powder with fungicide is administered, as this will not only protect the roots from any fungi attacking it, but also encourage formation of new roots, which is vital for the success of the operation. For larger trees, it is advisable that the north side of the tree is marked before it is dug up. When it is transplanted to its new position, the orientation needs to be taken care of such that the side that was facing north is again facing north. This will counteract part of the stress of moving. Once transplanted, it is imperative that the tree is well staked so that it won’t sway in the wind. It needs to be watered regularly, especially during the first few weeks. It is advisable to water it on a daily basis. To ensure success, many American nurseries also put up sprinklers with a fine mist for

as long as the sun is up so that the tree can get as much water as possible. This ensures that any leaves still on the tree will not wilt and die, but instead the energy in the tree will be used to produce new roots. On transplanting, a good dressing of P2O5 (super phosphorus pentoxide) should be administered, as this encourages root formation. After the first three weeks, for another period of three weeks, watering should at least take place on alternative days, after which watering once a week should be enough. The time of transplanting will be dictated by the variety of the tree. The best time for Palms is from April to the end of July. The best time to transplant Cyprus and Pine trees is late August, September and October. Olive and Citrus trees can be transplanted throughout the year, except for July. One more very important point is that when planting, the depth should be the same level as it was before – it cannot be deeper or shallower. There are very few trees that wouldn’t mind deeper planting. There are even some trees that are not happy at all to be transplanted altogether (for example, Eucalyptus is very fussy about being moved about!). HW

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HOMEWORKS

HERALDS OF SPRING

WHAT'S IN BLOOM

1. DAFFODILS 2. BIRDS OF PARADISE 3. KALANCHOES 4. GAZONAS 5. PETUNIAS 6. GERANIUM

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QUESTIONS CONQUERED

THE SECTION WHEREBY READERS CAN HAVE THEIR DESIGN QUESTIONS ANSWERED PERSONALLY BY THE DESIGN EXPERTS. FOR YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED, WRITE IN TO: QUESTIONS CONQUERED, THE EDITOR, WRITEON LTD., P.O. BOX 48, MSIDA OR EMAIL ON: INFO@WRITEON.COM.MT

Q I am currently finishing my maisonette. My style is downright contemporary and I need advice about the colour scheme for the main bedroom. The furniture will be cherry laminate in colour and my idea was to use a sort of pale yellow for the walls to create a contrast with the rich cherry shade, having subtle touches of red in a painting on the wall behind the bed. Will this work or should I think of an alternative?

other way around. There are always other colours, such as a deep shade of cappuccino brown, using pendant directional halogen lights to create pools of light for a dramatic effect. You can also use natural calico window coverings using the painting that you have in mind and project a narrow spot onto it.

Jonathan Fenech

A

There are hundreds of shades of yellow. I do not suggest that you use a lemon yellow as I think in your case it should be warm.

The best shade should be a pale yellow with ochre tones or a creamy yellow, but first things first: you did not mention the curtains or the bed linen. It’s always easier to match paint with fabrics instead of the

Q We are about to get a new Ushaped kitchen of cherry wood, with stainless steel finishes (plint, handles, splash back and appliances). We will also have glass top cupboards and glass topped dining table with chairs in cherry and sprayed aluminium. The worktop is going to be postform magnolia with aluminium edge to compliment the rectified floor tiles of ivory colour (45 x 45). We would really appreciate a word of advice about the wall tiles between the top and bottom cupboards. What is your suggestion for colour and style? Also, what is your suggestion for the wall colour for the rest of the kitchen? Ritienne and Patrick

The overall effect will be dramatic with areas of light and shade, creating a cosier feeling than the scheme you suggested. - Henry Borg Barthet, Designer

A

You have lots of different materials in your kitchen; cherry, laminates, glass, stainless steel, sprayed aluminium... it’s always a good idea to limit the use of different materials. My suggestions is to use the

same material as the work top on the vertical areas, eliminating the stainless steel backsplash. Introducing wall tiles is adding another material and a different shade of your ivories and magnolia. Using the same material as the worktop will also make your kitchen look bigger. The rest of the room could be painted in a very pale sage green (such as Dulux 60YY 67/117). - Henry Borg Barthet, Designer

HW

HOMEWORKS WANTS YOUR FEEDBACK! The HOMEWORKS team is always striving to bring you inspiration, improvement and style. Help us improve on that by telling us what you think of HOMEWORKS and perhaps how we can make it better. One lucky respondent, randomly drawn, will win a Typhoon Dinner Set courtesy of Living Interiors. Send your feedback to the following address and you could be a WINNER! Homeworks Readers’ Poll, P.O.Box, 48, Msida, Malta or email: info@writeon.com.mt .

EDITORIAL EDITORIAL CONTENT Excellent O Good O Fair O Poor O� EDITORIAL STYLE Excellent O Good O Fair O Poor O� EDITORIAL COMPREHENSION & HELPFULNESS: � Excellent O Good O Fair O Poor O

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DESIGN STYLE Excellent O Good O Fair O Poor O� DESIGN LAYOUT � Excellent O Good O Fair O Poor O� ADDITIONAL COMMENTS ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ DO YOU FIND THE ARTICLE LAYOUTS EASY TO FOLLOW AND COMPREHENSIVE? ________________________________ _______________________________ ________________________________

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HOMEIDEAS Coordinated ideas, which vary from delicate flower decorations to modern patterned styles. The Bormioli tableware in tempered glass is functional for everyday use, yet fun and colourful. Available in sets of 19pcs (for 6persons) Prices start from Lm20.00. Available from: OK limited, Naxxar Rd., San Gwann. Tel: 2138 7495, Arkadia, Level 2, Fortunato Mizzi Str., Victoria, Gozo. Tel: 2155 8333.

Elegant Lantern: 70cm height. An assortment of garden lanterns & candles are available at Ambiente, San Gwann. Price: Lm44.95. Tel: 2137 6481.

New lamps have arrived – view the new stock at Fifth Avenue. Lovely wall mounted lamps made with resin and metal, available at extremely good prices. Price of displayed item: Lm25.00. Fifth Avenue 256, Main Street, Mosta (next to Jardinland). Tel: 9986 2842.

Innovative wall light, ideally used as bathroom mirror light. Matte non reflective glass to be placed next to mirrors. Visit at VCT Ltd Ponsomby Street, Mosta MST 07. From Lm29.67. Tel: 2143 2571 2143 6186. www.vct.com.mt (opposite St Monica Street).

Chunky aluminium spotlights. Ideally used to provide specific task lighting, with very good colour rendering properties. Visit at VCT Ltd., Ponsomby Street, Mosta MST 07. Price from Lm27.45. Tel: 2143 2571 / 2143 6186 . www.vct.com. mt (opposite St Monica Street).

Wrought Iron lantern at Lm 95.00. Just received NEW STOCK at Perfect Match, including vases and selection of kitchenware and a whole new range of giftware. Perfect Match, Ta’ L-Ibragg Road, Ta’ L-Ibragg Tel: 2138 0743 / 9949 0123.

This stylish leather reclining armchair is fantastically priced at only Lm89.00. What else could you possibly need to relax? Value Direct, 180, St.Paul’s Street, St.Paul’s Bay. (Veccja Area) Tel: 2157 8597 / 9949 9337.

FABULOUS IDEAS 089

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T

hey call it ‘organic architecture’, and with good reason too, which is why visiting conservationists have nominated it as ‘the most ecologically-sensitively-designed lodge in Africa’ – not an easy accolade when one realises that the Kruger National Park is dotted with lodges trying to outdo each other in the construction stakes. Organic architecture is a branch of architecture, which promotes harmony between man and nature through design so

well integrated with its site that buildings, furnishings, and surroundings become part of a unified, interrelated composition. This kind of architecture is a tough act to follow. A list of guidelines for organic architecture, known as the Gaia Charter, proposes that the design be inspired by nature and be sustainable, healthy, conserving, and diverse. It is meant to unfold, like an organism, from the seed within, existing in the “continuous present” and “begin again and again”. It must follow the flows and be flexible and adaptable as

well as satisfy social, physical and spiritual needs. It is required to “grow out of the site” and be unique, celebrating the spirit of youth, play and surprise. All this, and last but not least – “to express the rhythm of music and the power of dance.” All the advertising blurb for Earth Lodge in the Sabi Sabi game reserve talks about its futuristic architecture. All the pictures tell a hundred stories of a ‘new’ way of construction which harks back to the past. Nothing, though, prepares you for this tiny village slipping beneath the level of your

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HOMEWORKS

Out of Africahhh...

MONA FARRUGIA EXPERIENCES THE HEIGHT OF CONSERVATION IN SOUTH AFRICA. THE CONCEPT OF THIS LODGE WAS TO BRING KNOWLEDGE, PROFESSIONALISM AND UNDERSTANDING OF THE AFRICAN WILDERNESS TO THE VISITOR.

eyes; in fact, when we alight from our open jeep, leaving our luggage behind for one of the butlers to take care of, we can’t even see where we will be staying. The first thing that cocoons us is the silence; not the dead silence of mortuaries, but the humming silence of the wilderness. We can hear birds, crackling grass being trodden by elephants and impala, and underneath the super-silent golf carts on which guests are shuttled from boma to suites, the crunch of the gravel.

From ground level, we can only see the bushveld: a never-ending expanse of green, low and high grass, trees of all shades of green and brown, and a conical sphere arising from next to our feet. It turns out to be the roof of our ‘room’: more than 200 square metres of beautifully lit living space. For a few days – most guests stay for three – we can experience the luxury of being part of a sanctuary, rather than imposing ourselves on it as tourists.

Access is always through an outside corridor, a downward slope, from the main alleyway. The walls are fashioned out of wholly natural elements, including straw, stone and pigment mixed into a cement plaster. In order to blend into their wild surroundings, the walls have not been sloughed to gleaming; in fact, looking closely, you can still see rough bits of straw sticking out of the construction. The only place where the finish has been honed into smoothness is the bathroom, and this is to render it waterproof.

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HOMEWORKS

Organic architecture: harmony between man and nature through design so well integrated with its site that buildings become part of an interrelated composition.

There is a large shower with a window overlooking the watering hole, which means that at any point, you can be showering at the same time as a family of elephants opposite. The bath is formed out of a large spherical mortar egg, and lounging about in it feels more like going back to the earth’s womb, especially if you forget the electricity (which, unlike some other lodges, is actually available everywhere). The lodge is dotted with various large pieces of sculpture – from giant-sized water features, the bench in our patio space, to the mural above the massive bed – and are all fashioned by Geoffrey Armstrong. He uses striking trunks of “bog oak” and “bog yew”, which are useless if not for sculpting. By about 5000 BC forests of oak, yew and fir were growing and by about 1500 BC the peat was established and the trees were dead. The peat preserved the oak and the yew and this wood is now known as bog oak and bog yew. Farmers have been troubled by this wood rising to the surface. Some of the oaks were eighty feet high before the first branching) and of large diameter.

The bath is formed out of a large spherical mortar egg, and “lounging in it feels more like going back to the earth’s womb”.

Geoffrey Armstrong’s appreciation and transformation of what others render useless is an echo of the lodge and its unique branch of architecture. Instead of discarding, things, their idea is to redeem and make the very most of their ready resources. The result: a truly ancient way of living fused with the comforts of progress, creating a modern-day Eden.

HOW TO GET THERE: Mona Farrugia flew to Johannesburg via Emirates. Holiday packages include a private charter to the Skukuza airstrip – a mere 30 minutes away from Sabi Sabi. Otherwise, rent a car from Johannesburg airport, and drive the one straight road to the Kruger: five hours of motoring bliss with the most polite drivers in the world. HW 093

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HOMEWORKS

Conversion Commitment

ASTRID VELLA EXPLORES THE INS AND OUTS OF THE COMMITMENT OF A FARMHOUSE. SHE TELLS US WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR AND WHAT WE MIGHT BE GETTING OURSELVES INTO...

I

n the search for a calm refuge on our overcrowded island, a converted farmhouse in one of our villages, the sort of house our grandparents were only too glad to abandon for the comforts of modern living, has now become one of the most sought-after houses that money can buy. In their haste to buy into the latest dream and embrace a rustic lifestyle, some couples don't realise the commitment that an old house demands. This is not only a commitment in

terms of work and maintenance, but also in preserving a chunk of Maltese heritage in the best possible manner. Other impracticalities may include increased heating demands in winter, the extra cleaning required and a house that is not very childfriendly during the early years. However, if the buyer is prepared to take on these challenges, owning a farmhouse can be a very rewarding lifestyle choice. Once the buyer decides to go for

the farmhouse option, the house hunting can begin in earnest. Be wary of falling for proposals of totally unrealistic conversions given in order to sell and stick to agents who provide a more honest picture of the property’s potential. Combining this vision with awareness of MEPA guidelines on what is permissible in the conversion of old houses (eg. no demolition of walls incorporating arches, kileb and other old features) gives a realistic picture of what is feasible.

After finding the right place, fix an appointment with your architect as soon as possible to confirm that the building’s foundations are sound and that any changes required will not detract from the character of the house. If there is any doubt in this area, negotiate a clause in the pre-contact agreement (konvenju) that the signing of the eventual contract will be subject to MEPA approval of conversion plans.

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HOMEWORKS It is important to establish the client/architect relationship at the outset, as few clients realise that the role of their architect can take various forms. At its most rudimentary level, an architect can present basic structural alteration plans, see that they obtain MEPA approval and visit the building site occasionally to see that the actual building proceeds according to plan. Be aware that this limited scope does not provide for the planning of drainage, plumbing and electricity services, let alone respecting the historic, aesthetic as well as the practical aspects of the conversion.

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It is really important to assess the severity of any humidity problem prior to purchasing a property, as the absence of a damp proof course in old buildings is a major cause of rising damp. However, other contributing factors could range from the wrong paint having been used on the exterior, to the presence of a well full of water. If you see patches of advanced deterioration such as badly crumbling walls, always seek expert advice before committing yourself. Consulting experts in different fields is key to a successful conversion. It is important to engage a specialised team. It would even be worthwhile to first visit as many conversion projects as possible in order to get a clear idea of what you want.

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1: The oldest part of the house will invariably have the roughest-cut stones and thickest walls. 2: Ceilings supported by stone arches and kileb are highly sought-after features in old houses. 3: Restoration often reveals unexpected surprises of filled-in recesses and apertures. 4: A re-styled Gothic door, a pregnant window ...all add to Mdina’s hidden charms.

The choice of builder should be indicated by, or in conjunction with, the architect. Ask him if you can see a portfolio in order to get an idea of his finish. Shortcomings to look out for would be vertical joints laid above each other, overuse of chipped blocks or off-cuts (filsa or gonot) or poorly shaped voussoirs (samrotti, the curved blocks which form an arch). Carm Spiteri, an Interior Designer who has worked on many old houses, recalls coming across builders who preferred to work on old houses thinking that the irregular walls would mask their rushed or slipshod work. A good builder can greatly contribute to

the project and is worth waiting for. Each house is obviously unique and the first rule for a successful conversion is respect for the original building as regards to appearance, structure and even microclimate. One of the best ways to tackle it is to really get the feel of the building before any decisions are taken, and this is done most effectively by recording every aspect of the building. Although it is not possible to give a precise date to different building techniques, the oldest part of the house will invariably have the roughest-cut stones and thickest walls, often thicker at the bottom as the soil infill between each block would have percolated downwards over the years. The low ceilings of very old houses would be supported by arches spanned by slabs or xorok, or by long xorok resting on kileb (slab supports), while ceilings on the first floor might be supported by a wooden beam. By the 19th century, the use of iron beams was widespread on both ground and upper floors. At this stage soil had also been replaced by lime (gir) as a cementing agent in between blocks. This examination of the stonework can sometimes lead to pleasant surprises, like the discovery of apertures that were closed up in the past. It might also serve to identify later additions, which were not always sensitive to the original structure and might therefore warrant dismantling. Additions should never be demolished without careful consideration, as it is this chronology of the multi-layering (additional construction) of a building that enriches it with a wealth of archaeological layers. Joanna Spiteri Staines makes a very apt point: “Imagine the Ponte Vecchio in Florence stripped bare of its rows of quaint jewellery shops which were added much later than the original bridge.” HW

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HOMEWORKS

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ISSUE 18.06 LM 1.50 where sold.

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HOMEWORKS 18