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Continental charm – in small doses

Whether you say piccolo, pequeño, pieni, klein or  petit,  small is beautiful all over the world.

These little homes in Europe packed a lot of style — and innovative thinking — into small spaces. See how many ideas you can use in your small space.

From Life Edited we learned about a clever Roman who saw this:

italian-micro-loft-before

And envisioned this:

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A comfortable loft-style home big enough for two (if they can control their shopping urges) built in the space between two existing buildings right in downtown Rome.

The kitchen has an eating area:

italian-micro-loft-dining-stairs

And a fair-sized kitchen.  The table folds away when not needed for eating (or working with a laptop).

italian-micro-loft-ground-floor

The loft lounge is great for watching TV or reading:

italian-micro-loft-lounge

Closing off the staircase gives you more leg room.  And, of course, it makes up into a bed for sleeping:

italian-micro-loft-bedIt looks like they used the exterior walls of the neighbouring buildings as part of their decor!  With the brick, the plaster, and the exposed beams it looks like it’s been there for centuries, yet still clean and modern.

Life Edited also clued us into this Spanish work/home space by PKMN Architects.  The floor plan is flexible:

All-I-Own-House-by-PKMN-floor-plan-2

A communal recreation area can also be used as a living room

All-I-Own-House-by-PKMN-floor-plan

This video shows how it all works:

I myself am not crazy about the chipboard, it looks too unfinished to me and I wonder if it’s tough enough to stand up to all that manhandling over the years.  But the space itself is very nice. And the moveable walls mean you can use the same space is many different ways.

How much would you love to live in the heart of Paris?  Enough to live in a 7th floor walk-up?  In 8 square meters (86 square feet)?

This video shows it can be done

It’s so chic!  And easy to keep clean.  It was planned to be home for an au pair for a family in the building, but it would be perfect for a student or working person, too. I really like the interior window that lets light into the bathroom.  And the stairs/shelves is a great dual use of the same space.

This video shows how they did it

But what about if you want to get away from it all?  Small spaces are fine in the city, but how would a small home fit into the wide open vistas of the Austrian Alps?

Perfectly. Once again, design trumps space, here in this charming and compact vacation home. It’s called the UVogel.  And it’s for rent if you want a taste of perching on the side of a mountain in your own cozy nest.

 

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Love that view! And the inside is just as breathtaking:

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Building a platform to use as a lounge area is the ideal way to grab that view and hold onto it for hours.

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Once again, bench seating gives you extra space in the dining area.

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They seem to have installed the TV so it can be mounted on the other side of that half-wall and viewed from the main room, or pulled up atop the wall for bedroom viewing — that is tricky!

strange-tiny-house14

 

And the bathroom is built in a deep, narrow space.  The glass walls allow the sun to come all the way into this tiny cabin.

What about if you’re looking for something a little more old-fashioned?  How about this adorable little cottage in Finland?  Just 516 square feet, and 120 years old. Apartment Therapyalerted us to how much cute you can pack into that little area.

Finland1

The kitchen and sitting area are in one room.  It looks like they have some kind of radiators under the windows, but the kitchen has a nice old-fashioned wood-burning range as well as a modern electric stove. Using every square millimetre of vertical space gives you maximum storage.

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And the bedroom has a small stove as well.

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I understand it can get quite cold in Finland, so they probably need all the help they can get to keep warm.

Thanks for joining us on our trip around the continent of Europe.  Please return your seats to their upright position and make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened.  And remember — thinking big and living small are the way to fly!

 

Kitchen Love

Sorry I’ve been away so long, but I have been battling the worst cold in captivity and the outcome was in doubt for a while. So instead of writing blog posts I was reclining on the sofa trying to look pale and interesting and coughing so much I sounded like the last act of Camille.

But some good came from all that. During the past few weeks I’ve learned to appreciate my little kitchen all the more.  I know that everyone who cooks wants to design their own kitchen — they truly are the heart of any home.  When DH and I were talking with our designer about the upper storey of our laneway home we made it clear that most of it would be dedicated to the kitchen/eating area, with just one comfy couch for us to sit on and read or watch TV.

I would love to take credit for the design of the room (hey!  I spent months putting stuff up at Pinterest!) but of course it was our designer Laurel from Novell Design Build who took all our ideas and fit them into our dream kitchen.

We had very little space to work with, a space roughly 11 x 15 feet, that had to fit everything into it, including the seating area.  But in the end we were very pleased with the result:

Kitchen1

That’s the view if you’re standing in our door to the deck.

Now let’s look at every reason I love my kitchen.

First, it’s the lightness of the room.  The picture was taken on a fairly bright day, but even on the gloomiest of cloudy days there’s still a lot of light in the place.  It comes from the potlights in the ceiling, from the windows, the doors.  In the kitchen area there are two windows, the one you see in the top picture that looks out over a section of green roof, and the little window placed on the north wall between the counter and the top cupboards.  It’s a tiny window but it helps give the space such an airy feeling.

The quartz countertop also adds to that airiness.  It’s not just the expanse of the peninsula, making our eating area and waterfalling off the side.  The same quartz is used as a backsplash behind the stove and around the window.  It sparkles and gleams, reflecting even more light into the area.

I could write a sonnet about our cupboards.  We chose everything, from the finish to the hardware to the interiors.  We went out to Pacific Rim Cabinets with Laurel to talk with the people who would be building them.  They provided us with a couple of options as far as configuration goes, and we fine-tuned the final result. I love slick white cupboards, but since the room is also our sitting area we wanted to get the idea of warm wood walls into the space.

One way we keep the counters clear of clutter is our wonderful appliance garage.  Counter-top appliances that formerly stood out in the open can be whisked behind a smooth-closing door when we are not using them.

garage

We had long-dreamed of a spice cupboard that would keep all our spices nice and tidy but close to hand.  I saved up all our old martini-olive jars, which volume-wise are just right for holding one of those bulk spice bags from the market, but they are a bit chubby for our purposes so we can’t fit enough jars into the sliding shelves.  I’m always on the lookout for a substitute but haven’t found one yet, so we’ll keep using the jars we have.

Spice shelf

One thing we insisted upon was that we wanted drawers rather than cupboards for our under-counter storage.  We even wanted a drawer under the sink, but it wasn’t feasible.  So we still have doors that open but we do have a drawer within that nicely holds our garbage, recycling basket, and compost bin.

And, right across from our little dishwasher, a drawer for our dinnerware.  Having the dish storage so close to the dishwasher means unloading takes less than two minutes.

Even though we knew we were sacrificing some precious counter space, a double sink was something DH and I insisted upon.  We had truly suffered when we were at our interim rental with a single sink, and we were so relieved to get our lovely double sink.

sink

Of course I love our gas stove and our little fridge/freezer.  It’s true we can’t stock up for the zombie apocalypse with such a small fridge, but we appreciate the almost-daily walks to the nearby Superstore to buy just what we need. And the stove is really easy to clean, the oven racks come right out to leave completely smooth walls for scrubbing. And the dishwasher is exactly the right size for two people.  In fact, some people buy two small dishwashers.  One for daily use, and one for when they have company.  Saves water and hassle.

Dishwashergarage

Keeping the floor clean is easy, too.  We can sweep all the kitchen mess that lands on the floor (curse you, gravity!  you win again) into the baseboard vacuum.  Just a flick and it’s all sucked away.

And if you glance at our ceiling in the first photo above you may see the speaker for our sound system. DH wanted to be able to hear music throughout the house but didn’t want to have speakers cluttering up the sightlines.  So we had a system installed with speakers in our bedroom, the office/studio, and in the kitchen.  Now we can all listen to one thing (if we have a party) or each room can be tuned to something else.

Now you may be thinking that we had no input into the decorating of the room, but that’s not so.  First of all, we did decide on all the finishes, even though we were helped by our designer.  And we chose the lights.  We wanted a nice sleek mid-century feel to the room and the lights show that sensibility.

There’s the saucer light over the peninsula.

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And over the stairs by the back door there is a handsome nut lamp.

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Please feel free to take any ideas and use them as you will.  We love our kitchen, and you should love yours.

Next year when the big house renovates their kitchen expect a hammer-blow by hammer-blow description.

 

No place like home (show)

DH and I went down to the Vancouver Home and Design Show to catch up on the trends that are new and exciting in this red-hot renovation and building market.

I remember going to the show twenty years ago or so and it seems to me that it was kiosk after kiosk of handy-dandy  labour-saving devices, pots and pans, with a few decorating and building companies thrown in.  Or maybe that was the PNE.  Anyway, the past few years you’ve been able to talk with a lot of renovation companies, plus get some great ideas about new products that are available.

As usual there were great speakers — including Bryan Baeumler,  Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan, lots of great chefs and designers.

Small was definitely big this year.  There were several retailers showing off various ways to hide beds — not just floor mounted but pieces that looked like regular cabinets but made out into beds.  And Urban Barn tasked the three designers competing for their Next Top Designer with designing a dual-purpose space in just 150 square feet.

I saw a lot I really liked but for me the outstanding exhibition was the NOMAD MicroHome.  The display unit showed how much living and storage you could fit into a 10 foot by 10 foot footprint.  It would be great for an extra bedroom, tucked into your yard.  Or, with the addition of other modules, you could easily make a nice vacation home.  You can even go completely green with the addition of  a Water Generation Plant, a Solar Power Plant, a Rainwater Collection System and a Grey Water Treatment Plant.

And they are pretty good looking, too.

Nomad

While looking at the home I got a feeling of deja vu — and sure enough I wrote about the Nomad last year.  It’s great to see an innovative local company moving ahead.

 

Vancouver Heritage Foundation Laneway House Tour is October 25!

Get your tickets now for this year’s Vancouver Heritage Foundation Laneway House Tour!  The theme is Heritage, and one of the featured homes is over 100 years old.

Heritage

The tour is a great way to see what laneway living looks like, and if you are planning a laneway you’ll get lots of good ideas you can incorporate into your plans.

Find out more and get your tickets at the Vancouver Heritage Foundation site.

(Less) Power to the people!

I chatted with Ian and Steve at the Home Discovery Show  on CKNW about the difference in the amount of energy we use here at the laneway house.  It really hit me this week when I signed up for BC Hydro’s Equal Billing.  We are paying $35 a month for our electricity now, back at the condo we paid $64 a month.  That’s a huge difference because even though our new home is about half the size of our old one, our condo was on the second floor of a three-storey building, so we only had two exterior walls.  Now we have four exterior walls over 1.5 floors, plus a roof and deck over the entire footprint.

But we don’t have to depend on lower energy bills to know our laneway is energy-efficient. Our house received an EnerGuide rating of 83 from BC Hydro.

Developed by Natural Resources Canada, an EnerGuide rating is a standard measure of a home’s energy performance. A rating of 0 represents a home with major air leakage, no insulation and extremely high energy consumption. A rating of 100 represents an airtight, well insulated, sufficiently-ventilated home that requires no purchased energy.

Power Smart new homes are required to achieve at least ENERGUIDE 80, higher than what’s required by the B.C. Building Code.

That rating put us in the “highly energy-efficient new house” category in their rating system.

This is “Offtober” at BC Hydro.  Visit their site to see how you can save on special deals from retailers; PowerSmart Programs; and play contests.

EnergyStar

If you want to make some changes to your home you can take advantage of rebates and other incentives from the City of Vancouver, BC Hydro, and Fortis.   Find out more about that here.

If you are a low-income household you can take advantage of BC Hydro’s Energy Conservation Assistance Program.  Find out more about this here.

And if you just want to get started living a more sustainable life, pick up some hints here .

What does all this energy efficiency mean to us?  It means lower Fortis bills for a start.  We pay about $25 a month for natural gas for our heating and cooking (including our barbecue).  But it also means getting out of bed on a winter morning and feeling that radiant heat.  It means no cold corners, no nasty drafts.  It means comfort, as much as sustainability.

 

 

Small bathrooms ideas worth thinking about

Hypothetically, you may be interested in putting in a small bathroom.  Maybe you are designing a laneway home for yourself, maybe you have an attic bedroom you’d like to link to a teeny ensuite, maybe you’re trying to fit a powder room or shower into a basement corner.  I’ve told you how we solved the space problem in our laneway bath — now for some other ideas to get the most out of your restricted space.

If you just can’t say good-bye to the tub, you could try a tiny one. This one lets you keep the shower and tub combo.

TinyBath1

This one is loaded with luxury, and can be snuck underneath a sloping ceiling.

Contemporary Bathroom by London Interior Designers & Decorators Chantel Elshout Design Consultancy

 

And this one puts the bath and shower into a “wet zone” at one end of the room behind glass doors. Not as compact, but still a good solution when you need both a bath and a shower:

Tinybath2

Another solution is to put the shower into the corner of the room, like this:

TinyShower1

The sliding doors mean it could be snugged up tight to the toilet if you have to — no space needed for your out-swinging glass doors.

Or, in this corner shower, the entire shower is put into a corner, in a nice, triangular shape:

Good use of space putting the sink beneath an eave (or even a staircase) with a sloping roof. And the floating vanity makes the whole room look bigger.

And here’s something I wish we could have put into our bathroom:

Tinytoilet1

A toilet where the tank is placed inside the wall.  It’s so clean and contemporary looking, and of course doesn’t take up as much interior space.  But you have to place the tank space within an interior wall, and we just couldn’t make it work.

Of course a tiny sink can also save you precious inches.

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Even IKEA sells a tiny sink.

tinysink2But remember, you won’t be able to build any storage beneath these sinks.

This Tiny-House architect installed a stylish sink in her shower room. the whole home is just 196 square feet, and the IKEA mirror on the retractable arm is their only mirror.

TinySink3And remember that lighter coloured walls will expand the visual look of any small room.  Shiny tiles, mirrors, and glass surfaces also add to the feeling of space.

Tinybath3

Keep it sleek, clean, and simple.  And any bath can look larger.

 

Why I love my bathroom

I want to write a love letter to my WC.  I’ve been away from home this summer, using different bathrooms and I came to realize all the things I truly love about my bathroom. I realized how perfectly it fit our needs, and how easy it is to keep clean and bright. And if you are planning to remodel or build a new powder room maybe you can use some of the solutions we found for our severe lack of space.

We all want the bathroom of our dreams. Some of us dream big;
BathLuxurySome of us have more modest dreams:

Bathmodest

But as you can imagine, for our laneway home we had to make some sacrifices.  Because our bathroom is eensy, weensy, teensy.  Seriously, check out the plans.

PlansLower

The bathroom is less than 8 feet wide.  So it took some planning to get everything we wanted into the room. But we did!

One of the features that we appreciate so much is the radiant floor heating.  We moved into our place in winter, and we couldn’t believe the difference it makes to your comfort.

In our planning with the designer we ditched the tub.  We prefer a shower so it would be a waste of precious, precious space to put in a tub.  Then we decided to keep everything square and linear.  We wanted subway tiles to line the shower, nothing fancy that dates so quickly, just the classics.  Honeycomb tiles on the floor of the shower to help make it less slippery.

BathTiil

Nice and clean looking.  Plus the clear glass doors make it look as if the shower is part of the whole room, there’s no visual separation.  And we have a handy niche to hold our shower needs.

BathNicheBetter

There are those honeycomb tiles again.  Having that little shelf seems like such a no-brainer, but DH’s shower in our old condo didn’t have one.  It makes a huge difference.  You’ll also note that we empty our shampoo, conditioner, and body wash into little bottles (from the dollar store) which keeps the space looking less cluttered.

The shower itself delivers what we really want — comfort.  We have a rain-shower head — one of the first things to go on our list of features we wanted. We also have a shower wand for when we want to pretend it’s a microphone. C’mon who doesn’t do that when they’re singing in the shower?

BathRain

The controls let us set the most comfortable temperature, and turn it on immediately without fussing and fidgeting.

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Square shape again — see?  It keeps the look uncluttered.

The toilet also has features we want — clean lines right down to the floor, and the seat closes with a gentle movement (the first days of my holiday were spent apologizing for noisily dropping the toilet seat cover, I was so used to it dropping softly onto the seat at home).   Yes, it’s a little thing, as is the feature that the whole seat lifts off the toilet for super-easy cleaning — but it’s just one of the things I love about our bathroom.

While we were on the Heritage Foundation’s laneway house tour two years ago, we saw the IKEA Godmorgen system.  We loved it at first sight — clean lines, storage space, and it floats above the floor to give the illusion of more space.  We also solved the problem of having no room for sconces beside the bathroom mirror with a great mirror with the lights built right in.

Bathsink

Again, square towel and toilet roll holders.  Square faucet and tap.  There’s also something in our bathroom that I never thought I needed — a clock.  The light/fan switch has a little digital clock to control the fan for ventilation purposes, and it’s so handy!  Up in the middle of the night — check out how long you can sleep before the alarm goes off.  Getting ready for work?  You can schedule your makeup/hair time and NEVER BE LATE AGAIN!

In this shot you can see the little square tiles on the floor — they are quite slip proof when wet, another safety feature as we age in place in this space.

Storage is always at a premium in any bathroom — so our designer, Laurel, found a great way to increase ours.  There’s an inset in the wall the bathroom shares with the washer/dryer closet.  And into it, Laurel placed two IKEA Lillangen cabinets with mirror doors.

BathCabinet

As well as giving us lots of storage space, the cabinets give us a full length mirror.  There’s practically no other space for a big mirror, so this is really appreciated.  Plus it reflects the light and brightens the whole room.

We bought all white towels for the new bath — gave away all our multi-coloured towels to keep things beautifully clean and white.  Plus if one gets stained it’s easily replaced — white always goes with white.

There’s also something Laurel suggested that we had never heard of — lockable valve boxes set into the wall for storage.

Bathboxes

We can lock our prescription drugs away for when the little ones are around.  They’re also handy for holding our jewellery when we’re not wearing it.

It’s so indicative of the comfort and ease we find in our home that our bathroom (is it still a bathroom without a bath) is so perfect for us.  Hope you can find a couple of good ideas to incorporate in yours!

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