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Away in a laneway, no room for a tree

I wrote about our first Christmas in the laneway house just one year ago.  Now I’ve had a whole year to think about decorating our little space and I’ve found lots of ideas on what to do when you JUST DON’T HAVE ROOM for a traditional Christmas trees. I started with the ideas I found last year, and searched the internet (with a little help from Apartment Therapy and Houzz).

Don’t think that you have to give up the idea of having live greens inside.  You can drop by a tree lot late in the day and ask if you can have some of the lower branches they’ve trimmed off the trees.  Have an idea how long the branches should be to fit into your container so you can ask them to take off a couple of inches for a perfect fit.  It doesn’t have to be big to be striking:

treeOr you can use just pretty sticks and put some ornaments on them.

branches

But these ideas need a little corner of a table or  floor to display them.  And if you don’t have that little space to spare I can certainly feel your pain.

Take a look at your walls — you can finesse a Christmas tree by using some of that vertical space. (Maybe take down some of your current artwork for a real change).

Here’s a do-it-yourself tree that can look as zippy and modern or as sweet and old fashioned as you like, depending on what papers you choose.  This one is made of paint chips — but you could use regular coloured paper or even Christmas wrap.

paper

 

Or use tissue paper to make this clever fringe tree:

fringe

 

You can also make this cute and modern string tree with the kids.  Hang ornaments or Christmas cards (or a combination of both). It’s put up with Command transparent hooks so no damage to your wall.

stringIn fact there’s no end to the ideas on how you can put a tree directly on a wall.

Use lights (and Command hooks) to make a tree:

light1

Or just place anything, ornaments or cards or a combination, in a roughly triangular shape:

cards

How about putting some decorations  in your windows.  Use the existing curtain rod, or put a spring loaded rod within the window area.

WindowDecorations

Or just hang a nice grouping with bright ribbon:

window

Still can’t find the room?  Look up!  Here are the instructions to put together this striking mobile — put it over your table for a lovely centrepiece that won’t take up any table space or block the person on the other side.

Mobile

Do you have a balcony or deck?  Or even a little yard?  Put your tree outside.  We do:

XmasNightTree XmasTree2013

It sits just outside our sitting area window so we can enjoy it from the comfort of our couch without it crowding us at all. I’m thinking about painting the lights cord white to hide it better.

We used an artificial tree, you could use a live tree or even a living tree in a pot.  Or a tomato cage:

tomatocage

A couple of these on your balcony would really make a show!

 

If less is more, is more less?

This week everyone is crazeeeee about the whole “Black Friday” thing.  Every time I turn on the TV or open a newspaper, the advertising is exhorting me to buy, Buy, BUY!  Stock up for Christmas, get a great deal of a new piece of equipment, spoil myself and my loved ones.

XmasSale

 

Some people even cross the border to bring back loot.  (BTW, this article says that many retailers actually put up their regular prices before the end of November so they can drop them for Black Friday.  Be diligent, check and compare.)

Living in a little house has completely turned this season around for us.  Not only do we not want anything, we have no where to put it if we got it.  So don’t give us a new TV, or even a new remote.  We have too much stuff as it is.  Last year we didn’t exchange gifts between the adults of the family, and we’ll do the same thing again this year.  Instead we’ll get together with loved ones, have a nice Christmas dinner, and we’ll visit back and forth during the holidays.  It’s low-key.  We’ll decorate our homes, bake some cookies.  Take a little time to unwind and appreciate what we have.

So before you buy into the whole “buying” thing, think about what you really need and what makes you happy.  It’s not stuff, I’ll wager.  You’d probably be just as happy if you took the money you use to buy gifts and just gave it away to charity.  Happier, even.

Remember, you probably don’t need more of anything.  In his book, Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust by Darrell M. West  , he points out that rich people aren’t happier than poor people, they are often more miserable. Because what they really want is “more”.

In this review of the book, Michael Lewis says

Not long ago an enterprising professor at the Harvard Business School named Mike Norton persuaded a big investment bank to let him survey the bank’s rich clients….In a forthcoming paper, Norton and his colleagues track the effects of getting money on the happiness of people who already have a lot of it: a rich person getting even richer experiences zero gain in happiness.

And Lewis goes on to say

something in the world has changed—or is changing. And I think it is: there is a growing awareness that the yawning gap between rich and poor is no longer a matter of simple justice but also the enemy of economic success and human happiness. It’s not just bad for the poor. It’s also bad for the rich. It’s funny, when you think about it, how many rich people don’t know this.

So don`t look for happiness in the next gadget or knickknack or fooforall.  You probably have more than enough.  (I know I“m chockablock with fooforalls.)

This is the time to say no to more consumerism.

There’s been some backlash to the blatant mass consumerism of the Black Friday event. Adbusters, a Vancouver-based not-for-profit magazine, often promotes their “Buy Nothing Day” on the same day as Black Friday, said Katherine White, a Sauder School of Business professor in consumer insights, prosocial consumption, and sustainability

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Retailers+often+inflate+prices+before+Black+Friday+discounts+Vancity+report/10409658/story.html#ixzz3K7TQBZgu

BCNPHA spells relief to renters

For someone who sticks their nose into all kinds of housing, it’s incredible to me that I just recently learned of the BCNPHA — The British Columbia Non-Profit Housing Association.

As I learned from their website

The BC Non-Profit Housing Association provides leadership and support to members in creating and supporting a high standard of affordable housing throughout British Columbia.

BCNPHA members are primarily non-profit housing providers. Other members include individuals and organizations who care about affordable housing.

If you are interested in providing or living in non-profit housing, these are the folks for you. They offer training and help at each stage.

I heard about them in correlation with the Rental Housing Index.  This is a very comprehensive index that shows you the affordability of rental housing for each area throughout the province:

BCNPHA1

And within each area you’ll find a table showing the cost

The affordability for each level of income

BCHPHA2

which shows that

in Greater Vancouver, a total of 47,410 renter households are living in conditions that are too small for their household size and composition

And the bedroom shortfall

BCNPHA4

which shows that

Greater Vancouver would need at least 63,480 more bedrooms to house all renters suitably.

Even at the highest income level, $71,583 +, renters might not find accommodation suitable for their needs.

We just had a civic election where the term “housing affordability” was tossed around by all sides.These figures from the BCNPHA show just what that term means in hard figures.

When people have to spend over half their income on housing, and even the most affluent renters can’t always get what they need, there is truly need to work on this issue — immediately

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:

italian-micro-loft-after

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.

 

strange-tiny-house2

SONY DSC

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

strange-tiny-house7

 

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

strange-tiny-house5

 

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

strange-tiny-house12

 

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.

Finland2

And the bedroom has a small stove as well.

Finalnd4

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.

lampsaucer2

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

lzf-nut-suspension-light_im_500

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.

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