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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Making light of the situation

Now that we are getting down to the nitty and the gritty, we have to look at what we really want, and decide whether or not we really, REALLY want it.

F’instance, we got out the automobile this afternoon and drove out to Port Moody (thank you NOT Google maps!) to Modern Bathroom.  To see a backlit mirror.

Our designer, Laurel, had thought that we would like a back-lit mirror in the bathroom and she suggested this one:


It is lovely.  Also $900.  American!

But we loved the idea of a backlit mirror rather than a mirror with sconces on either side (I find a light above the mirror casts unattractive shadows on my aging face, and I like to retain what vanity I can as time goes on) and we thought we might be able to find something a little less pricy and closer to hand (I try to find local suppliers when I can).  And after an extensive search, we found that Modern Bathroom in Port Moody had this:


for $300.  And so we had to go out and look at it, and lo, it looked great. Plus it has a built in anti-fogging heater. So we bought it.  One more item off the to-do list.

And another couple of items ONTO the to-do list.

I fell madly in love with this lamp as soon as I started to look for design ideas for the laneway house.  Love at first sight.

Contemporary Ceiling Lighting by New York Lighting YLighting
The Nut Light.  Gorgeous, fits in with mid-century styling, sleek and chic.  I wanted it in our front hall.  And hanging over the peninsula in the kitchen, I wanted either this saucer lamp
lampsaucer1or this one:
Real icons of the mid-century esthetic.
But then our designer Laurel pointed out that, instead of hanging the Nut Light over the laneway door, why not hang it over the north door — the one into the yard?  Then, rather than just being able to see it in the front hall, you could see it from the front hall, the top of the stairs, outside through the glass in the door or the windows, and even from the kitchen.
It’s a good idea, but now what do we hang over the peninsula in the kitchen?  Instead of being a one-off, the kitchen peninsula pendant has to match the Nut Light.
Not MATCH match, maybe.  Or maybe it should match.  I am better with words than with design.
Should we use another Nut Light over the peninsula?
Keep the saucer-shaped light?
Or go with a different shape (but still the same basic idea):
Or should I go with something quite different than I had originally planned:
I agree that this problem is a lovely one to have, lots of choice — too much, really — but I don’t want to make a mistake.
I’m usually pretty good with saying “This goes here” then just blocking out all the other options.  But this time I am just not feeling that confidence.
Any suggestions?

Day 46

DH and I were getting — not anxious — but a little thoughtful.  When we saw Laurel and Ang three weeks ago, Ang told us that framing on the laneway house would begin the following week, that is two weeks ago.  Yet, although there was clearly action at the site, there was no framing.

So we talked about it and wondered about it and finally contacted Laurel to ask why.  It turned out that the city wanted them to install a clean out function for the plumbing and it had to be completed and inspected before they could proceed.  That was done before they met with us on Thursday evening for our regular meeting.  So all was well, and there would be framing beginning toute suite.

Things we have to think about:  electrical plan, where we will put the TV, plumbing features in the bathroom (is it still a bathroom if there’s no bathtub, just a shower?), the predominant colours in the live roof (our roof is being grown just for us).

I’ve been watching decorating shows for many years now (remember when Debbie Travis did The Painted House?) and I realize now that they have been leading me down the garden path.  You don’t think about the floor and walls first, then the appliances and the fixtures.  In a bathroom the fixtures have to come first — so the plumber can install the necessaries.  The windows and doors have to be ordered before the foundation is poured so they will be ready when the framing is finished.  The cabinets are not something you fit into a finished kitchen — you build the room around them.

Things we will have to think about soon: the built-in vacuum and the security system, the appliances. Also the lights we will be installing.

We will be driving out to Port Moody tomorrow to check out a back-lit mirror for the bathroom.

Knowing that the framing would begin today, I rushed over after work today to see the progress.  And I saw this:

Day49This part of the framing is setting the plates — the horizontal boards that the studs will be connected to — very accurately and securely on the top of the foundation. See how the plates are a different colour?  That means they are pressure treated to resist moisture.

It will be a little while until we see the shape of the home but everyone is quite confident that the project will proceed according to the schedule.

Find out more about the framework of a home here.


What’s the skinny?

The small house movement is creating solutions to one problem of large cities — odd, skinny lots, sometimes between two existing buildings.

skinny homesThis article from Dwell features five such buildings, from all around the world.  Check it out, with the built-ins and niches that make skinny houses feel more like homes.


What I’m loving about our new neighbourhood

We were incredibly lucky to be able to move into the neighbourhood where the laneway is being built.  Thank goodness for basement suites, as there are very, very few apartment buildings available around here.  The ones that we could find are subsidized housing, and those are nearly impossible to get into, especially for short-term rentals.


Our Town

But here we are and we are very happy with the area.  For one thing, transit is a breeze.  We are very close to the Skytrain, and will be even closer when we move to the laneway. We can get downtown, to our gym, to shopping in Burnaby, and to parks and recreation quickly and easily.  The Broadway corridor is right there, with the express buses running during rush hours to whisk me to and from work.  We use the car even less here than we did at our old residence.

Shopping is also great.  I miss my London Drugs right down the street, but there are plenty available a short  Skytrain ride away.  We have a Superstore within easy walking distance, as well as a small shopping centre with a Price Smart, a Pet Smart, Canadian Tire, Mark’s Work Wearhouse, and a Starbucks (*whew*).  There’s a WalMart right down the street, too.

On an exploratory walk around the neighbourhood last weekend, we found several small parks close by.  Plus a possible pizza place.  We also have walked over the Commercial Drive on the Central Valley Greenway, which DH has explored on his bike.

But all this was something we expected, because we thought quite a bit about the neighbourhood before we agreed to move here, checked out the Walk Score, etc. and so we knew what to expect…..or so we thought.

What were we not expecting?  Garbage collection.  I lived in a condo for about 30 years, the years of Garbage Collection Reformation.  In a condo, garbage was something you took out, put in the giant bin, and it magically disappeared. We had visited friends’ homes and seen coloured maps of Vancouver on the sides of their fridges, but we’d never really considered what they were for.  I don’t know if we suspected that all our friends had identical taste in fridge decor, but we just never thought about it.

But now we do!  Because my friend, you LIVE AND DIE by the date of your garbage collection.  Every two weeks that truck trundles down that lane and if you don’t have your garbage out where they can grab it, it’s like Santa, that truck is not going to come back until its appointed time.

Luckily every single week a truck comes by for recycling.  And if you don’t think that’s a motivation to recycle everything you possibly can, you have never tried to fit four week’s garbage into a two-week bin. Now there is something even newer than regular recycling, which is composting.  Vancouver now takes your table scraps and coffee grinds and composts them.  It’s a great idea!  And it makes that every-other-week garbage collection quite doable.

In fact it’s such a good idea that Mayor Bloomberg is doing it in New York City.

Another advantage that I never expected started out as an inconvenience.  I know I’ve mentioned that the laneway is being built into a slope.  I don’t think I’ve told you that the slope is actually a big, honking hill that runs from a couple of streets above ours right down to the Grandview Highway where all the stores are.  Just to get to the Skytrain from the laneway means climbing down, and of course back up, a significant grade.  I thought this would be a pain, but it has turned into a blessing.  The first few times I charged up that hill to catch the 7:38 99 bus, I swear I thought I would pass out.  There were little red dots dancing in front of my eyes.  But just a couple of weeks has given me much more stamina — it’s great exercise!  Who knew!

Oh, the people at Life Edited knew.  They point out in this article that cities where exercise is built right in have healthier citizens.

And I’m good with that.

Day 40 of the Laneway Build

Last week the laneway build looked like this:



Just 5 days later we could see more progress:

Day40.3The water supply is going into the house on the right side plus the weeping tile has been installed with pipes running into it from where the water will drain from the roof with rain chains.

The infill process has begun with the gravel around the base of the foundation.


I’m back on the Home Discovery Show this Sunday!

Be sure to listen!  The Lady will be visiting with Ian and Steve on the Home Discovery Show on CKNW.

By the way, tomorrow’s show will repeat on the Corus Radio Network across Canada next Saturday.

And there’s no excuse not to listen!  Get the app, or download the podcast.

Don’t store it — get rid of it

Now that we are in our little rental space, we are truly getting used to living with limited storage space.

And it’s pretty cool.

We are regarding our rented storage unit, not as the repository of our precious, precious belongings, but rather another place we have to clear out.  That is an onerous task, but one that will bring us more happiness in the long run.

Heck, it will make us happier in the short run, too.

When we first considered moving from 1100+ square feet to 500 square feet, I just assumed that we would always have to have a rented storage unit.

For our stuff.  For our Christmas decorations, extra dishes, linens.

Even after we moved to the rental suite, I wanted to use the storage unit as an extra closet.  I kept a few towels and sheets, and packed up the rest, planning that when the small amount of linen and dishes in the rental suite broke or wore out, we would replace them with items from the storage.  Planning that gradually the storage space would be emptied as we used up things.

Then, after putting one of our two sets of sheets on the bed, DH put his foot through the bottom sheet.

The idea of going up to our storage space and shifting a ton of boxes to find the right box with the extra linen in it was ridiculous.  I also knew that the “extra set” of sheets in that box wasn’t complete, either.  Stupidly, I had put away an incomplete set of sheets because …… never mind.  And so now I have a top sheet and two pillowcases and all I need is a bottom sheet.  Turns out that Walmart sells single sheets by themselves, and I’ll pick one up.  But the point is I will not be going in to that barrage of boxes, that cataract of cardboard, that mountainous morass of stuff just to get a single sheet.

Just like I won’t go in there to get a single wine glass when one breaks. Or one towel.  Or one saucepan (OK, likely won’t wear out or break, so why do I need those extras?).

And as far as Christmas decorations go, we will need more outdoor lights.  But for the rest, we will keep just a few of the most precious, and give the rest away.  We won’t need five big plastic tubs of Xmas cheer, one will do, and we can probably find a corner of the laneway (maybe under the stairs) to store it.

Everything “extra” will go, given away, donated, tossed.


These monsters have to be fed!

If we hadn’t started living this way, we would never have appreciated how nice it is to live with less stuff.  Now we love it, and will continue to do so.

Tetris housing? China says yes!

I bet the first house you designed was built of blocks.  And although it may have had tons of style, I bet it didn’t have a lot of structural integrity, nor did it have a lot of interior room.

But Studio Liu Lubin has designed a modular home plan that lets you fit pre-made blocks into each other to make a small, or a large home.

Studio-Liu-Lubin-Tetris-House-537x405According to this story at Inhabitat, the home can function as a single room, or

can also be stacked up to create a mini housing complex that meets China’s land use policies

Read more: Tetris-Like Micro House Can be Stacked to Form Expanded Housing Suites | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

I’d love to see the housing complex go up!  Especially when they start flipping the modules around to get them to fit perfectly.

Day 35 of the Laneway Build

This is one of those update pictures that looks like nothing much has happened — but actually a lot has gone on since last week.

For one thing, the damp-proofing has been applied to the outside of the foundation, first a coating of tar, then dimpled membrane, which will make the foundation completely waterproof.  Good news for us, we’ll be sleeping just inside that near wall.

Inside the foundation, the sump has been installed, with lots of plumbing connections for the shower, toilet, sink, and washer.

Day35Large(click to enlarge)

Lots of gravel has been placed in the foundation, the first layer in construction of the slab.

Over on the left side, in what will be the garage, you can see some of the joists that will make up the framework of the laneway.

The windows and doors have been ordered from Cascadia Windows. Everything is very energy efficient, with narrow fibreglass frames (made with recycled glass) holding the large panes.  On the ground floor, all the windows and doors will be laminated so they can withstand, say, a tire iron beating on them. Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!  Housebreakers cannot come in!

According to our handy-dandy schedule, framing will start this week and continue to the second week of July.  There will be underground inspections as they build up what will be the slab.  And the dirt will be filled in (the process of “infill”) so we’ll get a much better idea how the yard will look with the main house and the laneway in place.

We’re also scheduled to meet with Laurel and Ange this week to talk over the build.

So much to look forward to!


*Not In My Neighbour’s Back Yard

This week’s public meeting at City Hall really opened my eyes to some of the problems the city has in getting anything done. Every time the City wants to move forward there’s always push-back.  Not from everyone, no, but from some of the people who have property here.

Sitting and listening to the speakers at the meeting clued me in to how those people really want things to be. And this is how people want things to be:

The same.

They want their neighbourhood to stay the same — the houses the same size they are now.  They want places to park their cars and roads to drive on them.  They don’t want “developers” and “Translink” to ruin everything. They don’t want laneway houses in their neighbour’s back yards.


There goes the neighbourhood!

But at the same time, they want their property values to go up (but not their civic taxes), they want their kids to be able to buy in the same neighbourhood they live in now, to take safe and convenient public transit to schools that are well-maintained and full of happy kids.

It seems like they want a small-town life in a big city. And they don’t see how that just won’t work.

We live in a big city — with big city problems.  We have homeless.  We have poverty.  We have drugs and crime and traffic.  And we can’t solve those problems if everything remains the same.

Everyone who spoke agreed that we have a housing problem in Vancouver.  We have limited rental space, which makes it very expensive.  We have no more room to build more houses, which means the houses that are here go up in value — a limited supply for an increasing demand. And people want to live here because the jobs and the economy.

Of course some people had solutions.  Don’t densify within Vancouver city limits, let the suburbs absorb the people who will be moving here.  Or densify by building large apartment buildings.  Or densify, but don’t build apartment towers, build low-rise rental buildings, only don’t re-zone any single-family homes to do it. Or (my personal favourite) slow down the economy in Vancouver so people won’t want to move here any more.

There seemed to be a quasi-elitist sentiment behind many of the speakers’ comments — I’ve got mine and now I will protect it by making sure that you don’t get yours. I got the feeling some of them wanted Vancouver to become a gated community, where the professionals and the wealthy get to live here, and the people who flip our burgers and clean our hospitals and type our letters and sell us clothes get to take transit in from the suburbs.

But, as Mark Sakai from the Greater Vancouver Home Builder’s Association pointed out, the city is changing, it has to change and we want it to change.  The only important thing is that it changes in ways that mean a better life for its citizens.

So I am happy that the City has allowed laneways to add to the densification of Vancouver, and I am glad that it’s become more inclusive.  There was some talk about limiting the number of laneway homes allowed to be built on any one block, but everyone could see how unfair — and elitist — that was.

By the way, if anyone is thinking that small town life is stress-and-wierdness-free, remember that Mt. Airy, North Carolina, hometown of Andy Griffith and model for Mayberry, was also where Chang and Eng Bunker, the original Siamese Twins, had their home, and their descendants still live there.

My Pain, My Life, My Struggles, My Fight

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Artist and Desert Dweller with Big City Style.

Im ashamed to die until i have won some victory for humanity.

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