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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Out of the closet!

So the laneway house is busy being built.  Rooms are being framed.  Spaces are taking shape.

But what about our other project…..paring down?  Minimalising?

Hmmm, I wore out a pair of white socks — and didn’t replace it, er, them!

Well, it’s a process, isn’t it?

The thoughts of wardrobes — both the storage system and what goes within — are with us.  We are now chosing what our wardrobe (the piece of furniture) will contain, and it’s plain we have to whittle down our wardrobes (the clothes) even more.


And there’s a very clever way to do it.  If you are a lady who loves clothes and have limited space (or funds) and you live in the US, you can try Gwynnie Bee, basically a clothes rental system.  Subscribe and you can borrow clothes from their extensive collection.  Kind of like having a very understanding fashionable room mate — with a very deep closet.

Of course clothes are not the only things we keep in a closet.  If you’re like most people, you need shoes.  And some people need lots and lots of shoes.  Just Soles to the rescue.  And for accessories, it’s Bag, Borrow, or Steal.

I’m not prepared to move across the border just for more clothes.  But it’s an intriguing idea. For now, we will be paring and whittling.

Day 82 – slab happy

Last evening was our scheduled meeting with Laurel and Angelito, our designer and builder from Novell Design Build.  As I walked up the alley to the house, I couldn’t see much in the way of progress.

But my eyes deceived me!  For lo and behold, when I got nearer it was plain that the slab had been poured!

20130726.1Garage(All images click to embiggen)

Check out that solid concrete floor!  It really looked great, and not just in the garage.

Looking south through the bathroom toward the lane:


See that little window?  It’s actually going to be replaced.  Last weekend I was passing by (as I do!) and saw the hoses had been placed all over the floor.  I didn’t want to step on the styrofoam they were sitting on, so I looked through the bathroom window to see.  And then I thought “Hey, I shouldn’t be able to do this!  I don’t want my bathroom window to be clear (especially at eye height)!”  So I pointed it out to Laurel, and sure enough, an error had been made and the window will be fitted with obscure glass. **whew** You can see the roughed in drainage for the shower on the left, the toilet in the centre, and the sink on the right.

If you look north, to where the closet and the bedroom will be:

20130726.6BedroomHosesyou can see where the hoses are all connected and will be accessible through the back of the bedroom closet (which is actually outside the bedroom). Over to the left is the under-stair storage:

20130726.7Storagethe original header has been removed, so we will have access though a panel that will be much higher.  Angelito and his crew will make sure it’s as invisible as possible, with a touch latch so no hardware — it will look just like another part of the wall.  You will also note:  stairs!  The bottom two still have to be fixed so that we can install drawers in them for our shoes, but it makes going up and down so easy.

20130726.3StairupNote on the left-hand wall, there’s a smallish square window at the bottom of the stairs and a large rectangular window at the top.  Between them rising up the stairs, there will be built-in bookshelves, in increasing size, so you will see small window, medium bookshelf, larger bookshelf, large window.  This place is so well designed!

Up those stairs and around the corner look into the corner where the sitting area will be:


See that big, beautiful door?  It will go into this corner:

20130726.9DoorwayWe talked about a bunch of other things, too.  Like the bedroom closet.  It was designed so we can insert a 200cm wide closet system into it.  But then I thought about putting in a regular closet, except it would be up to the ceiling.  Angelito pointed out that the framing to support the doors we would want to put in would take up valuable closet space, and we kicked around some other ideas, but in the end we decided to go with the original plan.  That’s what is so great about talking with the designer and builder right there.  We can make so many decisions on the spot.

We also talked about putting shelving in, custom shelves versus out of the box; the drainage installed on the roof and the deck; the kitchen cabinets; the next steps.  For the builders it will be sheathing and waterproofing, installing all the exterior doors and sealing off the house, getting inspections and putting on the torchon membrane in preparation for the living roof.

For us it will be getting in touch with their technology expert about the security, the vacuum system and the entertainment. Plus shopping for an arrangement in the sitting room that can give us maximum seating in a space 80 inches by 50 inches.

This morning I hopped up to the big house to babysit my grand-daughter.  We had a great time, she made me “breakfast” with her play kitchen which was heavy on the plastic ice-cream cones and light on nutrition, and I thought “I can hardly wait until we are neighbours!”

Wabi Sabi? Wabi I’ve got, Sabi, not so much

I’ve been reading, and following several blogs, about minimalism.  And if you do that, you will soon run across the term “wabi sabi”.  At first I thought that people were just fascinated with Japanese horseradish.  But no.  Wabi sabi is a Japanese term, to be sure, but it actually refers to an emotional state, a state of living, and of course a style of decorating.

According to the font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, wabi sabi can mean

 Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”


But some also translate it as

Wabi sabi is a state of consciousness. Its beauty hidden in the aesthetic or feeling experienced between you and something in the world.

or, according to others, it’s

wabi sabi is about the perfection of impermanence and imperfection.

or even

 Wabi (which means “humble and unmaterialistic”), Sabi (which means, “the bloom of time”), is a Japanese mindset based on the spiritual concepts of Zen Buddhism

OK, so the Japanese have a word for it, and we are trying to each find our own definition that conveys the spirit of the way of life that reflects and realizes beauty, serenity, and balance.

But one thing everyone agrees on.  Wabi sabi means living a clean, uncluttered life.  Loving and respecting nature in all its complexity. Being mindful of one’s surroundings.  Caring for one’s belongings, now matter how few they may be.  Appreciating quality over quanitity.

Simplifying your life.

And that’s what I’m after.  So I will try to follow the tenets of wabi sabi.

To live small, avoid living big

A newspaper article caught my eye yesterday.  From the Globe and Mail, it says

A liberation creed for consumers: Think small

Those of us who are treading the path to less and fewer can hardly be surprised that writer Rob Carrick has noticed the “living small” movement and espouses it.

Let’s get a few things straight about the Think Small philosophy of spending.

It’s not about self-denial, extreme frugality, going back to nature, reducing your carbon footprint, veganism, communism, adopting a monastic lifestyle or otherwise preventing you from having all the toys you want.

Think Small is a liberation creed for consumers. Buy smaller homes and cars and spend the money you save on other things.

It appears Mr. Carrick is writing a series of articles about the movement.  The week before he wrote about the joy of spending less on cars.

Now here is what surprises me.  The Globe and Mail, like most media in Canada (this blog and CBC radio are the exception) makes its money entirely through advertising.  Advertising makes its money by convincing people that they should buy things they don’t need.

Right now, the articles suggest paying less for your cars and houses — and buying other stuff, “spend the money you save on other things.”

But you and I know that the secret to living small is NOT spending money on things.

Hmmmm……so if we spend less and less on stuff, will there be more advertising, or less? Will newspapers and broadcasting be able to survive? Is Mr. Carrick writing himself out of a job?


I went to a session at Bikram’s Yoga on Saturday morning with my daughter.  She, an old hand, had told me how much she enjoyed hot yoga, so I thought I would try it out.

The jury is still out for me on the experience.  The studio was lovely and the teacher very helpful; I enjoyed it, but I did have to push myself to finish each posture (and failed!) so we’ll see how I feel in a day or so ( stiff and sore is acceptable, excruciating pain is not).  I was a bright pink lady at the end, schvitzing like I never had before and SO ready for that nice cool shower.

The yoga studio is hot.  Not just warm, but hot.  I lay down on my mat to begin, knowing that heat rises, so I should be comfortable at the lowest point in the room.  But alas, the floor was the source of the heat!  It felt warm to the touch.

And by that circuitous route, I bring us to the point of this post — radiant floor heat.

We will have it in the laneway house — and it’s being installed right now.

The tankless water heater will be pumping warm water through red pipes embedded in the concrete floor to heat the lower floor.  Naturally, the pipes come first, laying on the styrofoam insulation:


Even in the garage (to the far right).


Even under the stairs, where the storage space will be.


Each room will be programmable.  Very comfy.  We will keep our bedroom cool at night, the bathroom toasty.

20130720.4Upstairs, the heat from downtstairs will rise to warm it, but there will also be a baseboard grill at the floor level of the kitchen peninsula.

Be sure to listen to the Home Discovery Show on Sunday July 21

Because I’ll be on!

And remember, if you have any questions, just phone in to the show.

The Home Discovery Show, coming to a radio near you!

If the eyes are the windows of the soul

Are windows the soul of a house?

These photos were actually taken the other evening, so there may be EVEN MORE developments that we haven’t seen, but I did want to share the fact that the windows and doors are being installed in our laneway.

20130717.3Eventually we will be able to access that side of the house without walking a plank.  The upper window on the left is the tiny one-foot-tall window that will be between the upper and lower cabinets in the kitchen.  The window below that is our bedroom window, and the one on the right beside the door is on the stairs.  These stairs:

20130717.4.stairsThey go up from the yard-side entrance to the kitchen/sitting area.

Here’s a view of the stairs and window from inside.


You can see the framing of the half-wall overlooking the stairs, and the window facing west from the landing.

Here’s me on our deck outside the sitting area window.

20130717.2You can see the window on the right that overlooks the living roof from our kitchen.  These two windows, and the one overlooking the lane from the sitting area are tilt and turn windows.  I tilted them and turned them just for fun.

All our windows are from Cascadia Windows, made locally with fibreglass frames.

More updates will come as we progress!

Day 73

It hardly seems possible that we have been at this for nearly 10 weeks — that’s one third the entire build schedule!

We dashed up last evening to get a good look at the developments.  DD says that there have been several people onsite — one apparently taking measurements for our kitchen cabinets.

Here we can see the pitched roofs over the stair landing and our bedroom.  I hope that means falling asleep to the sound of rain on our rolled steel roof!


Downstairs you can see that styrofoam has been laid on the floor, in preparation for the slab being poured in the next two weeks.


We love dropping by to see what progress is made on the house.  Next big step will be windows and doors installed so they can lock up the project and put in those expensive copper pipes and wires.

Appli-ancing ourselves

At this stage we are seeing all the little jigsaw pieces coming together.  Items we assumed would be chosen last actually must be selected quite early in the process.  Like plumbing supplies.  Or appliances.

With the help of our designer Laurel, and Matthew at Colony Appliances, we have made our choices. Keeping the bywords “sleek and chic” in mind at all times! The kitchen appliances will be stainless, the washer/dryer will be white.

Unlike a “standard size” house, we have to choose appliances not just for their look and function, but for their small size.  Small appliances are recent arrivals to the major North American manufacturers.  The ones we choose are actually from makers we were not familiar with.

Our gas range, gas dryer and washer, and fridge will all be Blomberg models.  Blomberg is a European brand (not much of a surprise) that has been around for over 120 years, and is affordable (always a consideration with us).

The dishwasher will be in a drawer! One of the problems I’ve had in the past with dishwashers is that with just two people, the dishes sit around for too long before they are washed (waiting for a full load).  That means they have to be really rinsed well so the food doesn’t stick, and then, well, why not just wash them?  But with this one we can run it after just one meal. It’s made by Fisher Paykel, a New Zealand company.

The microwave is a Panasonic model, and the vent hood is by Zephyr.

It’s important to pick out your appliances at this stage, so that the cabinet manufacturers can build around them.  If we chose a taller fridge (they can be about 60 inches up to 84 inches high) or a full-size dishwasher they would have to accommodate them.

We are chuffed to be able to choose what we need for our new home.  This is the first time we have been able to choose new appliances, and we have enjoyed it very much!

Shaping up!

We had our semi-weekly meeting with Laurel and Angelito yesterday to check out the developments in our laneway home.

We actually went inside to check it out, and we were just thrilled at every step. I actually squealed with delight.

While we didn’t see huge changes from before I went out of town, the differences were significant.  The outside wall of the gabled western side is framed



That shows the perimeters of the complete house.  You can see that the top of the laneway doesn’t block a lot of the view from the main house’s deck, being about the same height as the house across the lane. We do block the view of their garage across the lane, and the Grizzlies backboard attached thereto.


You can see how the house will be massed with the gable on the west, and the flat roof beyond.  That top level will be the deck, the kitchen and the sitting area.


There are so many design details you don’t notice in the building when you are looking at the plans.  Like when you step in the front door on the lane you will see right through the huge window of the back door on the yard — and right up to the kitchen door of the main house.

When we looked at the top floor from the outside, the room seemed very small.  But when we actually stepped into the space we could see how the windows and the open plan seemed spacious and airy.



That doorway in the back behind me will be part of the wall between the stove and the fridge, with just a small window.  Right now it’s open to let people access the top floor since the stairs won’t be in place until the slab is poured.

It’s so hard for me to imagine in 3D.  I could see the plans, I could mark out the size of the rooms on my floors — but until you stand in the space you really can’t get the full concept of the home.

We are even more excited to see what will come.

After our tour of the laneway we ducked into the main house to see the developments of the basement suite.  It all looks very nice, but I was blown away by the quality of the tile installation in the bathroom.  It’s just a simple brick design of subway tiles, to be grouted with dark grout.  The tiles wrap around the tub and onto the adjoining wall.  Each tile along the ceiling had to be individually fitted to the imperfections of a decades-old house, and yet it looks fantastic!  I’m toying with the idea of wrapping the tile along the wall with the window, the toilet, and the sink.  I think it would look very nice.  But it’s something I have to think about.

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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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