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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Use it up or throw it out!

We are packing again, getting ready to move to the laneway house.  I look around me and see shelves of goods, and I just don’t know where it all will go.

Well, of course, a lot of it will go …. out.


What will we throw out?  In this article on Wise Bread, there are tons of things to toss. Lots of the suggestions we have already rid ourselves of:

2. Old Paint

We all have those cans of paint in the garage or basement. They’re great for touching up walls when they get chipped or scratched up.

We got rid of all our old paint by taking it to the local recycler.

11. Magazines

There’s a better place for those old magazines than gathering dust in your garage, basement, or attic

I tossed piles of magazines.  And when I get a new magazine I give the old issue away, so I only keep one issue at a time.

16. Old Underwear, Socks, and Bras

Alas, sometimes we stretch out the time between washes a little longer than we should, and why? Because we see five pairs of undies or socks left in the drawer and know we’re OK.

I can’t bring myself to give away my older…”lingerie”( to call my skivvies by a fancy French name).  But I can’t believe how much I have, and I won’t have to visit the panty counter for a long, long time.

17. Dated Technology, Including Old Cell Phones

It was shocking to see how many old computer components and cell phones we had when we moved the first time.  Luckily we could wipe the hard drives and pass them along.

What am I ridding myself of? We have lots to throw away.

9. Linens

Old, dated, worn, mismatched linens that no longer have a use other than “what if?”

Or shred

4. Dated Receipts, Paychecks, and Bills

Do you really need a filing cabinet full of old bills, paychecks, and receipts? If they are no longer needed, dump them

We’re digitising as much as we can of our paper records.

7. Cups and Mugs

We’ve got lots of old dishes that will go.  There are boxes of “good” dishes in the storage locker, no need to hold onto chipped and mis-matched crockery.

And what can I NOT give away?

23. Jewelry

Pendants with broken chains. Old rings. Old bracelets. Dated brooches. Dated anything, actually.

I am not a jewellery fan.  I have been given lovely chains, bracelets, earrings, pins.  But I wear the same silver chain and the same silver hoop earrings almost every day.  I know I should sell or give away a lot of the jewellery I have.  But I just can’t.  It’s the shocking victory of sentiment over practicality, but I can’t get rid of my old jewellery.  Oh sure, cheap plastic items have been passed along.  But not the good stuff.

So we continue with the process.  Shedding our carapace of belongings.  Like moulting a skin. But just a bit more painful.

A studio with real style right here in our home town

That I am a fan of Houzz is no secret.  I look forward to the twice-weekly updates in my email, and always have lots to pin.

This week I pounced on the story of a Vancouver woman who has squeezed every bit of style and comfort out of her 450 square foot studio apartment.  I’m always interested in these stories because, although I love to see homes with lots of technical fixes and built-in storage solutions, that’s not the way most people live.  Studio apartments are often rentals, with restrictions as to attaching things to ceilings and bans on ripping out walls.

Megan Close of The Cross Design has separated the “bedroom” space from the “sitting room” space in her studio suite with a simple dresser from IKEA which she painted white.

Eclectic Living Room by Vancouver Interior Designers & Decorators The Cross Design
In fact, a lot of her furniture is from IKEA, which keeps down the cost while pushing up the style quotient.
The dresser is topped with two vintage mirrors, which further blocks the view of the bed and gives Megan a place to primp.
Eclectic Spaces by Vancouver Interior Designers & Decorators The Cross Design
The mirrors including the large one leaning against the wall in the top photo bring more light deep into the suite, and give the illusion of more space.
A DIY pallet headboard provides a solid mount for the lamp while hiding the wires (can’t open up the wall to hard-wire the lamp in a rental).  Putting the lamp there means she just needs a small table beside the bed, and this delicate pedestal doesn’t take up too much visual space.
Eclectic Bedroom by Vancouver Interior Designers & Decorators The Cross Design
That “chandelier” also disappears into the background for a subtle whimsical touch.
See how she combines the IKEA sofa with the custom ottoman?  A great use of her budget for the most style. That art piece on the wall is a flea market find.
Eclectic Living Room by Vancouver Interior Designers & Decorators The Cross Design
Megan added an MDF shelf to her kitchen pass-through so that she can eat there, and she tucked another shelf higher up for some decorative pieces — all transparent or in matching colours to cut down on visual “noise”.
Eclectic Kitchen by Vancouver Interior Designers & Decorators The Cross Design
Read the whole story to see how Megan has made the most of the smallest space with an eye on the bottom line.  It’s another example of creative design trumping tight restrictions.

Downsizing. Again!

We have been living in our small rental for nearly six months now, and although we downsized a lot when we moved here, we realize that we have been enjoying a luxury of space that will not be available in the laneway home.

For instance, even though the kitchen is tucked into a corner of the main living room, the rest of the room is large enough to hold a small dining table and two chairs, a sofa and armchair, a coffee table, set of shelves, and TV cabinet, plus several large plants.

Our new home will have less than half the room.  The kitchen will be larger, with more built-ins and counter space.  But we will lose the table and chairs and will eat at the counter with these stools (except in white)


DH picked them up yesterday and they are ready to go.

The kitchen counter will have to be kept spotless and clutter-free.  That’ll be easier with the built-in microwave and the appliance garage, like this one:

ApplianceGarageNote the electrical outlet within the garage — we’ll have that as well.

Plus the garbage, compost and recycling will be tucked out of sight in a pull-out drawer under the sink.

And we are thinking a lot about how to get every square centimeter of use out of the kitchen.

Back in our old kitchen, I stored spices on two turntables in an upper cupboard.  Although in principle it was a good idea, when you needed a spice it was always in the centre of the circular turntable, which meant moving spice bottles around a lot, and some would fall off onto the counter, and some would fall off into the back of the cupboard and stop the turntable from moving.  It was not an ideal situation, and it drove DH nuts as little bottles would cascade out of the cupboard onto his cooking projects.

So we asked for, and got, a nice pull-out drawer with shelves that fits in right beside the stove.  Something like this:

SpiceDrawerWith adjustable shelves.  We would store the spices on the shelves, but we wanted a method to store the spices in uniform containers that we could identify from above, as we would be seeing them from above when we pulled out the drawer.

So I got a bit crafty.  We buy our martini olives in short, cylindrical jars.  When we empty the jars, instead of putting them in the recycle bin, I recycle them as spice jars.  Some chalkboard paint on the side makes a label that I write the name on with a white pen.  And a dab of the same paint on the lid allows me to write the name there, too.


Problem solved inexpensively and while saving the planet from more glass.

Now on to the next dilemna.  Do we need that container of ladles, spoons, etc. beside the stove?  Or should they be stored in a drawer?

Packing style into 500 square feet

We are coming down to the final weeks of our project, and we are just picking up a few things we’ll need for the laneway house decor.  Like a sofa, a bed, a rug, a closet.

We are keeping things pretty simple upstairs, with mid-century modern and just one or two accent colours against the neutral background.  The big pieces of furniture will be the same grey/brown as the floor.  We like to keep it simple to keep it serene.

But not everyone feels like that.  This family from LA likes to stir it up with a lot of colour and texture — and still manages to fit it into 500 square feet.

Here the Barcelona chair — usually covered in plain fabric or leather, gets a bright floral makeover.  The stack of books reflects the books on the shelf over the window.  The traditional rug pattern adds more movement to the design.
Here’s more colour and texture tucked into the main bedroom (can you believe a family of four fits into this small space?).
The bookshelf holds lots of different shapes for more interest.  
And see how the stripes in the bedroom have different scales?
Altogether a lovely home.  Get the whole look at Houzz.  

Laneway House Tour Recap

We had a great time yesterday during the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Laneway House Tour.  We had about 275 people come through, and got to speak with quite a few of them.

Thanks if you came by!

Novell had really put a lot of effort into getting the place ready.  Friday the place was crowded with hard-working trades:

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen

The day of the show, the outside was painted so you could see what our home will look like when it’s finished. They had tidied up the front with river rock and gravel, so it looked nice.  Very nice!


Don’t be fooled by comparing the garage door opening to the height of the gentleman standing inside.  He is very tall.

Inside, it was hard to believe the chaos of the day before had created such calm and terrific-ness.  (Remember, the electricity had been hooked up the day before). All the pot lights were in, and looked great.

In the kitchen most of the cabinets were up (Good work, John from Pacific Rim Cabinets!) and they look fantastic.  They are finished in walnut and the grain matches exactly across the span of doors.  They look just like fine furniture — just the look we are going for in our combined kitchen/dining/sitting space.

The Blomberg fridge and stove from Colony looked super, and we were able to check out the new appliances for how much they can hold (DD will want some help with Christmas dinner, but we’ll have to see if the new oven can hold a big turkey).

Even our kitchen sink was in place, though the counters won’t be installed for another couple of weeks.  We wanted, needed, insisted on a double sink, and though it does take up valuable counter space, we are glad to have it.

The floor was finished upstairs, but the installers were not able to put it in the lower floor as the levelling concrete they had poured was not solid enough.  Novell put down some carpets to keep our shoeless visitors comfortable.

The beautiful tiling was in place in our teensy wash room.  The sink and toilet were there just to indicate where they’ll be installed when the room is finished.

Novell had a plan of the home pinned up in our “closet” area, with numbers corresponding to special features.  Design build efficiencies like the wall thickness, radiant heat, and the mechanical room placement.  Tight space fixes like the shoe storage in the staircase and the garage storage placed up high.  And healthy home solutions like the sundeck and the living roof.

LanewayFeatures20131019 (click to see the pdf)

Grant was there from Live Roof to explain all the advantages of having a living roof.  Everyone wanted to see it, we were happy to oblige, and it looked terrific.

Many thanks to the Vancouver Heritage Foundation and to the volunteers who helped with the crowds.  Cheers, Kim, Maureen, Deb and Sandra.

And thanks to the fantastic blog readers who came up to say hello.  You made my day!

It’s show time! The Vancouver Heritage Foundation Laneway House Tour!

No more rehearsing and nursing our part, we know every part by heart.

Today we’ll spend the afternoon up at the laneway house to meet and greet the participants in the Vancouver Heritage Foundation Laneway House Tour. We are expecting a few hundred people to come through the house, and it is as ready as it can be. The electicity was connected yesterday.

I dropped by the build to find our builder, Angelito, working with the finishing carpenters, the cabinet installer, the electrician, the tiler, the painter, and a couple of other people I couldn’t place.  To say it was a hive of activity would be an insult (busy bees? Ha! slackers in comparison).

We’re the last house on the laneway ticket, at Windermere and 8th Avenue, close to Rupert and Broadway.

If you don’t have a ticket, you can get one at the information booth (Garage of 945 W 33rd Ave.) from 12 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Even if you never make it out our way, I heartily encourage you to buy a ticket, support the VHF, and see some of the other houses out there.  You will never have a better opportunity to see a diversity of laneway homes.

By the way, the outside of the house looks a little different than on the ticket — the siding is on and painted.

The shape -- not the colour.

So this is the shape of the house — not the colour.

See you there!

Getting ready for the Big Show! Places, everyone!

We cannot keep away now — we drop by the house every day.  And every day we see more developments.

Today we couldn’t enter the house because we could hear the whine of the paint sprayers inside.  We admired the siding appearing on the exterior and the forms all ready for the concrete walkway and deck.

The rush is on, not just for us, but also for the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Laneway House Tour on Saturday.  We’re chuffed to be part of the tour, and want to put our best face forward.

The Vancouver Heritage Foundation is happy to have us, and have even put our picture in the invitation:

Cal Patricia Laurel Angelito SherVin editThat’s our crew.  Cute, yes?

Local media are writing up the tour, as in this story in the Vancouver Courier. The house and laneway featured in this story are up in Marpole.

“It originally sat here on a larger piece of property and was one of the original south Granville farmhouses built in 1912. It would be one of the very few surviving houses in the neighbourhood,” said Roberts, who’s owned it for about five years.

Laneway homes are being celebrated for helping retain the charm and character in older neighbourhoods while still supporting densification.

Will we see you on Saturday?  We’ll be there, and the house will be about 90% finished.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that BC Hydro will have us hooked up by the time of the tour, but that is completely beyond our control.  Except for the finger crossing of course.

Novell has promised to have something special for people who come to our house.  And N.A.T.S. Nursery might be there, too to talk about living roofs.

Hope to see you!  Be sure to say hello.

We’re a house! With a living roof!

I went out of town for a few days, and came back to see a HUGE difference in the laneway house.

Inside, the drywall has been put up and mudded.

Looking south in the upper storey:

Looking due south

Looking due south

See the rolled steel cladding on the outside deck?

The north wall of the kitchen

The north wall of the kitchen

And although the outside still has not received the final siding, there have been many changes

Yesterday the living roof was installed.

Yesterday the living roof was installed.

Today you can see how far the hardscaping has come:

Rebar and framing ready for the concrete.

Rebar and framing ready for the concrete.

The power still has not been connected to the laneway.  All the electricity to run the dryers and de-humidifiers that ready the drywall for painting have to be run with extension cords plugged in to different circuits in the main house (so they don’t overload each circuit and trip the breaker).

The great push will ensure that the Vancouver Heritage Foundation‘s laneway tour will see our little house in good form.  Have you bought your tickets yet?  It’s a great way to see the most laneway houses in the least expense of time.

Remember, there’s still a lot to be done in a short amount of time (losing a day on Monday for Thanksgiving Day).  The interior has to be painted and the flooring and tiling completed, the kitchen cupboards must be installed and the exterior siding must be put on.  The lights have to be connected, too.  So everyone is putting in extra hours to make it all come together.



The front door is open, but just give us a chance to straighten up the place inside.

Cute and little house in the woods.

Trying to fit as much living space — and style — into 500 square feet can be a real challenge.  You can see how that challenge is being met on the Vancouver Heritage Foundation Laneway House Tour on Saturday, October 19.  Get your tickets now for a great afternoon of discovering all the ways designers meet the constraints of building a home in a tightly restricted size limitation.  Our place and one other are the smallest homes at 500 square feet.  Some of the others go up to nearly 1000.  But in every one you will find lots of great decorating and renovating ideas.

Be listening to the Home Discovery Show Sunday morning, October 13, for a chance to win tickets to the tour!

Far away from Vancouver’s urban densification, homeowners outside of Golden, Colarado found themselves with a similar dilemna.  They wanted to build a studio/guest house close to their main dwelling, up in the Rocky Mountains.  But they were restricted by building codes to build in the footprint of a recently-demolished shack — to just 500 square feet.  And they wanted the new structure to fit in with the rustic style of their existing residence.

As this story in Houzz shows, the answer was a delightful little “Hobbit House” seemingly growing out of the granite of the hills.

Rustic Exterior by Golden Architects & DesignersTKP Architects pc

From the quaint rounded front door to the slate roof, every detail was carefully planned and executed.  Guests can make themselves at home in a loft bed

Rustic Bedroom by Golden Architects & Designers TKP Architects pc
Or a Murphy bed
Rustic Bedroom by Golden Architects & Designers TKP Architects pc
And the “kitchen” is actually a studio for the owner, a jewellery designer
Rustic Living Room by Golden Architects & Designers TKP Architects pc
There’s a modern bathroom that still fits the quaint esthetic (a custom concrete sink keeps the theme going).
Rustic Powder Room by Golden Architects & Designers TKP Architects pc
And the fireplace and open beams are a perfect way to incorporate “Hobbit” charm. The mullioned windows along one side are actually doors that slide open to the deck.
Rustic Living Room by Golden Architects & Designers TKP Architects pc
Once again we see that good design can overcome site difficulties.  Who wouldn’t want to make their way to this guest house after a day of hiking or skiing?
Rustic Exterior by Golden Architects & Designers TKP Architects pc

Liberty, Equality, Frugality

When you are paying a mortgage or monthly rental and trying to keep all the bills under control, you don’t think much about how to save money.  You just do.  You keep your Starbucks habit to once-a-week or less, use coupons, take your lunch every day and eschew the vending machines at work.  You don’t eat out unless it’s a VERY special occasion, and make your own pizzas rather than have delivery.

But what happens when we are in the new place — mortgage free?  We will actually have money LEFT OVER every month. And for people who just don’t spend money, we could blow this very easily, by starting spending habits we don’t need. Sure, I’ll buy those magazines!  I’ll pay for SOMEONE ELSE to colour my hair (if, say, it needed colouring)!  I’ll go shopping even when I don’t need something!


OK, that last one is a non-starter.  I dislike shopping (especially for shoes) and there will be no room for frivolities in our new closet.

But as part of our new, simpler lifestyle, keeping control of our spending is just a part of well, life.  And I could use some direction in being even more frugal.

Luckily, when the need is there….

I bought a book from a lady who spoke at a workshop I went to.  Very helpful.  And reassuring.  Do you know a shedload of people live beyond their means?  Not something to emulate, to be sure, but somehow comforting.

It’s a journey, so I’ll be working on it day by day.

With help from books, and websites like Wise Bread and LifeHacker, and some common sense.

My Pain, My Life, My Struggles, My Fight

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