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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Boxed in and loving it!

Currently I am surrounded by boxes, with more coming and every time I tape one shut I give a little happy dance.  Although it looks chaotic, we are actually being quite systematic, and looking forward to unpacking in the new place — tomorrow!

So there’s not much to report here.  We have met with our builders for our final walk-through and expect most things to be done by the time we are unpacking.  I’ll update once we are in the new place and have internet connections once more.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at some other small houses worth noting:

At Tiny House Talk we learned about the Kanga Room Systems — prefabricated structures that can be used for outbuildings, or for homes.

Take a tour of this 280 square foot city house from Kanga:

Looking for something a little more compact?  This 200 square foot home is available in Portland, Oregon, and is built on a flatbed so you can move it to your lot:

And for a truly heart-warming story, learn about a Colorado couple who built their tiny home by hand — learning how to do it every step of the way. They even made a movie of the whole process. Their take on the situation is this:

What is home? And how do we find it?
One couple’s attempt to build a Tiny House with no building experience raises questions about sustainability, good design, and the changing American Dream.

TINY: A Story About Living Small (Teaser Trailer) from TINY on Vimeo.

I’ll catch up with you when we are moved into the laneway.  I am excited beyond description about this step of our journey.

Making the bed — the hard way

One thing must be said right from the beginning:  DH and I are not handy.  We do not make things.  We do not know anything about carpentry, or wiring, or plumbing, or tiling, or any of those DIY things that the TV shows tell us we all can do (but we know we can’t).

LiftBed

But I felt sure we could put together a Lift And Stor bed by ourselves.  There’s a video at the website that shows how it’s done.  You don’t need special equipment — just a mallet, a screw driver, some allen wrenches, a nut driver.  What could be easier?

We weren’t attempting to actually BUILD the bed, although you can order the hardware by itself and get your own boards and save lots of money.  We’re optimistic, not delusional.  We had purchased the kit, where all we had to do was get the pre-cut pre-finished pieces connected with the supplied hardware.

Seriously, what could be easier?

We have a system that we employ when we assembled pre-made furniture (cough**IKEA**).  We get all the tools together. We unpack the components. We read over the instructions together.  We set aside all the nuts, screws, bolts and nuts in an easy-to-reach place.  Then we spend the next few minutes-to-hours grousing, smashing fingers, grunting, swearing and throwing invective at each other.  At least one thing will be attached incorrectly and will be nearly impossible to fix. There will be a running argument.  Tempers will stretch, fray, and break.  

In the video on the website it shows the experts putting together the bed in less than an hour.  It took us closer to 3 hours to do it. We pulled up the video on our phones to help us, as we were completely unable to decipher the instructions.  The boxes had been stored in the garage space and were covered with fine dust, which we got all over ourselves.  Our knuckles were skinned.

But it was done!  Finished!  Assembled!  It looks very nice and operates beautifully, easily lifting up to reveal storage below.

We high-fived each other and went off to collect a Zip Car for a trip to IKEA.

More than enough?

We are currently packing up the few belongings we have here at the rental preparing to move in less than a week.  A co-worker is coming to take our shelves, table and chairs (she is grateful for the free stuff, we are grateful it will be GONE!).  My son and DIL came by yesterday for my grandmother’s nesting tables — promised to me by my mother but in my possession for only a few months.  Ah well, at least they will stay in the family. My niece is taking the microwave, but I’m not so sentimental about that.

I am very pleased to see how much storage there is in the new place — in the kitchen cupboards, the bathroom cabinets, under the stairs, even in some of the furniture.

But as I pack I am confronted by items for which there will be no space.  Baskets on the shelves, with no correspondent shelf to place them on in the laneway.  A set of plastic drawers that were perfect in our old condo for storing small things under the bathroom sink. Our new bathroom sink already has drawers,

godmorgen

And the two bathroom cabinets, stacked along a wall, are not deep enough to hold the unit

Lillangen

 

There’s plenty of room to hold the things that are in that cheap, dollar-store set of plastic shelves, but no room for the shelves themselves.

Shall I find a new use for those shelves?  Or just toss them?

Now imagine making decisions about dozens of items — not precious or expensive in any way — just THERE.

NOW imagine the process of going through all the boxes in our storage space, repeating this over and over again.

That’s what downsizing means — and that’s why it is going to take us so long.

We will be doing this for months…maybe longer.  It’s tiring, it can be exhausting.

But it’s liberating, too.

A moving story

We are SO CLOSE to our very last moving date. But it’s like that old science class problem, where you have to move a distance, but first you have to move half the distance, then a quarter of the distance, then an eighth of the distance, and so on, until it looks like you will never get to your destination because you will still be 1/128th away from it. The details still have to be attended to, and there never seems to be an end of them.
But that is for our builders to fret about. We are preparing for the move here at the rental. Putting stuff in boxes so a coworker can take away the shelves to furnish her first apartment. So a charity can come and take the last stick of furniture. So we can bundle ourselves onto a moving truck and get to set up a home in our laneway.
Life was a lot easier when all we had to do was throw our books and records (pre-CD days) into a few milk crates, which would then serve as the foundation for shelves at the new abode.
milk

 

Wouldn’t life be simpler if we could still use something like that for our shelving?  You can see where I’m going — someone has come up with a modern version of the milk crate — the Yube! It’s a modular cube that you can use to make larger pieces of furniture.

Like a coffee table

YubeTable

 

Or office shelves

YubeOffice

 

A media centre

YubeMedia

 

Or a modern wall of bookcases

YubeWall

 

A sleek look you can take with you anywhere — and configure how you wish in your new home. The Yube locks together for a safe and secure structure–with optional doors and shelves.  And as this article in Life Edited says

The YubeCubes also feature a very solid eco-cred, with panels made entirely made of sugarcane fiber, bamboo and recycled plastic.

Storage is at a premium in a small home, but you can’t afford to sacrifice style.

The Yube Cube looks like the smart, ecologically friendly alternative to our old friend, the milk crate. Plus it’s great for a rental.

Real life and reel life small apartments in New York

Who hasn’t dreamed of moving to New York, at least for a couple of years?  Pretty much everyone, which is why living space is at such a premium in that city.  And when people pay such a lot for such a little space, they get pretty creative with how they use their limited living area.

A recent discovery of mine, YouTube program SPACEStv brings us this super sleek space-age apartment — completely finished in recycled materials.  Watch this and learn more about it:

Incredible that this space was built by just one guy!  It looks like something from 2001 (the movie, not the year).

And from Inhabitat we see a similar space but a completely different take.  The HBO series Girls features a very home-made looking space-saving studio suite built by and for the character Charlie. As in real life, this apartment uses every square inch for living.

girls-charlies-apartment-leWhereas the first apartment had everything — even the kitchen stove — hidden behind slick plastic and stainless steel, this suite has everything right out in the open. But it feels warm and welcoming.

The space was designed by production designer Laura Ballinger

girls-charlies-apartment-5Surprisingly, I could see myself living in the fictional home before I would feel comfortable in the actual home. There’s something about the “Tron” apartment that looks a little toooooooo white and clean.  But since the builder/occupant is an environmentalist it was important for him to get away from the dirt and the garbage he deals with every day.

Which would you choose?

When is a garage not a garage?

There’s a new house being built down the street from our rental suite.  It’s a huge mega house and I wasn’t surprised to see a structure being built behind it, on the lane.  But I was disappointed when it became obvious it was going to be a garage — not a laneway house.  There’s a laneway house just two doors down from it, but they decided to put cars and not people in that space.

It seems such a waste to me. I would like to see that space turned over to densification.  But it’s not too late!  They could still do it — according to Apartment Therapy, Naomi and her husband turned their two-car garage in Portland into a lovely and liveable Accessory Dwelling Unit.  It’s a great story.

PortlandKitchen

It is now a beautiful, modern living space modern with open plan, great daylight and highly energy efficient with many sustainable features. Highlights include re-used materials from Portland’s Rebuilding Center; 11 inch thick insulated walls which maintain a comfortable temperature range year round; radiant heating under our concrete floor; solar panels; combination washer/dryer in one; and a barn door made from reclaimed old growth fir.

That barn door adds interest and privacy to the home while saving space.  A simple shelf becomes an office with the use of a laptop.

PortlandDoor

The decor is fresh and modern but keeps a cozy feel.

PortlandLounge

Naomi rents out the main house on the property, and she and her husband live in the suite.  The money they make/save allows them to travel.

I think that’s a better use for the land — a comfortable and attractive home that fits into the neighbourhood.

PortlandExteriorRead the whole story at Apartment Therapy.

Bedroom Talk

Yesterday our day’s tasks centred on our future bedroom.  I think I’ve said this before, it’s really a “bed” room.  There is just room for the bed, a small occasional chair, and a fan.  No dresser or closet, all our clothes will be stored in the closet system in our hallway.

And no room for few-faws and knick-knacks.  No shelves, no other horizontal surface besides our bedside shelves.

We measured the wall behind the bed.  81 inches, side to side.  I’m using that measurement to make roman blinds for the window in this fabric:

BedroomCurtainLively, isn’t it?

We will also use that measurement to find shelves to act as bedside tables.  81 inches across the wall, less 60 inches for our queen bed/headboard, leaves a grand total of 10 inches each side.  So the little shelves should be 10 inches deep at the most (we will mount them on the walls running parallel to the bed, not on the wall beside the headboard.) That 10-inch clearance is also why we couldn’t get a storage bed with drawers that opened on the side.  We’ve ordered and received a lift-and-store bed with a hinged lid that lifts from the end of the bed.  We’ll assemble that in a couple of weeks and tell you how it goes.

We zipped down to the legendary Dressew to get the thread and notions, plus some novelty fabric to cover some sofa cushions for Christmas.  Then up to Winners for some plain white sheets.  After the turquoise of the headboard and the blind, and the excitement in the blind and our sputnik lamp, we think a plain white duvet and sheets will be just the ticket.

The little chair is at the upholsters, having its orange loopy fabric changed out to black and white.

We thought long and hard about how we want our bedroom to look.  We also rejected the idea of installing a TV there.  The hook-up is ready if we ever change our minds, but right now that will be covered by our vintage black and white picture. We just needed a place to sleep and relax, so we could keep it very small. But we still wanted a bit of pizzazz (thus the turquoise colour, the lamp, and the blind).

How do other people save room in their small houses while still getting a nice bedroom?  Apartment Therapy found 5 Cool Hidden Beds to add a sleeping space to a small home.  My favourite is this one:

Bed-up

Suspended in a wrought iron cage above the main floor of the loft.  Although I wouldn’t want to lounge in that nice Eames chair with it hanging above me.  And I don’t think I’d enjoy a bath in that tub right beneath the window.  That reminds me of those old tub-in-the-kitchen tenements.

This queen size bed tucks right away when it’s not in use.  The 409-square foot apartment is home to a family of 3.

bed-family

People are always coming up with great ways to get the most out of small spaces.  I think we’re getting exactly the bedroom we want and need.

War, war, war-drobe!

Guess who was watching Gone With The Wind the other night?  Do you know Olivia deHavilland is still alive?  97 and kicking.

But I digress.

Pattern

A couple of months ago I ran across a very interesting and inspiring blog post by Nadia Eghbal.  A former fashionista, she wore the same outfit every day for a year.   Did people notice?  Maybe, but no one followed her through the halls pointing and giggling (she doesn’t work in a high school, obvs).  Her uniform was a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, and a scarf.  That can carry you through almost any situation.  She also kept a couple of formal dresses for special occasions, but she got rid of all her other clothes.

That really resonated with me.  I thought about it for quite a while and then I realized the reason why I got such a charge out of that post.  I wear a uniform almost every day, too.  I take the bus to work in all weather, so I usually wear slacks.  I have about five pairs so I wear one a day for the work week — jeans on Friday, natch.

I top the slacks with a short-sleeved top in the summer and a long-sleeved top in the winter.  A couple of cardigans. Three or four scarves.  One necklace.  That’s it.

So do I need too much else?  No, I really don’t. I buy a lot of clothes at the Gap because they are comfortable and affordable.

Now that we have to squeeze two wardrobes into one PAX system, I’ve got to pare that wardrobe down to the basics. But it’s not like I have to re-invent myself.  I’ve been doing that for years.  I just have to get rid of the stuff that doesn’t fit my re-invented lifestyle. And buy new clothes that do fit it — and me.

It helps that I’ve lost some weight in the last year.  No, it didn’t just fall off me, every pound was hard-fought, and I have to keep working at it to keep it off.  (I know what you’re going to say, “If you lost that weight, how come you’re still….plumpish?”  **Hard Stare**.) I still own several ensembles that are just too big for me.  I’m tossing them.  And I have lots of tops that I can still wear, but they are my old size and make me feel…plumpish.  So they will be replaced one by one by tops that fit me better.

We want to start travelling more.  That means clothes that can be rolled up and squeezed into carry-on luggage.  Tops that can dry overnight after being washed in hotel sinks. Slacks that can be worn on long flights without bagging at the knees and bum.

I won’t need a lot of clothes, and I won’t have the space to store clothes that can’t meet the criteria.

Next weekend — I will gather my forces to get rid of that sad pile of ill-fitting clothes, and fight the battle of the Droop Mountain.  I knew I’d work in Gone With The Wind somehow.

Living small? Buy into the idea

Yes, we are moving into a tiny home, and yes, we are happy to do it.  It’s not for everyone, but is it for you?  Would you put your money where your future house may be?

Ian Kent thinks his Nomad Micro Homes could be one of the answers for densification in our city — plus the solution for other housing problems.  “Less House More Home” is their motto and they have a 160 square foot house for you…for just $25,000 to $28,000.

Great for a summer house, a guest house, a studio or even your main house (if you live a minimalist life).

“There’s a wide range of uses, from people using them as additional accommodation, to recreational property — you could basically drive this home in and assemble it in a week.”

And if you think it’s a good idea, you can support the idea with a contribution to their Indie Gogo page

Nomad

And find out more about the project here:

Wheeling and dealing (with it)

When we decided to move to the east side DH lost his underground parking for his vintage auto.  No problem during the summer when the car cozy he bought kept off the sun’s destructive rays and a few brief showers.  But he knew he had to get it back underground for the winter and he rented a space for it a short distance away by bus and sky train.

Plus he got out his long-neglected bike, got it all serviced up, bought a helmet (after much nagging from his loving wife) and started using it for errands and exercise.  It’s good for him and good for the environment.

So why am I not thrilled?

Because Vancouver is not a bike-loving city.  Not yet anyway.

Watch this short film on biking through the streets of Amsterdam.

Bicycle Anecdotes from Amsterdam from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

See how the automobile traffic and the bike traffic work together to get everyone around?  Did you see the tram stop to let the cyclists cross the road?

Now contrast that with this report from a local cyclist,

In the last six months I’ve been run off the road several times, sworn at, squeezed by buses, been flipped the bird, hospitalized once, and deliberately threatened by drivers too many times to count.

The author, Michael McCarthy, is clear that the most danger to cyclists comes from drivers who give in to their frustrations with acts of road rage.  But it’s also clear that we are not yet the cycling-loving city we want to become.

In Groningen in the Netherlands there has been a cycling revolution.  Between 50 and 60 percent of all trips in the downtown area are by bicycle.  But as one of the commentators says,

“You’re not going to get a cycle revolution by having a few 30-kilometer an hour streets, you’re not going to get it by building just a few cycle paths and you’re not going to get it by traffic calming in just a few streets, either.  You have to do everything and you have to do it everywhere.  You never have to ride more than a few hundred meters from your home in the Netherlands in order to find yourself on a facility of such quality that you’ll be happy to cycle on it and you’ll be happy for your children to cycle on it.”

Groningen is a remarkably compact city even by European standards, originally it was a fortress within walls and it never expanded beyond about 100,000 people, many of whom are students.  Its downtown core was stripped of car traffic simply by building a ring road around the central area and demanding that cars use that instead of cutting across town.

I don’t see that happening here.  Also, Amsterdam and Groningen are, like all of the Netherlands, flat.  Flat like tables.  Flat like nothing we see in our town. Those healthy cyclists riding perfectly upright on their bikes don’t have to strain to make it up Vancouver hills, let alone North Vancouver mountains.

And although I know it rains and snows in the Netherlands, riding your bike a few kilometers in a light drizzle is one thing, but trying to keep your bike on its designated path in a gale is another.  Bikes grow much scarcer on Vancouver streets in the rainy season.

What should we do to increase the cyclability of our town? Because we should increase it.  The automobile is going to become more and more of a luxury — more expensive to run, to keep, to buy.  Gas is never going to be much cheaper and it could be much more expensive.  Transit must be increased of course, but let’s use all our options in making our city more accessible without cars.

In Michael McCarthy’s story, he and his fellow cyclists are reporting road rage incidents to the police.  And so they should.  They are also sharing information with cyclists throughout North America, especially towns like ours — Seattle, San Francisco, Portland.  They are working together to find solutions.

In the meantime, be kind to the cyclists you meet today. You could become one in a year or two!

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