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Lofty Living

http://www.houzz.com/houzzTvWidget/62333729/4815380783001

Back in the 20th century, when DH and I decided to cohabit, we went looking for a condo to buy.  This was in the halcyon days when two people making not much money could afford to buy in this city.  **sigh** Nostalgia.

We looked at a lot of places that looked exactly the same, and at one loft.  It was in a new build, in a neighbourhood of single family homes, so it wasn’t the “Downtown/Gastown/Yaletown” experience you would expect with loft living, and it never made the top ten of our favourites. But it also had one glaring problem.  It was basically one large room with a bathroom.  You can put that loft bedroom anywhere you want, but it’s still in the same room as the living room.

DH fell in love with the idea, and said that if he was NOT moving in with someone, he would buy it in a snap.  A spirited discussion ensued.

But one couple has solved the “one big room” problem (and in a lot less space than we were offered).  Once again, design trumps size. Check out the linked video from Houzz to see how clever they’ve been.

They’ve placed the office where the night-owl works directly below the loft bed.  With his headphones on he can work into wee hours without disturbing her sleep.  That work space also changes into a guest room AND a dining area.

Plus they’ve worked in a custom library ladder (another of DH’s favourite things).

 

Reduce, reuse, recycle — a house

In our neighbourhood – as in yours I’m sure – the old makes way for the new.  And it’s disappointing at best and heart-breaking at its worst to see fine old homes ripped down for cookie-cutter-mini mansions (in our neighbourhood) or mega-mansions (in richer neighbourhoods).  We had a moment’s worry when the homes on either side of our two-house compound were sold, but luck was with us, the new owners have renovated a bit and moved into the original structures.

Tearing down old houses creates waste and lots of it.  Each demolished home sends 50 tonnes of material to the landfill.  Often homes are ripped down with no thought of recycling the building materials.

But not in Gimli.  Gimli, Manitoba.  According to this story in the Interlake Enterprise newspaper, clever Melanie Casselman is recycling homes rescued from nearby Winnipeg and putting them on lots in Gimli.

Photo courtesy of Interlake Enterprise

Photo courtesy of Interlake Enterprise

 

It’s a great idea, and not just because it saves money for the developers (because they don’t have to pay for demolishing) and not just because it puts up instant homes in a growing community.  It’s a great idea because it perfectly embraces the idea that we don’t just throw things out.  We try to save as much as we can.

Well done, Melanie Casselman!  Bravo Gimli!

Full disclosure, Melanie Casselman is a distant cousin of my son-in-law.  Further disclosure, I went to college with a girl from Gimli, a natural Icelandic blond by name of Solvason.

Small bathrooms ideas worth thinking about

Hypothetically, you may be interested in putting in a small bathroom.  Maybe you are designing a laneway home for yourself, maybe you have an attic bedroom you’d like to link to a teeny ensuite, maybe you’re trying to fit a powder room or shower into a basement corner.  I’ve told you how we solved the space problem in our laneway bath — now for some other ideas to get the most out of your restricted space.

If you just can’t say good-bye to the tub, you could try a tiny one. This one lets you keep the shower and tub combo.

TinyBath1

This one is loaded with luxury, and can be snuck underneath a sloping ceiling.

Contemporary Bathroom by London Interior Designers & Decorators Chantel Elshout Design Consultancy

 

And this one puts the bath and shower into a “wet zone” at one end of the room behind glass doors. Not as compact, but still a good solution when you need both a bath and a shower:

Tinybath2

Another solution is to put the shower into the corner of the room, like this:

TinyShower1

The sliding doors mean it could be snugged up tight to the toilet if you have to — no space needed for your out-swinging glass doors.

Or, in this corner shower, the entire shower is put into a corner, in a nice, triangular shape:

Good use of space putting the sink beneath an eave (or even a staircase) with a sloping roof. And the floating vanity makes the whole room look bigger.

And here’s something I wish we could have put into our bathroom:

Tinytoilet1

A toilet where the tank is placed inside the wall.  It’s so clean and contemporary looking, and of course doesn’t take up as much interior space.  But you have to place the tank space within an interior wall, and we just couldn’t make it work.

Of course a tiny sink can also save you precious inches.

tinysink1

Even IKEA sells a tiny sink.

tinysink2But remember, you won’t be able to build any storage beneath these sinks.

This Tiny-House architect installed a stylish sink in her shower room. the whole home is just 196 square feet, and the IKEA mirror on the retractable arm is their only mirror.

TinySink3And remember that lighter coloured walls will expand the visual look of any small room.  Shiny tiles, mirrors, and glass surfaces also add to the feeling of space.

Tinybath3

Keep it sleek, clean, and simple.  And any bath can look larger.

 

We star in our own movie! (at least the laneway does)

Video: Tour of the modern laneway house.

Someone’s in the kitchen I know-oh-oh-oh

When I am not strumming on my old banjo (which is totally not something I do) I like to cook.  And I like to eat.  So a well-designed and -equipped kitchen was tops on the list of what DH and I wanted in the laneway home. Some laneways have tiny galley kitchens, but we wanted one with all the bells and whistles.

And we got it!

The appliances are small but they are efficient and the design has made us more efficient.

It was while I was unloading our adorable little drawer dishwasher by Fisher and Paykel that I realized it wasn’t just its size and efficiency I loved — it was also its location.

Isn't it cute?

Isn’t it cute?

When it came to the under-counter storage I knew I wanted drawers for storing my dishes and cooking utensils rather than cupboards.  Drawers give you access to the complete space, pulled out into the light.  No more rooting around in dark corners — everything is right there.  And when I am unloading the dishwasher, having the dish storage just beside it makes putting everything away a dream. Or at least less of a nightmare.

It also helps that the dishwasher is placed just under the counter, so there’s less bending and stooping.

It takes a few minutes to unload the dishwasher and then it’s ready to hold the next meal’s worth of plates, etc. There are never any dishes sitting on the counter waiting to be cleaned or put away.  And it’s changed our lives!

Because here’s the funny part — in our old home we hardly ever used the dishwasher.  DH hates to have dirty dishes sitting all day waiting for the machine to be filled up so it can be run (he can hear the germs multiplying) so he washed them up after every meal (note:  I did not wash them, he did.) But then we had dishes sitting in the rack on our counter all day. The smaller size of our new dishwasher means we do smaller loads more frequently — perfect for the life we lead.

In her blog Nesting Place the Nester talks about her battle with the dishwasher —

For some reason unloading the dishwasher is a dreaded chore in our house.

It’s a pain to dread something that needs to be done daily.

When I dread something that needs to be done daily, it’s a red flag. It’s an opportunity to evaluate if I’m helping or hurting the situation just by something simple that I can change. 

So she reorganized her kitchen so the dish storage was next to the dishwasher and voila!  The chore that everyone was dreading a lot became just another small thing to be done.

Dishwasher unloading takes about 90 seconds and even the 16-year-old thanked me for planning out the kitchen to make unloading the dishwasher super fast and non-dread-inducing.

Do read the whole post at her blog. And when designing a space — whether it’s your kitchen or your bath or your foyer — remember to design around how you want it to work, not just how you want it to look.

 

 

Learn more about building Laneway Houses from the experts!

If you are interested in building a laneway house on your property, or if you are just curious about the process, then you owe it to yourself to attend a presentation on Laneway Houses on Wednesday, March 12.

A panel of experts will be there to answer your questions and provide information:

Ralph Case, President of the Real Estate Action Group – Investment benefits of laneway housing
Jake Fry, President/Owner of Smallworks Laneway Housing Inc. – Designing and building small
Colin Lawrence, VanCity – Financing made easy
Richard Bell, LLC – How to share title

Date: Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Where: University Golf Course
5185 University Blvd (10th ave. west of Blanca)

Time: 7:00pm – 8:30 pm

BTW, that address is quite accessible by bus, if you would like to go but don’t have an automobile.  But there’s lots of parking there if you want to take the car.
If this is something you think would be of value to you, please attend.  It’s the best way to get expert advise I’ve seen so far (other than reading this blog, of course!)

How much can we stuff into our laneway house?

Stuff is a noun.  And stuff is a verb.  It’s either the things you own, or it’s how you fit them into a small space.

So how much do we need to make us happy? Comfortable? Content?

It’s a long trail of discovery.  With many things discarded along the way.

Last night I watched a movie called “Happy“.  It was a fascinating study of people around the world and what makes them happy.  And guess what doesn’t make them happy?  Stuff. Scientist types explained that wanting stuff makes us happy.  And the anticipation of owning something makes us happy.  We’re even happy when we’re acquiring the stuff. But owning it does not make us happy.  Because once it’s ours, after a very short time it just becomes part of “the stuff we own”.  And apart from it losing that new-car smell and getting a little worn, it also needs to be taken care of.  Polished. Ironed. Painted. Dusted.  More work for you.

Oh, sure, I know you love that guitar/vintage Chanel purse/motorcycle.  But how much of our stuff do we really love, and how much of our stuff is just…..stuff?

We’re lucky in that our two moves this year have brought us face to face with everything we own.  And we own too much.  During the first move I was astonished by the stuff I found in the back of cupboards or the top of closets.  Things I had not even looked at in the 13 years we had lived in that condo.  I said good-bye to it quite happily. Now, as we sift through our Christmas decorations for the ones we can use, the ones that will go to family or to decorate my workplace office, and the ones that will be used to decorate our laneway home, we will be freeing ourselves a little bit more from the tyranny of owning too much stuff.

Huang Qingjun is a Chinese photographer who photographed families with all their belongings posing in front of their homes.  These people own very little.  What they have is precious to them.  You can read more about the story here, here, and here, and read an interview with the photographer here.

My favourite shots are these:

200-7

200-6

Even in a yurt or a mud house built into the side of the hill, these people have their TVs and their satellite dishes.  They are connected with the world outside their small homes.

And I suspect they are happy.

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