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Skip to my loo

I love our new bathroom.  Although it’s not really a bath-room, as we don’t have a tub, just a glorious, tiled shower with a rain head.

(Pictures?  Not yet.  Although the bathroom is nearly finished, we still have a couple of things that have to be fixed, and I won’t take pictures until it’s perfect.  Just take my word on this for now).

And we have surprising amounts of storage in the bathroom.  Our designer gave us, not only a Godmorgen sink and drawers

godmorgon-edeboviken-sink-cabinet-with--drawers__0172346_PE326412_S4which is super efficient, but she also carved a space for the Lilangen cabinet to sit inside a niche in the wall

lillangen-mirror-cabinet--doors--end-unit__0133086_PE288202_S4And she stacked two of them on one wall.  Giving us a full-length mirror and oodles of storage, with the mirrors flat against the rest of the wall.

You don’t need to have a small house to have a need of a small bathroom.  Who amongst you has ever wondered if you could get a shower into the same footprint as a powder room?  Have you never thought “it would be so handy to have a full bath right there?”

Well, there are ways of doing this. Houzz has 9 tips for fitting more into less space in the bath/shower room.

My favourite is the European style Wet Room.  The whole room is the shower.  All the surfaces will need to be wiped down after your shower, but if it’s a teeny room that’s not a big deal.

When inches count a wall-mounted toilet can really save space.

We couldn’t do it because our toilet is set against an outside wall (full of insulation, etc.) And we have a regular sink, not this eensy weensy one.

But that’s another way to save some space.  Apartment Therapy has some great little sinks — handsome, too!

ATBathroomSink1This one allows you to put a powder room under the stairs — great space saver.

ATBathroomSink2

No room for a toilet and a sink?  That’s what you think.

ATBathroomSink3Small space solutions.  Because small is the new black. (I just made that up but will be using it mercilessly in the future).

Time to look backwards — and forward

As I like to remind people (yes, I can be annoying that way), January is named for the Roman god Janus, who could look forward and backwards at the same time.

I think that’s important, and this is about the right time of year to do it.  The hustle and excess of Christmas is over, and we have a few days respite before the hustle and excess of New Year’s Eve.

2013 was a real year of transitions for me and for mine.  As the year began we had to get ready to sell our condo, while we were getting ready to build our laneway, and I was getting over the blow of my mother’s sudden and unexpected death.  Tough times.  But we got through them.

Spring came. We sold our condo.  My father passed away (another emotional blow).

And we broke ground for our house.  Day1.1Everything seemed to take so long!  Waiting for the inspectors, waiting for the suppliers, waiting for utilities connections.  But bit by bit the house went up and we moved in right on schedule. When the footings went in we kept saying “How can we live in such a small space?”

Foot1And we said that again when the foundation walls went in:

Day35Large

 

 

And when the wooden structure was built:

20130711.4

 

We just couldn’t see ourselves and our stuff in such a small space.  But when we moved in it was clear that the place is exactly the right amount of space and roominess that we need, and anything that does not fit in here is just extra stuff that we don’t need.

We love our little home so much.  We are so comfortable.  And we are so happy when friends and family come by and we can show them around.  Everyone says they love the design and the feeling of cosiness, and we have to agree.  It’s also nice that it takes us about 10 minutes to tidy up the place for visitors.

There are still a few deficiencies to be addressed.  But we are super comfortable and find our neighbourhood to be perfect for us.

So what is ahead?  This blog was built to chronicle the building of the laneway home.  And now that is done.

But I still find things to write about.  Our life and our move to a more minimalist lifestyle.  Other small houses, the tiny house movement.  So the blog will go on. (yes, that is Celine Dion you hear in the background).

Besides, laneway housing is still news, as was shown in this recent story in the Toronto Star shows. The Dunn-Roy family finds

“This has been such a fun experience. I absolutely love my little house,” says Dunn-Roy. “It’s functional, it’s forced us to totally declutter and we’re no longer rattling around in that big house.”

And other people are still interested in living the small life.  This architect built a 200-square-foot home.  In Idaho.  By herself! After a divorce and losing her home to foreclosure (sounds like she had kind of an up-and-down year herself —  she broke her back falling off the roof.)

So you’ll be hearing from me.  And I hope I hear from you, too.

Pushback on small apartments in Portlandia

It’s no secret that the rental market in big cities is crazy.  Crazy as in bad.

This article in the New York Times explains how the people who are being badly squeezed by the rental shortage are those on the bottom of the economic pyramid.  New rental buildings are going up — but only for renters who can afford at least $1500 a month.

Many of the worst shortages are in major cities with healthy local economies, like Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Washington. “We’ve seen a huge loss of affordable housing stock,” said Jenny Reed, the policy director at the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. “We have lost 50 percent of our low-cost units over the past 10 years, and at the same time, the number of high-cost apartments, the ones going for more than $1,500 a month, more than tripled.”

Everyone is suffering from the rental crunch.  As accommodations get scarce they get more expensive.  It’s bad for everyone, but for the people who don’t make much money it’s far worse. The people who make our lattes, who deliver our papers, who serve us our lunches are all hurting for accommodation they can afford.  So are students, and retirees who don’t own their own home.

And it’s just going to get worse.

Seattle has followed other American cities in allowing (even encouraging) the construction of Micro-suites.  AKA aPodMents.  I’ve spoken of them before.  And other cities in the States are also allowing tiny apartments to go up.

For the adAPT NYC competition, micro-apartments meant an apartment that was between 275-300 sq ft, but these included kitchens and ADA bathrooms. In San Francisco, legislation last year granted an allowance for building dwelling units as small as 220 sq ft, with 70 sq ft for bathroom and kitchen. In Boston, they nervously authorized the construction of 450 sq ft “Innovation Units.” In Providence, RI, they’re making apartments as small as 225 in the Arcade Providence.

But not everyone loves them.  In Portland right now the city government is in the midst of a controversy over a plan to allow these mini-homes to be constructed.

reusable-protest-sign

 The issue, once again, is parking. …The apartments, enjoy a “group living” designation–the same as dormitories, monasteries and convents. As such, they are not required to provide a set amount of parking spaces.

IMHO this opposition is taking is a very, very, very short-sighted view.  Even the most myopic of us can see that having more cars and finding space to put them is not the answer.  Every city planner since Robert Moses has worked to keep cars out of civic cores.  We need them, true, but improved transit and walkable neighbourhoods will serve the entire city (not to mention the planet) much better in the long run.

And let’s look at the market for these micro suites — not every one who rents one will own a car.  Since affordability is the chief attraction of renting one, it’s quite likely that the potential clientèle will use transit or some form of co-op car ownership like Zip Cars or Car2Go rather than tying up money in an automobile.

But even if most of the people in the building have cars, why are the people currently living in the neighbourhood worried about street parking?  Don’t they have garages and parking pads in their yards? And even if they put up “average” sized apartments rather than the micro-suites, isn’t it likely that the tenants will be sharing them, so you end up with the same number of people (and cars).

I’m very much interested in what others feel about micro-suites.  I think there’s definitely a place for them in the housing mix of every large city.

Settling in

The upstairs of our little home is just about finished, which allows me to sit at my kitchen counter/table/desk in our kitchen/sitting room/office and enjoy an extraordinary amount of sunlight pouring in. The coffee is poured, the soft-jazz Christmas music is drifting down from the built-in speakers in the ceiling , and the cat is trying to get my attention by being cute and naughty in turns and sometimes both at once.

Life is good.

We are rapidly getting to the point where the things that have not been done in our laneway get fewer and smaller.  It’s hard to believe it’s so far along when we consider the chaos we moved into…….

**cue time-travelling music**

We had packed up all our belongings, we actually had enough boxes and bags for everything.  The movers had come on time, and had shuttled back and forth to the truck and soon we were all packed up except for the cats and the fish tank and the furniture we were holding for the charitable pick-up later that day.

“Hmmmmm”, said DH, “I think it would be a good idea if we left the cats and fish until we’ve unpacked some stuff.” Wise words.  It was then about noon and that was the last minute we were in control of the situation.

We drove the five minutes to the laneway to find….at least 15 people working on it.  There was a team of cleaners valiantly trying to rid the place of the sanded plaster dust that the painters were creating.  A nice young couple were putting up the frame of our closet system.  There were people wiring and people moving us in, and well, frankly, I lost track of the jobs everyone was doing when the truck pulled up to blow top soil into the yard between the houses so the landscaper could put in the sod.

We unpacked a few things, made the bed, and went back to the rental to feed the cats and the fish, eat a pizza, and await the gentleman from the charity who was picking up the last of our furniture.

We went home to laneway to shower and sleep, but we really felt we were camping out.

The next day a crowd again descended, while I slipped back to the rental to feed the cats and the fish, and to do some shopping.  All told I went back and forth to the rental four times that day — mostly by foot.  That was the day when it seemed we were just not making any headway at all, when we had to move boxes to get to boxes, move boxes to get to the fridge, the washer and dryer, the bathroom sink. We were unpacking but we just could not make any headway.

But we brought the cats “home” and set the fish up on their new shelf, bought specially for that purpose. The cats promptly disappeared into the bowels of the pipes and tubes that are tucked away at one end of the storage space.  It took days until the cats were comfortable to make the whole house their own.  But now….

photoWhat are sunny kitchen ledges for, anyway?

We’re home!

This is just a quick note to say that we have successfully moved into our new home. It’s still a bit of a work in progress, with a few touches to be completed, but it is coming together nicely and is so adorable!
Things that surprised us about our new home:

  • how quickly we adapted to the smaller space, and how completely comfortable we are in it.  The rooms seem exactly the right dimensions
  • how much storage we are finding in every nook and cranny.  We are still downsizing, and there will not be room for everything we currently own, but we are still putting things together and there is room for what we need

Things that pleased us about our new home:

  • the appliances!  The Blomberg washer has been going nearly non-stop.  Got some bright red tea towels you need to wash for the first time?  Do them by themselves!  The washer weighs the load and automatically adjusts the amount of water it uses!
  • BlombergWasher
  • the under-fridge freezer has drawers for better storage options.
  • and the natural-gas stove!  What’s not to love!

What completely blew us away about the new house?  That is a toughie, as we have been thrilled with just about everything about the place.  But for face-dropping dramatic day vs night transformation, we have to go with the enormous difference the landscapers, Vantage Landscaping performed.  Amro and his team took a back yard that had been ripped apart and chewed up until it looked like the set for a WWI trench warfare movie of the week, and turned it into a lush oasis complete with plum tree, artfully arranged boulders, and even our “dry river bed” up the west side of the home.  Plus plantings outside the laneway entrance that look so lovely! In two days! From Verdun to Versailles!

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.

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.

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.

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:

My Pain, My Life, My Struggles, My Fight

Come walk with me, Down My Dark & Stormy Journey BUSINESS INQUIRIES & CONTACT EMAIL : GODSCHILD4048@GMAIL.COM

ANNOTATED AUDREY BLOG

Artist and Desert Dweller with Big City Style.

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

Domenic Garisto / LIFE IS NOT A REHERSAL,SO LIVE IT..if you can't be the poet, be the poem..havau22.com

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