settling in

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a month since we moved in. Time flies when you’re having fun as they say. It’s been so amazing living in our pint-sized house so far. It’s so bright, new and cozy. We feel so lucky to be in here. The first couple of days, we felt like we were staying in someone else’s beautiful new place and would have to leave soon! It’s feeling much more like our own now, with our personal touches around the house. I thought I’d give a virtual tour of what we’ve done with the place. Look for captions in the slideshow for descriptions. Friends who have visited have told us we’ve done a great job balancing modern and traditional design and created a cozy, liveable place. I think I have to agree with that! Thank you, Smallworks, for helping us design such a beautiful new home.

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So, what’s next? Well, we’re waiting on our custom adjustable coffee/dining table, which is being designed and built by a talented friend of ours, Dave Myers. We look forward to sharing the final product with you!

In the meantime, one of the things we’ve been enjoying most is using our new fancy kitchen. One of our favourite websites to get recipe ideas from these days is Gojee. It sources out some of the best food blogs around the internet and organizes them in an attractive, easy to use website and smart phone application.

Tonight’s meal makes use of our garden kale: Shrimp Quesadillas with Kale. Yum! Click the image to visit the recipe. Until next time!


the pint-sized finale

Well, the last few weeks have felt like molasses, only because when you’re this close to having something – time slows waayyyyy dooowwwnnnnn. That said, I see now that heaps has happened since my last blog post, so clearly things were not moving that slowly at all. The little details matter so much though! Smallworks has been polishing up our place nicely, and we’re just days (perhaps hours!) away from being able to move in. What we have managed to get ‘in’ the house however, is our edibles in pots on the balcony and also our balcony furniture! We’re anticipating many a mojito this summer on that balcony, and many weekend breakfasts in the sun.. whenever the sun shines in Vancouver, that is. We ended up planting romaine and red leaf lettuce, cilantro, rainbow sage, variegated oregano, basil, chives, kale and sugar snap peas. We’ve also planted some arugula and nasturtium seeds that should be sprouting in a couple of weeks. Not bad for a first shot at edible balconies, I think! We’re easing our way in and hope to plant a few things for the fall too.

Other than that, I don’t have much to report in words, because I think the pictures say it best. Below you’ll find our finished product, as a slide show. We’re so pleased with our new home and are just dying to move in!

Although our journey with Smallworks and laneway house construction is nearing an end, this isn’t really the end… it’s only the beginning. The Pint-sized House blog will be a place for us to share ideas on small space living, healthy living and eating, and other things that we come across that we’d like to share with others. Not to mention the fact that we haven’t moved in yet and will want to share how we add our own finishing touches. I can’t wait to see what the industrial furniture we bought looks like in there.

Until next time! (when we should be living in our pint-sized house)

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paint it black

The finishing touches are happening all around us these days, some of which we have been involved with as well – that is, fence staining. We’ve had several compliments from passers by about our new fence, and I think it’s for good reason.

The landscaper got creative and suggested the spacing between panels, with the thinner piece in between. We’re all quite happy with it, although staining between those gaps could have been a little more fun. It’s all done now except for two sections and the gates which still have to be installed. We went with a natural cedar stain to keep the natural beauty of the wood. Another pretty addition to the garden is the re-location of my parents’ egyptian iron gates which my dad fastened to the fence in the shared patio area, which will eventually have a vine of some sort creeping along it.

Moving on, I had a DIY project last weekend, prettying up an industrial spool which you may recall from a blog post many moons ago:

I decided, with the help of my mom’s suggestion, to stain it black to go with our black accents on the laneway house. Also, there is a lot of natural wood colour around already so a contrast is nice. I didn’t want to lose the character of the old, distressed wood though, so I went to General Paints and found a semi-transparent wood stain that I got tinted with black. I have to say I’m pretty proud of this:

There’s just the right amount of wood grain and flaws showing, and the black reminds me of the treated wood you see in old industrial areas along the water, like the former canneries and old docks in Steveston.

This spool will reside on our balcony as a table/seat. Perfect for late afternoon martinis or summertime mojitos and a book or good friends…ahh. Only a couple of more weeks until it’s reality! Here’s a photo with the composite decking material that was recently installed. I blogged about it more a few weeks ago. It looks pretty much like real wood!

Speaking of books, I’ve purchased a fabulous one titled Sugar Snaps and Strawberries by Andrea Bellamy, a Vancouver gardener, writer and blogger at Heavy Petal.

As you can see I was already enjoying the spool table with a cocktail yesterday afternoon in the early spring sunshine after work yesterday. We’d really like to have a predominantly, or completely, edible balcony garden, starting this year – although we’ll be a little late to start in the season so we’ll have to consider that when we plant things. Next year I hope to be into it full force though, starting seedlings indoors in the garage before spring. Bellamy’s book is perfect for beginners or those who know a bit about gardening but not much about edibles. It’s well written, has gorgeous photography and Bellamy’s passion for gardening and edibles is contagious. She discusses both balcony and small space gardens – containers to garden beds. I’m kind of obsessed because of this book!

Some more finishing touches around the laneway house include our black painted doors, which are nearly finished (the trim still needs to be done).

I’m a sucker for black and red.. and cedar is the cherry on top. Now, let’s go through the door and check out our new appliances! Wow, I never thought there would be a day when I would become excited about appliances. It’s okay, I still get ID’d at the liquor store so that’s what counts, right?

 Lined up here is an LG refrigerator which is narrow and tall, which come standard with Smallworks’ home designs since they fit perfectly into smaller kitchens. It’s quite lovely inside too, with the bottom being the freezer that has separate drawers to keep things organized. Next in line, a dual fuel Fisher-Paykel oven which we splurged on because we love to cook, and this will make it more enjoyable. There’s a warming drawer with moisture control on the bottom too. Finally, there is the drawer dishwasher, also by Fisher-Paykel. It’s a lot bigger than it looks! Another great space-efficient feature that Smallworks uses as a standard fixture in their home designs. We don’t have a dishwasher in our current place so I think we might be looking forward to using it more than the fancy range at first!

To wrap things up, I wanted to share another crafty project I’m finishing up this weekend. I have some reasonably unattractive IKEA folding chairs that I’ve had for years. I also had heaps of pretty IKEA fabric left over from our wedding. Put the two together and you get this:

The fabric happens to match our colour scheme in the laneway house, so it’ll be nice to cover up those basic chairs when we’re entertaining. Plus, it makes them more comfortable. IKEA has its fair share of low-quality furnishings which are fine for temporary living (which I am pretty well trying to avoid now) but I still find it’s great for things like fabric and home accents. Really, who can resist their funky series of outdoor solar powered lights?

We’re also getting our patio furniture there, something they have great small-space options for, namely this ÄPPLARÖ gateleg folding table that can have both leaves dropped to make the storing size only 8 inches wide by approximately 30 inches long.

Alright, I think that’s enough for today!! I had some catching up to do. Thanks for sticking with me! Next week the flooring goes in upstairs, and minor touch-ups will be done before we sign off and are ready to move in. Have a great weekend! I hope it’s as sunny wherever you are as it is here today.


The Caboose

Yep, it’s been a little while. I’m starting to lose momentum on this blog stuff, but we’ve also been pretty busy. We just had a wonderful extended weekend in Rossland, BC with friends. Lots of fluffy powder for snowboarding and cross-country skiing.  I’d never been there before – it was beautiful! And Rossland is a lovely little mountain town.

View from the window out to Rossland

Snowy shadows on the edge of Nancy Green Lake

Back in Vancouver, the outside of the laneway house is looking awesome. All that’s left is the siding on the inside of the balcony, and the composite decking material. When my uncle saw the house the other day, he said it reminded him of a train – and we concluded it was The Caboose. We all thought that was very clever and amusing, and I think we’re going to stick with it. How could we resist naming our cute little red house? Yeah, we’re dorks.

Our little red caboose

Do you see the likeness? heehee

I’ve mentioned the composite decking in an older post, but I didn’t have the manufacturer’s name. It’s called Moisture Shield and it’s an environmentally friendly product made from  95% pre- and post-consumer recycled content, including construction debris, grocery bags, plastic milk jugs, and more.  It’s then treated to look like wood – and it’s pretty convincing!

An example image from Moisture Shield's gallery

They also make deck tiles and fencing. It’s supposed to look good for up to 25 years which is great. Less maintenance is always a bonus, especially if we can help the environment too!

During my time of silence on the blog, we also had our 2 paragraphs of fame in the Vancouver Sun Weekend Extra a couple of weekends ago, exploring the question of whether laneway housing is an affordable housing solution.  The journalist somehow got it in her head that I’m a “visual artistic director” which made me chuckle.  Sure, I’ll take it.

Our photo in the paper

So what’s next? We’re getting electricity today! The drywall is up and the primer is on the walls. We’re supposed to have the sewer connected within three weeks as well, which is a huge relief because the city sewer crews have been backed up (no pun intended) with waits of up to 18 weeks. They recently added crews to work on weekends and try to get through the huge heap of connection requests on the waiting list. Vancouver is a busy growing city!

Thanks for reading – more to come on the interior finishing soon!

 


a house isn’t a home without a balcony

We’re pretty darn lucky to be able to have a nice sized (approx. 14.5 x 6.5 feet) balcony on the top floor of our laneway house. If we were buying an apartment elsewhere in the city, chances are we’d have a tiny, fake or non-existent outdoor space. It costs a little more to do something this large but since the garden between our house and my parent’s is going to be that much smaller, it feels important to have a bit more outdoor space of our own. We’d like to have part of the deck covered with a non permanent pergola style structure but we’ll have to see how much room we have… perhaps a nice tent will have to do. From what I understand of the building restrictions, we can’t have any permanent cover (ie: roof extention) over the balcony because that would make it possible to close it in and add square footage to the building. Still, with the amount of rain we get in Vancouver it seems wise to have a covered section so we can still enjoy sitting outdoors when it’s warm but rainy.. hopefully we can figure out something non-permanent that still looks nice.

We’re lucky to be surrounded by a few trees already, so that will make us feel like we’re more in nature. The image above is definitely inspiration for what we’d like to achieve, and is probably quite possible thanks to the existing tree and park directly across from us. The main difference is we can’t have a see-through railing due to privacy restrictions..(exposure to neighbours.. because we’re going to be sitting around nekkid out there?) but that’s alright – it gives us more privacy too (so we can sit around in the buff..yeah).Also, we won’t be able to have quite as a majestic door opening as in the image above. We do plan on having bi-fold doors though, since they can be pushed to one side and out of the way. It’ll be a standard double door sized opening.

Vertical gardens are a great way of adding greenery to a small space and have (rightfully) been gaining popularity over the last couple of years. We’ve got potential space on the walls of the house by the balcony door, but since we will have a fair bit of shade from the large (and still growing) maple tree outside we’ll really have to be careful with plant choices. I will write a post on good balcony plants for a partial sun balcony when we get to the spring time (with the help of my mom.) I also hope to grow some edibles – I love having fresh home grown food, even if it’s as simple as some lettuce and herbs. Here’s a pretty photo of some vertical gardening:

I also really love this idea found on Apartment Therapy. I’m a sucker for succulents.

Ok, what about seating? The best thing we’ve come up with for maximum space efficiency is a bench along the longest part of the balcony, perhaps wrapping around in the corner and along one short side to form an L shape, with a short table and a couple of extra chairs for snacking and drinking.  The balcony might be large enough to have two separate areas on either end, with a taller dinner-height table on the opposite end from the low table area. I can picture it being pretty cozy with a couple of little zones like that.

Keeping with my hunting/scavenging habits I’ve had as of late for all things industrial, worn and/or vintage, I spotted this discarded construction spool and instantly pictured it as a patio table. Yes, I picked it up (uh huh, it was bloody heavy) and crammed it in our sedan’s trunk and brought it home. As I rolled the 3.5 foot wide spool through the back gate, my mom naturally asked where the heck I would store it in our small abode, but I managed to fit it under the deck’s stairs. There’s always somewhere! I intend to dry it out and stain it so as to spruce up but also preserve it’s current worn look as much as possible. I can’t tell you how excited I was to score this “reclaimed” find. Maybe I’m weird. Ok, I know I am.

Finally, where will more plants go? Our designer at Smallworks has figured out a couple options for having planters on the other side of the glass railing, so that will really allow us to green up the edges of the balcony and surround ourselves with nature. I also really like these cuties, as an alternative to box planters or perhaps mixed in with them..

It’s still hard to imagine all this sometimes, but it helps to write things out like this. I hope it’s also helpful to those pondering their own designs or laneway houses. Happy to read any ideas or feedback any time!