Exciting news at The Caboose (a.k.a pint-sized house)! We have a transforming coffee/dining table! No more eating on trays while sitting on the couch. We’ve been lucky to have some good enough weather to use our balcony in the meantime, but boy is it nice to have a place to put things when we sit inside now.
We commissioned our friend and designer, Dave Myers to build us a custom convertible coffee/dining table a few weeks ago. It’s our very own little transformer (except that it’s manual, not automatic.) This proved to be an ambitious project, since nothing had been done quite like it before. Inspiration was drawn from a few designs that we’d come across while researching, but all in all it is definitely one-of-a-kind.
Since the space between the couch and the ‘traffic path’ to and from the stairs is quite narrow, we needed something that would fit in nicely when coffee table height, but be able to expand to be wider for dining with friends when raised.
The result fits in perfectly with our decor and space. The image below shows it at both coffee table and dining height:
To lift the table, it’s easiest with two people. Each person lifts an end and the legs swing out on hinges from the folded position on the ground shown in the top photo, to the longer upside-down L-shaped extension you see in the bottom photo.
Dave used solid alder for the legs to match the other wood in our cabinetry, and beech plywood for the top, which we decided to paint white to match the walls, and break up the wood tones in the room a little bit. He also created custom hardware including metal gusset plates for the legs, and 2 custom tabletop lifts mechanisms, one for each draw leaf. The leaves can be opened independently, and the legs move with them to provide a larger footprint for more stability. It’s pretty clever! We’re really happy to have such a unique item in our small abode.
I’m going to be buying some foam to make a cushion that’s level with the top of the couch seat, and covering it with left over upholstery fabric from the couch and throw pillows pictured so we can put it on top of the table (secured with Velcro on the underside of the table top) and use it as more of an ottoman sometimes, or even push it up against the edge of the couch to extend the seat to be more lounge-y.
Well, that is our creative way of dealing with a multi-use area in our small space. Thanks to Dave for all his work and problem solving during the process! If you’re looking for someone to make you cool stuff like this, give me a shout and I’ll put you in touch!
That’s all for now – next time expect a report on our past week of harvesting and processing 30 Ibs of U-Pick strawberries! Mmmm.
Now that we’re settled into the new hizzy, we’ve been able to get back into our old routines, and start some new ones. Scott and I are fortunate to each have a work space to putter with our creative endeavours now. There was a time when I had a studio at The Beaumont Studios, but the high cost of living in Vancouver makes that quite a luxury when you’re just starting to try to make additional income from creative work. I had to give it up and tried to work in my kitchen at home. It was possible, but I gradually created less and less since I had to put away everything I was working on in order to cook dinner. I was starting to look at shared studios again, but then we came to the decision to build our pint-sized house.
So, those kitchen studio days are over and I have a shiny new office/studio to work in and Scott has his man-cave where he can work with sound and music to his heart’s content. It’s very exciting and I can feel my desire to work coming back again. I’ve been mostly working with upcycling clothing lately, as I have a seriously large pile of old but still decent clothing that I’m tired of wearing. What better way to make use of it than hack it up and marry it with another piece of clothing? As my skills improve I am making my way towards being able to sell pieces.
Last weekend I completed a women’s shirt, composed of two shirts. It seems inspired by tribal and post-apocalyptic styling, or at least that’s what I concluded upon completion… I often just run with things and see what happens.
There was less sewing involved in this item, and more cutting/remixing to get the end result. My next project will likely involve incorporating my hand carved block prints into some stuff to wear, as I’d like to add a further personal and artistic touch to these upcycled items.
Okay, that’s enough about me. I’d like to share one of Scott’s latest creations. A couple of years ago we went to Cuba for about a week. Scott brought his portable recorder and while I took photos of our surroundings, he recorded the sounds. It’s quite a unique way of bringing back memories, and not something many people will do on their travels. I really enjoy being able to listen just as much as I like to look at photos or videos. Scott has been working away since our trip, organizing files and transforming them into songs. His most recent track blends together a number of recordings that he gathered in and around Vinales, a peaceful valley about 2 hours south-west of Havana. The recordings include chickens, horses, motorbikes and children. How could this be a song, you might ask? Well, have a listen.
If you’ve gotten this far, I thank you for taking the time to learn a bit about what we do with our time beyond building a laneway house. I have another post waiting in the wings – this time one of our favourite pasta recipes that I concocted when I was given a huge bag of extra-ripe figs while I was a landscaper. Stay tuned if that sounds yummy to you!
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.
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!
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)
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.
Yup, that there is a no stopping sign. What makes it so exciting? It means our sewer and water lines are being connected very soon!
Perhaps the only time a person could be so excited about sewage is a time such as this. It marks the last big, noisy and messy part of the project. Hurray!
Moving on from sewer talk, things are looking beautiful indoors. We were able to take a peek recently so I snapped a few shots.
Here we have wrought iron spindles with oak railings, and our custom entertainment cabinetry on the right, made from alder. Alder is a very plentiful local wood, so we feel pretty good about our choice, both from an aesthetic view and more sustainable one!
The left side of our kitchen. We decided on alder cabinetry on the bottom, and white with glass on the top, to make the space feel a little taller and more open on top. I am especially fond of our farmhouse sink.
We decided we liked the clean look of subway tiles. It also goes well with our semi-industrial look.
Our custom built-in corner couch, with storage drawers and a hatch on one side to stow spare folding chairs. Also made of alder. Upholstered seat arrives soon!
A better look at our entertainment unit. The hole in the centre will feature our fish tank.
Our shower tiling detail. I saw something like this on Houzz.com and really loved it, so this is our version of it. I also blogged about it way back in the early months of our project. I really liked the ‘waterfall’ feel that the orientation of the tiles gives. Quite happy with this! Sorry for the poor photo.. there wasn’ t much light in there at the time.
And now, for my favourite thing:
I have a thing for exposed beams. These were put in after the drywall, and have oak cladding. Super pleased with this! It’ll make our bedroom so cozy. At the back of the room there, we have a window seat and storage built in to maximize the space and not have to worry about finding furniture to fit in. We’ll be using basket or similar to store things on those shelves. A bookshelf is going in on the right as well.
This is becoming a long post. I also want to share what’s going on outside though. Things are looking much better these days!
We’ve gone from this:
The patio has a few garden beds lining it, one along our house on the left there, another on the right by my parents’ back stairs, and then another one against the fence (not visible) which will have a 20 foot tall tree for extra greenery and privacy. Things aren’t looking green now obviously, but I think it’s going to be a very pretty and useable little courtyard for all of us.
Things will be ‘back to normal’ before we know it.. Spring is starting to show it’s lovely buds and we’re feeling our new beginning is just around the corner!
Smallworks continues to be fabulous and we couldn’t recommend them enough if you’re considering building with them.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
You’d think that since we’re moving into a smaller home, we’d be getting rid of stuff, not collecting more. I can’t help myself though, with this opportunity for a fresh start. I’ve lived in the same space since I was a student and it still has a bit of a student vibe that I’m very much ready to part ways with.
I’ve been attracted to industrial style for years (during the first wave of it’s popularity during my existence) and now the style appears to be making another comeback. Well, that works for me in that it’s easier to find things.
I’ve gradually become more interested in vintage and antique style as well. Maybe that comes with age, as I used to just be all about slick and shiny design with a hint of 60s and 70s retro. Now my taste has traveled into the older decades of the 20s-50s.
I’ve also loved gritty decay for a while now – I’m not sure when it started, but it’s definitely been intensified by my infatuation with post-apocalyptic games such as Fallout. Yes, I am a video game nerd. I can’t tell you how excited I am about Uncharted 3‘s release in November. Ahem.. anyways.
Visiting Cuba in March 2010 was, in addition to being a wonderful cultural experience, heaven for a grit-junkie like me. My camera couldn’t have been happier. The textures and colours on the old buildings there was incredible.
This sort of thing has really inspired my art and sense of design to take on new layers and created more depth to my work and style. I hope to achieve a hint of grit with clean lines and eclectic style in our new home. The next few images are things I’ve been collecting with this in mind. Descriptions are under each photo.
These are some vintage wooden factory molds that I found at Restoration House on Dunbar and 18th. I intend to re-purpose some of these to use as bookends, coat hook or key racks, or whatever else seems right once we’re moved in. The one on the left is from Chicago, and on the right is from Carmaux, France.
These fit together to make a mold for a hospital gurney caster. From Lethbridge, Ontario. These would make great bookends.
The large wooden factory mold at the top is about 1.25 feet long and has potential for a key rack or small wall mounted coat hook. It’s from France. The small round mold was for a dial of some kind, from Chicago. The keys are from india. Two are original antique gate keys and one is a reproduction.
I found these french ceramic herb containers at a garage sale. They were so charming and cheap that I had to get them. I have 16! A few are quite new but most have a really pretty used and vintage farmhouse look.
I found these on Etsy from a seller with a great collection of vintage finds. These little turn keys were salvaged from a factory. I have no idea what I’ll do with them yet but I have a feeling they’ll turn into something pretty neat. They have a lovely patina and might work well as the hooks for a key rack, incorporated into one of the factory molds.
Over the last few months I’ve spent a few too many hours doing research on small space furniture and efficient use of space. Being a designer at heart it’s been interesting though, and I can see there’s still a great need for options that don’t cost an arm and a leg, or don’t look like something out of Star Trek. Don’t get me wrong – that stuff is really cool. I just can’t picture living with it for more than a year or two before getting tired of looking at it. However I will say this idea is pretty darn rad:
We already live in a reasonably small place of about 800 square feet, but the laneway house will reduce that by almost 200. As a result, much of our current living space furniture is not going to work in our new pint-sized house.
The main concern is our eating area. We thought of a couple of options: making a kitchen island useable as a dining table, or get a convertible height table that works in the living room, with either a corner couch that’s high enough for dining, or folding/stacking chairs we can store elsewhere and take out for meals. I mentioned this in a previous blog entry but wanted to share more examples of interesting small space dining options.
This design, available at Resource Furniture, is pretty classy considering it’s functionality. I comes with a pretty big price tag (around $1600+) too, but that’s to be expected for innovative Italian design. The neat thing about this one is you can store things underneath the table top, like place-mats and other table setting accessories.
A slightly more budget option (about $900) which is unfortunately not available outside of the UK is this very simple and timeless design by Lee Sinclar. It even has a third function as an artist’s easel (not shown).
Since it’s not available here, we’re considering using it as inspiration to make our own version. It’s simple enough to imitate and customize to our aesthetic preferences, and we can match the wood to our cabinets in the kitchen. Before I found this design, I was imagining a design that uses an ironing board stand’s function as inspiration. This is sort of similar and makes me more confident that I can design my own. We’ll see how it goes! I’ll keep you posted. Maybe we’ll go into production and help fill the niche for inexpensive options!
Some other creative options for multi-use furniture:
And last but certainly not least, the stow-away bed and couch combo for small space dwellers able to afford a $13,000+ price tag. Again, from the cutting edge Resource Furniture store. At first we were considering this so we could have our bedroom as a living room during the day, but the combination of the cost and layout of the top floor made us decide to move the living area downstairs. That’s when we started looking at convertible table options.
I’ll leave it at that for now, but there are still some other really cool things I’ve come across that I’ll save for another time. Small space living may not be appealing to some, but I think there are a lot of really creative design opportunities and it can be just as comfortable, perhaps even more cozy, than living in a large dwelling with lots of room. We can’t all keep living in massive homes, and the laneway house is a progressive way of decreasing one’s Ecological footprint. If you look around your own space, you might realize how much you don’t actually need. The process of cleaning out old things and unnecessary possessions is always liberating, and it’s been a great experience for me so far. I’m looking forward to living small!