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!

 

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collecting for a fresh start

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.
Decayed Grandeur, HavanaThis 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.

vintage factory molds
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.
vintage factory mold
These fit together to make a mold for a hospital gurney caster. From Lethbridge, Ontario. These would make great bookends.
vintage factory molds and keys
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.
french ceramic herb jars
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.
vintage turn key
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.

itsy bitsy teeny weeny – furniture for small living

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:

Tom Rossau's answer to small space dining.

Japanese Designer Akemi Tanaka's convertable table

Ivy Design makes art functional

We're hoping to do a smaller version of this in our stairs, on the side that isn't used by our entertainment wall unit. Great way to use otherwise dead space, especially for a shoe collection.

Need a spare bed? This Bo Concept ottoman might help

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!


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!


how do i look? (upstairs)

We head up the stairs today to investigate the bedroom and bathroom (I will do the balcony in a separate post, since it seems it should have it’s own topic, being outdoors). The positioning of the bed will be against the top wall rather than the right side shown in the floor plan below.

We’re planning on having some built in drawer cabinets along the right wall for more clothing storage, etc. Built in is the ideal way to go in these tight spaces, but if costs are too high we may have to just go with some dressers. The upside of going with dressers is you’ve got more flexibility when you get tired of a certain style. Here’s an example close to what we might be doing in the world of built-ins, and that wood beam poking in on the right side of the image is also something we’ve been looking at doing upstairs. The roof will be sloping so  it might be interesting to highlight it with beams around the bed area to define it as a separate space and cozy it up a little.

I like the simplicity of these cabinets, and the splash of colour adds some personality. We’re hoping to get a storage bed if our budget allows, which is great for putting seasonal clothes and linens. Bo Concept has some designs starting at approx. $1900 with a hydraulic lifting system. Oh, to have a large disposable income.

So.. into the bathroom. It’s (obviously) quite small, and we’ve opted not to have a full bathtub since neither of us really use one. This gives us an extra bit of closet space on the outer wall which is more important to us at this point. The shower stall is a bit larger than a standard cube, which will make it less claustrophobic. Our designer, Kate,  at Smallworks has cleverly positioned the vanity sink area to be in front of the eaves, so we can make use of the space back there to store even more stuff.. spare towels, first aid, dead bodies… err i mean toiletries. Having an extra deep cabinet will be great for keeping all sorts of expired drug store products! Okay, I am trying to change that habit. Now, here are a few images of design ideas.

 Jason Ball Interiors Bathroom Designs  bathroom      Silver modern bathroom
The vertical tiling in the left hand image makes me think of rain falling and is a nice change from the usual horizontal detailing that most bathrooms have. On the right, the cool calm blue and textured white tile with wood has a really pretty ocean/coastal sort of vibe to it. Really like the lighting detail above the tub and along the mirror too. Lastly, I really love this shower stall in the image below. The wood is so inviting and makes it look a bit like a sauna. The tile inside is gorgeous as well. I’m intrigued by the ceiling in this too.. not sure what they’ve done, but the light looks like it’s shielded by bamboo or wood.
Kapalua Bay tropical bathroom
This bathroom is somewhere in Hawaii, which is suitable as it does have a hint of tropical design. I guess there’s a part of me that wants to bring some of that Thai resort design we had the pleasure of experiencing on our honeymoon. The bathroom seems like the most appropriate location for it.
Now that I’m feeling nostalgic, here are a few pictures of the beautiful place we stayed in Ko Samui, Thailand (we had our own pool…mmm). Maybe we can bring a bit of this into our home, even if it is just inspiration from the colours and finishes. Or you know, we could just make the bathroom into a plunge pool.
For some reason the slideshow keeps including our upstairs floor plan.. oh well, the rest are from the resort.

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how do i look? (outside and downstairs)

We’re at the stage in our laneway house planning where we’re getting a pretty good sense of how things are going to look inside and out. I’ve had a hard time resisting collecting new furniture and other things for the place now that we have a vision for the overall vibe of the place.

I’ve had a love for all things old and worn for longer than I can remember, and after several years of living in a place with new, modern furniture I am taking this project as an opportunity to start fresh. Much of our current furniture will not fit in the smaller lane house layout, so that makes a good excuse for finding new things…hehe.  Although, “new” isn’t the right word.. since we’re going for a bit of a combination of new with old. Original antiques meet reproductions and new materials. It’ll look good- trust me.

So, what is it we’re doing?

The outside of our home will be on the traditional side, to fit with neighbouring houses, but also because we just like the cozy look of a craftsman style heritage house.  Red is the colour of choice, with natural stained cedar and black detailing.

Smallworks has figured out a great deck for us, that is the largest you can get on a laneway house. It’ll have a short glass railing with cedar to frame it, and an interesting composite decking product that blends waste wood fiber and recycled plastics, adding in waxes, fiberglass, and preservatives to form wood-like boards. It’s durable and looks great. I’ll have to get the name of the product and update this post, because it’s something more people should be using as a sustainable product!

As for the inside, here are some basic floor plans showing our layout.

We wanted our kitchen to be all along one wall, as we don’t generally like corner kitchens or U-shaped ones. Scott and I both like to cook and often do so at the same time, so having a galley style kitchen will help keep us from bumping into each other. We bought a pretty kick-ass wheeled island from Antiques Direct. It’s not an antique, but it’s modeled after a vintage french industrial utility cart and has a really great gritty look about it (i’m a huge sucker for this stuff). The company that makes them seems to know what they’re doing, as it seems this piece of furniture will outlast everything we own, and probably us as well. We also got a creepy locker to use as our pantry. As you can see, we’re going for a bit of a vintage industrial look.

Our rolling (extremely heavy) kitchen island

Davy Jones' pantry

The living/dining area will involve a fair bit of custom mill work in order to make best use of the small space. The built-in TV/Gaming/DJ booth wall sits across from a built-in couch that’s comfortable enough for lounging, and high enough for dining, with an adjustable-height coffee table. It’s been pretty hard to find an adjustable table we like (or one that’s even in production) so we may get creative and build our own. Here’s an example of a basic wood design that can be raised to dining height and has a leaf that opens to make it seat four or perhaps six with a squish. It ain’t cheap..coming in at $1400 after shipping and taxes, unfortunately. But I suppose it is two tables in one. We shall see…

Well, I’m going to leave it at that for now. The next post will be about the top floor: bedroom, bathroom, and balcony! I’ll write something on small space furniture options soon too, because we’ve found a lot of interesting stuff and it still seems hard to find it without a lot of research.. so I hope I can help some visitors to this site from spending as much time on it themselves by sharing what we’ve come across!