New threads in the studio from Side B Design

I’ve been creating again in our pint-sized house. Click the photo to go to Side B Design’s Blog and check out the new creations!techraki top and hood-cowl

the mood of the rainforest

Pacific Spirit Park, Vancouver

If you live in Vancouver you’ll have noticed we’ve been drowning for the last month, now known as “Juneuary”. While one side of me grumbles with discontentment, the other realizes that this temperate rainforest city I’ve grown up in has made me the moody, introspective artist that I am. Nearly everything I work on has a little bit of that dark, dreary, day-dreaming quality to it. While I often curse the grey skies, I am also attracted to grey tones and the pewter colour of the ocean when I ride the ferry to one of the islands on an overcast day. Even our pint-sized house interior colouring has a natural west-coast influence in the colouring and materials. There’s no escaping it – it’s in my blood.

Sombrio Beach, Vancouver Island

Besides all the lush greenery and fresh-smelling air, the thing that really makes a rainy city great is when the sun comes out, there is nothing more exciting. It feels like the city suddenly transforms from an insular, head-down hermit into a vibrant, smiling socialite. People drop everything and head to the beach, a patio, the forest, the mountains – they leave work early, call in sick, soak up the vitamin D and dry out their damp bones until the sun goes down.

Sunset in August – backyard view

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve traveled to tropical places, deserts and the like, and love it. Between the constant warm temperatures, the flora and fauna, and the intense sun, it can be heaven for me and a welcome break from life under a sheet of grey. In 2003 I spent three months in Australia and felt more at home than I did in Vancouver at the time. I spent years trying to figure out how I could live in Melbourne instead, but for various reasons it never happened. I did believe that Vancouver would grow and change to become a city like Melbourne, but when I was 21, time was of the essence – I had to get everything I wanted NOW.

Melbourne’s architecture never ceased to make me fall in love with the city over and over again

Well, time has passed, my impatient nature has mellowed (slightly), and I’m still here. In Vancouver. I still get incredibly nostalgic for Melbourne, but you know, I wasn’t wrong when I predicted that Vancouver would make its way towards being almost as cool. What’s even better – being 30 isn’t actually as old as I thought it would be. We still have a ways to go in our moody city, but how far we have come. We encourage bikes, public spaces, and car sharing. The artist community has grown and diversified beyond upscale South Granville and hipster Main Street. Music fills the streets of downtown more than ever with a variety of buskers from solo synth-guys to four piece bands. There are markets all over the place these days. Rain or shine. I find that incredible sometimes – the stuff that gets done in the rain.

There are still several things that annoy the hell out of me in my hometown from time to time, and the rain really doesn’t seem to help sometimes, but complaining just makes it feel worse. I think what it comes down to is that human beings are always changing and looking for things to vent their own issues onto, whether it be their city, their spouse, or the weather.

So no matter how dumpy I might feel after days on end of grey skies, I will try to play in the rain, bask in the clouds, and embrace my moody vitamin D deficient self for what it is. And if I just want to sit inside and play Skyrim for three hours… well, that’s okay sometimes too. Because that’s how I roll in the rainforest.

I invite you to listen to one of my favourite grey-day musicians: Beach House.

the things we do

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!

a fine example of the decline of humanity

Now, I wasn’t alive in the fifties, so I can’t really say whether the above image’s statement is true or not – although my grandmother will certainly vouch for the idea. The image fits with the theme of today though, while I still try to shake off last night’s unpleasant events.
I’m not sure what parents 10-20 years older than me are doing with their kids these days, but the 20 or so high school students we encountered last night made it seem like they are no longer taught the meaning of respect. It’s of course easy to start generalizing when you’ve had a bad experience – but that’s where I’m coming from today, so until some younger individuals come around who disprove this in my world, I’m going to have to just hope that these little twits are a minority, and move on with life as usual. Ideally this will never happen again.

So what the heck happened, you may be asking by now?

Okay that image is a slight exaggeration, but I do like to exaggerate from time to time, especially in times of frustration. Scott and I were having a quiet movie night at home when right near the end of Jackie Brown, when Jackie and Max had just professed their love for each other, some ruckus started outside our window. I suspected the Smallworks sign was being abused. We continued to listen when a much louder bang occurred followed by the sound of immature laughter. I immediately went for the door and saw that our poor mailbox was beheaded, and a group of high school pre-grads were continuing up the block. Well, the Irish/German in me couldn’t stand for that. Unfortunately, these individuals were not shining examples of human beings.
I realize being a teenager can be rough. I still remember the awkwardness, the insecurity, the random feelings of anger, pain and fleeting happiness. But you know what? I dealt with that crap. I swallowed it, exercised, did theatre, dance, art – things to vent those feelings. I didn’t break people’s shit. Nor did my friends. Why? Because somewhere along the line of growing up, our parents taught us one valuable concept: respect. Not to mention learning how to take out your frustrations through avenues other than onto other people.
Sadly, that same sense of respect is what bit both me and Scott in the ass last night, because we couldn’t be the dirty fight-pickers that these fine examples of the decline of humanity were. When I confronted them and asked them to own-up to their vandalism, the last thing I expected was to have it turned around so that WE were the bad guys.

Oh yeah, we’re just sooo bad-ass

Call me naive – I suppose I just like to think most people have the decency to apologize. Eventually my dad also came out to confront them, and they treated him – a man much wiser than they, the same if not worse than how they’d treated us. They dolled out all sorts of great stuff. Name calling, punching, grabbing, and filming with their digital cameras because it was just so hilarious. I woke up this morning and wished it had all been a bad nightmare. Alas, those children actually exist.
In the end however, it’s encounters like this that bring me back to myself. People are who they are, good, bad, rotten, insecure, loving, hateful…. we all bounce off each other like electrons. There was a whole lot of bouncing going on last night, oh boy.  It’s easy to be negative and lose faith in humanity when things like this happen – but there’s not much we can do about other people, because the change comes from within. So while I hope that these individuals are able to redeem themselves in some way and aren’t all bad, there’s no point in worrying about it.
We called the cops and scared the crap out of them, so hey – at least that worked in our favour.

In the end what matters most is 
how well did you live,
how well did you love,
how well did you learn to let go.

– Unknown (based on quote from Siddhārtha Gautama)

Shoebox Dwelling

This has nothing to do with our house, and everything to do with someone else’s pint-sized, or should I say Shoebox dwelling! I came across this via Apartment Therapy which then brought be to another great blog focussed on small space living, called Shoebox Dwelling.

The sites feature an article on this awesome converted garage in Seattle. The owners went from this:



To this:



And the interior is great too!


You should click the photos or link above to see the full article with all their photos. They’re living in 250 square feet. Much smaller than the 500 we’ll be in. I think that’s pretty amazing.


what’s going on here?!

Ok, it’s been a while since our last post – for good reason. There just hasn’t been a whole lot going on! At least, not on our end. Smallworks has been busy getting things organized, and the City permits were taking a little longer than usual. The permit delay has held things back about a month, but now things are as good as ready. Tomorrow we sign the contract and work starts next week. Exciting! I’m itching to see things start.. even if it does mean the yard, side of the house and front yard are going to be thrashed for a few weeks.

What have we been up to in the meantime? Practicing how to live on a pint-sized budget, that’s what. Now that we’re all grown-up and paying for a house, we can’t be quite as care free with funds. No more impromptu visits to the local pub. Really this just means we’re cooking at home more, which isn’t a bad thing at all. I can’t wait to be using our  new kitchen for it, though! We’ve been enjoying rediscovering our cookbooks and I’ve recently found a useful and innovative recipe search tool: You should check it out, it’s fun.

Ok I cooked with these a couple of months ago, but they're just so pretty and in the spirit of cooking with fresh local food, which we are trying to do more of again these days.

Last week we met with Kate and Jake of Smallworks to go over our design/construction choices and of course, the all important budget. No surprise, we were over our budget. We expected as much, since we’re doing a lot of customization and built-in mill work to use the space as best we can. After a bit of slashing/downgrading on things we were willing to part with, we’ve settled on a very livable little home that still has some excellent features and is built and finished with quality products. We’re coming in at around 25% less than the average cost of a comparable sized west side Vancouver apartment, and we’ll have a balcony, garage, garden, heaps of storage and personalized interior. We’re pretty darn lucky.

The one item that was the hardest to downgrade on was the roof. We really wanted the 50 year plastic slate product that looks really unique and beautiful, is made from recycled materials and lasts ‘forever’, but the difference between it and a 30 year asphalt roof is almost $5,000, which is about the same price as our custom built in storage couch/dining bench. We still get a decent roof and get to keep our very practical couch corner. In 30 years perhaps we can afford to replace the roof with something better – but I’d rather not think about being a 60 year old woman yet, thanks.

I’m not hesitating to give price ranges on here because I find it far too common for other bloggers to shy away from sharing costs. As a reader I wish more people would share pricing as it’s really helpful for getting an idea of how much one can expect to budget for a project or product. I am only writing the approximate prices however, so as not to lead anyone to believe something is a set price – especially when it comes to custom mill work. In any case I hope it’s helpful to those of you considering building your own little (or big) house.

Let the countdown begin! Things should be a lot more active on here very soon.