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.

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when sewage becomes exciting

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:

To 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.


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!