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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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!


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!