Decrease your footprint, increase your design and eco cred

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I stumbled across a very exciting, upcycled cabin photo on Pinterest the other day which led me into the fascinating world of “tiny houses”. Of course I’d heard of this trend before – friends from the dogpark were building a house for themselves and their mini schnauzer to live in, which would fit in a car-towed trailer. This was such an unusual project that it caught the attention of Grand Designs, who spent the day filming their work.

I haven’t caught up with them lately to find out how two tall people and their dog are managing to live in a 6 m2 house but good for them for trying something unique and ultimately good for the planet. People whom have downsized their lives have been reported as feeling more connected with nature, living less wastefully, and experiencing the immense freedom that comes from giving up a life of “keeping up with the Joneses”.

The following upcycled cabin, made largely from disused wooden framed windows, is a dream house for me. I have been teased mercilessly by friends and family for my love of wooden joinery, buying lonely and unloved large windows off auction sites and bringing them home for who knows what. Oh, to be a builder and craft a beautiful and intriguing cabin of them! I had dreams of converting them into mini glasshouses for my vegetables, but a lack of confidence in my building skills led the items to be sadly neglected in a storage space until I finally called a demolition outfit to come collect them. Off to a new set of people who will love them, I thought.

relax shack tiny house 1

glass house 2

glass house 3

glass house 4

The thing about a tiny house is that the designers need to be extra crafty to fit all the necessary accoutrements expected of a normal sized house into its small spaces. Special-built cabinetry, multi-purpose and highly functional furniture, everything doubling as something else, abound.

Most of these houses are off the grid – for example the 240 square foot weekend escape of Foy and Louisa Brown in Maine, which floats out on the bay. Water is brought from onshore for consumption, and the roof collects water into barrels for watering their container garden of flowers herbs and veggies. Originally intended to serve as a weekend escape for the couple, and rented to help with the bills at other times, they have found they cannot give it up and find themselves there most weekends.

Main Home + Design 1

Main Home + Design 2

Main Home + Design 3

Main Home + Design 4

Follow the links below to explore more beautiful and crafty tiny houses at your leisure!

http://www.countryliving.com/home-design/g1887/tiny-house/?slide=1

http://www.livingbiginatinyhouse.com/

http://www.hgtv.com/remodel/interior-remodel/10-extreme-tiny-homes-pictures

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Upcycling Goodness

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New Zealand has had a unique yearly programme whereby home owners can leave their “inorganic” trash at the curb to be picked up by the local councils. Unfortunately this programme is coming to an end, but while it existed, a wonderful system of recycling occurred whenever it was on. As you drove through areas that had the collection going, you would see many vans and trucks stopping to pick through the offerings, gleaning anything of use or that could be on-sold, and saving the ‘junk’ from landfill.

You would be surprised what people throw away: perfectly useable and unbroken dining room chair sets, desks, garden equipment, all manner of household items. I have even seen (and scooped) mid-century furniture merely needing a sand and varnish or reupholstering, as well as terracotta pots, beautiful wicker laundry baskets, classic paintable wooden chairs, wood and mirrored bathroom wall cabinets, and more. Space and a disinclination to be labelled a ‘hoarder’ by my long-suffering neighbours are all that stood between me and an upcycling empire.

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upcycled crates

I once dreamed of forming a company that had permission of the local councils to round up items that could be refurbished or changed into new forms of useful items or art, selling those pieces that were valuable and donating the rest to refuge and refugee centers. I was heartily distressed at the sheer volume of materials that would never break down going into our (or off-shore countries’) soils and reckoned that it was merely a problem of re-distribution. The same went for food scraps from produce centers – garbage bins full of lettuce leaf, carrot tops, etc that could feed pigs, chickens, and the like if they could only be transported to a new home instead of being binned on the spot.

It is said the planet cannot sustain our rate of growth and consumption much longer. I and many others believe that if we could curb wastage, we could slow the inevitable destruction. Upcycling is one way this can be achieved and I am glad to see the trend burgeoning across the globe.

With the advent of handmade online markets such as Etsy, designers and craftspeople can now save items from landfill and upmarket them for resale, often earning a living doing so. Although it may seem a small drop in the ocean of waste the planet is producing, any start is a good start and as more craftspeople get better made and designed upcycled products to the world, and the trend to buy and use such items grows, we will make headway, surely.

wall hangings from old books and magazines

Elephants from scrap paper (from love peace pionies blog)

vintage linens repurposed

Vintage linens repurposed as window dressing (from rosehip_blog)

I do love the thought that you can make a living doing something that is so good for the planet.  The woman behind dishfunctionaldesigns.blogspot.com has been making unique and beautiful jewellery from antique china, old silverware, and whatever else comes to her stunningly imaginative mind:

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upcycled silverware

Now if only I could get off my creative yet lazy derriere and get working on the gifted teak deck bench and chairs (a neighbours’ personal inorganics session), the mid-century living room chair, the plywood offcuts into beautiful workstations, etc, I would be adding to this wonderful trend, too!

(*feature image from hearthandmade.co.uk )

Editorial: Todd Selby

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If you, like me, are a big fan of quirky, colourful, unique, and well-shot images of interiors and people, then I bet you’re going to love Todd Selby, if you don’t already.

Selby is a renegade photographer who one could imagine, dared to shoot in a manner that interested him, not in a way that fit in with whatever was trending at the time. An eye for unusual angles, he started out taking photos of his friends’ apartments and putting them up online. This soon let to invitations from the hip-but-underground fashionistas (Lou Doillon et al), various designers, architects, and other sundry creative types into their homes to capture heretofore unheard of intimate portraits of their home lives.

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As a fledgling photographer, I have often worried that my own work is not soft, pretty, or trendy enough. I started off well on Instagram but for every handful of followers I lost one or two, too. I finally asked a French IGer why she unfollowed me and she replied “your photograph style has changed”. This surprised (and admittedly, hurt) me – at least the images were still well-shot and produced! But I rallied and realised that, like me, there are many, many out there who revel in being a bit different, who are starting to realise they stand out from the crowd, and who are slowly but surely no longer afraid of that. Todd Selby is just such a person and shows us that success can come from daring to write your own story and from believing that story will resonate with others.

Another thing I like about Selby is that he asks each subject of his photo essays to describe, always in children’s marker pens, fun details about their life, or how they would imagine it. This adds another layer of playfulness and intimacy to his portraits and is something no-one else out there is doing or would perhaps ‘dare’ to do.

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This one thing I am becoming sure of – be your own judge of what you want to see, read, hear, play with. And if you are true to that, you are guaranteed to find a host of others who will connect with what you are attempting to show them through your art. And this connection will be stronger and longer lasting than any fleeting trends may hold.

All photos shown copywrite Todd Selby and can be found on his site www.TheSelby.com

Half way through Winter!

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It’s August already and we’re already looking forward to summer days swinging around soon. I’ve been neglecting my blog lately in favour of buying a new rental property – so it’s time to get back online and start writing and finding gorgeous images and style ideas for you.

I get so excited at the idea of blogging, and admittedly jealous of the already wildly-successful bloggers out there. Just goes to show, get out there and do it – and if you have something interesting to say, or a good eye for design (etc), you may be able to join that excellent community of online exchangers of ideas, images, and words.

I feel a certain jealousy but also deep admiration for bloggers like A Beautiful Mess, Paper and Stitch, The Londoner, and SFGirlbyBay:

http://www.abeautifulmess.com/

http://www.papernstitchblog.com/

DIY

http://www.thelondoner.me/

Cherries

http://www.sfgirlbybay.com/

FridayFinds

I keep thinking of emulating them in some fashion (for it is, after all, the sincerest form of flattery), but my fabulous online business marketing friend, whom is helping me learn how to market myself online, keeps gently admonishing me to find my own voice and my own way.

One of the things that interests me about the online shopping movement is that, just when you think a market has been fully captured, along comes a new website to prove you wrong.

Etsy is a case in point: I can’t help but wonder if the founders of this powerful and popular ‘DIY’ online shop site were told by their backers “Who do you think you are going up against eBay, Amazon, and the like?”. But look at them now, a well-branded, beautifully styled website which is a joy to browse, even if with no intention to buy:

https://www.etsy.com/

Pointy
Dinosaur

Surfer

Their catchphrase is “Shop directly from people around the world” a true realisation of globalization!

(*images above from the blogs and websites mentioned in the post*)

Dreaming up a Landscape

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I’m about to put the house that I’ve been living in for over eight years, my very first house purchase, on the market.  We’re swinging in to winter here and unfortunately, the property market is sinking like a cold soufflé.  However, a buyers market is a sellers market and although I may not get as much for my home as I would have a half a year ago, hopefully I’ll find the right house for less money than I’d have spent then, too.

I’ve chosen a realtor and she has advised I scrub the place up before putting her on the market.  It’s funny what you get used to living with – cracked hallway tiles, a slight sink in the floor where the back door opens and drips water onto the bare chipboard floor… a broken bottom deck step, slightly unruly garden, and 1980’s kitchen and bathroomware throughout.

I’m incredibly excited about the process, however, and have been grazing google to find landscaping photos to match what I have in my head for a little pathway down from the back deck to the lower garden.  I had no idea there were so many beautiful, quirky, and stylised pathways out there!  It’s hard to choose from the beautiful garden creations out there.

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Given that my house style is townhouse modern, and the garden is a mixture of palms, yucca, and cabbage trees (with a good few rows of hardy agapanthis in the mix), what I want for my garden path is slate grey pavers with white crushed shell or possible white scoria surrounding the pavers, dropping in deep, wide steps to the lower garden.  I’m really liking the combination of the grey with the white, especially as the low retaining wall I’ll have built will be stained black.

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The area next to the new pathway will be filled with topsoil and black bark laid down.  It is currently populated with a handful of lovely, hardy cabbage trees which sprung up out of nowhere, and the palms and yuccas I determinedly planted out last summer amongst the arm-widthed roots of the 4 story glorious but dying magnolia grandiflora I cut down a few years ago. Other areas of the garden have river stone and lavender, and tall “dizzy lizzie” bushes. Hopefully it will all fit together!  I’m new to this design + styling thing so I can only hope my hundreds of long lazy days spent reading through architecture and garden magazines will pay off!

Will have to make sure I post before and after photos when it’s ready!!

Warming up as it’s cooling down

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I can’t seem to stop searching for and pinning/tagging/posting images that use a combination of soft, Scandanavian styling, warm whites, pale browns, lashings of dusty pink, and animal hides in some form or other – be it buffalo, shaggy Icelandic sheepskin, or cowskin.  I’m not sure exactly what the attraction is – probably the texture and colour – but my boards and walls are peppered with photos like that.

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How about a giant fluffy buffalo pelt for in front of the fire?  They are considered to be eco-friendly as buffalo are farmed for their meat in the U.S., and the pelts otherwise would have been discarded.

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If the thought of warming up with something that used to belong to a sentient being bothers you, Ikea has introduced a line of faux sheepskin rugs:

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I can’t help but wonder if my original non-antipodean life, ten years past now, is still haunting me, because we’re rolling in to autumn down here in New Zealand and I can’t shake the desire to spring clean.  I’ve been happy with my home thus far, but finding images like these on Pinterest, etc, has motivated me to begin re-decorating:

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I love the look of this living room but would add a handful more tribal artifacts such as an Oceanic War Shield to the shelf or painting by Gloria Peytarre above it, and possibly a much-loved and more colourful killim rug:

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And finally, to cheer up those long and cool winter nights, I’d add a splash of colour and perhaps fragrance with some fresh, summery flowers – to remind me that spring isn’t far away!

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Scandinavian Winter Dreaming

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I love it when winter appears around the corner and our sense of what we like to see in colour, texture, and warmth naturally begin to change.

I think this is why I am being drawn to white palettes with smatterings of wood-grain greys and browns, some texture in the form of a sheepskin rug thrown over a mid-century chair or a softly-woven and faded ikat rug.  I have in mind a Scandinavian winter and see myself curled up by the fire with friends and mugs of hot cocoa and stacks of good magazines and books.

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My current office consists of a funky, worn 1970’s styled solid wood table with cool lines, placed in front of my large ranch slider windows and overlooking a vibrant orange garden.  I am trying to source some shaggy Icelandic sheepskin rugs, however, for warmth and comfort and something very lovely to look at:

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I’m normally a gal more for bold colours so I am surprised to find myself so attracted to the pales and whites these days.  I wonder if this happens to any of you – do your colour palettes change with the seasons?  I am still loving pops of soft and feminine pinks like this lovely polkadot glass filled with soft pink peonies.

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Winter can be a good time to “zen-down”, as my sister calls it, too.  I’m finding myself clearing out the old items I never look at or don’t use anymore, to be donated to the thrift shops where someone else can make use of them.  I find myself much more able to generate a calm sense of presence when I’m not tripping over bags of magazines I never read, a stack of old towels I may eventually use to dry off my dogs, or those beat up old shoes I may just “one day” wear.

Once I finish my clearing out, I will have room for pretty items like this simple cut-glass bowl vase filled with simple spring buds in the palest of pinks. I hope that day comes soon!

Scandi Winter 5