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An Inspiring Transformation

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011
By Christa Terry

As ‘before and after’s go, this one from AB Chao is pretty sweet. It also proves that you shouldn’t judge a space by what it’s been in the past, but rather by what you want it to be right now. After all, does this garage look like anything other than a garage? Nope.

And yet this is what it became! *blinks eyes and looks again*

Just when I start thinking my little house has got it going on (maybe just a wee bit) I hit up a blog like AB Chao and am once again humbled.

The House of Scrap

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011
By Christa Terry

Yesterday, I showed you the DIY mudroom bench – today, it’s the $7 house. Am I kidding? Nope! It’s not a big house or a fancy one, but it is a livable house. Created by a group of students in Buxton, NC as a challenge to themselves, and I’d say the exterior looks pretty good!

It’s amazing what you can do with salvaged materials and what’s otherwise considered waste!

Every day after class I’d get in my decrepit ’84 Landcruiser and make my rounds. The town dump, local job sites, etc. I’d find lumber, sinks, doors, windows, etc. The dump had my cell number on speed-dial and would call me if they had something.

The waste was amazing. I once climbed in the dumpster of a local Mcmansion being built and found 27 8′ 2X6’s. Uncut, tag still on them, not warped. They had literally been bought, delivered, and thrown away. Some windows were old, some were new, for example two of the windows were last year’s display models used by the window companies. I found tile, wiring, siding, etc. It only took 2 months to be in the dry, and within 4 months it was essentially done.

While not 100% complete, it’s certainly livable at this point. It’s dry, warm, has power, etc. While the labor is a huge factor, it’s amazing how much can be done for so little money.

The best part about the house, according to one of the creators, is that walking into it, you’d never know it was built for less than ten dollars. Of course, it’s not actually finished yet. And there haven’t been any updates to the blog since September. When last updated, the interior of the Scrap House looked like this:

Could you live in a wee little house? What if it only cost you $7? And you designed it yourself?

Would You Dig Stacked Living?

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
By Christa Terry

Because some students in Le Havre, France are living the stacked life in sweet housing designed by Cattani Architects. Named Cité a Docks, it is made up of 100 dorm suites created using old shipping containers. Each studio has a bed and study area, bathroom, kitchen, and free Wifi.

The architect Cattani said of the thoughts that accompanied her work: “How do I prevent students, prospective tenants, they feel put in the box? Compelling needs have arisen. Necessary to conceive of a lightweight, transparent, and certainly not solid. Hence the idea of independent living, to avoid the stacking effect.”

Stacked shipping containers translate into furnished dorm suits that are about 24 square square meters, and every unit has a large glass wall that lets in a lot of natural light (not to mention a water view). The first floor is raised off the ground, allowing for both privacy and bike storage, and to minimize the boxed feeling one might get, the shipping containers are staggered and separated from one another by sound-proofing of rubber and concrete.

I love the idea of shipping containers as student housing – I mean, these units are a lot bigger than the dorm rooms I had back in the day, and add to that the luxury of a kitchen, a private bath, a balcony, and a great view? I’m sold!

Images via Cattini Architects

Adventures In Scaled Down Living, Two Ways

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
By Christa Terry

Think you can’t take your living situation to the bare minimum because you’re X or you’ve got Y or it would never work out because of Z? Maybe you’re right, but two stories I read recently suggested that you might just be wrong.

In the first, a couple abandons their condo (along with many elements of their modern lifestyle) to build a home in rural Iowa entirely without debt. With $7,000 and the help of friends and family, Hap and Lin Mullenneaux built a tiny cob house along with an open shed, summer kitchen, and a straw bale house. For water, they collect and filter rain. For heat, they use a small wood stove. And to power a laptop, modem, light, and fan, they have a wee photovoltaic system. Simple stuff, except when consider that they designer and manufactured everything themselves after taking a workshop!

In the second, two adults and two kids aaaand two cats lived for six years in a itty-itty camper and tiny tepee to save money and use fewer resources. It was much less luxurious than cob house living, with outdoor showers, water hauled from springs, human waste composting, and freezing winters. But you know what? They survived and enjoyed themselves, and while they’re in a house now, they seem to miss scaled down living as they practiced it.

There’s a song that says “love grows best in little houses” and my guess is that both families profiled above would be inclined to agree. I might agree, too, so long as you let me append the statement with something like “when the kids are grown up and there are no teenagers around.”

The Elusive Small-House Utopia Is Still Pretty Big

Monday, November 15th, 2010
By Christa Terry

If I say ‘small house,’ what comes to mind? A super wee micro-house or something like this? Or do you think of a structure containing roughly 1700+ sq. ft. of floor space? Because, hey, it’s not a McMansion, so it must be small, right? I got to thinking about this subject after reading The Elusive Small-House Utopia, an article about Builder magazine’s latest concept home and what it means for building trends in general.

That concept house, the Home for a New Economy designed by Marianne Cusato, measured in at the size of the average American home built in 1980, or around 1700 sq. ft. Then the housing market went insane, and soon it became not unusual to see newly built houses hovering out the 6000 sq. ft. mark!

When Cusato sat down to devise the Home for the New Economy, she tried to consider how families actually use their living areas. She started with a simple, symmetrical three-bedroom plan, excising extraneous spaces — the seldom-used formal dining room, for instance — while enlarging windows wherever she could and adding a wraparound porch. A result was a house that was compact, comfortable, bright and energy-efficient.

Sounds tasty, right? But at 1700 sq. ft., does it really seem particularly small? Maybe I’m just coming at the article with a bias – my house tops out at 1100 sq. ft. and we think that might include the finished basement – but even when I hear that in 2007 the average American house surpassed 2500 sq. ft., 1700 still sounds like a lot of space for the average family. Not huge, but big enough for comfort.

“Everybody hates the Calvinist sacrifice; they just don’t want to hear of it,” says the architect Andrés Duany, a founding father of the New Urbanist movement and a mentor of Marianne Cusato’s. Duany argues that the sprawling homes of the last decade actually met a need, albeit imperfectly, by reproducing internally what suburban communities lacked: an exercise room substitutes for a park, a home theater for the Main Street cinema. Buyers will only accept smaller homes, he says, if their surroundings compensate them.

So let me ask you, my lovely readers, what you think small means when it comes to housing for, say, a family of three? How much space does a person really need, anyway?

$1 Billion Buys a Whole Lot of Ugly

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
By Christa Terry

India’s richest man has apparently moved into the most expensive home ever built. Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Industries, who has a net worth of $29 billion, spent an estimated $1 billion on “Antilla,” a 400,000 sq. ft. residence in Mumbai’s upmarket Altamount Road area. My first impressions? It’s…big.

Call me jealous, if you will (and I won’t deny that I’d love to be a billionaire), but tell me this is not one ugly house. From the outside, it looks like a piece of one of those bizarro world mod apartment blocks that are poised to disengage from spaceship earth once the time is right. But lest I mistakenly suggest it’s lacking in outdoor amenities, I should point out the three (three!) helipads. And from the inside? The bathrooms, dining rooms, elevator banks, and living areas are apparently outfitted as dully as possible, in that way only too much bland stereotypical opulence can be dull. I mean, do you really need a huge chandelier every fifteen feet? Do you?

The Secret to Hosting Guests Sans Stress

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
By Christa Terry

What is it that they say about having house guests and fresh fish? Both start to stink after a couple of days? I’d posit that the expiration date on playing host to one or more people arrives much, much sooner when those people are sleeping in your house. Especially if you don’t have the space for an actual guest room and guest bathroom, and there are consequently suitcases and makeup cases spilling their contents all over your living room.

I think we’ve all been trained to believe that guest houses are something only those with lots of money or lots of property or both can have, but what if your guest house is simply a watertight cozy little structure tucked into one corner of your garden?

With a Beltima Chalet Chambre, your guests still have to trek in to use the toilet, but everything from reading to sleeping to face washing can be accomplished somewhere out of your hair so you and your loved ones can remain on good terms when stays are extended. I have no clue how much one would cost, but I love the idea. I wonder if the bottom bunk could be removed and replaced with a desk, turning the whole thing into an adorable detached office?

Twelve Cubed Micro Houses

Monday, August 16th, 2010
By Christa Terry

You know already that I love me some tiny houses< ?a>, whether we’re talking about actual standalone houses, super skinny townhouses, or itty-bitty flats. My new favorite source for these havens of living small is Twelve Cubed, maker of twelve-cubed or ten-cubed micro houses that start at around CDN$24,500.

Featuring a dishwasher, microwave & modern oven combo, bathroom, closet, and plenty of natural light, one of our sustainable cubes has everything you need to make your life, modern, simple, and convenient.

Not bad, not bad! It sounds way more comfortable than some of the tiny houses out there, like apartments made out of closets, caravans with no bathrooms, and spheres you hang in a tree. I still don’t see them catching on in North America any time soon, however. Yes, the average size of newly-built homes is definitely dropping, but not by much, and the average size of a house now is still much bigger than the average size of a house in, say, 1960 (which is then itself much, much bigger than a Cube)

A Cube is set up so it gets its power, water, and sewage disposal handled by the primary house on the lot, so think guest house or home office, not primary residence. It has its own sewage pumping system which allows it to be up to 300 feet from its support house. There is a solar version available that does not need to be plugged into a support house for power, but I’m not sure how water would work.

Check out some interior pics under the break!


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    Christa Terry
    (a.k.a. Never teh Bride)


    Manolo the Shoeblogger