Wednesday, December 24, 2014

USB power outlets

This wasn't actually on my radar until one of my good friends told me that he was upgrading his power outlets to USB power outlets. I'm pretty sure we will get a couple of these, but does this open a can of worms? I have to think about which rooms will get the USB power outlets, how many in each room? One in the bathroom? Really? No? Maybe.

It makes me wonder when USB will be outdated, will all these USB power outlets be useless? Will it be something that dates the house like my parents blue bathtub? I'm sure it'll take a while before USB get outdated but there is something nice about having a house that doesn't need to be updated when technology changes.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Picking a toilet

an image of a spaceship found on google
When I was thinking about our toilets I thought of getting a nice modern one, my wife wanted something more traditional but clean. When I was at the fixture store I liked the modern looking toilet but after thinking about it more I would have to agree with my wife, something traditional and clean versus getting a spaceship looking toilet.

Here's a link from HGTV on picking a toilet for your space.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Resource Furniture

If we can afford it we would love to get a few pieces from Resource Furniture. I was really interested in getting their beds for the kids rooms, but it's just out of our price range.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Guest Post: Home Automation from another perspective

I'm a pro home automation and I am also a tech geek nerd.

Technology has always interested me growing up, from RC cars to pagers and the old brick cell phone it was something about learning about emerging tech that piqued my interest and has stuck with me since then.

I am not into the smart appliances (Stoves, Microwaves and Refrigerators) those devices are go way overboard. I do agree that we do not need those devices to be "Smart". They work as advertised and do not need to be reinvented. I do not need to wirelessly connect to my stove and start boiling water as I get home. 

That being said, I do love home automation. It simplifies my daily routine. Being a parent, it gives me peace of mind when I leave the house. I tend to forgot to do the simple things when I rush out of the house and am left wondering if I turned off the front porch light or not and now I can check to see whether it is off or not with an app. On one occasion, I received a notification that there was smoke that was building in my upstairs hallway. I quickly call home and found that my wife had burned something on the stove. 

I don't feel like home automation is a result of our culture being more lazy. The statement "Why not get up from your bed and go downstairs to turn off the light instead of using an app to turn it off?" always is true but imagine this scenario that occurs in my family: My parents own a two storey house. They are in their late 60s and there is always a light that remains on in their house. Mobility is not strong with them so it is a bit tough at times for them to check that everything is off. Wouldn't it be nice to kindly turn off their lights at their house without having them do it themselves?

My mom always asks me whether she locked the front door as we leave the house. With home automation, her door would lock automatically after she left the house.

There is a concern if any of my connected devices fail or are not connected to my device. They can work manually. I can still use a key to enter my home and I can turn on my lights with a flip of a switch. If my Nest Protect loses a wifi connection, it will still work like every other smoke detector. 

Home automation simplifies my day to day life. That is the way it is intended to be.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Why I don't think I need a smart home.

Let me tell you something about myself. As a kid I liked toys that didn't require batteries. I like the fact that a toy has simple moving parts and I don't have to worry about batteries or the electronics failing. I mean I liked the flashing lights and sound effects from batteries powered toys but I always loved things that didn't have the bells and whistles.

I would say I have the same approach with cars. I mean automatic climate control is good, automatic headlights is nice, but I often found that cars with tons of electronics in them is just another item that you have to pay for when it fails. All the extra electronics are items that aren't essential to the car going from A to B but move end up costing you money in the long run if they fail.

When I think about a home I like to have the essentials, I don't need a fridge that tells me when I'm out of milk, I don't need the rooms to automatically warm up before I come home from work. I don't even need motorized blinds. Don't get me wrong I think the idea of a Smart Home is great, but I just worry about the day when those things fail. I want to keep the moving parts in my house as simple as possible. With that being said I'm not building slog cabin with an outhouse, but I just want to keep all the wires, electronics and automation to a minimum cause I don't want to be stuck with open blinds because the remote suddenly stopped working, or have to upgrade the firmware of my fridge.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Guest Post: Nest Protect product review

The Nest Protect is a smoke and carbon monoxide detector designed for the connected home. 

Where Nest differentiates itself from other smoke detectors on the market are the alerts. Instead of the common beeps found in most smoke detectors, the Nest Protect alerts you with a friendly voice. 

To set it up, you need to download the Nest app from either the App Store or Google Play and an exisiting Wifi connection. Setting it up is relatively easy and only takes about 5-10mins.

Once you have your Nest Protect set up, you can enable push notifications that will alert you if there is an alarm at your place or your batteries are low. This feature is useful and allows you to exactly when or where the alert is coming from. 

It also doubles as a night light and senses when you are underneath it and creates a path for you in the dark. The light is neither too bright or too dark.

This product is really aimed at gadget nerds and at a price of $99, it is a bit more expensive than current smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Pros - Push Notifications that alert you when there is an alarm.
       - Great design
       - Control via the Nest App
       - Also doubles as a night light

Cons - Price. At $99, outfitting your home may be expensive


Monday, December 15, 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Kids Bedrooms: Bunk Beds

A beautiful kids loft bed from Oeuf
I get excited when I think about the possibilities with a kids bedroom. It's an opportunity for you to try a few different style elements that might be a departure from the design of the rest of the house.

One aspect that I am really looking forward to getting is a bunk bed/loft bed set up. I really love the space saving aspects of a bunk bed. When I was younger I've always wanted a bunk bed. Now it's my opportunity to get one for my kid (as long as she likes the idea of one). I was actually really interested in getting a bunk bed from Resource Furniture, but we can't afford it.

I really like how a loft bed is set up also with a work space underneith. It's actually something that I would like to have for my bedroom, not sure if my wife would agree though.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Budgets and compromises in home design

A sweet accordion door opening by Lanefab
When we started designing the home and when we were picking the interior design elements we were going to aim for what we like and not worry about the price too much. We plan to see how everything is adding up and then start to take away items here and there.

We are getting to the point where we can make some decisions to take away certain features in order to save money. One of the main features that I've wanted was the beautiful accordion doors that would open the living space to the patio. We knew from the beginning that it was going to be an expensive feature but after adding in the nicer flooring, the nicer tile, etc. All the costs are really starting to add up, and we have to decide if the accordion door is a luxury that we can live without.

At the end my wife was never a huge fan of the accordion door and we won't be using it for most of the year due to the Vancouver weather. So we decided to go with french doors which would be half the cost and would give us the same effect when it's closed. We just won't have the open inside/outside feel with the open accordion door.   

Sure we are going to miss out on the wow factor of the accordion door but we would rather save the money and put it towards something that we would utilize everyday. We'll find our wow factor in other places


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fitting your house to you

Evening discussions over the kitchen cabinet height

We got our second set of revisions to the millwork everything is starting to come together. We would often take these plans and measure out the size in real life with the measuring tape. One thing we did not account for was the cabinet height. What we found was the cabinets might be just slightly too high for my wife to comfortably reach inside the cabinets. It's a small detail but I can see it being annoying in the long run. Since we are building the entire house from scratch we would like to adjust the cabinet heights so that it would be optimized for my wife's reach. Again a small detail but because we have the luxury to adjust it now with low aggro we might as well. 

So two things, we don't know how much to lower the cabinets so we will defer to the experts to recommend an adjustment based on my wife's reach. Second this is a really good example of really taking the time to look over your plans and try the best you can to visualize how you are going to utilize the space every day.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Channel 4 Grand Designs

I'm starting to binge watch episodes of Grand Designs. I really enjoyed this episode with Patrick Bradley building his cantilevered house from shipping containers:


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Small Closet Design

Comments and revisions we're suggesting on our millwork plan
Our laneway house is going to have good but limited closet space. So we really have to be cognizant in how we utilize them. We got the millwork plan from Lanefab, what we have in red on the image are our revisions to the closet details. We met with Bryn today to discuss our revisions, he had some great suggestions to further revise the closet design to maximize the space even more.

Here's a few thoughts and ideas that went into our closet design:

1) We are going to change our changers to thin plastic velvet coated hangers. We are going to get rid of our mish mash of plastic, wood, and wire hangers and get a uniform space saving hanger to help us save space in the closets.

2) We made a quick inventory of our clothes and we adjusted our bar hanger heights to double up where we can (have a low and a high bar hanger). We also made sure to have a longer hanging space for my wife's dresses and long coats.

3) Initially I wanted to have shoe shelves, but Bryn suggest shoe drawers so that we can utilize the depth of the closet more efficiently

Prior to getting our laneway house designed I actually never gave closet design any thought, now I'm not going to look at a closet the same way I used to.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Fireclay Tile

I really like the approach and design of Fireclay Tiles. Here's a short video that showcases the company:


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Making design choices when building a new home

One piece of advice that I got for getting our house built was to make sure we work out all our design choices and options so that there won't be unnecessary changes later on.

When I go about buying a camera or a laptop I like to do a lot of research check out reviews on the item. When we went about getting out house designed there was a number of choices to make, room layout, appliances, wall colors, toilets, etc etc. Since we have control over almost all the design aspects of the house, at the end of the day you can't blame anybody for any bad decisions made on your build because you have to make time to do your homework.

There is a big difference from picking a TV to all the designs and options for your house. There's just a lot more choices to make. This is how we went about our process.

1. Trust the professionals. I'm not the expert. I'll do some homework but I'm going to rely on the designers to help get us 80% there and I can fiddle with the last 20%.

2. Compartmentalize. This is something that Lanefab really helped us with. All the choices were broken down into manageable steps. First was the roof shape. Then the room layouts. Flooring and tile, appliances. Step by step we took on the design choices one by one rather then to attack the whole thing all at once.

3. Take your time. I know this might be frustrating for some but this is a big investment. Take your time to figure everything out. Imagine how you are going to use the house. Where do you want the electrical outlets? Where are you going to store the vacuum? You can't account for everything but take the time to imagine how you are going to live in this space to avoid costly changes down the road.

So far we got a lot of our decisions nailed down. We are happy with what we decided on so far, but we still have a bunch of stuff to figure out. One step at a time. 


Friday, November 28, 2014

Contrasting Home Design

An image from my wife's pintrest versus my pintrest

Its tricky combining different tastes in home and interior design. My wife likes a more contemporary and ornate look. I really like a clean modern look. She likes dark hardwood to give a warm feeling. I like concrete floors. There's going to be a lot of give and take for what we both like during the design of the laneway house. It's going to take longer to combine our visions but at the end the laneway house will be something that we both gave a great deal of time to consider all the details. 

I really wanted our laneway house to have a flat roof and a modern design. My wife wanted something with a gable roof and a more contemporary look. At the end we got a flat / shed roof combination. Which we both loved. Still a more modern take but I assured her that our choices in cladding (which hasn't been finalized yet) will be more rustic then sterile. 

Another part of the project I was pretty sure on was the back splash. I knew I wanted a clean glass back splash but Shima our interior designer recommended an over shaped tile instead to bring our my wife's taste in the kitchen. At the end I don't think this would have been something that me or my wife would have thought of but we both loved the idea of it. 
We still have a lot more decisions to make, the house isn't what me or my wife envisioned but it's going to be a good meld of our two styles. 


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Questions to ask for potential Contractors

Let me start off by saying, this isn't a definitive list of what to ask a contractor before you make your final selection, it's just what we used to get us to a point of being comfortable with our selection.

This was the advice I got from someone that works in the industry, here are the exact notes I wrote down:

Contractors: 1) Quality 2) Cost 3) Schedule

1) See past work, speak with former clients

2) How is the contract?
-Fixed Price?
-What is the pre-construction process?
-How are changes dealt with?

3) Detailed schedule up front  
-review weekly
-regular updates

4)  Who will be at the site daily?
-How do we keep in contact


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Caesarstone Countertops for the Laneway House

the Apline Mist Sample from Casesarstone
When we were searching for countertops we knew we wanted something that had the aesthetic of a natural stone but wasn't actually a natural stone because we not only couldn't afford it we also would be horrible at maintaining it. We pretty much automatically gravitated towards a quartz countertop. With help from our designer Shima (from Lanefab) we ended up going with a Caesarstone product. We weren't sold right away but we went to the IDS West show and saw a bunch of different counter top products and we still ended up with Ceasarstone. The two patterns that we shortlisted is the Alpine Mist and their Calacutta Nuvo. As of right now we have the Alpine Mist shortlisted. 


Monday, November 24, 2014

What's Wrong With This House?

In doing research for our Laneway House I watched a bunch of youtube videos and did research online. I really enjoyed the youtube videos from John Brown and Matthew North from Slow Home Studios. I couldn't wait to buy their book so I got the ebook on my Kindle. If you get the chance I would buy the actual book as the diagrams are hard to view on Kindle. I highly recommend you check out their videos on youtube.


Vancity Laneway House Mortgage

I thought I would post about something super interesting today: Financing! I’m not an expert on this but I thought I would share our experience on how we got out financing. First off we didn’t qualify for a regular mortgage even though we had enough money for a downpayment saved up, we both have good credit and steady jobs. Since we are getting the laneway house built we had to get a special mortgage. I had heard about Builders Mortgages before where they would lend you portions of cash while you build. I guess it’s because there’s a lot more risk in financing a build versus buying a finished house. We reached out to a couple banks and mortgage companies, but we ended up getting referred to other lending institutions. 

Though our research we found out that Vancity actually offered Laneway House Mortgages. We contacted them and they were awesome. They had their mortgage specialist figure out what is the best solution for us and helped guide us through the entire process. I’m not going to get into the specifics of our loan but we ended up with something that is in line with a home equity line of credit. Again I’m not an expert on this and I’m not sure that’s the actual name but we do have a line of credit for our build and we have the option to change it over to a regular mortgage once our lane way house is built. I’m sure another financial institution would eventually get us to the same solution but Vancity was great, they were easy to work with and we were very happy to get our financing quickly.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

1 Storey

Going into the design process what we wanted were two storeys. This way we could have a balcony upstairs, and then a patio on the ground level. Our plan was to have the master bedroom with one kids bedroom beside us, and a bathroom all upstairs on the second floor. We wanted to have a 1/2 bath and the third bedroom downstairs. This was our thought process: we would be upstairs with the nursery beside us, and when our second child came along the older kid could move downstairs. We would have this nice balcony we could enjoy from our bedroom and a nice patio downstairs. We were pretty stuck on this idea.
A laneway house with a sweet balcony from Lanefab 

Bryn tried to give us the design we wanted, but because of the regulations it was very hard for us to get the second bedroom upstairs. If we flipped the living space upstairs (kitchen and living room) and had all three bedrooms downstairs we would be able to get the two storeys and the balcony, but we would lose the patio. We just didn't like this configuration. After 2-3 tries at getting us the configuration that we wanted Bryn suggested for us to go with a one storey. We didn't consider the one storey at all, we didn't like taking up the extra space on the land (as the one storey has a bigger footprint), and we really wanted the balcony.

In the end Bryn gave us a really nice functional one storey design, we have all the bedrooms on one side of the house, and the kitchen and living room on the other side. We lost the balcony, but we gained a better designed house thanks to Lanefab.


Monday, November 17, 2014

3 Bedroom, 2 Bath, 1000 sq/ft

Our Laneway House plans by Lanefab
It might have been about a year and a half ago when I asked my wife what she thought about building a laneway house on my parents' property. At the time she wasn't really into the idea and was more into getting our own place. We were, and still are, renting a 1 bedroom apartment near City Hall and weren't really in a rush to move. We like the neighbourhood, it's close to my wife's work and it's pretty central for us (from family, downtown, etc). That all changed when we found out that we were expecting. 
I remember we went out for a walk and I brought up the laneway house idea again. I think by that time we had gone out to look at a few townhouses and looked at renting a two bedroom in our neighbourhood - both very expensive, I guess the laneway option was looking better and better. 

One of the key things that we wanted from a laneway house was having 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. I know that is a lot to ask for in a space that is just under 1000 sq/ft (which is the size limit of a laneway house), but we knew that having this configuration would help make the laneway house our almost forever home. Timing worked well in our favour because at around the time when we finally decided to build a laneway house the rules for building an attached garage had changed. The new rules make it so that you no longer have to build a garage, which really helped us get a configuration that maximizes our space. 

Our initial list of wants were: 3 bedrooms, 1 1/2 bathrooms, 2 storeys, balcony, patio, and two of the bedrooms had to be on the second level with an ensuite. If you look at the image of Bryn's mock up from the previous post you can see that we were a bit too ambitious with our small laneway house. In the next post I'll break down why we went from 2 storeys to 1.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

6 Month Post

a mock up by Bryn Davidson of our Laneway House

Well it's been 6 months since we made the decision to go with Lanefab to have our laneway house built. We thought we would get this site together to document our process. In the next few weeks I will go though what decisions we have made so far and why we made those choices. So stay tuned!