A rental becomes a home (a coming of age story)

I don't have a magazine house, I don't even have a house I want to let the census lady into. If It weren't for my sensible boyfriend the walls would close in around us with stacks of newspapers and every box of every thing we ever bought ever. But NOW is the time! The time to create a dream home I proudly will invite you ALL into. I was waiting until I owned a house but the math doesn't add up. We're better off rent and every week I am working towards decluttering, organizing, decorating and creating an awesome house I want to live in.

Color Snap – Fabric for the Kitchen

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I have this wild fabric I found in the Ikea discount bin for $3.  It was sewn as a weird double sided panel with rod pockets on either side.  It turns out to be huge!  Probably 20 feet long, and once I opened up the panel, its about 10 feet wide.  Maybe it was their sample from the wall in the fabric section?  Either way I’m pretty flush in this fabric.  I wanted to paint the town with it, and had grand plans of redoing the kitchen chair seats, making a curtain for the kitchen window, and maybe even a curtain for the sink.  But then something dawned on me that maybe that was overkill.  I’ve been researching wallpaper I might be able to take down, and found all the paint stores have great apps to convince me to buy all my paints from them.  This is the Sherwin-Williams app, ColorSnap.  I took a picture of the fabric and it quickly gave me some good ideas other than using the same fabric everywhere!  I really like the coral colour “daring”, maybe that would work for recovering the chairs, as the large flower pattern might be lost on the seats.

The app automatically chooses colours but you are free to move them around yourself.  Ive included the auto pick, as well as two other ones I made up.  It’s amazing the colours that you can find in the fabric!

bright auto gems

 

Micro Apartments in Seattle

Most new build apartments seem to be around 600 square feet, which seems pretty small to me.  I’m not a big fan of the eat in breakfast bar that qualifies for eating space, and there literally is nowhere for a computer desk. For the same price you could get a slightly older 800 square foot apartment and pay for the renos to update it out of the 80s.  That all said, I’m sure our house is closer to 1000, if not more, and it would be hard to imagine living in 600, let alone the 200 square feet of the new micro apartments Seattle will have soon

http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/2-400-micro-apartments-coming-to-Seattle-5486211.php

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In the pictures one thing that really gets me is how cluttered they look.  Unless you live like a monk, I would struggle to keep the place tidy, even books and and a mug out on the desk are apparently messy.  The Seattle units wont have kitchens either, so anyone with a cooking interest to would hardly consider them.  But if you needed a place to literally hang a few hats, and lay your head down at night, it might be worth considering.

The article had some nicer looking 295 square foot units from LA that looked a bit more thoughtful and stylish, and included a kitchen (who thought that would be a requirement in searching for a place!) and even a higher end euro wash/dry unit.  The built in cabinetry in the kitchen would store more than kitchen needs.  The Murphy bed really helps keep the place looking presentable, plus no breakfast bar!

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This one I feel like I could actually live in, it reminded me a lot of the hotel, One King West, I stayed at while in Toronto for work (but it turns out that was about 425 square feet!)

http://www.onekingwest.com/suites/superior/

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The bathroom was SPA like, I had a window and a view (hilariously of work’s office!) and a huge walk in shower.  I could have used a little sofa but overall it really felt like a home away from home for the week.  I think for the right person this could be something to consider, and the money you save on the cost of the place hopefully would allow for the higher end finishes found in the LA units.  Can we get any smaller than 200 square feet though?  I think we may have the limit of the micro apartment!

 

Five Ideas to Inspire you to Start Gardening

Gardening may be completely new to you, or your space may only be a few square feet.  No matter your situation, from windowsill or patio, you can bring some gardening into your space.

1. Grow the Herbs you Buy

If you find yourself searching for thyme in your fridge only to discover a sad black wilty mess in its plastic clamshell coffin, growing it instead could solve this problem! My grocery store has started to sell little 4″ herbs in the produce section and I find sometimes its even cheaper to get the whole plant rather than the packaged cuttings.  I don’t always have all the herbs I need in my garden, but I currently have basil, cilantro, and thyme, as well as a mint problem that wont go away (its grows too well for its own good!)

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2. Plants you can Neglect

If gardening is new to you, get something that you know will thrive.  A small selection of cacti by your outdoor eating area, or drought tolerant nasturtiums will bring joy and ease to your outdoor space.

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3. Successful Planting

Half our yard is quite shady, and for a few years the grill and a stack of lumber lived on that edge of the fence.  I did some research into shade plants and found many beautiful varieties that would bring interest to that part of the yard.  Even a deck that is shady almost all day has some options.

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4. Planters Instead of Cut Flowers

I love to have flowers in the house, and thankfully there are several places where flowers are a bargain in town, but growing your pot of flowers to decorate your table, either inside or out, will brighten any meal.  I purposely planted this bunch of Zinnia’s together as if they were a bouquet, and put them in stylish pots so they could easily be put down on the table.  With a little bit of care, each planter (the flowers were $1.25 a package at the grocery store) will last you all summer.

zinnia

5. Get a Water Garden

I had a much more impressive water garden last year, but two of the plants did overwinter and are thriving.  I have my water garden by the hose so while I fill the watering can I have a place to put the water that dribbles out between fillups.  A watergarden can be almost self sufficient as long as you make sure it has enough water.  I saw this complete setup for a water garden at the local greenhouse, including pot! (I’m pretty sure the pot alone is $40, so for $70 this complete garden is a deal) You could add a small pump and fountain to keep the water moving, which would eliminate any mosquitoes being hatched from the water, and would provide some wonderful background sounds to your deck.

watergarden

If you don’t have much of a garden, hopefully you are thinking about it now!  You may find yourself enjoying gardening so much you are that person at the office who has so much zucchini they don’t know what to do with it all other than give them away or make delicious chocolate zucchini cake.  I love that person! It could be you!

The Buyerarchy of Needs

I first learned of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in my computer project management courses and immediately realized this hierarchy was going to help me with interactions with others.  When people act in an unexpected way, I always have thought “something must be going on with them to make them act like this” and the hierarchy of needs added another layer to that thought.  People are all operating at different levels,  working towards self actualization.

Earlier in the week I found this picture in my travels on the internet, and saved it right away!

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I really respect the message, with nod and apology (I actually feel the pyramid should be reversed, with using what you have being the hallmark).  Using Google’s reverse image search I traced the source back to the artist, Sarah Lazarovic and the Facebook post by The Story of StuffI personally have so much stuff and I could shop my own house and use what I have before buying new, and I could take a few boxes to the thrift store.  When renting, a common struggle is storage and organization, and every situation is unique.  If you have walk in closets or no closets at all, using what you have is going to improve your home organization.  I am going to make a point of highlighting the things I am using and how it improves our home!

Love your Landlord

We rent in a great situation, a 28 unit townhouse complex owned by a family with several similar properties.  Previously, we rented an illegal basement suite with a difficult landlord and were seeking some serious independence from his helicopter land lording!  We used to pay rent in cash at a far off location, had difficult co-tenants, and had to fight to get our damage deposit back when we moved.  After that experience, we were sure to consider the landlord and their circumstances as much as the home itself.  I’ve heard many stories, from unpleasant to downright horror, about landlords who probably care too much about their homes.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s their property, but when you sign a lease you are entitled to make that property your home.

Your landlord may not even want you to hang a thing on the walls, let alone have you undertake a garden or light fixture change.  And even worse, they may break basic tenancy laws such as entering your suite without permission.  We personally decided we wanted to live in a unit independent from other tenants (and the landlord!) because we had so many problems sharing a house with two other suites. Our issues ranged from no hot water, theft of items in public areas, to off the charts utility bills that went unpaid by the other two tenants, resulting in disconnection of service.  We were thrilled our townhouse also included its own hook up for a washer and dryer, a huge feature we thought would be impossible to find!

Only you know what you need in a landlord, and although the landlord is interviewing you to see if you are a fit for them, consider the relationship for you.  If you have a difficult landlord, getting them to bend may not even be worth your time.  My personal experience has me leaning towards rental companies or people who see their property as a business.  The less emotional investment they have in the property, the better.  You intend to improve their home while you are there and leave it in better shape than you found it, and if the landlord doesn’t quickly see your intentions, I would be wary to put too much time into any changes to the home.

Get out there !

Our back yard is huge *waves arms around trying to explain the dimensions* I really want to actually measure our spaces, it will help with moving furniture and envisioning the rooms better. That said, as I sat at the patio table last night I realized most apartments enjoy only a narrow sliver of outdoor elbow room. Here’s to enjoying the space we have!

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Yard work – flooding yard

Our yard has always been very swampy, often making it impossible to walk though, let alone use! We have tried to keep up on seeding areas we damage but after our spring clean up there was more mud than turf. I’ve looked for a seed for wet areas but it seems most people have the opposite problem, dry parched lawns. We finally have decided it’s a water control issue, our downspouts come from our two roofs as well as a neighbor roof.

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We bought a rain barrel from amazon.ca rather than the one from the city. It cost a bit more but had more features and looked pretty sharp. This model holds 55 gallons and has your choice of overflow sides. After installing we sat outside until about 7pm and then went in for the night. At some point it started to rain and by 11pm it was overflowing. I couldn’t believe how quickly it was full. Luke had yet to correctly install the run off tube so he had to run out in the rain to at least put the tube down the “drain”. He plans to run it over the fence to actually remove it from the yard. So far for hand watering we have been enjoying the rain barrel but I don’t think I can use the water as fast as nature hands it out.

Appliance upgrade!

We were very surprised to have the landlord swing by to proudly announce the stove he ordered was ready to be installed in our unit! We have the smaller 24″ size (which sucks), and the landlord had told us he orders them in bulk and they would come from Toronto. This was a few months ago and I had pretty much forgotten, and as the weather has improved I’ve relied less on the oven and have been using the toaster oven. The original stove was in fact original, from 1978 when our complex was built!

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I didn’t even have time to mop under the stove, but gave it a quick sweep. Tonight will be the first official dinner cooked up on the stove, but we tested the oven making a pineapple upside down cake with fantastic success!

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We now officially have replaced all landlord supplied appliances, starting with the new hot water tank, the refrigerator and now the oven! We also have our own washer and dryer and have also bought a dishwasher on wheels. The landlord seems hesitant to renovate the kitchen (but it would be done if we moved out) but for now I am satisfied with an even cooking, all burner working cooktop, and an oven with working insulation!

Rental Pros and Cons List

Sometimes I look at my home and feel disheartened.  It isn’t anything like the house I grew up in and I think my expectations stop me from enjoying my reality,  our place has potential and some good qualities, and some negative qualities we can improve.  And in the end, the house is safe, warm and dry, a lot of the world wants for that!

My pros and cons list so far:

Pro:
big house (two bedrooms, room for kitchen table, laundry room and closets)
big fenced back yard
privacy from neighbors
good natural light
Landlords that help when needed, but don’t hover
Affordable rent in an unaffordable town
our pets are allowed (dog and cat)
Close to transit

Cons:
Really dated kitchen and bathroom
Small kitchen in general, no pantry really
Only one bathroom (would really like a half bath downstairs)Single pane windows are mega cold in the winter
No baseboards (literally what the heck)
Dated light fixtures and vertical blinds
Swampy backyard gets wet and flooded
Sometimes ants in the house in the summer

I think I can work on some of the cons, the window coverings are bad and I could remove them and put in new ones, and even get some that can help keep the house warmer in the winter.  Better organization of the kitchen and the laundry room will really help with the space.  I can deal with the con list!