Friday, October 17, 2008

The Past Six Months in 3 Minutes Or Less

The following things have happened since I last wrote:
  • Late March, our boy Will is born. A fun chaos ensues.
  • We start talking turkey for getting this thing built by fall.
  • Canada Day, I go over to the island with a friend to survey the property. As soon as the water taxi drops us off, I get a call from my sister with news that my Mom has just died after a long illness. I knew it was coming since my visit a few weeks earlier, but I didn't expect it so soon. The water taxi isn't due back for hours. I'm stuck, but at least it's a nice place. We get caught in 4 hour traffic jam on way home.
  • A month later, we get some numbers back, and we realize that we've gotten away from our original plan of keeping things simple and cheap. The proposed design is way too expensive for us. We were prepared to go slightly into debt, but realized that we wanted to pay for it with cash in hand.
  • We decided to radically scale back the project with Smallworks.
  • They come back with another design and a proposal for us doing a lot of the work, and the price came back well into our range.
  • Using SIPS (the cabin will not look like Subway btw) we can prefab a very basic 16X20 structure in very little time and expense. We would be responsible for foundation, roofing, siding, windows, and other finishing.
  • I buy some tools and begin work on the outhouse in my spare time.
  • With the help of our close and thrifty friend, Stefen who is wise in the ways of building, and doesn't "work" like descent folk, instead living off the proceeds of his tye dye business, we figure we can maybe get the project started and mostly finished this fall.
  • We thought about some of the stuff we would have to do, and talking with the builder about them doing the really important stuff like the foundation and roof. The price goes up a bit.
  • We came to a consensus, and put the plans in for engineering.
  • We buy a table, the one previously mentioned. We talk to the builder about having them to a bit more. Stefen is disgusted, arguing that we can do it all and save loads of cash.
  • I go over to the island to talk to our neighbours who will take down and mill a few trees for us. I dig a hole.
  • Shortly after, we (and by "we" I mean "me") start having doubts about the wisdom of the project as the Vancouver housing market started to drop. Maybe this was a bad idea. Maybe we could actually afford a house in another year after all.
  • I call and leave a msg to stop the engineering, since we wouldn't build till spring anyway.
  • Too late. Drawings were mostly done, I didn't stop anything, and ended up looking like a flake.
  • The drawings are done, it's raining a lot now, the project waits for spring, and I'm eying the Vancouver housing market more than I have in a long time. But I also think how great it would be to be there in the rain right now.
  • There is a mostly constructed outhouse in my basement taking up tonnes of space.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cedar? I Don't Even Know Her! (I Don't Know What This Joke Means, Either)

Hello, cabin blog. Did you think we'd forgotten you? As it turns out, having a new baby keeps one somewhat occupied. The other huge time suck in our lives has been, ironically, getting ready to build a cabin.

John is writing a post detailing all the boring crucially important work involved in prefabricating, transporting, and assembling the cabin. In the meantime, I'm on procurement detail. Of all the furnishings and inside-the-house things we've wrangled so far, I'm most excited by this:

It's a six-foot-long reproduction harvest table made of reclaimed cedar. We found it through Craigslist, and it's absolutely perfectly suited to our needs. We wanted a big, heavy table to use on a covered deck, so cedar was an obvious choice for wood. But early settler types tended to use pine, fir, and other conifers for their furniture. Clearly, those selfish early settlers needed a few lessons in looking to the future and anticipating my needs.

What are the odds we'd cross paths with a carpenter who just happened to have some old 2" by 12" cedar planks kicking around, and that this same carpenter would have the wonderful presence of mind to build a table in exactly the style that most suits us?

I'm feeling lucky, I tell you.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Water Water Everywhere, I Think I Need a Drink

Something we're going to have to start thinking about soon is water. Apparently, it's all the rage for bathing and cooking, with some people actually drinking the stuff!

We have a drilled well on the property, but any time I've tried to walk from our building site to our well, I get lost in the woods. Bad sign. So initially, we'll try rainwater collection, but regardless of whether we pull from the well or use rainwater, we're thinking of building a water tower for storage and pressure.

If our water tower is from the old school, the "alien blob" pictured above, which my friend Dave sent me earlier today is a spacey yet practical solution. They've worked the water storage tank into the living space as a room divider, structural support, and cooler. Nifty, but I can only imagine how much this thing cost. (Images by Peter Bennetts)

Via via Materialicious (my new favourite blog)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I'm Dubious About Midnight Trips to the Outhouse

Don't be fooled by the uber-modernist pic John posted a few days ago. All I can say is, I'm glad there's a bylaw prohibiting trailers as long-term residences on the island, because otherwise I can picture him trying to talk me into one of these:

(Via Apartment Therapy)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bunkie Concept

Via Cribcandy...

The finish isn't really our style, but I could see adapting the concept for some groovy little bunkies built onto the hillside, or in the woods on the property. The size is something like 2m by 2.4m by 1.4m.

Below is the architectural gibberish that accompanied the original post, which is very hard to find because there is no direct link. Funny that... why is it that so many architects have problems creating good websites?

The Lit Clos puts forward a simple idea. It’s a box that’s sufficiently closed to accommodate a bed and the intimacy that it presupposes, and at the same time sufficiently open not to be claustrophobic. The box is on an architectural scale, between a bed and a bedroom.

It uses techniques from furniture manufacture: painted plywood, soldered steel, and above all there’s the DIY assembly of the kind that you get with a piece of Ikea furniture. These characteristics give you a certain ease of assembly and of installation. While it's admittedly more complex than an ordinary bed, it’s still simpler than putting a bedroom together. There is a play on the scale of the space.

The « Lit Clos » frees you from the necessity of building a whole bedroom, and opens up numerous possibilities in relation to the place where one sleeps.

The « Lit Clos » exists in a low and a high version, respectively 70 cm and 180 cm off the ground.

Extracts from the book Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, released by Phaidon in 2003.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Upside of the Down

Is there an upside to the recession that may be bearing down on us? A recent essay in New York Magazine makes the case, albeit sort of badly.

There's obviously not much to look forward to during a recession, but I was hoping that writer Joel Lovell would look for bright bits in the fact that it might inspire people to once again realize that you don't need a Viking range to be happy, and that thrift can be sorta sexy. After all, isn't the true meaning of "cool" all about making a dollar out of a nickel? (I stole that from somebody else, btw.)

But mostly he spends his time bitching about the current high price of cheese, skyrocketing home prices, and how poor he feels compared to the other yuppies that have moved into his Brooklyn neighbourhood.

He's aware of the fact that he's overly smitten with the desire to own all the same shiny things the moneyed folks do, but not enough to stop talking about it throughout the entire article. Still, there are a few gems, such as the one below, that make it worth reading:

Is there a moment you can point to when you thought, Things aren’t like they used to be?” She contemplated. “I guess it was the personal juicer,” she said.

She was referring to our friend’s boss at an Internet start-up, a guy who got paid ten gajillion dollars about fifteen minutes after he started his company and then went bananas. Among various eccentricities he hired a Rastafarian to travel everywhere with him and make him juice.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Coming Into Focus

Nothing makes you look like a bigger, more pretentious douche than blowing off a visit from a friend by telling them that your architect is coming by. Fortunately, our friend is also a douchebag, but he's hip to the project, so no hard feelings. We'll still be able to put his ass to work on the project eventually and help him toughen up those soft, white hands of his.

So anyway, Aaron from Smallworks came by the other night to show us the latest version of the plans, and WOW.

To be perfectly honest, my first reaction was slight disappointment. I'd grown so attached to the previous design he presented to us, I didn't want it to change. But it didn't take long for me to get on board. He'd taken our suggestions re: the previous design, and come back with something that, while definitely different from the first plan, was better suited to our immediate needs and basic comforts. All the comforts of home, without being a house.

We probably should have posted the first design mockup earlier, but we hadn't discussed it with Aaron and didn't want to do it without talking to him first. So now, with his permission, here is our original plan:

This was blue-skying, and represents a few phases, with a main structure for cooking, socializing, and sleeping, and a small bridge to the lower bluff, which contains two bunkies designed to sleep eight people. The entire structure is oriented east, to take advantage of the view of the mountains and ocean.

Unfortunately, budget dictated that we had to cut the bunkies loose (for now) and focus on the main structure, on the left. We also cut back on some of the main structure, because at the end of the day, we want to keep things as simple as possible. Our vision is about camping with style, not hanging out in a city house in the woods.

We puttered around with the SketchUp* design Aaron gave us, and came up with this crude revision to show him at our next meeting:

Since we realized that right now we can only afford to build a one-room cabin, which might have to do for the next decade, we asked Aaron to make the core structure slightly larger to give us more room in the sleeping loft and on the main floor. It had to sleep four comfortably, and be comfortable for hosting friends and their kids.

A few weeks later, he came back to us with this:

This is exactly what we're looking for at this stage. A nice little camp core with plenty of room in the loft for beds and storage, an open, practical floor plan below with a bathroom, and plenty of deck space for a huge table, hammocks, and hanging out. Sleeping arrangements for most guests will have to be a tent for now, but it'll be a nice tent.

Next steps... we're going to spend a week or so soaking this in and figuring out if we have any changes, and then I guess we start talking about blueprints, how to build it, and cost. Yikes.

Oh, so many crazy things to research. I'm going to drive Tammy up the wall.

*SketchUp is a pretty cool rendering application from Google. There's a Pro version, but we've been puttering with the free download available here.