Friday, January 29, 2010


When I moved out to CA I stupidly bought cheap, icky drinking glasses. Both Kyle and I dislike them, they are thin and flimsy and boring. I have been scouring for some cool new ones but its hard to justify buying new glasses when the old work perfectly fine (and the odd one accidentally gets broken, Ooops, did I do that).

But now I have the perfect and fun solution. Make our own out of old wine bottles or beer bottles. I am so excited that I am going to go home and start looking for some cool empties and collect the ones that I want to make into drinking classes. This is going to be a fun, recycling project with much sassier glasses at the end and then I can donate my old glasses without regret.

Check out this link to Instructables on how to make your own -

Drinking Glasses from Wine Bottles - More DIY How To Projects

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The New Bed

Before the holidays we realized that we really did need a good spare bed, the floors of the double wide are hard! So true to our DIY selves, we decided to build a bed on our own.

We decided to keep it simple, true to our style and utilize a mix of industrial pipe with wooden posts and then use webbing (like seatbelt material) for the support and of course, stick it on wheels for that mobilization you always want in a bed....#()*$@)($*#$

We drew up our plans, ordered the webbing and toddled off to The Depot and bought our bits and pieces. Kyle cut and threaded the pipe while I stained the posts (FSC wood ONLY!) and sewed the webbing into strapping to fit around the pipe. It was a very simple design with thought to mattress size (we bought the mattress first to measure from) and height so visitors could stow suitcases under the bed while they were here.

We screwed all the final pieces together, attached the wheels (recycled purchase from used wheels on craigslist) to the bottom and then capped the posts with petina copper posts toppers.  We put the mattress in and though our straps did a great job, the mattress still felt rather saggy, similar to those camp beds that lacked that little extra support. So we snagged a piece of plywood, rested it in the middle of the strapping and tried again - Viola, it worked.

The only final piece was the headboard and I had an idea of what I wanted to do with this and as soon as my mom got here for the holidays, we worked on making the pillows and the attachments to secure them to the pipe and leave room for the mattress.

So here is the final look pre-mattress

And here is the final product - still need to do some roughing up on the posts and maybe some more throw pillows but its already been tested thoroughly and received the double thumbs up.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cook it

We are starting to get to the point where we have to nail down smaller and smaller decisions and I am not ready. I love the looking and dreaming and picking out 8 light fixtures that I like, not having to decide on one, that will lock me in for life to look at it, turn it on and work under it forever, the permanency of it all is scary. Just kidding, we really don't take life that seriously, its just a light, it can be changed or really, how awful can it be, as long as its decent looking and provides light, that is our philosophy, somewhat attractive but MUST be utilitarian.

It hard to nail down the specifics in that regard too, how much light will you need, how big a stove will you need, what will work with what. The stove thing has been interesting. From the get go we have revolted against the $120k kitchen, sorry, I know its the big ticket item in a house with lots of payback, we aren't building this home with that in mind and it would horrify me to pay that kind of money for a kitchen I probably wouldn't be happy with. I have seen these boo-co bucks kitchens and haven't liked any of them. The kitchen in particular needs to be very efficient and highly utilitarian, less matchy-matchy. BUT appliances are a huge part of that and a good investment in a great appliance can go along way in both longevity, usefulness and efficiency. Obviously Energy Star ratings are very important to us, and though we aren't gourmet cooks, we do use our appliances as we try to always eat at home.

We bought a new fridge when we moved into the temporary house, it was the highest efficiency fridge you could get for its size (we didn't want one of those commercial jobbies) and we are thrilled with it. The French Door design lends itself to easy access with only opening as much of the fridge as is necessary and we didn't get the in door water and ice as we don't use it (we prefer the tap) and it takes up key room in the fridge that is needed for other items. The stove is another issue altogether. I have read a few blogs lately where the people have said that investment in your stove is the key area of a kitchen and they have never regretted it. I suppose you really aren't ever going to replace your stove, its not going to get worn out and the technology doesn't advance in this area THAT fast to warrant upgrades. So the first stove will hopefully be the last stove so lets make it count.

Eeek - cue panic again. My favorite is the AGA stove, my aunt and uncle have always had an AGA stove in their kitchens and the kitchen was always warm and lovely and it was such a friendly addition....this is high on my "WANT" list. Maybe not in turquoise but how about RED...Oooohh.

There is a side that loves this retro "BIG CHILL" baby but I bake ALOT of doggy cookies and I am frustrated now at the small size of my stove, I have to keep it on for 4 to 5 rounds of baking to get them all done. I would love one that cooks 6 sheets of cookies at a time, is that greedy - talks to the pups.

Of course we all drool over this kahuna but come on, we don't have 22 children, there is no way to justify unless we found a good deal on a used one on craigslist.

So I will continue my research, find more crazy gorgeous European brands but it might just come down to a cool stove on Craigslist or at the ReStore that would be a good fit as well as re-use of someone else's cast off.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Seismic calcs, weight bearing walls, roof angles - we have a Structural Engineer

Its funny how sometimes you just fall into something and look back and think, how did that happen. We we have been going back and forth with whether we use an engineer that has experience with Container Houses (yes, all 2 of them...) or someone that is local and knows our County's Building Dept. or someone near our architect....decisions, decisions. So we got a few quotes and a few less than polite remarks when we told them about what we wanted to build and even a "You can't build that in CA", sorry but its already been built in CA, so we are nixing you.

In our travels we sent our plans off to a company right here El Dorado County, D&Z Engineering. And they actually returned our call and to our surprise expressed interest, if not I say - delight, at the idea of helping us with our weird home. So we toddled off to meet with Mark and Jim (Jim is the big Kahuna but bad pic on the website) and they couldn't have been nicer and more interested. They have extensive experience with green construction and are thrilled at being able to add a container home to their portfolio.They are looking forward to working with Eric (our architect) and say they are up for the challenge.

So we are off with the next step of this process which also requires finalizing our window locations, type of windows and other little details that I am constantly changing my mind about. We are also hedging on the living roof aspect of the house. We love the idea of a living roof on the house but Jim brought up a good point, you are surrounded by 22 acres of living garden, its all you see, do you need it on your roof too? For the added cost and headache, maybe we should leave that to the urbanites that really need a living roof to look at. We will have to resume intense deliberation with Eric on the subject.

So stay tuned, next step is permiting, Ohhhhhh, Ahhhhhh. We are in the midst of calculating the permit costs, what we have to pay so these little kids can attend a nice elementary school on our nickel!! Maybe we can enroll Ziggy if we are paying for it.

Can you believe that this -

Turned into this -

Monday, January 18, 2010

Grrrrr - retailers

We talk about conspicuous consumption and buying things for the sake of buying or shopping but this seems like conspicuous dumping. For no good reason retail stores are dumping, trashing, disposing of unsold, "out of date" merchandise. Not just a shirt here and a book there, dumpsters full of this stuff. Check out Inhabitat for more on these "outed" retailers and what they are actually doing. How stupid is this, in such a bad economy and with schools and libraries (and let's not even start on the a few Haitians that might need a shirt or two) desperate for books, clothing donations and easy ways to ensure that these items aren't used for resale on eBay or craigslist.....this is senseless and innane, just add it to the list!

H&M and Walmart - article and picture also courtesy of

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Rock House

The Rock House set in Portugal has been there for four decades. What an amazing way to take advantage of the landscape and so beautifully integrate a home that is seamless among its surroundings. It doesn't hurt that it  has a stunning view of windmills in the distance. It makes you think about building into and with the land rather than building on top of the land. Which rings so true today after the devastation in Haiti. We all have seen the famous picture of deforestation in Haiti that is so noticeable on the Haiti Dominican Republic border. That kind of devastation to our land causes immense instability, trees and dense vegetation are the glue that holds our soil together.
 When this is lost, it leaves the landscape vulnerable to mud slides and erosion which is the worst environment to be hit with an earthquake. Its horrific to think of an already desperate country that struggles with supporting its population, trying to deal with such tragedy and destruction. The only light is that through new non-profits like Architecture for Humanity, a non-profit I learned about from Michelle Kaufmann, that we now have an opportunity to completely rebuild this country in a way that is safe and sustainable and works for the people of Haiti for the long term. Of course I think container construction could play a big part in this effort, but are there other, better ways? It does not have to be an expensive endeavor, just a well thought out and planned one. Its always the poorest that suffer the most during these catastrophe's and it is these ones that are forced to rebuild using whatever means they can. They aren't afraid of hard work, chipping in, they just require information, direction and the know-how to build something that can last and keep them safe. We saw it in Pakistan and China, and now again in Haiti....schools and shelters torn apart and demolished finally demonstrating their sub-standard construction, a horror story just waiting to play out.

So I look at this Rock House, and I realize that there isn't a one size fits all around the world to stop this from happening again, we can't send containers to the four corners of the world to shelter and protect these ones. We need to consider the landscape and the environment and look locally at what lends itself to shelter, what does shelter require to be sustainable in the region and what do the people need. Its time for some ingenuity in the world, integrating architecture with the earth.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Shipping Container Subway Shop Scales the Freedom Tower

Kyle was trying to tell me all about this the other week and I couldn't understand what on earth he was referring to but now I see the picture I get it - how cool is this. As the Freedom Tower rises so do needed resources for workers in the form of Subway in a Container, wanna know more or how you can make a Meatball Sub 11 floors up - Check out the post at Inhabitat.