Friday, October 31, 2014

Minimalist Living With Shipping Containers

Minimalist living has never been out of fashion. For some, it's a lifestyle choice, like founder Graham Hill who came up with a way to fit eight rooms into a 420 square feet apartment. 

For others, it's necessary for them to start small and make use of every inch of livable space. But who would've thought one would make a home out of a shipping container? Today I would like to welcome a contribution from Cherry, a writer from Media Buzzer, on this subject.

There is a common trend at present to recycle the versatile shipping container, and build structures out of them. These can be surprisingly nice homes to live in and are a lot more spacious and comfortable than you would think. But shipping containers have been used for habitats for almost as long as shipping containers have been around. Their versatility and ease of transportation makes them suitable for many different people, living in lots of different types of environments. They do not have to be just used for accommodation as there are many other uses for a modified shipping container.
  • Site Office
  • Storage Locker
  • Canteen
  • Workshop
  • Training Facilities

Shipping Containers on Building Sites
If you go to any construction site across the country, it is common to see a Portakabin which can be used as a site office, as well as employee facilities. It is starting to become more common for these to be replaced by modified shipping containers, due to the ease of transporting them anywhere that they are needed.

An Intermodal Shipping Container can be transported by road, sea or rail, which means that it can be transported where ever it is required with the minimum amount of fuss. Shipping containers are also easy to convert, and if you purchase a second-hand shipping container they are also cost effective and much cheaper than a Portakabin. They are also easy to source as you can buy shipping containers in Newcastle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, or anywhere else that you may be located in Australia.

Whether you are looking for an office, changing room, canteen or even just storage facilities, shipping containers are being used in building sites all over the country.

A Cabin in the Woods
Lots of people enjoy going to the woods and spending time feeling that they are closer to nature. The cost of building a structure can increase dramatically when you are looking to build this in a remote area. The cost of transporting the materials, as well as the labour, can increase the price of your cabin immensely. An excellent way to get around this is to buy a second-hand shipping container and have this modified to your specifications and add everything that you need.
  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Flooring
  • Ceiling
  • Walls
  • Built in Furniture

You will find there are many companies that can offer you a modified shipping container which is made to your exact requirements. You can add floors, walls and a ceiling which will make the inside a lot more like a standard structure. Adding a door and windows will also give it a more homely feel and also allow plenty of light in your cabin.

When the shipping container has been modified, you can easily transport this to where it is needed and save yourself a lot of money than if you built a permanent structure. A shipping container structure is classed as temporary just like a garden shed, so planning permission is usually easily obtained. Unlike a traditional structure, you will not need to build big foundations before you place your container down in its desired location. Some shallow footings with some poured concrete will suffice to keep your new cabin exactly where it should be.

A Place by the Sea
If chilling by the sea is more of your thing, then you can also convert a shipping container into your own beach hut, complete with all of the comforts of home. Just as with building a cabin in the woods, the foundations that are required to secure your new beach hut are easy and quick enough to do.

One thing you will need to do though, if your beach hut is going to be getting plenty of sunlight, is to make sure that you have some sort of shade for the roof. This does not need to be very complicated or fancy, but shading the roof of your shipping container will help to keep the temperature down inside of your beach hut. Make sure you place a window strategically for when you wake up, what better view to wake up to than that of the ocean!

A Shipping Container for all Destinations
You will find that shipping containers are used all over the world, and not just for transporting cargo. You will even find them at the North and the South Pole where they have been modified for a variety of different reasons. There are also many countries where you can find people using ordinary shipping containers for places to both live and work, with very little changes being done.

When you are using shipping containers to make a structure, the design can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. You could just decide to drop your shipping container in your desired location, put a few shelves and a bed in there and leave your modifications at that. You may wish to go to the other end and create yourself a luxurious space to live; it all depends on your needs and desires, as well as your budget. The great thing about a simple shipping container structure, when you get bored with the location, it is very easy just to move and start afresh somewhere new!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Renting On a Budget in Toronto

You know we keep a few rental properties in our investment portfolio, so rent vs. buy in Toronto topic is always of interest to me. Today I would like to welcome Rhianne Bannermen for a guest post on this subject. Rhianne is a Toronto-born barista on a budget. When she isn't curating coffee creations, she sits down to blog and share ideas with the community. You can often find her riding her bike down Lakeshore with her dog, Chance, running alongside.

T Dot, or NY-North as we like to call it, isn’t exactly the most affordable city. For many people that means GTA migration and long commutes on the 401, 403 and the 407 for those who have splurged on a transponder. For the rest of us, we have left the suburbs behind for city smog and TTC transit fares and you know what? We are making the most of living it up in Canada’s beloved city. Torontonians, let’s talk what it’s like to rent on a budget.


Toronto is home to many different types of neighborhoods, some more realistic than others for renters. Forget Yorkvale. Queen West is cute, but The Junction may be more suited to your budget. Liberty Village is for new families and young professionals, and you are unlikely to find anything affordable in that sector or any sector near the lake. The exception is the beaches, which  are often a popular place to start as a Toronto-renter due to the size and quality of the units, however the distance from downtown nightlife can be trying and so can the long commutes or expensive cab rides that come with a night out..

Be selective about your borough, because moving again isn’t necessarily an option when you are on a budget. You’ve already found a neighborhood that you like that’s also somewhat affordable, but you can’t forget about the other essentials in life. Proximity to public transit and essential services like groceries and gas should be factored in, but we’ll discuss that more in the next section.

Rent Brokers

Now that you’ve found the right neighborhood for you, find out what’s available using websites dedicated to renting in Toronto. These sites typically have an interactive map that is great for anyone unfamiliar with the city and particular area that they’re interested in moving to. They also include metrics like a “walking score,” which is based on the proximity groceries, parks and more.

If you’re planning to become a Toronto local because you got accepted to George Brown or Ryerson, you can also use off-campus housing resources, which are generally provided by the institution. The point is to make your life easier and reduce the time and transit fees you expend in your rent-search by using the internet before making your first in-person visit.

These websites will often provide information that is essential to long-term rental-savings, such as facts about which menities included with the rental unit. Look for buildings that have as many bills and amenities included in the rent as possible. If your rent consolidates, heat, hydro and electricity in one payment, you’re in good shape. Some landlords even include internet in their rent. Look for the best deal in your neighborhood when it comes to what’s included with your apartment.

Penny Pinchers Pack it In

So, you just signed your lease what’s next?

Buggys! These nifty rollable oversized bags are your invaluable when it comes to lugging laundry and groceries around the city, as well as not breaking your back as you scour for freebies to get your apartment started. They’re also great for trips on the subway, because no one with a heart likes to annoy people with their backpacks on a crowded train. I know you said you’d wait until you reached the ripe buggy-toting age of 70 before being caught dead with one, but all concerns of image aside, buggies are your best friend! Besides, buggies come in many styles and colours (mine is red with white polkadots) and are super practical.

Next, fill your buggy up with the city’s best deals! Since you won’t be able to hit up big box stores like Costco or Wal Mart from your downtown locale very easily, therefore lacking access to the savings that these mega retailers provide. But think of this scenario as one of the charms of living in the heart of the action. You get to explore the city for all the knicks and knacks you need while supporting local businesses instead of multinational corporations.

Head down to Queen Street’s Black Market or Kensington Market for deals on vintage winter coats, lamps and retro-chic fabrics.


Now that you’ve found the best neighborhood for your budget and you have your shopping essentials, it’s time to personalize your apartment by decorating! First time renters often rely on their local Ikea, seen only while driving on the highway, but luckily accessible by internet for online ordering and delivery. Whether or not you take advantage of cheap furniture at Ikea or another manufacturer, having them deliver is essential to furnishing your apartment on a tight budget. You may have to pay a bit extra for delivery fees and/or tip the delivery-person, but this is much easier and cheaper than driving and or renting a vehicle to get your new bookshelves home.
Image by DoubleBlue from Wikipedia featuring the pedestrian area of Kensington Market

You can also scour the city for pro bono deals, which are everywhere! Freecycle, Upcycle – any portmanteau with the word “cycle” should be your best friend! Look up freebies on Craigslist and the like for necessities, while avoiding items with lots of material pieces that could have collected germs or worse..bed bugs from the previous owner. This rule applies also to any street finds or garage sales (don’t forget your buggy!) you come across for furnishings. As long as they’re metal, wood or plastic items with little to no material components, free (or nearly free) items are perfect to bulk up your apartment and to get all of those Pinterest experiments you’ve been wanting to try done.

There are limits as a renter trying to decorate and these are often synonymous with the rules of renting an apartment. For example you may want to keep the walls in white or another neutral colour so you don’t have to splurge on gallons of paint when you leave. A fun alternative to painting is creating a gallery wall, an easy way to bring a bit of interest and livelihood into an area.

Hold up, wait a minute should be making similar considerations about damaging the wall while creating a gallery wall! Leaving a bunch of holes in the wall is a big no-no if you’re not the property owner. Even if you know you can fix it before leaving, why bother with this extra expense? Hang up any frames possible with some Command strips and no one will ever know what you had up there once you leave. Fun-tack and washi tape may sound like an option, but leave that type of thing in your dorm room where it belongs.

Lifestyle Savings

As long as your lease allows you to, consider shopping around for different energy providers. Call up the energy company and see what kind of cheaper options are available to you, and make the switch. You can also save money by using fluorescent bulbs where possible, because they end up costing less than traditional bulbs having to be replaced less. In the wintertime, lower the heat when you’re not at home and overnight. You should try keeping the heat as low as possible when you are home, as well. If your home is water-heated, make sure that you keep the temperature comfortable.

Now how are you going to get to and from? You’ve likely already bought a TTC pass and hopefully it was for the month or year, which allows you to take advantage of bulk purchase savings. Riding a bike is also a very realistic option in Toronto where for the landscape is flat, for the most part. To protect your bike, spend the extra bucks and invest in a proper lock. Make sure to lock your wheel to the body of your bike on every bike rack you use. Bike thieves are less interested in second hand bikes so start there in your search for your new set of wheels.

Finally, let’s consider food. Hopefully you’re in close proximity to a grocery store since this is your best bet when it comes to budget-friendly meal preparation. When you’re short on time and on the run, think street-meat. Hot dogs, or my preferred veggie dogs, are widely available around the city and a fond source of food for locals. These convenient street vendors often carry a line of gourmet toppings like olives and sauerkraut and all for the low price of a toonie.  If you’re sick of street-meat or if it’s just not your scene, head to Chinatown, Little Italy or Greektown so you can get ethnically-authentic meals at affordable prices.

Moving Out

Hopefully you didn’t see red walls and decide to paint them black when you moved in. Remember that returning the walls to white or another neutral colour is often stipulated in your lease and a cost you will be held accountable for. Make sure that you give everything an extremely thorough scrub down, meaning the type of thing that you dream of having done to your new apartment before you get there. This type of attention to detail will ensure that you get your safety deposit back when you move out, leaving no room for complaints from the landlord or new renters.

If you’re looking for a way to do it affordably, yet right, here’s a fun article on homemade cleaning supplies. You probably already know this, but nothing gets things cleaner than either baking soda, white vinegar or a combination of both. Add a couple drops of essential oils to counteract the smell and you’re good to go. If you can’t be bothered with making things yourself, your local Dollar Store to find name-brand cleaning supplies for cheap.

Did I miss anything? Share your ideas here for how you save money as a Toronto-renter.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Life, Lately

Has it really been that long since my last post? I guess the subject line probably should read "work, lately" instead. Yes, work has been's been one business trip after another and back to back meetings and conferences to run to. Anyhow, I am hoping I get to stay in town more in the next couple of weeks. 

I have been using Chanel Coco Eau De Parfum since my early twenties. A few years ago I also picked up Mademoiselle. A 3.4oz bottle last forever, so it's been years since I needed to buy a new Coco EDP. Little did I know that a couple of years ago Chanel changed the Coco packaging from the classic glass bottle to an edgier and bolder tall square bottle with a giant black cap. I don't like it. I searched everywhere but couldn't find the Coco EDP in the classic glass bottle. A few days ago when I came home from a business trip, Anthony surprised me with this - he finally found it at a local perfume store which luckily for me still carried some old stock. 

Some things are meant to be together, like Chanel perfume and pearls - aren't they beautiful photographed together? 

This past weekend I went to a thrift store close to the body shop where I had my car serviced. I saw four of these beauties and immediately searched them online to see if they were worth picking up. 

These peachy pink cocktail/wine glasses were made by Luminarc in France. I can't say I've ever seen an identical set anywhere else, not with such thick and substantial stems. 

They are new additions to my bar cart, just in time for the upcoming holiday entertaining. 

I also rearranged the hallway bombe chest a bit by adding a white porcelain vase (from HomeSense) over the Elements of Style book. 

I think this is just about as much red colour as I can handle in my house. 

Now let's take it outside. You know in my decor world, one thing always leads to another. The wall lights above our new carriage house style garage doors all of sudden seemed so insignificant. The bronze finish also doesn't go with the wrought iron hardware. 

So I've been in search of a much bigger carriage house style wall lantern to replace the old ones, and finally narrowed down to this option, see the mockup picture below - it almost doubles in height. I also like the three-light lantern from Woodside Hills collection by Murray Feiss. What do you think?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Elements of Style Book by Erin Gates

There is no shortage of design blogger books in the market today. I am not the type who would typically write a book review, but I have to say, I am really impressed by the Elements of Style Designing a Home & Life book by Erin Gates. I would even go so far as to say that this is probably my favourite design blogger book! 

Go ahead, judge the book by its cover! Erin went through a few iterations but finally decided on the black & white striped spine with a touch of gold. What a great decision! The book cover is clean, elegant, yet dramatic and attractive - just the type of style that would catch my eye!

I see a glamorous addition to my coffee book collection. 

I am yet to go through the book - this is the type of book I would need to take some downtime to savour, but I really like that the book organizes the contents by room.  

Each room has a clear sectional cover page - how could I have missed a gorgeous floral pattern like this?!

I am already eyeing this Schumacher Pyne Hollyhock pillow in charcoal. Oh so moody and romantic! 

The book is packed with high quality images from Erin's home and projects.

I just can't get over how perfect this room looks. I want everything in it. 

For each room, Erin gives a few ideas of the looks you could go for and their key components. 

I also really love all the illustrations throughout the book. All the opinions are my own - I wasn't incented in any way to write this post. 

On an unrelated note, I found a crystal pineapple in our basement storage and I swear I must have come across it numerous times every time I went through that closet. This time I really wanted to donate it because I have so many smaller decorative objects lying around. For me, it has always been in with the new, and out with the old. But then an idea struck me - what if I tried to glam it up by painting the pineapple head in gold? 

And bam! it looks amazing! I gave a plain-looking crystal pineapple a new life in my decor world. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

New Garage Doors

I never thought I would be so excited over a pair of overhead garage doors. Our old wood garage doors which came with the house were falling apart. Cracks after cracks they were beyond repair, and quickly becoming an embarrassment. Our builder used the most basic wood panel doors: they should have been treated and painted at factory but I suspect they were painted on the construction site instead. And they were probably lying around for a while. By then the moisture would have got into the wood and the rest was history. 

Our old cracked wood garage doors. We tried patching up using adhesive caulking then painting over but as you could see, it did very little to slow down the inevitable.

I suppose I could have left them alone for another few years until we move but you know I am not that kind of person. My OCD got the worst of me so last month I brought in a friend's husband John who is a garage door expert to replace them. 

Our new garage doors are from C.H.I Carriage House collection, model #5983

I knew I wanted a certain carriage house style, but I had no idea about other tech specs: insulated or not; insulated with Polystyrene or Polyurethane; how high do we need to go on the R-value; steel, aluminum or fibreglass? John inspected our existing garage doors and recommended the model based on our needs.  I picked out a style from the brochure (because that's all I knew :)), and he was able to have that style made with all the features from model #5983 - he made this whole thing too easy! 

That's not all. On the day of the installation, he arrived on time and got to work. He replaced all the rails inside our garage and even re-aligned a crooked support beam. A few hours later these beauties were hung. Our new garage doors are now rock solid and most importantly weather-proof with 27-gauge deep-draw quality steel inside out, and CFC free polystyrene insulation. We also have real (tinted) glass inserts this time so it is now so much brighter inside our garage. 

The colour of our garage doors is Sandstone. Another thing I love about our new C.H.I. garage doors is the customer service from this company. I needed to paint the trims to match the new garage doors so I emailed C.H.I. and they replied overnight with a set of custom paint codes I could take to Sherwin Williams. The store I went to however wasn't able to pull up the combination because it's a commercial custom colour in the States. I called C.H.I. customer service hotline from the paint store, and a real human picked up the phone after two rings; within seconds I was transferred to a service agent who offered to ship a quart of paint to John. I didn't want to wait that long so I asked the paint store associate to try to match the colour. It was a very challenging task for Sherwin Williams because the paint chip is a piece of textured steel, but the associate was able to get a perfect match after multiple attempts. So if you have C.H.I. garage doors in Sandstone, and would like a paint colour match please email me for the codes. 

I am glad I went with the wrought iron decorative hardware John recommended because all other options (spade, Barcelona 1 &2 ) are just thin pieces of metals which look cheap. 

If you are interested in C.H.I. garage doors and would like to get in touch with John, please email me. I highly recommend his work! 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...