Couchcruising: Luxury Part-time Bedrooms Part 1 of 2

Hello, thanks for stopping by, have you heard of the website Couch Surfing? It’s been around for years, Paul and I were tipped off by my brother Lee before we went travelling in 2007. The basic idea is that you offer your couch to passing guests and in return you’re offered a couch when travelling in other parts of the world. Sometimes you actually get the floor, or a surprise upgrade to a bed, but normally you get something with cushions hiding various exotic detritus!

Kid on surfboard on couch - is a metaphor!

When living in London (or other expensive cities) the same principle applies. When you’re in your twenties, unless you still live with your folks (it has its benefits!) or you have a particularly well-paid job you will probably be sharing a house with other people. Therefore the only space you will have for random vagabonds needing somewhere to crash for the night is your front room.

We sat thinking about this for at least 2 flat whites in Windy Corner on Sunday afternoon. Currently our wee terrace sports three bedrooms, a decent size master, a just about double, and a box room. Before committing to turning the box room into an upstairs bathroom, we mulled over what the impact on holiday rentability would be, also, did we not need the space for visiting friends?

After sharing a piece of millionaires shortcake (precisely because we are not minted) we realised that we don’t have people staying with us each week, and we don’t plan on having scores of children in future. Therefore do we really need to be able to sleep 6 permanently? Paul suggested we check the ever-reliable apartment therapy and remodelista for inspiration. Straight away we came across brilliant articles on Murphy Beds and sofa beds, we mentioned this to my mum and she pointed out that with the downstairs wet room and separate toilet the front room was the perfect part-time bedroom. Yay a decision was made, kinda.

At 11’10 x 9’10 (3.61 x 3.00), which part-time bedroom solution will make best use of our soon to be upgraded front room? The three key options we will explore in a latter post are found below, hopefully we can make our own versions or re-upholster some second hand stuff:

Futons

A Black Futon

Classic sofa beds

A Large Sofa Bed

Murphy beds / wall beds

A Wall Bed / Murphy Bed

Catch you soon!

HOME – THE DEATH OF ONE TINY HOUSE AND THE BIRTH OF ANOTHER

This is what you call make do and mend! Mind you with bale construction and a wood burner I bet it was warmer than our place!

thinkingcowgirl

There are plenty of advantages to living in small spaces: fewer possessions, reduced impact on the earth, and lower living expenses are just a few of them. More people are choosing to live more simply, and for some that means using the bare minimum of living space. writes Jane Roarski in a recent post on the tinyhouseblog.com

This is the story of the tiny house we used to live in while we were renovating the cottage and it’s eventual demise, happening now as I write.

Then we realised that this was going to be far too small even as a temporary measure, not to mention the cold. We estimated that we’d be in it for approximately 2 years. The photo above was taken in 2002  and we finally moved out in 2011…do the math (s), as they say.

Tiny House Bale House www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Some of the sheeps wool insulation we used in the house. Maybe…

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What type of window is most eco friendly? It’s clearer than you think

If you have read any of the other posts on this blog you will know that Laura and I have quite a few decisions to make regarding which businesses we engage to supply us with products for the renovation of our house.  Literally all aspects of the building need updating.  In this post I thought I would jot down our thoughts on the topic of windows / glazing…

The current choice of material for windows and doors, in expected order of popularity across the UK is, PVCu, aluminium, solid wood, engineered wood and steel.

child-at-window

Some writers have suggested that steel has little to recommend it. Its thermal performance is cited as being poor, the cost high and its embodied energy equally high. Unless there is a structural need (a listed building or something similar, there is likely to be a better alternative.  I have read somewhere to that although is a recyclable material, when it is powder-coated (usually the case for windows and doors) it is practically non-recyclable.  I need to check in with Space Shuffle on this point as we had talked about windows made of wood with an exterior aluminium facia.

In the UK PVCu has been the defacto standard for most new builds and refits for quite some time, presumably as it is relatively cheap product that is perceived to be long-life and maintenance-free.  Cheap maybe, but considering it’s degrade speed of plastic, why to glazing businesses fit such poor hinges and seals.  The windows in our house are really not that old and the plastic appears fine, but corrosion of the hinges and general poor quality of the mechanisms means that we have had to re-align and force close some of the units and keep them locked for fear of not being able to open them again!

In addition to questionable quality (which ultimately does relate to environmental impact ) PVCu units use large amounts of fossil fuel in their production, they also use other chemical additives.  However The Building Research Establishment has recently accepted that PVCu is a recyclable material. However, there are no post-consumer PVCu recycling facilities in the UK, it just goes to landfill.

If steel and plastic are off limits and aluminium when coated is not recyclable the only choice we might be left with is wood.  In the past it has had something of a bad press: said to be expensive, to warp, rot, and need plenty of maintenance. Apparently though, modern manufacturing methods mean that none of this is necessarily true.

Some people in the trade have been working to get this message across, Naomi Cleaver (one of the judges of the Sterling Prize – a well know architecture competition) has put her name to www.woodwindowalliance.com in an attempt remind people they don’t have to select plastic and that there are affordable windows available in the UK.

A quick read of other websites such as www.woodforgood.com also highlights that its not just recyclability that makes wood an inspired choice for those that care about the planet, Wood absorbs Carbon dioxide (CO2) rather than increasing emissions. Managed felling and replanting increases this effect, since young, growing trees absorb more CO2 than older, mature trees. Forests, and the wood they provide, are vital in the fight against climate change…

Unlike steel, cement, bricks or PVCu windows, wood requires less energy to convert it into usable form. A plastic window frame has more than seven times the energy input in manufacture of a wooden frame of similar size and design. By using timber products instead of PVCu the world will save around 0.5 tonnes of CO2 or every ten windows and up to four tonnes if used instead of aluminium.

A recent WWF report concludes timber windows are better for the environment than PVC windows. WWF is encouraging specifiers and buyers of windows to choose wood which has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This guarantees the wood has been sourced from a well-managed forest or other controlled wood source, and ensures that the timber is legal and not from a controversial source.

As with most renovations a critical element for Laura and I will be the bottom line cost. Good quality wooden windows from a major manufacturer apparently cost from £250/m² for standard windows to £600/m² for windows of the ‘Passivhaus’ standard. Solid timber windows from a local joiner might cost £200 to £500/m2 and PVCu £200 to £350/m².  Regarding U-values we need to do a bit more research to find out if there are distinct differences in performance between different frame materials (I expect it is more likely to be affected by the quality of the glazing units)

We have already found some potential wooden window suppliers via the Wood Window Alliance website, if you can think of any in addition to West Port and Boyland Joinery, please let us know via comments, also, if anybody has any counter arguments for Aluminium (which we had been considering specifying) please let us know.

Not sure this is Europes first: http://www.groundhouse.com/ but it looks cool, nice to seem more daring types trying this type of thing!

TERRA FRANCE | International Estate Agents

EarthShip home – superbly designed house with an eco-twist 

 

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Now here is a site if ever you saw one –

“Europe’s First Official Earthship Home, with a large permaculture garden containing newly planted fruit trees, in a peaceful location close to the attractive Normandy town of Mortain. Perrine is a fully sustainable off-grid earthship. The property reflects the standard Earthship package in design and has been adapted to suit the European climate.”

One of my agents, Jacqueline Lowe, asked me to join her as we needed “to valuate and list a kind of eco – built house” (and then followed a grin…).

So one sunny thursday she took me through the rolling normandy countryside (to be more precise : South in the department of the Manche, near the Mont Saint Michel) to the village of Ger and she drove up an alley. Imagine me stepping out of the car, asking…

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Places to buy second hand furniture near Whitstable

Buying second hand is of course part of the very essence of being eco; rather than stoking demand for further production, give preloved items  a new home!  Generally second hand means you have transported “the thing” home yourself (often from near by) and there is no packaging…  This contributes to a lower carbon footprint, and also results in a house or apartment with a bit more character.  Check out apartment therapy for inspiration on how to turn some old, into something new!

Near to our project, there are plenty of places to get fantastic retro and vintage items, Valentines  and the Ribbon (for Fashion) are just the ticket, people like Mick and Karen Stacey really know how to put old bits and bobs together to make them look fab.  However, bargain hunters like Laura I like to head further up the food chain, i.e. buy from the kind of places that the vintage shops source from.

The Ribbon Whitstable

The Ribbon, Whitstable

So far we have checked out Faversham Flea Market which runs each Sunday, Standard Key (where is runs), also hosts Aladdins Loft which is great for Kitchenware, loads of branded jugs from the past and plenty of Le Creuset – plus its open most days.  The Pilgrims Hospice Warehouse in nearby Chartham is amazing for all sorts of bargains, as is the branch in Whitstable itself, last time I popped in I picked up a fab gents brolly for two quid.  Hopefully in future more cool furniture will turn up.  As we find places to source from, we will share links to maps or websites in our Blogroll.