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A Minimalist Christmas | The Tree Alternative

With the world of things like Pinterest at our fingertips, it’s no surprise that people are jumping at the alternative of easier and smaller Christmas Tree solutions. When I was 18, I had rushed my boyfriend (now husband) to a big box store to buy a fake tree on sale. It had lasted several years which is great, I love decorating trees, but in a few of the places I had lived over the past few years, it was not ideal to have even the smaller scale tree I had. I didn’t even know there were other options!

It’s hard for people to justify investing in a tree that they only have out for a month in a year, and still be able to store it (and storage is valuable real estate in the apartment world!). Along with the tree, the decorations, lights etc., also need to be stored somewhere, so now it’s impeding even more.

For those who love the traditional tree-feel, I’ve seen many people go for the 2-3’ trees (in various colours: white, purple lights, black with red lights, traditional green with white or multi-coloured lights), which can be placed on tables (read: away from mischievous pets, and small fingers). I know my hubby and I lived in this very cramped basement apartment for 2 years where my (what I thought was small) 6’ tree took up most of our hall space! It was very invasive! A 3’ tree would have been far more practical, but still offer my love for decorating trees.

I have some friends who have kindly provided/shared with me some of the things they’ve done to overcome their tree space challenges.

1: The DIY Tree

My friend Morgan says: “Each of the top smaller pieces are on their own and the longer bottom lengths are cut in half so they’re each 2 pieces.” She followed up to mention her boards are comprised of cardboard, cork, batting and then felt. As of right now they’re tied together and hung with a string in the back, however she’s looking at finding a better hanging solution. She puts a little shout-out on Facebook to her friends, who collectively (over the years) make her decorations for her tree. It’s a great solution for conserving her space, while also creating a personal touch to her space.

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2: Au Natural

I really love this look; my friend Jessie was inspired from something she saw on Pinterest. She actually had her dog find the sticks, “I used a pocket knife to debark and make them the right length. I used walnuts to polish them.” Which is a great personal touch. She adds lights and a few simple colour themed decorations to it to help keep it simple, but still stunning.

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3: Simple Tinsel

This was a fun and very simple artistic way of giving that look of a tree, just up on the wall! My friend Meagan here used tinsel by itself. Please be careful with tinsel if you have pets, it can be very harmful if swallowed. That said, it’s a fun way to create texture in a very simple way! There are many ways to put a creative spin to this, or if you do not like tinsel, you could use other variants of garland, or purely just lights etc. The options are endless!

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These of course are just a few of the very many choices out there in the world. Feel inspired and have fun!

Wishing everyone a very happy holidays from Nested Green.

Living It Large with Less

Before photo of the Exterior front

Before photo of the Exterior front

Final Exterior full view (some landscaping still to be done)

Final Exterior full view (some landscaping still to be done)

Small space living … starting out or emptying the nesting … or somewhere in between?

The average American home in the 1950’s was 900 sq.ft, with 3.2 occupants.  The average American home today is 2300 sq.ft, with 2.3 occupants.  That means today’s average American lives in more square footage than a whole family in the 1950’s!!  “The average new single-detached home in Canada is about 1,900 sq.ft. and new home builders expect them to get smaller in 2012.” says the Canadian Home Builder Association.  Most large residences have more circulation areas like stairways, hallways and corridors which is unused space just for circulation from room to room…. that can equal up to 40% of unlivable space in many of the typical track house design … and you have to provide lighting, heating and cooling to all of that space!!

Do we really need all that space to live comfortably??

Living in a smaller place doesn’t just mean ultra modern and expensive high rise condominiums.  Although high-rise condos are a fabulous option if you have the budget and want that lifestyle.  Consider that renovated factories are being turned into up-scale loft apartments … not just for artists and musicians anymore.  Neighbourhood revitalization is taking place in large and smaller cities all over, changing once dark and dangerous streets into family and pedestrian friendly, tree-lined street scapes with cafes, shops and parks.  For a home with easier access to the street, single family homes, whether an in-fill, a renovated older home or a new up-scale town-home are available in posh downtown revitalized neighbourhoods that you may not have ever considered living in before.  A well designed smaller spaces can be organized to satisfy functional requirements as well as aesthetic sensibilities.

Lockhart

Living in a smaller space can also allow you to afford a more luxuriously appointed, with all the bells and whistles type home… possibly in a neighbourhood closer to your work or your hobbies.  Think of your smaller living space like a decked-out sport coupe instead of a basic large 4-door sedan.

A condominium that offers extra features such as roof top gardening beds, barbecue areas, swimming pools, exercise rooms, spas, game rooms and theaters can extend your living space.  Even if you have a mere 600 square feet in your condo, these additional spaces would allow you the luxury of amenities that would otherwise be quite pricey.  Many condominiums also have spaces such as recreation rooms with large kitchens and furnished apartments to accommodate family events and overnight guests.  Just watch out for the condo fees… nothing is free!!

The downtown re-development of many cities has seen an increase in high and medium-rise condominium buildings which allows more people to live in the footprint of the previous building site.  Also, redevelopment of industrial and office buildings into condominiums has re-purposed long empty spaces.  The movement of people back into cities’ downtown cores and extended neighbourhoods will slow urban sprawl, keeping precious farmland and delicate natural spaces from the developers… for now.  Urban planners have increased easier access to natural green spaces for urban dwellers as the positive physiological and psychological effects of natural habitat are well know.  People just feel better and are happier living with access to nature and fresh air.

Moving closer to work and having a short commute is worth more than a big house.  Many who make this move say they have an increase in quality of life as so much of their day that was once taken up with commuting is now available to them.  Also, the cut in your daily commute makes your environmental footprint slightly smaller.

Even if a downtown condo isn’t your idea of easy living and prefer the fresh air of the country, a smaller residence could still be beneficial.  Country living could allow one to build an efficient off-the-grid abode… perhaps with modern and not-so-modern building materials and techniques.  A smaller residence requires less lighting, heating and air conditioning… easier to clean and maintain so more time can be spent in the garden… or tending your pygmy goats and heritage chickens.

Environmentally speaking, with a smaller dwelling, less resources are used in the building and maintenance of your living space.  We are well on our way into the second decade of the 21st century and still large track home builders are pumping out monster-size dwellings with “just to code” level of energy efficiency, despite governments’ commitment improvement of standards. Large swaths of what was once pristine farm land or forests are being leveled for more sub-divisions of clone housing.  From the Canada Mortgage and Housing (CMHC) web-site:  “Sustainability and innovation become the watchwords for this decade as governments focus on cleaner energy, the environment, and sustainable, yet affordable communities.”  It will take a larger commitment from more citizens to push for greater changes in standards to reach sustainability goals.  Perhaps the cable TV shows that have been promoting these monster homes as the desired norm have a social responsibility to show everyone how small spaces can be fabulously chic and livable … and definitely more sustainable environments!!Living room detail shot

Whether you prefer downtown, deep in the country or somewhere in between, one can live a small-space, sustainable life-style in comfortable, stylish fashion.  It just takes planning, creativity and professional execution. Doing things twice or even three times is a huge waste of resources… and details that are not finished with precision are noticeable and take away from all the good things you’ve done in your home. If you’re not a pro, hire a pro to add value to your home and your life.  The small investment of hiring a designer is always money well spent too, as you get access to designer products, services and possibly product discounts, but more important you will achieve a small living space that will work just for you!  Love your small space living!!

Note:  Average American house size:

http://www.greenbiz.com/news/2005/07/12/small-beautiful-us-house-size-resource-use-and-environment

Locavore your Living Spaces… Sourcing Design Products & Services Locally

The name “Locavore” is a popular name tag of Foodies who support food production as close as possible to thier community.  Where you live and what major centres that are near by may influence your decision of how far you are willing to have your home building and decorating products shipped.  I live near a city center that has New York, Toronto and Montreal within a 500 kilometers distance.  I am fortunate in that way but you may live in a prairie or mountain state or province where city centers, having a greater abundance of design sources, are at a much further distance.  We must remember that we are doing the best that we can to achieve our personal standards. There are many products such as textiles, door hardware and plumbing fixtures that are scarcely produced in North America anymore.  Unless you have an unlimited budget, you may have to forgive yourself for having to purchase items produced overseas.  I’m always on the lookout for artisans to fill the void of locally produced products. How does your local purchasing affect your community?  Most importanly, your money stays in your community.  As well, you are supporting the development of artisans skills and building a resource for quality of products.  Your support of local artisans may possibly increase the notoriety of specialized products in your region… think “Shetland” wool and “Waterford” crystal.

Where do you go to find what you are looking for?

  • Search on-line first!!  The easiest research and shopping you can do from the comfort of your sofa!!
  • Furniture – new, hand-made … the Amish community for example is prized for thier furniture production – includes the ability to custom order to fit your design criteria.
  • Thrift shops – especially if you’re handy and ready for a DIY project.
  • Up-cyclers – they’ll do the DIY and dumpster-diving for you!!
  • Recyclers of building products and architectural elements.
  • Crafters – whether on-line or at your local Farmers’ Market – beautiful products such as naturally dyed cotton t-shirts recycled into braided rag rugs, not just for country decor anymore… again, Amish quilts are highly coveted!!  Knitted blankets using local wools would be an investiment your grand-children could inherit!!
  • Artisans of textiles such as weavers, quilters… wood and glass works for vessels, dishes, pottery, plates and windows… metal works for items made from iron, steel, tin and aluminum especially for hardware and decorative items.
  • Antique dealers, estate sales and auctions – Antiques (and thier modern mass-produced look-a-likes) can be edited to fit into desired design styles… paint, change hardware or leave original finishes and hardware to maintain the future historical value.
  • Curb-side pick-ups (aka dumpster diving!!) – free treasures to be found, but you should take care thof yourself and be very discriminating about what you touch… avoid upholstered items (bugs, molds, disintegrating toxic materials).
  • Local College or Art Schools – up and coming artists, craftsmen and women are always looking for a way to make a living from the craft they studied… furniture, textiles, decorative household items, art… You benefit by obtaining less expensive products, unique ideas and untainted creativity.  Schools that specialize in historic artisan crafts such as stonework and millwork (cabinets, trim, etc) for example are a great source for new professionals to add unique details to your home.

What to look for…

  • always go for quality … it lasts longer
  • recyled … organic …. natural materials
  • non-toxic finishing ethical production (no harm to animals or people)
  • ask yourself if you really “need” it… and how do I feel about it!!??

Can’t find what you are looking for in your neighbourhood… think about supporting craftsmen and women working with sustainable development projects, home-base businesses, fair trade and community collective businesses… the money from your purchase goes directly into the community where the artisans are located.  Not only would you have a well crafted and unique product but you will also have a warm feeling that you are part of building productive and healthy communities world-wide.  Look for these traditional types of products (especially locally traditional products) as well as the term “social responsibility”… bonus for organic products too!!  Although the product list is endless… third party certification from NGO bodies such as:  “Fairtrade” ( http://www.fairtrade.net) … “The Fair World Project” (http://fairworldproject.org/) and “Fair for Life” (http://www.imo.ch ).

  • textiles, weaving, knitting, sewing
  • pottery & ceramics
  • metal work
  • woodwork, carving
  • glass work
  • woven grasses (baskets, rugs, wall coverings)

Your wallet is a powerful tool and “Big Business” is very concerned about how you use it.  How we spend our money sends a huge message to the marketplace… one that says “make me happy and I may spend more money with you… and so may my friends!!”  That message to industry is strong and can be relentless.  The Locavore mentality can help you to: reduce your personal carbon footprint by purchasing less travelled and packaged products; be conscious to avoid so many of the toxic chemicals used in the mass production of furniture and textiles; reduce the amount of plastics and synthetic materials used in household items and thier packaging; when your items have long out-lived their use and can no longer be repaired or renewed, the disposal of your item will return to the earth with less of the usual toxic residue; and benefit personally by obtaining unique and quality products that last longer than the mass-produced and become heirlooms to many generations. make a difference to your or someone’s community by building local economies. Embrace the emerging “Locavore” tradition and feel good about your consumerism… but please be kind to your friends and family if they don’t understand yet… they will someday, just by your example.  Happy Locavore Shopping!!