May 30, 2011

Landscaping - Progress Report

We're a few weeks away from the final reveal for our landscaping project. Hubby has successfully completed the recycled stone paver patio in the backyard, and is about half way through the snazzy new modern cedar fence. A biblical rain storm and resulting biblical flood in basement last week (hubs stopped counting at 75 34-litre containers) set us back a couple of weeks. This coupled with my seemingly irrational rejection of anyone with a bobcat setting wheels in our backyard, (see the fate of An Old House, A Young Woman and a Hammer Make Three's enviable garden) has slowed this project down to a pre-industrial pace.

Hubs has essentially hand-dug our entire backyard. He's lost about 15 pounds and walks around with his shirt off lifting the kids over his head like Thor. I've resorted to cooking these massive carby Prairie meals to appease my converted urban farmer, who takes off his tie at the end of the day and digs swimming pool sized holes in the clay ridden garden until 10/11 every night. He must be burning at least 15,000 calories every day.

Meanwhile, with the help of my dear agrarian friend, Sandi (Prairie gardening tips anyone? yes please!), I have planned and planted the Zone 3, xeric garden in the front yard and a vegetable garden in an unused bed between houses on the south side of the house. My single most important job is to keep the kids away from holes and power tools so we spend countless hours scouring garden shops for pirate treasure and plants I can't possibly kill even if I try.

I'm also on the hunt for old tractor tires and barn door hardware. If anyone knows where to source locally, please let me know. Curious? Well you'll just have to be patient...

In the meantime, a wee sneak peek.

Old vs. new fence. Hubs and Uncle 'Tad' (who so graciously flew out this past weekend to help out)

***Remember to submit exterior photos for the love of your bungalow contest. Submission date closes June 12th!***


May 15, 2011

The Calgary Bungalow Project

A contest! With prizes!

Every city has a ubiquitous housing type, that defines a city's major period of growth. For some like San Francisco, it's the Victorian painted ladies, for others like Seattle, the Craftsman bungalow.

For Calgary, it is unequivocally the Postwar Bungalow.

The Calgary Bungalow Project is inspired by Vancouver Heritage Foundation's initiatives in the past few years to draw some positive attention to the often misunderstood and much maligned Vancouver Special. Built to maximize square footage of a lot, the Vancouver Special was the predominant housing type built between 1965 to 1985. Characterized by its boxy appearance, low pitched front gabled roof and full width balcony at the second storey, the VS's were built in response to an influx of new immigrants into the city. VS's are practical, many built with two separate suites on each floor.
Courtesy Ouno Design

When I was young, I pitied the fool that chose to live in one. Now? I covet. Many, in fact covet. They have become like collector's items that families buy, renovate and reinvent and modernize.

Calgary has its own misunderstood ubiquitous architectural gem: the Postwar Bungalow. According to Calgary architecture professor John Brown "we have bungalows - blocks and blocks and blocks of bungalows"* Indeed we do...

The prototypical one storey, four-room bungalow was introduced to the then small ranching town of Calgary in 1949, at the start of what was to become a monumental explosion of growth and prosperity in the city. As the administrative headquarters for oil and gas in the country, tracks of farmland quickly became dotted with tracks of suburban neighbourhoods filled with modern bungalows.

This broad home with low pitched roof lines and horizontal massing expressed the growing affluence of the city. The low building height also adapted well to Prairie life, with its searing cold winters and windy summers. So adaptable in fact, that the Postwar Bungalow was the dominant housing type built in the city well into the 1960s.

This brings us into the present day... I am still new to Calgary, but have driven through many neighbourhoods throughout the city and the fate of these bungalows seems to be unfolding in many areas as dozer bait for infills. Whole tracks of neighbourhoods have been replaced by these giant infills. While I have nothing against infills, I have a hard time believing that every single family in Calgary needs or wants to be in 4000 sq. ft. I certainly don't. I have a hard enough time keeping my 2000 sq ft clean, I can't even imagine wanting or needing twice that amount.

The Calgary Bungalow Project** was envisioned as a contest - a showcase - for homeowners who love their Postwar Bungalows and have decided to keep and live in this iconic home. This contest is for those of you who have taken on the challenge of living in a smaller space and creatively reinventing or modernizing the classical Postwar Bungalow. The outcome of the contest will feature a showcase on this blog of how average people are re-using their Postwar Bungalow's in Calgary. And you the reader will get to vote on the winner.

The rules are as follows:

1. Only one-storey Postwar Bungalow's are allowed to enter
2. Any architectural stylistic updates are acceptable (ie Craftsman elements added to bungalow) but the house must still look like a bungalow
3. The house must be within Calgary city limits

Please email photos (exterior only) of your house to me by Sunday, June 12th. I will post images of all of the houses and you the readers will vote on your favourite.

The winner will receive an awesome prize package courtesty of LMCMHP:
  • two tickets to the upcoming Brutal Bus Tour on June 26, 2011, sponsored by CHI and Calgary Architecture and Urban Studies Alliance (CAUSA) (a guided bus tour of Calgary's premiere Brutalist sites)
  • $50 gift certificate from the kind people at People Food (who has the best organic meats (and prices) and gluten-free goodies in town)

Please email images of your house to by Sunday, June 12th.

I will post the entries the following week.

Some inspiration from fellow MCM bloggers:

ps. I have come across a few in my drive abouts so don't be surprised if I knock on your door and ask you to enter.

* In Robert Stamp's Suburban Modern: Postwar Dreams in Calgary
** Avenue Magazine currently featured a Calgary Bungalow challenge for architects and designers in their May 1, 2011 issue. How serendipitous...

May 10, 2011

Mrs. Average Housewife (1945)

Image from Building or Buying a House, 1945

My how times have changed....

What would today's Mrs. Average Housewife look like? Certainly wouldn't be an arrow for 'Answering the Doorbell'


May 6, 2011

Jane's Walks - Calgary

Image from Jane's Walk

Jane's Walk's are this weekend for those of you in Calgary.

I am a Director with the Calgary Heritage Initiative (CHI) and am volunteering for today's CHI sponsored walk: Sandstone to Skyscrapers lead by CHI president Cynthia Klassen. The walk starts at Memorial Park Library at 1pm.

"Victoria Park’s Sandstone landmarks provide the foundation for its recent revival as a vibrant inner-city community. Join us for a walk through 100 years of history and see how the old informs the new - or not. Meet at Alberta’s first public library, take a peek inside at the Beaux-Arts d├ęcor, and then join the walking discussion about how Calgary’s sandstone heritage has influenced its newest skyscrapers."

Tomorrow's CHI sponsored Jane's Walk with CHI Vice President Bob Van Wegan tours 17th Ave entitled: Calgary's Urban Avenue: 17th Ave SW at 10am.

For more information and a full schedule of the city's walks see the Jane's Walk website.

Hope to see some of you there!


May 3, 2011

Let There be Light (After)

The new kitchen light is finally installed. And the winner is...



The P652 Pendant by George Kovacs from Lumens.

I am deeply in love with this light. It is a ideal scale for the room and looks smashing with the rest of the decor. It's not as bright as our original light - whose light could be seen from space. But I don't mind in the least. We have undercabinet lighting and the lower light adds more depth to the kitchen.

As for the "embarrassing exoskeleton of a light" that formally occupied this spot, well, turns out, this light was original. I always thought this was a later '80s innovation and that it was missing its light cover. Nope - apparently this was to showcase the curved fluorescent light technology.

The below page is from my 1956-67 Eatons Catalogue (Canadian) I purchased off EBay last fall. Our fixture is no. 32, the Circline Fluorescent Fixture. We also own a few No. 13's in our bathroom, which conveniently come equipped with a socket, for when you need to shave from your light.

Apart from lights, many of the elements in this house are represented in the catalogue. Nearly everything in the catalogue is what Pam from Retro Renovation has coined as 'mid century modest'. Conservative, modest and tailored for the modern post war family.

So if anyone is interested in adopting a good condition curved Circline Fluorescent Fixture for their mid century abode, mine is up for grabs. Free to a loving home...

Thank you to those who helped out with our decision. You all have superb taste.