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Families in apartments: closet to mini-mudroom DIY

Families in apartments: closet to mini-mudroom DIY

My friend Mel quietly does amazing things with her space. I’ve known her for 20 years, and her apartments manage to look cool and put together – both when we were 20, and after having a child, which, to my mind, are serious feats. When she posted a redo of her front closet into a tiny mudroom, I asked her if I could share it here.

Despite some being incredulous, lots of families make a go of living in apartments – whether it’s a co-op arrangement, part of a house, in a tower, or the many other arrangements out there. I laugh at the things that come up when I search ‘mudroom’ on Pinterest, because some of them are half the size of my whole apartment. I knew some of you out there would appreciate Mel’s small-space solution. Here’s what she told me:

‘Our coat closet was basically wasted space because it had a broken door that would come off the track every time you open or closed it. Also we are the type of people who are in and out a lot throughout the day and too lazy to get out a hanger and hang up our jacket every time we come in. On top of that, Sterling couldn’t even reach the hangers or rod to hang up his coat. So our shoes and jackets had been piling up in our pantry area (where there happened to be a couple of hooks) making a mess and driving us crazy.


Here’s what we did to make our mudroom:

1. Removed the door and tracks

2. Removed the ancient shelf and rod set-up

3. Patched holes, cleaned all the walls

4. Fresh coat of paint.

5. Hung 2 IKEA Lack shelves in the upper half of the closet for storage.

6. Installed IKEA PS rail and knob system along the back of the closet and a small rail/knobs along the side that Sterling can reach.

7. Added a bucket for keys etc. on another side rail above Sterling’s. (There are some other accessories you can get for the system that were sold out, but we may add later)

8. Added IKEA Stuva bench and cushion

9. Added bins with lids to store our winter scarves, mitts etc and keep the moths out.

10. The closet does not have a light fixture or outlet so we added a battery-powered LED closet light that we found a Canadian Tire. It is motion-activated which is great because we were able to hang it up high without worrying about not being able to reach it.


Pick a better flower

Pick a better flower


Cut flowers. They are everywhere this time of year.

And I have to admit, if I have to read one more instagram blurb about how buying flowers every week is ‘such a great mood lifter’ I will get very cross.

Most of the cut flowers we buy at the average North American florist, or order through one of the big websites, are shipped up here from giant flower farms in South America. The working conditions at these flower farms are not good, often the pesticides used are harsh as they aren’t held to the same standard as agrochemicals used on food crops. It’s well worth reading this Tyee series on floral farms and fair trade.

There’s no need to give up on your floral addiction, just think about it a little differently.

Debra Prinzing, a writer and lecturer based in Seattle and Los Angeles, has written several books on working with local and in-season flowers and foliage. This may seem dismal in February, but a quick scroll through her blog will change your mind. Succulent cutting, clippings from trees and shrubs, and flowers from local hothouse growers combine to make some beautiful arrangements.

Here in British Columbia, we have several options at this time of year – the Fraser Valley has several flower growers supplying incredible armfuls of tulips, and a few local florists also stock locally grown orchids. Choices Markets has both local flowers and fair trade blooms from South America. Nationally, Whole Foods is a good bet, as they have their own Whole Trade relationship with South American flower growers, as well as sourcing local flowers as well. Keep your eyes open when you’re out for a walk, and look for sculptural bits and pieces, though always ask before taking a cutting!


How to make this centrepiece for $15 from IKEA bits

How to make this centrepiece for $15 from IKEA bits


Standing in the As-Is department of IKEA, I came up with the idea for this centrepiece. I am a sucker for fake flowers. Real ones are beautiful, obviously, but I try to stick to things grown close by and in the end of November in Canada, there isn’t much around. So when I spotted branches of less-than-perfect white ones for 59¢, I dug around the garish pink blossoms to come up with three nice stems. If your As-Is department comes up empty, the regular stems run about $1.29 – $2.99 each, I used three here.




The vase is the bigger of the two ENSIDIG vase sizes ($2.99), and I filled the centre of it with two strands of the SÄRDAL LED light strings with the battery pack attached ($3.99/each). Cramming the artificial flower stems inside and pressed along the outside edge disguises the battery packs. Just pull some of the lights around so you’ve got some poking out the top and some illuminating flowers from behind.


Win tickets to the Vancouver Modern Home Tour

Win tickets to the Vancouver Modern Home Tour


I love walking around my neighbourhood in the early twilight, when people have turned their lights on but not yet closed their blinds. It’s the small glimpse into their homes that makes me happy – what do they have on their walls, how big is that front room – that kind of thing. I don’t quite have the gall to show up at open houses and gawk when I have no intention of buying, however house tours give me license to wander and stare all I like.

The heritage house tours are fascinating and I love the laneway house tours for ingenious ideas in (very) small spaces, but it’s hard to beat modern house tours for sheer drama.


This year, the Vancouver Modern Home Tour has been curated by Western Living magazine editor-in-chief Anicka Quin, and there are some beauties on the list. I’ve already earmarked two I’ve seen from the street that I’ve always been curious about (like the house in the photo at the top of the post), so I’m quite excited to see how all those corners work from the inside. There are newly built structures as well as incredible projects that started as older houses, smaller spaces and sprawling mansions.


This is a self-guided tour, so you will need transportation between the homes, a few of which are in West Vancouver. You have from 11am-5pm on Saturday 20 September to visit the homes. Tickets are $30 in advance, and $40 on the day, kids under 12 are free.

I’m a bit of a house tour nerd, so let me share what I’ve learned:

– Wear comfortable slip-on shoes of some sort, as you have to remove them at every house, and bring a bag to carry them in as you’ll be ferrying them around
– Leave the big backpack behind, a small cross-body bag is best – you don’t want to knock anything over in the tight spaces
– Don’t bring a big camera, these are peoples’ homes and photography is usually not allowed
– Plan your route ahead of time, including a lunch and/or coffee stop
– Agree with your touring partner if there are one or two homes you’re okay to miss and plan the route accordingly, often time gets tight at the end of the day, so it’s good to see the ones you’re really keen on first

The nice people at Modern Home Tours have have given me sets of two passes for my readers. Go forth and enter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

All photos courtesy Modern Home Tours


Our new {old} reclaimed wood table by Vancouver Reclaimed

Our new {old} reclaimed wood table by Vancouver Reclaimed


When we moved into our new apartment, we had the chance to get a proper dining table. I was beyond excited, because I am a dining table kind of worker. I have fond memories of setting out my books to plan out things at my parents’ table, and in the few places I’ve lived since that had space for one. I love feeding others, and it just doesn’t work with little cramped gateleg things.

I’ve wanted a reclaimed wood table for ages. I started doing research, and got it into my head I could make my own if I just got the wood. I was downloading schematics of legs built with plumber’s pipe and everything. Sense made its way slowly into my brain, pushing past pages of Pinterest boards filled with homemade tables. Right, I don’t own any tools of any kind. And have no space to work on the wood. And, well, we’re moving.

So! I changed tack and started getting some quotes in for someone else making a table for us. A few were a bit crazy, but then I happened upon the Vancouver Reclaimed site. I don’t know, I just liked the look of his work. All the pieces were simple, but well-proportioned. It’s hard to describe, but have a look through Etsy at the furniture and you’ll see what I mean. Anyone can stick four legs on a piece of wood, but it takes someone with an eye to make it look lovely.


Brooke Wingrove, the man behind Vancouver Reclaimed, made us a table and a bench out of wood rescued from a Steveston marine netting warehouse. The wood is around 75 years old. If you’re keen on pristine tabletops, reclaimed wood is not for you. Our table features knots and whorls, marks and gouges, nicks and scrapes. It’s finished and sealed, of course, but it has character. Brooke makes these beautiful metal hairpin legs for his tables and benches (if you like, he makes others as well), and it makes our table float. None of that chunky heaviness you sometimes see.


When Brooke drove our table and bench round for delivery, we got to talking and of course, he is an ex-Londoner as well. He moved back a year after we moved over there, and we had a good chat about missing pubs, Saturday supplements and Muji. He turned his hand to furniture making when he returned from the UK, after being dissatisfied with what he could find to furnish his own place. Friends saw his work and started asking him to make pieces for themselves, and so it went.

I’m not sure what else we can get Brooke to make for our house, but we’re having a good think about it, because I love his work.

Disclosure: None. I found Brooke through the oracle of Google, and we paid for our furniture. It’s too good not to share.