Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We're in!

We are now eating and sleeping in our home. In fact, as I write this blog I’m sitting in my living room surrounding by a canopy of green trees as far as the eye can see.

Last week our home was inspected and reviewed to make sure that it met code and was safe to inhabit. The interiors got a green light which was a great relief considering all of the sweat blood and tears both we and Smallworks put into the place leading up to the review.

We started moving in almost immediately, carrying dishes and utensils across the 16 foot distance from our basement rental suite and our new home. We then christened the space with a party and close friends. It’s hard to believe, but it’s been over a year since Brendon and I started this journey and we can’t close this chapter without first acknowledging everyone that has supported us along the way. 

Barb and Roger – There are not many people that would have done what you guys did for us. In fact, I don’t know any. You’ve lived through having your front and backyard uprooted, unmet deadlines, challenging budgets, a stressed out couple and an endless assortment of crazy city rules and regulations. And yet, you have always only offered support, kindness and (at times) an intense commitment to negotiating the best possible deals for us. We are lucky to have you in our lives and honoured to call you family.  

Erin – The sister with the mister. You took a risk and put your finances on the line to make this project happen. And then from caulking to painting you rolled up your sleeves to help us even while your final exams for medical school loomed. As Brendon would say, “You’re a big sis to admire.”  Our/your bathroom is always open to you.  

Ron and Paulette – Dad thank you for being the devil’s advocate and helping me see every single possible configuration of disaster that could befall me as a result of this highly unusual arrangement. You helped Brendon and I talk through and negotiate some tricky financial discussions. And to mom for believing that we could do this and reminding me that I come from a lineage of home builders and DIYers. You gave me the confidence to keep going when the gap between what I knew vs what I had to do seemed insurmountable.
Friends – You were the reason we set up this blog. So many of you live far away from us and we missed not being able to share this experience with you in person. This online diary became a way for us to stay connected to you all. Yes – we periodically had to remove a few unsavory comments from our closest friends who some how forgot that discussions about lubricants on the same site that my boss and grandparents were reading was not appropriate. But for the most part you guys reminded us why we took on this crazy project in the first place. You are all people that believe in challenging the status quo, and working to make this world a better place. We are lucky to call you our friends.

Smallworks – We picked you because we liked you as people. Yes, we loved your homes, and yes we were impressed by your knowledge of environmental design. But really Brendon and I chose your company because we enjoyed your company. Now as all good business relationships go, we were not without our differences, but on a project so complex and complicated we feel lucky to wrap up our contract not only with a beautiful home but a warm friendship. Kate and Jake – you are superstars, patiently guiding us through this home building process accommodating our novice questions and applauding our early successes. You are changing the landscape of the city…for the better. Brent, Brian and John – from building to our bank accounts, you kept this project rolling.

Neighbours – When you move into a neighbourhood you usually do so because you like it just the way it is. If you live in a place long enough, you not only see people come and go but the physical shape and nature of the community change as well. We know that the construction of our home hasn’t always been easy on you and you’ll probably be very happy to never hear a tile saw in your life again. The saying goes that ‘fences make good neighbours’ yet we’ve been without a fence since October 2010 and it was only when that barrier came down that we got to know you. Thank you for sharing our journey with us and for all of the warm advice and support you offered on your dog walks, exercise runs or evening strolls down our shared lane. I look forward to many more conversations to come.

Readers  - When I told my mom that we had readers from as far away as Malaysia, she couldn’t believe it. To tell you the truth, neither could I. I still can’t figure out why so many of you from Ireland read our blog. The fact that our story has been followed by people in over 40 countries has literally meant the world to us. You all were on my mind every time I sat down to write an update. You reminded me that there was something universal to our story. That other young couples are struggling to find a home to call their own. That this resurgence of DIYing reaches beyond borders.  And that a call for innovative environmental solutions is not only compelling but critical as well.

And as all good speeches end…thank you to the Academy.  

Much love,

Akua and Brendon

Steven gets comfortable on the sill. 

 [sigh] our finished bathroom...

P.S. For those of you that think that’s it, we’re done and we’ll be shutting down our blog, you can breath a sigh of relief ;) We still have a huge project to landscape the front and back yard. Our goal here is to create a space filled with native species, fruit bearing plants and trees and a sanctuary for birds and bees. We’ll be learning how to do this along with you all so we are looking forward to sharing the process. If it's time for you to sign off and say goodbye - then a warm "Sayonara".


  1. Fantastic...what an inspiration.....glad there will be room for birds and bees....waiting for book and movie and continued reading and celebrating. love mama schatz

  2. Wow!! Very, very, VERY inspiring! Thank you and please let me know if you'd like to connect up with Richard (Mr. Appleseed)...as he is the BC expert on Food Forest Gardening and soil microbial sustainability! (Phew!) He does workshops around BC and am sure he'd be delighted to work with you on this! Love to you guys...and bless you for your courage and perseverence (whoops...also your incredible creativity!). Diane

  3. Great home, great story. I'm truly fixed on the idea of downsizing my small family to a fit for purpose home which still provides comfort and modern convienence, but with an emphasis on conservation (heating and cooling). If I may ask, could you share images of the second level? One piece I love about your design is the minimization of the wasted space surrounding the bed... would love to see how the loft "feels."

    Many thanks for sharing!


  4. Hi Dan,
    Brendon's next project is to do a photographic walkthrough of our space so we'll share every single nook and crany with you soon.


  5. Can't wait to see all the detailed photos! I have been reading your blog, as we will also soon be living in a Smallworks house in my parents backyard (very near your neighbourhood). We are a small family of three and ready to downsize and simplify! Your blog is inspiring and encouraging. Thank you and keep it coming!

  6. very inspiring and encouraging to all of those young families and couples who resent being forced to work almost night and day to afford a mortgage - kind of pointless if you can't enjoy the home and garden you work towards. congrats and enjoy

  7. Hello,
    It might be bad form to talk about finance, but is it possible to share the final tally (ballpark) on the entire project? I just want to have an idea of how much to beg/borrow/save realistically to complete a project like this in your experience.

  8. Hey Brendon and Akua,

    Does one of your posts contain the floor plan you ended up using? I'm dying to see how all your spaces mesh with one another. What a wonderful home!

  9. Congratulations on getting your project finished to the state where you can move it. And you are right, the adventure will just continue with the landscaping.

    I'm just starting out on my blog on the design build process, my object to try and help folks like yourself understand the path of what it is like to get a project from an idea to reality. I enjoyed reading yours

  10. How do you find the washer/dryer combo? Is it an LG?

  11. Hi guys,
    I'm wondering if you would be willing to tell us about how much you ended up spending on the house?