Category Archives: Trends in Housing

Old building conversions to apartments in Ladysmith, BC

Naturalistic Housing

The definition of naturalistic housing depends on the context of the architecture. The most common image that comes to mind is a rustic abode, perhaps a log home or a beach cottage in the Cowichan Valley or Gulf Islands It’s a place where simple materials and settings allow us to relax and take in our surroundings. It’s meditative and calming. It’s a space where you can dream about your potential while being thankful for what you have.

In urban areas, there is another sort of ‘natural’ environment. It’s the genre of warehouse loft conversion and its industrial aesthetic has proven to be quite durable. Warehouse living became the refuge of starving artists in New York City in the late 1950s. Common kitchens and baths were the sacrifice for low rent and a flexible living space.

By the 1970s work-live spaces and loft living had become the chic choice for upwardly mobile professionals and a target for real estate developers. The exposed infrastructure, such as wiring conduit and ductwork, appealed to those who loved the honest and raw aesthetics of the industrial space. Primer-painted steel, exposed brick, and wood with the patina from another age captured the imaginations of the residents.

As naturalistic environments, the industrial loft and the rustic log home both have an organic feel that accentuates contrasts between have and have-not. That gap is really where people begin to connect with and define their environment. It becomes a source of energy and inspiration. It compels the resident to consider their space from a multi-disciplinary perspective. It makes us feel intelligent and reflective.

The aesthetic is rooted in the idea of self-sufficiency and autonomy. The mindset invites community and conversation. Closely related to the ethos of pioneering, naturalism embraces the idea that a sacrifice in refinement is rewarded with an opportunity. It’s asceticism in practical terms for simple, modern day living. Ironically, the fusion of a new sense of modernism in old frameworks and structures defines aspirational decor.

When planning a naturalistic environment, the concept is minimalistic and comfortable. Contrasts such as exposed brick walls in a stance against IKEA modern with fabrics that are textured and neutral. It’s character is highly flexible to accommodate improvised spaces. Tables with wheels, lights that swivel to focus on new subjects, and furniture that can be repurposed are staples. Modern, practical decor with time-worn construction materials is the central theme of naturalistic design.

In 2021 and beyond, industrial design is expected to have a central role in residential construction. Changes in how people work and live will influence the design characteristics of new homes. Office spaces will be redefined by the need to share those essential rooms with other family members. The theme of reform, rehabilitation, and re-use will be superimposed on the traditional family space with special acknowledgement for these uncertain times. The result will be a more intentional minimalism that values genuineness and respects limited resources.

Questions or comments about buying or selling a commercial building? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne Gait and Morgan Fisher today.

Cowichan Valley homes with backyard guest accommodations and basement suites

Entertaining Summer Guests

Visiting other parts of the country is fun, especially if you have family or friends who can accommodate your stay. Entertaining guests are a great opportunity to show off your city and can make you feel like a tourist at home. To help you prepare for overnight company, here are some tips that you might find helpful. Let us know if you are looking for a home with a backyard bunkie or guest house.

It’s a good idea to start with a budget. It’s easy to say ‘yes’ to every suggestion, from dinner out to shows and tourist attractions. A budget will help set priorities. Saying ‘no’ to some activities also allows your guests to have some private time to explore so it’s actually win-win for everyone.

Send an invitation or two! How will your guests know that you want them to visit unless you invite them? The invitation can specify a range of dates that is convenient for you and outline some boundaries. For example, your invitation might say something like, “It would be fun to see you this summer. We’re at home during the month of July, if you would like to visit. Car rentals are very affordable if you want to explore on your own.”

Prepare for guests by taking a look at sleeping arrangements. Is the guest bedroom stocked and ready for visitors that may stay a long weekend or even a week? Providing written directions on where to find supplies and toiletries, the WI-FI password, and instructions for household items is nice. A selection of reading material is wonderful for rainy days or quiet evenings and early bedtimes. In the bathroom, consider a small selection of travel size supplies and an extra toothbrush or two. Place a nightlight in the hall or ensuite so guests can navigate easily.

Planning a menu for additional guests doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive. Supplement regular meals with starters, such as a cheese and cracker platter, soup, or salad to keep costs down. For mains, consider hearty servings of spaghetti carbonara or pasta with Bolognese sauce, both simple yet delicious and satisfying dishes. Deserts can be a tray of store bought cookies or supermarket slab cake served with your favourite coffee or tea.

For a successful visit, try to plan for the unexpected but don’t overextend your hospitality. Feeling obligated to entertain and provide for guests all the time is too much of an expectation. Let them settle in and find their own way. Most of all, have fun because it’s your vacation, too!

Questions or comments? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne Gait and Morgan Fisher today.

Soundproofing solutions for your Cowichan Valley condominium

Soundproofing for Cowichan Valley Condos

It’s important to note that noise is a two-way annoyance: If you can hear your neighbours talk on the phone or watch a movie that means they can hear you too. In this context, soundproofing could also be considered privacy-proofing your conversations from adjoining units. Soundproofing is a valuable upgrade to your Cowichan Valley condo unit.

There are two concepts for soundproofing that fit almost all circumstances: mass and air gap. Ideally, they work together in a system that stops a wide range of frequencies. There are two basic ways to soundproof a wall that is between two dwellings. The first is reconstruction of the wall with a system to reduce noise. This option can be expensive depending on the length of the wall and how much soundproofing is desired. The other way is to use some clever materials and strategies that will dampen noise. This is helpful if you’re a renter or need sound suppression for a condo.

Let’s start with the free solutions and work toward the more premium fixes. Common sense would dictate that quiet stuff shouldn’t be placed near a shared wall. Your reading chair might look better on the other side of the room anyway. Do you own an armoire or wardrobe? Put that on the shared wall so it will absorb some sound.

The next step is to use a curtain effect to block sound. This might be a piece of art, a large mirror, or a rug purchased specifically to use as a wall hanging. IKEA makes inexpensive area rugs with beautiful designs and low pile that are perfect for this application. Mass loaded vinyl is a heavy (2lb/sqft) sheet product that is intended for floors and walls. It can be cut to size for extra weight behind a wall hanging. Condos usually have steel studs so, unless you’re using a self-tapping screw, attach sound curtains with the proper size and type of drywall anchors.

Moving beyond decorating with soundproofing, we arrive at reconstruction approaches. Simply adding another layer of gypsum to the wall help because its mass stops sound waves. This requires adjusting (and soundproofing) the receptacles and possibly the baseboard trim. Newer gypsum designed for this has a layer of lead on one side. Another alternative is to use mass loaded vinyl between the gypsum sheets. This is a job for a professional unless you’re comfortable with drywall installation.

If you have plaster walls, then replacing them with drywall and installing a sound control system at the same time may be practical. Depending on where the wall is, you may want to install a second set of staggered studs. This eliminates direct transmission of sound by vibration by creating an air gap. Spray foam insulation has a very good sound rating and can fill the void completely. Finish the wall with double drywall and acoustic sealant along the edges. Again, this is a job for qualified trades, but the result will reflect the effort put into it.

Sound control, soundproofing, privacy-proofing are part of a healthy home environment. Having control of our space and a quiet space to relax and work contributes to a sense of well-being. It also increases your property value. You might be able to tolerate the sound of your neighbour’s home theatre system or snoring but imagine how much more comfortable you and your family will be with the sound of silence.

Questions or comments about soundproofing your condo? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne Gait and Morgan Fisher today for a personal appointment.

Plant an edible perennial garden to increase the market value of your Cowichan Valley home

Easy, Edible Perennial Gardens

One of the best uses for perennials plantings is edibles, especially here in the Cowichan Valley. Perennials go dormant in the winter and return each spring. Many vegetables and herbs are perennial which means you can enjoy bigger and bigger harvests from one plant as the years go by. They’re ideal for plant-once gardening that will grow and produce for many years. You can choose perennial vegetable and herb varieties from an extensive list of these amazing plants.

Asparagus is one of the most expensive grocery store vegetables. Planting just a couple square feet of this delicacy will keep it on the menu all year. Artichokes are another pricey vegetable that are perennials. Potatoes, garlic, and onions will grow each year by themselves if given minimal care.

Herbs such as chives, shallots, thyme, fennel, and spearmint are wonderful staples for a homestead-style garden. Put them in salads of sorrel and radicchio, also perennials, for free green salads through the spring and summer months. Fruit such as rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries (and many more types of berries) are easy to grow. With some informed pruning, they will produce baskets of sweet, organic berry treats.

Perennials may need a little help to get established. Choose the right spot for them based on their needs for light and soil. For example, full sun means six to eight hours of direct sunlight. For the first few years, make sure to monitor their progress and make adjustments, if necessary. Give them water regularly, keep weeds down, and fertilize according to best practices. You many need to wait two or three years before a perennial feels at home and begins to produce.

Perennials are low maintenance with deeper root systems resistant to drought. They may blossom for only a few weeks but make wonderful shrubs. Some may bloom again in the fall when the weather signals them to produce seeds or fruit. Perennials may come from seeds or bulbs.

The next time you’re at the plant nursery, check the labels to see if the plants you like are annuals or perennials. Consider how much time you spend in the garden and the space you have. Maybe there is room for some of these recurring wonders in your backyard and on your menu!

Questions or comments? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne Gait and Morgan Fisher today.

Cowichan Valley homes for sale

Most Desired Home Features

A home is defined by how we use it which means it needs to fit our lifestyle and our expectations. We need them to be trouble-free, efficient, and comfortable. Modern houses are evolving from mere dwellings to spaces that fit like a tailored garment or a fine pair of shoes. According to Realtor.com, these features are in high demand for 2021. See if any of them belong on your Cowichan Valley home shopping list.

A walk-in closet is predicted to be the most sought-after feature in a new home. Although some critics say these hidden retreats of calm are more than people need, the benefits seem to outweigh the criticism. If you love clothes and have a shoe collection, a walk-in closet is a necessity. They’re more than a big closet, they’re a dressing room with flattering lighting and mirrors for checking your look.

Energy efficiency is the sexy new feature this year. Ultra high-performance windows, LED lighting, and heat pumps put the swagger in a home buyer’s step. Going green is more than saving money. It’s a middle-class status symbol that says you’re hip with a sophisticated understanding of value for money. What could be better than near perfect climate control all year for pennies a day?

In the spirit of hygge and fika and appreciating all the good things in life, the laundry room has finally made its debut. This previously unmentionable room has come of age and now beckons the homeowner to sit, stay, and contemplate the meaning of clean laundry. Ample cupboard space, a place to iron, and intelligent appliances are accessorized with a desk and soft lamp light. Combine with a mud room and it becomes almost like a second kitchen perhaps with enough space for a gathering table.

Kitchen designers have settled on stainless and granite as the two main features of a proper kitchen. Interestingly, Realtor.com also reports that medium brown cabinets are preferred by first-time buyers—perhaps because they seem more luxurious—while repeat buyers tend to prefer white cabinetry. A classic white kitchen is hard to ignore. They’re easy to clean and white goes with everything. Pair them with white appliances if you like the look and plant to stay or stainless steel if the home is going on the market.

Architectural style is still trending to a fusion of traditional and contemporary minimalism, as seen in these examples. The Southern California-inspired philosophy of indoor/outdoor living continues to grow in popularity. The naturalistic environment of a joined living space and outdoor space is fundamental to the idea being connected with nature.

One way to achieve a sense of verdure that is an unmistakeable characteristic of indoor/outdoor design is to mirror the patio space and the living space. Choose sliding doors without a track in the floor. If the living space has a tile floor, continue the tiles outside to the patio for a seamless look. Use trees inside to harmonize the transition between the house and the yard. And, for colour inspiration, look to backyard plants and skyscapes. The goal with this method is to blur the boundaries between the house and the yard.

Questions or comments? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne Gait and Morgan Fisher today to learn more about new home construction trends.

Modular homes for sale in Cowichan Valley, BC

Modular Homes in the Cowichan Valley

In the early 1900’s, a small mail-ordered house was a practical alternative to a custom designed and site-built dwelling. Homeowners could order the entire structure, pre-cut and ready to assemble. A kit house saved the buyers money on labour and materials because everything was ready to be put together. They were so popular that almost 3% of all homes in the US at the time were built from kits! Kit homes are still sold for the cottage market.

Today, we’re seeing a trend in the Cowichan Valley that is moving away from traditional home-building and toward assembly-line construction in a factory. Homes are built in sections that fit on a trailer and then joined on the job site. A modular home can be a ‘single-wide’ but more common are the double-width or staggered tile designs. There is no limit to the combinations and size of a modular structure. You just keep adding modules and floors until the house is just right for you.

A modular home is different from a manufactured home. Modular homes are designed to be just like a real house that goes on a concrete foundation. Designs have changed in recent years and more of them are appearing as ‘in-fill’ housing. In-fill refers to homes that are intended for vacant lots in between houses in an existing neighbourhood. Residents expect a new home’s design to fit in to the existing scheme so designers have created modular homes that look site-built. They can go on practically any city lot because they are defined as a house, not a mobile or a manufactured home that you might find in a trailer park.

Modular homes have a number of advantages over traditional site construction. The main benefit is speed. It arrives at the building lot complete with appliances and requires only some drywall patching and paint. A modular home can be placed and connected to utilities in a couple of days. That can save owner-builders a lot of money in financing and other costs.

Have a look at some videos on modular homes being placed on their foundations. Note the sizes and variety of styles. Some have attached garages and decks that were built after the home was delivered.

Another benefit is the efficiency of construction. Because they’re assembled in a factory by full-time trades, there is very little waste in materials or time. Materials are stored in a climate-controlled environment. Everything is carefully measured and fitted to exacting standards. Nothing is wasted on the factory floor which helps keep costs low.

A modular home is built to standards that exceed traditional site-built housing because of the stress it will encounter on the journey to the site. There is extra bracing and heavier materials used. A modular home is designed and constructed to last a long time.

Modular homes are the trend of the future because they fit the idea of lower cost and higher quality that we demand in everyday products. Instead of major renovations, we might see a time when a module home can be picked up and taken to a recycler as a whole unit. A new unit could be placed on the same foundation.

Interested in land for sale to site your new modular home? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne and Morgan today for information on buying a modular home in the Cowichan Valley.