Map of the world

21 04 2010

“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing” Oscar Wilde

Oscar is allowed his opinion but I am still fascinated by world maps.  Really big and very detailed colorful maps.  I’ve been trying to figure out a way to use maps in the décor of my home just so I can see them every day.  Definitely a no on the map wallpaper, NOT a wallpaper fan, and those tacky knick knacky accessory pieces that the home stores carry don’t cut it either.  I’m talking about the real deal, those really big pull down maps that we had in school.  Remember those?

So here’s what I’ve come up with….yes it’s a little out there….all the more reason to try it.  Ooops, I need to back up just a bit.  Two parallel but unrelated trains of thought have been occupying some of my brain space lately.  One is the maps thing and the other is my search for window treatments for my newly remodeled home.  Do you know what a whole house of window treatments cost?  Ouch.  The result of that pinch in my wallet will be functional window coverings but I’m thinking I’d like to pump up the personality a bit.

Ok, so here’s where those two trains of thought jump tracks and run into each other.  What if those old maps could be turned into window shades?  No seriously.  They are made for rolling up and down, the material is really sturdy and they come in small to huge sizes.  My windows are high efficiency so I don’t really need added insulation in the window coverings.  I’m all about inventive repurposing and I think they would look so interesting.  Maybe not every window in the house…I’m quirky not weird.

I’ve located some really great used map specimens online.  One of my favorite places for web shopping is Seattle’s Second Use website. They stock used and reclaimed building materials and fixtures.  They have an awesome website that allows you to shop right online, just like P’Barn and C’Barrel!  While I love our local ReStore and Rebuilding Center they don’t have fabulous websites like Second Use does.  They also support Habitat for Humanity with their proceeds, good all the way around.

So what do you think of my idea?  Don’t worry you won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t like it.  Not the first time I’ve done something in my house just a little left of normal and had others say “uuuhhh?”  However those are usually the things that I end up loving the most.  Except for those times when a concept totally doesn’t work and then I just pretend it didn’t happen.  A strategy I find most convenient.

Now I just need to “map” out how to make the idea work.  Pun totally intended!


Hey, I thought of that!

1 04 2010

This topic falls into that category of “Hey, I thought of that!”  You know what I’m talking about – that light bulb moment of great clarity when a brilliant idea pops fully grown into your head and you say “Wow, what a great idea, I should do that” only to see YOUR idea a short time later having been fully realized by someone else.  Yep, this is one of those for me.

I live near a major port city in the Pacific Northwest and the graveyards of unused steel cargo containers dot our landscape.  We import way more goods than we export so the extra containers, hundreds of  thousands of them, are just stacked and stored on vacant land.  You’d think they would reuse them but it costs too much money to ship them back overseas and melting them down to recycle the steel after their 7-year life span is over takes an enormous amount of energy.

Back to that brilliant idea I had a dozen or so years ago that didn’t go anywhere (like so many of them….come on…you know you have them too).  Why don’t they reuse those containers as pre-fab steel buildings?  They would make great cabins, sheds, temporary emergency housing, so many things could be done with them.   Such a waste to let them sit and rust.

Well it turns out that a lot of people had the same idea I had and they actually put them into action.  I recently visited Mike Corvi in Portland and got a tour of his adorable little garden cottage that he built out of a shipping container.  These images appeared in the local newspaper, The Oregonian, and were taken by photographer Kraig Scattarella.

In 6 short weeks, Mike and the two builders who assisted him turned his container into a cozy little backyard retreat.  It’s outfitted with rigid foam insulation, birch plywood paneled walls, mahogany flooring, electricity, heat and cable.  It has a full size sliding glass door on one end that looks out onto a petite front deck.  Two full height cargo doors, clad in a warm tongue and groove paneling, completely open up the back end to the outdoors and the full height side wall window offers a view of the landscaped backyard. It was snug, well appointed and best of all made use of an abundant resource that would otherwise go to waste.  Well done Mike!

Now Mike did trick out his adult playhouse with some pretty nice stuff so he has more than a few dollars invested.  The 8 ft x 20ft containers can be bought for a few hundred dollars up to a about $3000, depending on condition.  Their super strong steel structures are enclosed with lightweight corrugated steel walls and two big cargo loading doors that open up at one end.  Because they are built to be stuffed and stacked up to 7 high their engineering is super beefy.

There’s quite a bit of buzz around converting containers for use as emergency housing and a research team at Clemson University has received a grant from the EPA to study and produce a prototype to be used for the Haitian earthquake victims.  The project has been awarded an Environmental Protection Agency P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) grant.  Clemson’s team expects to be able to start building prototypes in the Caribbean next year.

I’m so glad this idea is seeing the light day!

Check out more amazing container home images at Ridiculously creative and well, I just wish I’d thought of that!

shhhh….don’t tell Webster’s…I just made this up

31 03 2010

Ec·o·ter·i·ca  (ē-kō-tĕr’ĭ-kə)

ideas, principles, methods, objects etc. pertaining to and representing the environmental interdependent relationships between humans and their physical, social and built environments – [Early -21st century. < Greek origin ecōterikos “belonging to an environmental cycle” < ecōterō “enviro”]

When I was kicking around potential names for this blog I narrowed it down to a favorite few and ran them by a friend of mine.  I was sure she would pick one of the catchy little phrases I had come up with and voíla this blog would be christened.   Noooooo, she totally ignored my cutesy offerings and says something to the effect,   “I know you’ll come up with a brilliant word that will forever define your vision of this environmental design style and philosophy.”  Great, no pressure there.  Needless to say after that my previous ideas all sounded pretty lame.

I decided I’d start with a word that by definition encompasses everything I want to include in my blog, that being all things in our built environments of the green and sustainable variety.  The Webster’s, Oxford and New American dictionaries had no words for it, nothing, nada, big fat zero.  The phrase sustainable design is used a lot and of course green and environmentally friendly, but they just didn’t really nail it for me.  I needed a word that was broader in spirit than that, more inclusive.

Somewhere  in my stumbling all over the web in search of the Word I typed out Ecoterica, not a clue where it came from, but there it was.  A random flash of what I’d like to think was inspiration…..yeah, inspiration….and that’s what I’m sticking with.  I looked up the obvious words of which Ecoterica would of course be derived from (i say of course, but you and i both know i’m just making this up as i go!)

The origin words are esoterica and exoterica.  They are opposites, eso-terica meaning ideas, principles and information of a secret, closely held nature and exo-terica meaning of well-known or common in nature.  Ecoterica represents both of those and a third ingredient; ideas, principles, methods and objects that represent a circular or cyclical nature.  The “what goes around comes around” principle.  Environmental karmic design if your will.

So there you have it, Ecoterica defined.