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Archive for the ‘Green Design’ Category

Now that spring has arrived, it’s a great time to get a new landscape designed and planted.  With cooler than average spring temperatures, new plantings require much less watering and nursery stock is abundant.

Whether it’s a small city garden or a sprawling suburban landscape, Watercolour Gardens will work closely with you to create a design suited to your lifestyle and needs.  The first consult is free and any budget can be accommodated, with the expertise of an Oxford trained designer.  We offer various levels of service, from lush perennial paintings to complete hardscaping projects, using the best of materials to create a lasting environment.  We offer a full service solution, from concept to completion.

Please visit Watercolour Gardens online or contact us at 1.847.380.2699

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This is a project that was designed a couple of years ago.  I’m amazed at how far along the plantings have filled in during year two.  I’m currently working on several similar types of homes in Chicago and several on the North Shore.  It’s been a busy landscape design season, but here are some examples of the type of projects I’ve taken on this year.

If you would like a beautiful landscape designed and planted this summer, contact Watercolour Gardens at 1.847.380.2699 or visit our website for more details.

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Create an Awesome Mini Terrarium Out of an Old Light Bulb

Courtesy of unplggd.com, the light bulb Terrarium. If you happen to have cabin fever or just find yourself looking for a unique Valentine’s Day gift, here’s the perfect project for you.
There is something satisfying about repurposing a common household item and creating a pride provoking result.  I’m a fairly patient guy but it would take a very persuasive lady to get this DIY project out of me.  Believe me, I’ve done a lot of DIY, but something that requires the precision of a Swiss Watchmaker, would make my knees go weak.  I’d highly recommend going to TinyTerra and just buying one. Looking at something green growing in a light bulb might put a smile on your face. Good luck however you decide to possess one.

While perusing one of our favorite sources for DIY projects, ManMade DIY, we saw this great project to make a terrarium out of an old light bulb. As you know, we love terrariums and upcycling light bulbs and therefore could not resist the opportunity to share this project with you.

This how to, which we discovered on ManMade DIY, comes courtesy of Julie Melton fromTinyTerra guest blogging for The Hipster Home.

To make this equally adorable and chic terrarium you will need an incandescent light bulb, sand, 4 small adhesive silicone bumpers, sheet moss, reindeer moss, tillandsia, and a small toy (or anything else you would like to put inside your terrarium).

The project requires a few simple tools, small needle-nose pliers, scissors, long tweezers or chopsticks, flat head screwdriver, and safety glasses.

We love these mini terrariums and think they are a great way to turn an old light bulb into a nifty Valentine’s Day gift. We also think they would look rather swell on our windowsill, bookshelf, and desk…not that we are dropping hints or anything.

For the complete instructions, check out The Hipster Home.

If you would prefer not to go the DIY route, light bulb terrariums are available from Julie’s Etsy store TinyTerra for $42.

[images Julie Melton]

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Interesting article posted by re-nest abundant design for green homes.  I could see exceptional growth potential with this type of architecture considering the cost of scrap materials.  I’d find it satisfying to design a rather complimentary garden and outdoor room for such a property.

Ever wonder how container architecture works? Where do the containers come from, how are they modified and exactly how much do they cost? Well, we’re hoping to do a container house at our architecture firm, so earlier this week we headed to the south side of Chicago to Vaccaro Trucking, Inc., a container shipping, storage and modification company.


The company I visited, Vaccaro Trucking, Inc. is an ISO shipping container shipping, storage and modification company. They have tons of shipping containers stored on site: all sizes, new, used and some with minor modifications (e.g. construction site offices). His company was a great resource to gain a better understanding of what options are available, how modification works and generally how much it costs (not very much). At the warehouse Vaccaro can do all raw cuts, metal work and window and door installation and they currently modifying a container to use as demonstration and marketing for container architecture (also known as containerization).

Shipping containers are designed to withstand some of the most extreme conditions and carry large loads and as such are some of the most durable structures. They are manufactured to international standards and modular sizes; can be moved across water, rail and highways; and can even be stacked inside one another. However good this may be, because the cost of shipping empty containers is so high, they are collecting and sitting unused all over the world, particularly in the US and China. All of these things make containers ideal for a second life as housing, offices, dorm rooms, and disaster shelters – pretty much any type of structure you can think of. And for cheap.

Shipping Container Specifications:

  • The common ISO Shipping container is 20’0″ or 40’0″ long; 8’0″ wide and 8’6″ tall. A taller version is available at 9’6″ tall and is known as a ‘High-Cube'(HQ) container. Long containers are also available in 45’0, 48’0″ and 53’0″ lengths and are HQ standard.
  • The containers are manufactured using a steel tube frame and corrugated Corten steel skin, which makes them not only very strong but also holds up very well to the elements.
  • The floors are made of a very strong and durable 1 1/8″ thick plywood. Some older models even have a finished quality wood plank flooring that most people would be big money to have in their house.
  • The nature of the shipping container materials and construction makes the units essentially weather tight, immune to mold, rodents, bugs and vandals
  • Some units are refrigerated (or heated), and theoretically may not need any additional insulation.
  • A typical shipping container costs around $1500; a 45’0″ long used container is about $1800; 48’0″-53’0″ long container is about $2400.


Containerization & Construction Methods:

At a plant such as Vaccaro’s, all rough modifications are made at the warehouse, including cleaning, prep work, any cuts and welding for doors and windows, actual door and window insulation and any necessary wall or ceiling openings.

  • The openings are reinforced with 3x3x1/8″ steel tubing, and larger members may be needed when cutting entire sides off containers and when merging two containers together. Windows and doors can be inserted very similar to standard door and window installation. Doors can be maintained as-is, insulated or welded shut. Additionally the handles can be shifted for easier handling at grade.
  • Entire sides and tops can be removed, containers can be cut down to size, and can conversely the can be attached together for additional length. For residential use it would be ideal to use a 40’0″ long (or longer) HQ container for the higher interior ceiling height. The containers are so strong that they can also be stacked vertically up to 9-12 units high.
  • Basic modification takes about two weeks, but the time frame depends on the complexity of the design.
  • Once the rough modifications have been made the container is shipped to it’s home site and place on any necessary foundations.
  • The level of finish is up to the owner, however a general technique would be frame out the interior sides of the corrugated walls with either wood or steel members at 16″ on-center, insulate the interior with closed cell spray foam insulation (or your choice ofeco-friendly insulation) and then finish with a layer of drywall. The exterior can be left as is if you are going for the industrial look, or it too can be framed, insulated and sheathed, though this would require addition costs, energy and material. Framing, insulation and drywall will reduce the interior width by approximately 6″ overall and 3″ in height.
  • Installation of all electrical and mechanical work also occurs at the property site.


Containerization Cons:

As with all new and ‘radical’ construction techniques, one of the biggest barriers is getting not only contractors and builders on board with construction methods, but also even convincing city officials that shipping containers are a good idea. The hurdle we are currently facing in Chicago, a city that burnt to the ground, is getting the proper fire rating for container homes. Even though shipping containers have demonstrated high durability and fire resistant materials, because there is no technical UL listing for this specific type of construction, they will not allow it for residential use within city limits.

One or more of these containers would make a super inexpensive, durable and modular housing unit. Because of the modularity they could be easily modified to grow or change form as a family’s needs evolve. While many of the impressive container projects we’ve seen so far are for a normal family residence, we see good prospects for these to be used as artist studios, backyard sheds, vacation homes, low-income housing and temporary and permanent disaster relief housing. Even China is currently fabricating ready-to-live containers with all the plumbing fixtures, furniture, etc. already to use in the container – how great would it be to have these in Haiti right now?

Hopefully we’ll be able actually get one of these built, Chicago or elsewhere, and we’ll let you know how it goes in one of our next installments!

Related Containerization Posts:

• Green Style: Adam Kalkin’s Shipping Container Home
• Green Style: Shipping Container Homes by Infiniski
• A Warm Shipping Container House
• Recycled Container Community
• Container House by Leger Wanaselja Architecture
• Hot or Not? Shipping Container Getaway
(Images: Top:Shipping Container Homes by Infiniski; All others by Rachel Wray)

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There are endless ways to add a little something, to spice up a bland living space.  New homes offer many desirable characteristics but many times lack anything to distinguish themselves, from the rest of the pack.  A great way to solve the cookie cutter syndrome is to buy antique salvage.  Anything from the kitchen sink to an ornate vintage mantel can be found and easily installed.

I’m rather fond of AGA stoves.  This native kitchen appliance of the British Isles, has a long history in cottages and country homes.  AGA cookers or as we call them in North America, stoves, have begun to emerge in stylish living spaces across the US.  Favoured for their sturdy construction and multitude of colour choices, they have a vintage look that lends well to the brands versitility in a modern dwelling.  Apart from being bought new, the older ones are very collectible.  For more about AGA stoves, visit aga-ranges.com

A great source for a vast range of antique salvage is, Salvage One.  The company is located in Chicago and carries everything from lighting fixtures to Victorian door knobs.  Plan to spend several hours there, as they have three full floors of showroom.  For further details, click here.

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Are you looking to have a landscape to relax and entertain friends in?  Watercolour Gardens provides landscape design services to match many budgets. Whether it’s a small city garden or a large suburban property, we offer the design experience to make the most of your outdoor living space.

We design small city gardens, container gardens, decks, terraces, stonework, perennial gardens, rooftop gardens and  large north shore landscapes. Gardens can take on so many functions and the combinations are endless.  We help you prioritize, then plan and build accordingly.

While based in Chicago, Watercolour Gardens has created landscapes in both Europe and North America.  For more information about setting up a consultation, visit Watercolour Gardens.

For information about natural swimming pools, see article.

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On Thursday, April 16th 2009 from 5-9pm, The Willow Festival Shopping Center in Northbrook, Illinois will host The Eco and Wellness Expo.  The event will feature products and services with an emphasis on environment and personal health.  Many local businesses, including Whole Foods and REI will provide seminars, activities, product sampling and entertainment for the entire family.  A raffle will be held with a large selection of prizes. Admission and parking are free to the public.  For more information about the event,  contact event planner Candice Kuhnen, 847.835.0121. Click here for event directions.

Watercolour Gardens | Landscape Garden Design, will be present at the event.  We welcome you to chat with us about green trends for the home and North Shore real estate.

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