Category Archives: House Madeline

What would we do without the Sun?

Sun ~ {The star that is the source of light and heat for the planets in the solar system}

The sun is a miracle from God. 🙂

It gives life and spreads its love across our globe. When I think of how much energy gets lost every day, without us harvesting it, I get a little sad.

We have tried our hand at some primal methods of harvesting the sun’s energy. In 2013 I tried some DIY methods to warm our water when our landlord at the time, refused to settle his municipal bill and the council cut our electricity supply. In hindsight, it was a learning curve.

Homemade shower

This was my homemade shower in 2013

We have a goal of building our container home totally off-grid and dependent on harvesting energy and water from nature. It has been said that:

“Enough sunlight reaches the Earth’s surface in one hour to satisfy the whole world’s energy demands for an entire year.”

The problem is, we are not capturing or harvesting it. So in our little corner of the world, we are working on some DIY solutions for our home.

We currently do not have access to an electric geyser, so we do not have warm water readily available. Although cold showers are somewhat refreshing some days, other days you really need warm water to soothe your soul and for washing hair! Ashley came up with this idea to build our own solar geyser…please note it is still under construction:

geyser

Home-made solar geyser pitched on roof

The idea is that the black painted barrel on top will warm the water and relay it to the 2nd hand geyser at the bottom, which we will clothe in a geyser blanket. The bottom geyser will keep it warm, ready for use as we need it. The process will begin again, by filling up with cold water on top and repeating. It should work well as we have sun almost 9 months of the year in Jozi.

Until then, this is my system:

Plastic geyser

Catching the last bit of sun for the day!

Warming our water in a water dispenser, and using it as a shower! It works quite well. I fill it halfway with water and I place it in a warm sunny place for most of the day. By 16h00 the water is quite warm, and ready for use!

make shift shower

Make-shift shower

The showers are calculated and quick! We use between 7-10 liters per use, which makes it super efficient! As I said before, going off-grid is not easy, but super rewarding!

sun warms heart

What have you done to go green? Please share!

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Living in a container house: Photo essay

It has been 3 months since we moved into our dream home. Ironically it looks far from dreamy right now…but I can tell you for certain…I have never felt prouder. Our dream to build an off-grid, bond-free home, requires patience and sacrifice. Admittedly it is really tough some days without the usual luxuries, but other days you are reminded of the vision and you carry on happily!

I thought I would keep you in the loop with a photo essay:

Empty lot

Window gaps cut out

Window gaps cut out

Bedroom walls are up using the cut-out steel from the main walls

Bedroom walls are up using the cut-out steel from the main walls

Before moving in

Before moving in

Front facade with polystyrene panels on roof

Front facade with polystyrene panels on roof

Bathroom windows

Side view bathroom windows

 

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Polystyrene panels being mounted

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Side view panels up

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Front view

 

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Kitchen view

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Study

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Little hallway

 

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Dining area – open plan

 

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Sitting area

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TV + lounging area

That’s it for now!  I am hoping to give you another update on some new changes very soon!

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More red – DIY palm frond lamp

Frond~ {Compound leaf of a fern, palm or cycad}

These palm leaves are found almost all over. I picked up one a while back and immediately knew I wanted to make a lamp with it. It is really strong and takes forever to decompose. Thus this is a good way to re-purpose (except use as firewood!)

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Palm frond light in Ashley’s office

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Palm frond before painted (excuse quality of pic)

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Bare frond (taken with phone, excuse quality)

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Before I mounted it

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View from the bottom

It makes a great night light and it adds to the red pops of colour in the decor. We celebrate our first month in our new container home today! That explains the boxes under the table! Remember our project is constantly in progress. But I am glad to say we take it one day and dime at a time. Debt-free living requires sacrifice and patience!

Till next time!

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Living in a shipping container house – Moving week

After about 10 days of being on site, our shipping container home was ready to move into. Now when I say ready to move into…I mean liveable, but not near done and complete as we want it to be.

We have big plans to overhaul this building to something spectacular. And with that said, our vision is to do this without a bond (or mortgage). We are going cash all the way. Now to create a warm and cosy home, you will have to provide essential components and rooms within the building. For now, we only have 2 bedrooms (one for us, the other for our daughters, and one big open living space which doubles up as dining room and kitchen. No bathroom inside yet! Eeeek!!!!

Outside bathroom

Outside bathroom

We use the outside bathroom (with shower) of the adjacent main house which our neighbour occupies. At least it has warm water! We have cold-water supply in our make-shift kitchen and basic electricity to power 3 wall plugs.

Our plan is to be off-grid by the end of 2015. We have started in our small way by using a gas stove and oven and solar lights in our outside bathroom.  This lifestyle is nothing new to us, as we lived without electricity for a whole winter in 2013. Although uncomfortable initially, it became a blessing in disguise. Our lifestyle became significantly slower and our quality of life improved tremendously. As a family we planned our days better to get optimum of the daylight and evenings were spent reading the Bible by candlelight. We learned to do our chores efficiently and had much more time to talk to each other. We intend doing the same now.

But until we find the best solar and water-harvesting systems, (budget-friendly and efficient) we will continue to live on  the-grid for the next few months.

So last week Monday, was our first night in our new place. Wow…it was cold! I am not exaggerating when I say; I have never been so cold in my life! It was like sleeping in a freezer! From our experience we know insulation is essential when living in a container, and it is a must-have. But the pressure was on for us to move in. We couldn’t find a reasonable price for the service and we wanted to test some alternatives.

Before moving in

Before moving in

So on Tuesday, in between packing out and settling, we started packing polystyrene panels on the roof. We found them by coincidence at a great price from someone who dismantled a cold-room. They have already made a huge difference in keeping the house cosier, but it is not yet perfect. This coming week, we plan to mount the rest of the panels onto the external walls before we clad the building.

Front facade with polystyrene panels on roof

Front facade with polystyrene panels on roof

So we have been in the house for 7 days now, and every day we are settling in better.

Newly upholstered couch

Newly upholstered couch

TV corner

TV corner

Make-shift kitchen

Make-shift kitchen…cannot wait for my real kitchen!

Dining room

Dining room

We are truly blessed!

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Building a shipping container home: Week 3

Although the last few weeks have been extremely busy, it has certainly been the most exciting time of our lives. My husband and I have build numerous homes for clients in the past, and finally we have the opportunity to build our own. A debt-free, off-the-grid house that will be home to ourselves and our children. Now although we have some experience with this kind of build, we still have a lot to learn. Our motto has become: “Trial and error…we learn as we go along.”

The build of a shipping container home should be fairly quick as it is a building block in itself. As a rule, we do not work on holidays and weekends, thus yesterday was our 10th actual day of working on the structure.

In this time we managed to get the house livable. We now have all of the following:

  • Running water (pulling from main house until we have a suitable off-grid solution)
  • Basic electricity (also pulling from main house until we have found the right solar solution)
  • 2 Bedrooms
  • A mini-kitchen
  • Painted walls and floor
Bedroom walls are up using the cut-out steel from the main walls

Bedroom walls are up using the cut-out steel from the main walls

Tinted floors and painted walls

Tinted floors and painted walls

Gas stove

Our big purchase this week was an entry -level gas stove

Solar lights

We bought a basic solar lighting system for our outside bathroom

Polystyrene

Polystyrene pieces we are buying for insulating the roof

My design philosophy has always been one of recycling and re-purposing. We are negotiating with the owner of these polystyrene pieces above which is currently unused. It was previously used as a refrigerator. We will be using it as insulation for our roof. During the coming week we are hoping to source major items such as insulation, exterior wood cladding among others.

Guys about to paint exterior feature

Guys about to paint exterior feature

Keeping in mind our inspiration:

Our inspiration house

Our inspiration house

We are happy to say we are moving in tomorrow! Whoop-whoop!

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Week 2

After 5 years of dreaming and conceptualizing, it almost seemed unreal when the containers were delivered last week.

We share the land with another couple who lived on the adjacent land, exactly the size of our plot. During last week, we continued completing the pre-cast wall, to create a boundary between us and the neighbour. We had to remove a tree and some branches in preparation for the trucks to deliver.

Container hit a tree

Container hit a tree

The delivery company was scheduled to deliver on Wednesday and when they arrived they realised the truck won’t be able to turn on the land as it had a super-link fitted. The next day we had more problems with the tree in the driveway and to cut a long story short, on Thursday late afternoon, after 2 days of logistical challenges, it was finally in position and level. The work continued during the days that followed with cutting out window openings and making the frames.

My beautiful aluminium window frames was delivered and will be installed today. As a designer I hate the idea of burglar bars on the windows, but due to our unfortunately high crime rate in SA we will have to. So we just opted for a plain design with horizontal bars.

Bathroom windows

Side view bathroom windows

Windows

Front view

The structure is positioned at a noticeable angle to maximise the northern sun.

Cutting out the inside panel

Cutting out the inside panel

We intend completing the building in 3 phases. Phase one consists of two 40’ containers. This will house me and my family comfortably. The home will have 2 bedrooms, 1 and a half bathrooms and an open-plan living area and kitchen. It will be 60 sqm in total. As the project progresses and funds become available, we will add another 2 containers which will double the living space to 120 sqm. For the next few weeks we will use the bathroom facilities on site, while we research off-grid water and toilet solutions. It is not ideal, but its ok as a temporary solution.

If all goes according to plan, we will move in 9 days. Yeah!

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House Madeline ~ Week 1

Progress ~ {Gradual improvement, growth or development}

Any progress is good, albeit little or not according to your plans.

Panhandle adjacent to main dwelling. This will become our driveway.

Panhandle adjacent to main dwelling. This will become our driveway.

Preparing ground for precast waling.

Preparing ground for precast waling.

Hubby consulting with the electrician on the land

Hubby consulting with the electrician on the land

We've opened up the driveway, to prepare for delivery trucks coming next week.

We’ve opened up the driveway, to prepare for delivery trucks coming later this  week.

We started preparing the land this morning. I will try and post a progress report weekly…watch this space!

 

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House Madeline – a concept house

Concept:~ {An abstract or general idea inferred or derived from specific instances}

It is finally happening. At long last we are going to build our dream home! At times it seemed like our dream was just going to stay that…a whiff…a dream. But even when all the odds were against us, we managed to persevere and push through.

Our fascination with this build started 5 years ago. Read about it here and here.  We fell in love with a tin can…a shipping container…and knew this was part of God’s plan in sending us to Johannesburg. Container housing was still a fairly new concept in South Africa in 2010, although in certain countries it was already rife and accepted.  The whole concept of debt-free and off-the-grid living immediately struck a cord with us.

Earlier this year we secured a piece of land in Florida, Johannesburg, and if all goes according to plan…our first 2 containers will be delivered next week! I wish you can understand how excited and thrilled we really are.

The land in Florida

The land in Florida

At long last we can build a concept home that could be a solution to our country’s dire housing problem. Have you spared a thought to the destitute and homeless lately? I haven’t lived on the streets thus I cannot fully comprehend how bad it must be.

We are humbled. We feel blessed and grateful that God chose us for this work. Everyone has a work to do. Each one of us must fulfill our God-given purpose. I cannot wait to finally start on mine!

I have started a new blog for this specific purpose. It is new…I should upload a few pics shortly.

www.housemadeline.wordpress.com

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