Category Archives: Living green

Trash does not have to look ugly!

Deciding to live green does not mean you have to compromise on design. In actual fact, recycling discarded goods, gives you the ability to revamp and possibly improve on an existing design, without spending a fortune.

Recycling is the act of processing used or abandoned materials for use in creating new products.  As a creative I find it really exciting to find a furniture piece or a discarded item on the side of the road. When I do, I try and push myself to find a unique new design, or purpose for the chucked-out piece.

A while back someone gave me two concrete core samples as she knew I could use it somehow.

Because there is no steel in the core, it is prone to crumble and break. I decided to use slices in my latest lamp design.

This has a two-fold function: Firstly it makes the base heavier and sturdier. Secondly it gives the base some texture and makes the overall design more interesting. (Apologies for low resolution pics)

Just completed in workshop


Copper core lamp


Made with 90% recycled material


For the base I used one of the bookends I salvaged a few years ago to make the Pixar Lamp.

Discarded book-ends

I also used a piece of copper as the backbone. And some odds and ends to complete the product.


On display in shop along with my other products

No need for trash to look ugly! I love it to the core! ❤


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Innovation is easy pea(sy)

Innovation: {The creation of something in the mind; The act of starting something for the first time; introducing something new}

This idea came to me in the midnight hours. As the saying goes: “Great ideas don’t keep office hours” 🙂

We are in the midst of a water crisis and I thought of creating some awareness around it. Cactus plants are water-wise plants and require very little water to thrive.

I also thought of a way for people to still enjoy some greenery on their desks, without having to water it! So I designed a little stationery holder…specifically for paper clips. It is made using a pea can or food can.

Initial sketch

CAD drawing

Did you know? Paper clips were used to help fight the Nazis. During the Second World War, Norwegian resistance fighters attached a single paper clip to their lapel as a subtle indication that they were taking the fight to Hitler’s troops.


Completed product

I am all about being practical. On the inside of the lid is a handy magnet to keep your paper clips close and handy.

On the desk

Cuteness! 🙂 From kitchen waste to a functional, cute product!

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My dream living room is a quirky one

I never thought of myself as quirky, but as I have grown as a Designer, I find myself more and more drawn to the unusual.

General Geography Lamp

One of my designs – a desk lamp made out of a used book-end (Lilly Loompa)

So much so, that I am trying to break away from the traditional in so many areas of my life. Some may think I am a rebel, but maybe I just don’t like the conventional. Conventional is boring!

My most recent stint to fuel my hunger for the off-beat, is my home. My family and I live in a shipping container, called “House Madeline“.

It is far from complete, but it is a labour of love. We have been living in this home for close to 2 years and have recently shipped it to our home province, the Western Cape, where we live in it now.

As mentioned, it is far from complete. We have big plans to make it a comfortable, yet stylish home with personality! (maybe my personality…don’t tell my husband!)

Another design inspired by the environment I find myself in…Jozi Art (Lilly Loompa)

I want our house to reflect our true style and personality. I want it to be filled with items that make me happy and pieces that tell a story…just like my furniture pieces. So I have some ideas of what our living room should look like:

Crushing on Marissa Tomei’s apartment

I love Marissa Tomei’s style (not to mention that she is my hubby’s TV crush!). I really like the animal-skin tripod chair and the lamp, they add a uniqueness to her apartment.

I love retro furniture, especially this couch!

Again, above the natural elements speak to me! The nguni skin rug and the leather couch make the space feel warm and inviting.

The artwork is unique but unified by framing it all in black

Light and airy spaces are essential for me.

Patterns, texture and plants are also non-negotiable!

I have recently seen a beautiful couch on Arhaus. I have decided to build a mood board around it:

Neutral colours for the base furnishings


Continuation with neutral colours and pops of turquiose

Colourful accents

Obviously these are ideas of what I would want to see in our living room. As a Eco-Designer, I have to stay true to my values and principles by re-using and buying green products. But I will use this as my guide for inspiration.

Have you designed your dream space? Are you living in it right now? Would love to hear from you! 🙂

Sources: Lilly Loompa, Arhaus, Nkuli Mlangeni, Marisa Tomei 

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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:


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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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 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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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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DIY: Easel shelving unit

Easel: {An upright tripod for displaying something (usually an artist’s canvas)}

I have recently started writing for an awesome magazine: Green Home. I focus on what I love: Recycling and DIY.

The segment is aptly called “Talking Garbage”.  

Adequate storage is a much needed aspect for a good, working home. You can never have enough storage space. A working home also needs decorative elements and you can merge the two. I made

a decorative shelf for use in a private library or lounge area. I used 2 old artist’s easels and build them like a long ladder. I then used old pine off-cuts as the shelves. It looks pretty cool and is super

I love the addition to our living room! It cost me nothing but 2 hinges (R4,00 ea) and some elbow grease!

Old artist’s easels

A-frame shelf2

Take easel apart and construct it like a ladder

A-frame shelf 4

I used off-cut planks as the shelves

A-frame shelf

It is done!

* Cheerio!

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DIY done! Spice up your kitchen

A few weeks ago I previewed my progress on making a spice rack for a client of mine.

Finally I have had time to actually post the pics of the completed product!

75% done

75% done

Pop of yellow

Pop of yellow



I am quite proud of it…as it is made with off-cuts I found on a dumpster.  Love going green! Client is extremely happy…that makes two of us!

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Hopefield wind farm – hope to 70 000 families

My family and I had to travel home about 2 weeks ago to attend my Granny’s funeral.  Ryce Phillipa Damonse (nee Ryan), passed on at the age of 100.  At the same time, it is a sad time for our family as well as a celebrated one.  I will write more on her life as time goes on.

So we had the opportunity to visit our beloved Cape Province again.  It will always be my home. Wow…it is breathtakingly beautiful.  You have to see it, to experience it.  The towering mountains, the rolling hills, the rusty-colored vineyards…truly magnificent.

Photo 2014-05-01, 1 10 45 PM (1)

Our backyard…this is the view from the house my hubby grew up in

On one of our day trips we went to the West-Coast.  We were pleasantly surprised to find an enormous wind farm just outside Hopefield.  It was so impressive, almost eerie.

Photo 2014-05-01, 2 33 26 PM

Enormous wind turbines

As we came closer these tall structures in the middle of nowhere, almost intimidated us.  They gently, but productively whipped in the wind, apparently generating enough electricity to power 70 000 low-income homes, or 29 000 medium income homes!

This is extraordinary for South Africa.  We face so many socio-economic challenges, and times have shown that we need innovative solutions to eradicate poverty.  This is the first of a few such farms that will assist in decreasing the demand on the national electricity grid.  Exciting news!

Read more about this fascinating project over here.

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Come on and try my shower!

Shower: { Plumbing fixture that sprays water over you; Washing yourself by standing upright under water sprayed from a nozzle}

As mentioned before, we are now partially living off the grid.  Believe it or not, it has been quite pleasant and satisfying.  Essentially its like camping, on a more permanent scale.

DSC06182I also shared my shower invention with you.

Some people find it hard to believe that this not-so-pretty invention can be effective?  Let me break down the statistics for you:

1. It does not use the normal feed of the plumbing supply.

2. We boil water on the gas cooker (3.5 liters or 0.924 gallons) and drop it into the bucket.  We then add the exact same amount (3.5 litres) and it makes the perfect temperature for a great shower.  Thus in total we use 7 liters per shower.  The average person taking a shower in a conventional home with electricity, uses about 37.8 litres or 10 gallons.  This is with a low-flow shower head.


3. My shower lasts more or less 3-4 minutes.  The average person living in a conventional home, showers for about 10 minutes, turning up the temperature of the water in between, meaning more electricity use as the geyser has to heat more water.

4. A downside to it is because I use a garden pipe fitting, it does not spray the way a conventional shower head would.  It just sprays in a straight line.  This means you have to hold the pipe and move it around to spray over your body.

Between me, my husband and the kids, we take 3 showers daily.  This means we use about 21 liters per day for showering.  This is a significant saving of water usage per day.  We are very aware about the gas consumption too thus hubby and I would heat our water at the same time in a slightly bigger pot and shower consecutively.

This shower might now be perfect and ideally we want the sun to heat the water, hopefully we can purchase solar panels soon. However, it serves the purpose it was intended for.  It allows us to wash in an effective manner, and you feel like a million bucks when you step out!

Any ideas on improving it?  Share!

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Getting off the grid!

Power Grid ~ {A system of high tension cables by which electrical power is distributed throughout a region}

Getting off the grid…sounds very easy and idyllic.  Grit your teeth…cause its not for sissies!

We have been without electricity for the last 2 months.  I partly feel elated…another part of me not.

Two months is a long time, especially when you were not prepared for it.  But it is not all doom and gloom…it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

I have been saying it for the longest time:”I want to get off the grid!”  Now I am…willingly or not. Once again a testimony that our words carry power!  So I am sure by now you want to know what happened?  In a nutshell, our landlord unfortunately passed on in May, leaving behind a trail of unpaid bills.  The electricity bill being one of them.  Now many people suggested we move out, and find alternative accommodation, but it is easier said than done.  We have settled and have no plans to move soon.

Anyhow…back to the details of “living green!”

It is actually great!  It has forced us to become creative in our living arrangement.  We cook on a little gas stove.



I have to boil water on the cooker for bathing purposes etc and that takes a little time.  On the other hand, it has made me more conscious of the amount of water I use.  So after a few weeks I grew tired of cowboy splashes and thus I developed a shower-system.

After doing some research on YouTube, I first started with a prototype.


Juice bottle sealed with silicone

This worked well; it was just a mission to get the water in the bottle at the right temperature.  Also, it only holds 5 liters so doesn’t work well when you want to wash hair etc.  The idea I got on the internet would work well in summer as I could leave the bottle outside and the sun would heat the water.  Unfortunately it is now winter and although very mild temperatures, not enough to heat it sufficiently to shower.

Then I developed this system.


Ice bucket as shower system

It might not look so grand, but it works well.  You actually feel like you’re taking a shower.  I used the fitting of a hose pipe so I can close and open as I wish.  However, the steady, straight stream does not distribute the water as a conventional shower head would do.  I am still figuring out an alternative… but quite chuffed with this.

We have portable solar-panels that we use to charge batteries during the day to have light in the evening via an inverter.


Portable solar-panels


Inverter with light

Our next-door neighbour has been very generous and supplies us with enough electricity to power the fridge and charging our mobiles, etc.


This helps quite a lot in the meantime while we source alternative solutions i.e. solar panels etc.

I am well aware that there are loads of renewal energy solutions on the market already, but many of them are very pricey.  Part of my mission (and has always been a desire of mine) is to find alternative power sources for the normal folk, and those less fortunate.  Millions of my fellow-countrymen are in a similar situation purely because of lack of resources or poverty.  So I believe this event, that some may view as a mischance, has happened on purpose.

I have learned from previous life lessons to embrace such events…they end up being turning points for the good.

I embrace, thus I am (em)powered!

Do you have any ideas for alternative power solutions?  I would love to hear from you!  Also remember to switch off…its the right thing to do!

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