Room to Reimagine

Room to Reimagine

An empty room vibrates with stories. It’s walls crackle with the twists and turns of its previous residents’ lives.  Something brought each person to that particular room for a space in time. They nested. They had epiphanies, they doubted themselves, they had their hearts broken, they found love elsewhere. They left. What brought me to this particular room at this space in time? What similarities does my story have to those who have come and left, lived and loved, dreamt and despaired within this cube of energy sitting on a ball of matter floating through the vacuum of space? I’m not sure, but I thought it would look really cool to install shelves on that wall.

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I found it hard to sleep in that room for the first week. Each night, my mind would be zipping around the room splashing light from imaginary fixtures, framing art in unusual places, and planting living walls that would overflow with green. I gazed at the plaster left behind on the recently exposed brick walls and saw waterfalls. I thought about making fountains in the room and wondered how I would keep them from leaking everywhere. I thought about tracing the shadow that the street lamp outside cast upon my walls after jumping through the branches of a tree.

The endless possibilities surged through my brains and couldn’t wait to be realized. Most of the possibilities are still waiting, or at least they flew into someone else’s brains as they laid in their empty room dreaming of how to nestle into it. Some of the possibilities, however, did become realized after a few practical conversations with their benefactors Budget & Materials.

Most of my ideas for the room were inspired by the room itself. It has a glorious window nook that I dreamt of turning into a magical portal draped with greenery and twinkling lights. The room also has a piece of wood that sits in between the bricks where mortar usually resides about 3 inches from the ceiling on both walls with exposed brick. I thought about attaching a piece of wooden trim to it and putting LED strips on it to illuminate the room with soft, diffused light. There were more segments of wood wedged between the bricks at seemingly random intervals on the wall next to the window nook. I thought about installing floating shelves where the wood wedges were, though I didn’t have any belongings to put on them. “I’ll just make candles and find plants to put on them.” I thought to myself.

Room to ReimagineThe first thing that came together was the LED trim around the ceiling. With the help of Steve, the man who owns and maintains the community house I’m living and working in, we found some old wood behind the house, cut it to length, sanded and sealed it. We thought the look of distressed wood complemented the exposed brick quite nicely so we didn’t sand or seal it too much and let the wood’s aged, rough texture express itself. We then used a fantastic drill bit contraption that enabled us to drill into the wood at an angle in order put a screw through the top of the wood and out of the back of it so as to attach it to another surface. We took the trim to the room and screwed it right into the piece of wood between the bricks 3 inches from the ceiling. Now to figure out LED strips! To make a long story short, I found beautiful, powerful LED lighting strips on amazon and ebay and ultimately decided to get them at a local store for a slightly higher price. We liked supporting the local economy and having the option to return or buy extra pieces as needed. All together it was going to run us about $150. Just before I rode my bike to the store to pick them up, I thought “There must be a cheaper way to do this… Why not just do Christmas lights?” It wouldn’t be quite as slick but it would certainly contribute to the cozy DIY nature of the room. I found a string of remote controlled, malleable copper wire LEDs on amazon for $30. 2 weeks later, they arrived in the mail, I put them on the trim and I had remote controlled fairy lights dancing around the room.

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While waiting for the LED string to arrive, I made floating shelves where the wood was wedged between the brick at intermittent spaces next to the window nook. I loved the pattern that the wood wedges created and I wasn’t sure why. Just for the hell of it, I measured each piece of wood in relation to the others and found them to be dripping with Golden Ratios. Groovy. I found more wood behind the house that looked stressed and pretty, measured, cut, sanded, sealed, drilled, and installed them just like I had with the trim. We added an off-centered chain that hung from the ceiling and attached to the edge of each shelf for a bit of extra support. Voila! Time to fill them.

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I went on Kijiji (the Craigslist or Gumtree of Canada) and found some beautiful plants for sale on the other side of town. I made myself subterranean and stepped into a fast machine in an underground tunnel, reemerged in a different part of town, walked through a snow-covered ravine with a frozen creek, and found the plants in the house of a lovely old Italian woman. I brought the plants home, put them on the shelves, nurtured them, and delightedly watched them settle into their new room and erupt with life. Next, I took cuttings of plants from around the house using gardening forums and youtube videos as my guide and increased the saturation of green in the room. The final touch to the room came when one of our housemates, Ashley, informed me that her mother was moving to the other side of the country and had some big old plants to give to someone who would care for them. “I will! I will!” I excitedly volunteered. Next thing I knew, there was a massive Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, Snake Plant, or Sansevieria Trifasciata (however you please) reaching out of its pot at my bedside and tickling my dreams. Finally, the grand finale was a mysterious, dark green Hoya that was begging to be draped around my window nook. It transformed it into the magical, twinkling portal I had dreamed of.

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Room to ReimagineAll of this came together through bits and pieces of research, design, material gathering, and construction across the course of 5 weeks. In exchange for the work I did on the room, I got to live in the room and enjoy the organic food provided to all who live in the Lotus Feast Community House. By the time the room came together, I had 2 weeks of blissful mornings spent watching the sunrise from my magical fairy window nook. The evenings were remote controlled and I got to set the level of starlight falling from the trim with the press of a button. I didn’t have to leave the room when I did, but my story between its walls came to an end when I slowly pulled the door shut behind me like the cover of a recently finished book.

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My story in that room lasted 7 weeks altogether. I flew into it in the middle of a snowy winter in Toronto. The last time I had my own room was a year and half previously in an exceptionally compact, yet comfortable apartment in Seoul, South Korea. There I discovered for the first time the joys of having a space of my own; a safe space full of my own energy that I could return to, wash off the worries of the world, and feel rejuvenated. In the following year and a half, I had slept in vans all over Australia, slept behind the bar in the basement of a sharehouse in a jungle town, lived on a boat in Tahiti, shared tents at a protest camp, shared a dorm at a meditation center, shared a bunk at a pearl farm, camped on the roadside while hitchhiking, and stayed in the homes of people who picked me up while hitchhiking. Six countries, tens of thousand of kilometers, and many strange sleeping situations later, I found myself in a room to call my own. I was what some people call “road weary.” I had been on the move for a very long time and desperately needed a place to curl up and feel desperate in.

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Room to ReimagineMy time in that room was a time of grounding. It was a time of wondering what I was doing with my life, wondering what was important to me, what direction I wanted to go, wondering why any of it matters.  I’m still wondering many of those questions, but I’m wondering them from down the hall. Why would I leave such a beautiful room that made space for me to manifest my imagination and reimagine my own manifestations? What twist and turn ended the story of my time in that space? I’m one of the lucky ones. For me, it was love. A mysterious woman with a cosmic twinkle in her eye moved into the house. I ended up spending most of my time in her room down the hall. So after a few short weeks, we decided to move into her room, which continues to reimagine the complex cast and characters that call its walls home for a short while.

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Room to Reimagine

New Moon Ceremony 2015

What is community? For us it’s hard to hit the nail on the head. In summer, it is easy to feel and see, it is cooking amazing food we’ve grown, sharing it together on the front porch, people busy cooking, working on building projects and sharing the abundance of the warmer months.

With the right people, community just flows. However in winter, that same buzz isn’t so much alive, it quietens down. But it’s occasions when we come together such as the New Moon Ceremony we held last night that ground that sense of community again. A space we created to share music, writing and meditation to set our intentions for 2015.

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Coming together to set intentions for 2015.

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A chance to come together and be creative.

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Airbnb – A reflection on our experience

By Bridie

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Our listed private cabin on Airbnb

Airbnb is a global phenomenon exemplifying the power of technology and online branded platforms that allow everyday people to get a ‘slice of the pie’ that once was reserved for business owners or the very brave. Our digital age has seemingly made it possible for anyone to be a taxi driver albeit Uber or bed and breakfast owner – thanks to Airbnb!

Our detached cabin is the perfect nook for paying guests to step in and out of our community life as they please. For Lotus Feast we’ve found the benefits of Airbnb to be wide ranging, including:

Social good

  1. It is a way to share what we are doing with interested visitors.
  2. Enables the cabin to be available for house members for special needs. i.e: a guest or romantic partner, or just a personal retreat. Either between bookings or with advance notice.
  3. We can have the option of offering our cabin to nearby neighbours in need of space for visiting guests.
  4. It is also interesting to participate in the new sharing economy trend.

Our Lotus Feast home

  1. Brings in a fair bit of extra revenue so there is less need to raise rents, less need to seek full revenue from all rooms allowing for either less people or more work-exchangers. And more space created for shared community use. And we can put some of the revenue towards increasing the food budget.
  2. Great incentive to keep the house clean and organized.
  3. Nice to learn about and experience living with a diversity of people from various cultures and backgrounds. We can feel connected to the world. Instead of going travelling the travelers come to us.

Click ‘continue reading’ and scroll down to also see more images.

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Work exchange at Lotus Feast – Why you’ll love it!

By Bridie

Building the Rooftop Deck

In the midst of building our rooftop deck P.S. that’s our edible rooftop garden in the background!

Work exchange is like a holiday with a purpose. If you’re looking to learn how to live a ‘greener’ lifestyle, this is the work exchange house for you. It gives people the chance to work in exchange for food and board and experience what it means to live in a ‘sustainable focused community house’.

So what are the kinds of jobs you would be doing? Without a word of a lie, these are some of the things I have worked on, which have been more like heavenly learning experiences than ‘work’ (see photos at the bottom of this post):

  • Brewing kamboocha
  • Picking cherries & apples from neighborhood trees to make jam
  • Making chemical-free paint and painting walls
  • Making kale chips in the dehydrator
  • Building a roof-top deck
  • Making sauerkraut
  • Growing food for our kitchen – tomatoes, herbs & edible flowers
  • Shopping at local farmers markets
  • Helping out with tidying around the house

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My Favourite Summer Project: chemical-free clay plaster paint

By Bridie

Our latest project at Lotus Feast has been clay plaster painting our new yoga room walls, it’s 100% free of chemicals and uses natural mineral dies. This isn’t the first time we’ve used plaster paint as an alternative to traditional paint, but this time we went a little further – we’ve added flower petals from our garden to the wall!

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A shot of the process: the natural sandy colour captures natural light while still creating a sense of warmth and depth to the room.

A beautiful textured and natural finish,  the sandy colour gives our yoga room an earthy warm feeling and the petals make it our little piece of lasting summer no matter how long the Toronto winter lasts. Into the wet paint we blew, threw and pressed hand-cut nasturtium, lavender and yellow daisy petals from our garden.

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IMG_1754Why you should give it a go…

  • It is a beautiful all natural alternative
  • The textured sand finish adds an earthy feel to your home
  • It does not require extra plastering to get a perfectly smooth wall, because the of the thickness and texture of clay paint covers it up, meaning less time spent sanding and plastering the walls 
  • No need to prime the entire wall, you just need to prime any dusty areas (e.g. plastered seams and plastered screws) 

Colour Sampling

Colour sampling

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Petal cutting

Petals that look like goldfish chatting

A few tips and tricks we’ve learnt on the way… Continue reading

Our meal sharing systems

MoJo, Matt, Steve, Kat, Lee and Maria at one of our shared meals on the front porch.

Over the years we have had varying degrees of success with sharing food. We have tried out a number of approaches from everyone buying their own food supplies to sharing most ingredients. We have tried both an incentive system and one based on taking turns cooking.

Nov 2012 Update: Our latest attempt at an organized shared meal system started in May 2012 and so far so good, We typically have three or four delicious community dinners per week, plus the sharing of smaller meals, snacks and treats. Usually there are leftovers. We have made some significant changes to the how we share. We now buy all our food ingredients out of a shared housefund of $230 per person per month. This fund also has been paying $35 per dinner to any of us willing to cook.

Starting this month, we are trying a slightly different way of rewarding people. Whatever is left in the house fund at the end of a month after paying for food and cleaning supplies will be distributed evenly as an hourly rate among those who recorded time spent cooking and cleaning.

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