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An interesting trend in the eco-home movement is micro-homes. The recession, and (finally) concern over climate change, seem to have provided some needed perspective on the longing to buy bigger, more luxurious, more ecologically costly homes.
The micro-home trend is a much larger pendulum swing away from the mcMansion trend than I’d ever imagined, but there’s something appealing about being able to lessen your ecological footprint, own your own home, live mortgage-free and have wonderfully low utility bills.
Micro home owners seem content to rid themselves of most of their belongings in order to fit into their new homes. Some say it’s quite freeing and they are happier now than when they had a lot more stuff and lived in a larger space.
I’ve lived in a 850 sq. ft. apartment for 15 years (10 with my husband, 5 with my husband and our son). We’ve often felt cramped, and for much of that time I envied friends who owned their own houses and had lots of space. However, my dreams of owning my own suburban house are fading: density is more green (a topic for another post). If we ever do buy, I hope it will be a town-house or apartment, ideally one with thick walls, fitted with solar panels and lots of windows, and I’d like to keep the size small: less space=lower utility costs and smaller ecological footprint.
While I know I wouldn’t want to live in homes as tiny as the ones in the videos I’ve posted below, I’m nonetheless inspired by them. My 850 sq. ft. apartment suddenly seems enormous. Now if only we could incorporate some of these wonderful space-saving technologies!
- News segment on small (12 ft x 12ft homes) built in Twelve Cubed Homes in British Columbia
- A tiny home tour: living in 89 square feet
- A PBS segment on the tiny house movement
- DIY House for less than $3500. I love how much of the house was built with recovered materials, and it looks great!
- Low rent liveaboard life in San Francisco Bay
Architects are also getting into the micro home movement, not only with separate houses, but in designing homes in densely populated areas.
- This apartment, with a sliding wall system, can be transformed into 24 different combinations, a brilliant design by a Hong Kong. architect.
- A 258 sq. ft apartment inspired by yachts and Japanese apartments, the kitchen, dining room, living room and bedroom have to be “built” from various units hidden in the wall or even under the patio.
- Europe’s narrowest house in Europe (Kiel, Germany), a beautiful, and creatively designed home built in a gap between two old buildings.
- A London “Gap House,” quite a bit larger than its German counterpart.
Halloween is on its way. This year, I found a second-hand child’s NASA jumpsuit on Craigslist, much to Charlie’s delight.
However, Charlie also wanted a helmet to go with his jumpsuit. I couldn’t find a second-hand one advertised online, so I decided I would try to make my own. It wasn’t hard but does take time.
I’d like to say there are 7 easy steps, but there were quite a few more. There is definitely an easier way to make a helmet, but I wanted to make this one look just right, complete with two visors. Here are the things I used and the steps I followed:
What You’ll Need
- Old newspaper or newspaper print
- Flour and water paste or white glue mixed with water (I opted for white glue this time, having some old bottles that I needed to use up, but in the past I’ve used a flour and water recipe from this Papier Maché website.)
- Two balloons
- One clear plastic container (about the size of a large yoghurt container)
- Two transparencies for the outer visor (I used one blue and red as my art supply store didn’t have black. Also, using two makes the visor less flimsy)
- Acrylic Paint (white, red and blue)
- 2 fasteners (I found black ones at our local arts supply store)
- Follow the instructions for the glue recipe found on this site.
- Cut 1 inch wide strips of paper of varying length.
- Blow up a balloon so that its diameter is a few inches more than your child’s head.
- Prepare the helmet’s inner visor by cutting the bottom and the top off a clear plastic container; cut it down the side so that it can open up. Trim the sides, rounding them out as much as possible so that they can’t burst the balloon. Put aside.
- Dipping the paper into the glue, cover the top quarter of the balloon, leaving enough room for the plastic visor.
- Place the opened plastic container on the balloon.
- Papier maché around the edges of the container. Doing so should hold the plastic into place. You may need to flatten it with one hand, while covering its edges with the gluey paper with your other hand.
- Continue to cover the balloon until it begins to narrow slightly at the bottom. If you continue covering the balloon once it begins narrowing, the helmet’s neck will be too small and the helmet too short.
- Let the papier maché dry overnight or at least for four or five hours.
- Burst the balloon.
- Place the helmet on your child’s head to see how much more you need to papier maché so that the helmet extends beyond the chin.
- Place another balloon inside the helmet. As you blow it up, position it so that the middle of the balloon fits snugly at the bottom of the helmet and goes straight down for a few more inches.
- To make the helmet look more realistic, you can build up the base of the helmet in the front, just below the visor so that the chin section goes straight down from the visor and doesn’t narrow. I did this by taping strips of newspaper under the visor horizontally, taping them right under the visor, then covering with a layer or two of papier maché.
- Continue covering the balloon until the helmet is the right size for your child’s head.
- Let the papier maché dry.
- Papier maché the bottom of the helmet so there are no overly thin or sharp edges. Let dry.
- Paint the helmet white. You will probably need two coats.
- Paint NASA on the sides.
- Paint the American flag on the top or side (or place a sticker on the helmet).
- Varnish the helmet. Let dry.
- Place the transparencies over the visor, holding them at one point on each side to see if they can be moved up from the inner visor and then down again, as though on hinges.
- Cut the transparencies to fit over the visor, then and glue them using double-sided tape or glue.
- Using a large needle, create one hole on each side of the transparencies. Place them over the visor and push the needle through each hole into the helmet.
- Use the fasteners to secure the transparencies to the helmet, making sure to separate the two “legs” of the fastener so that they cannot easily be pulled back through the hole.
And you’re done!
It took me several days to make the helmet, working a little bit every night. Charlie is thrilled with it, so it was well worth the effort, and fun to try to find an original way to make it.