Up-Cycled and Sustainable Home

Soon after architect Alexander Symes from Australia bought his first home, he realized that the maintenance tasks never end. To solve this, he carried out an extensive renovation, which resulted in Up-Cycle House, as he now calls it. The home features lots of recycled materials and was renovated with sustainability in mind. The house is located in Blackheath, New South Wales, Australia.

Up-Cycle House measures around 1,119 sq ft (104 sq m), and has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, along with a large, open plan living, dining and kitchen area. The interior furnishings were kept light and clean.

The path leading up to the house was made from railway sleepers and rather unique brickwork, which makes it look like the home is still under construction. This is understandable, since the entire project was carried out by Symes, along with friends and family in their spare time. During the course of the renovation, which was completed in April of this year, Symes taught himself many building techniques. This resulted in a unique style of the home’s entrance, as well as the “solar pergola,” which is a sort of a solar panel-topped garden element that was constructed out of recycled bricks.

They used a lot of recycled materials for this project. The mosaic floors were made from tiles they collected from sample showrooms and recycled building centers, and the unique glazing came from construction waste of other projects and samples.

The existing external sliding door was re-glazed with glass samples and hey also added scrap hardwood to it. The interior glass door, on the other hand, was salvaged from another project, since it was measured incorrectly for that one. The kitchen cabinetry was custom made using timber flooring offcuts, while one of the room dividers was made from salvaged doors, and a recycled Jenga set made of timber.

All the tiling helps keep the interior cool in the summer, while they also added insulation under the floor and in the walls. They also added a reconditioned Norwegian Jotul fireplace, which is used for heating in the winter. The solar array helps offset the home’s dependency on the electrical grid for power, while they also installed a grey water filtration system.

Symes recently sold the home for an undisclosed sum.

Tiny home with a retractable bed


One of the biggest issues in tiny home design is where to place the bedroom. Some swear by the loft, others prefer the headroom that comes from having everything on a single level. The Australian firm The Tiny House Company has come up with a brilliant new solution to this dilemma. The bed they installed in their newest creation called Portal, is set on mechanical tracks and can be retracted all the way to the ceiling when not needed.



The Portal tiny house measures 194 sq ft (18 sq m), but its clever, minimalist design makes it appear much more spacious than that. With the addition of the retractable bed, the home has a 8.5 ft (2.59 m) tall sitting area during the day, while during the night, when the bed is lowered the owners get a 11.4 ft (3.5 m) tall bedroom. In this way the full height ceiling of the home is utilized to its greatest potential at all times.

bed night


The home also features ample glazing throughout, which greatly adds to the feeling of spaciousness and aids cross-ventilation. These windows and glass doors were also carefully placed in a way that directs the eye towards he outdoors, further eliminating the sense of being boxed in, which can be a problem when living in small spaces.


The home features a kitchen that runs for half of the length of the house and features a counter, sink, stove, fridge and washer. There is also a foldable table that is ideal for use as a working desk. The home also features a bathroom, which is equipped with a composting toilet and a shower. There is also a grey- and black water filtration in place, and the water filtered through it is used for irrigation. The home features flooring which was made from recycled Australian hardwoods.


This home was designed for sub-tropical climates, and costs from $90,525 to $113,100 to buy, which depends on the appliances, finishes and materials the customer wants included.

Shepherd’s Hut That Surprisingly Light and Spacious


This tiny home was designed by Thomas Alabaster of Contemporary Shepherd Huts based in Suffolk, England. It was inspired by the actual huts shepherds in the area used to live in long ago while taking their animals to pasture. His creation features a skylight, which brings in lots of light, while the whole home appears cozy and welcoming, despite being small.


The tiny home is mounted on wheels making it mobile, though the exact dimensions of it are currently unknown. It is basically just a rectangular structure with a gabled roof that has a skylight running the length of it. According to the designer, installing the window was quite tricky, but he persevered because it truly adds to the sense of spaciousness, which is usually lacking in similar tiny homes. I would tend to agree.


This modern shepherd’s hut is well insulated and clad in galvanized steel, which was welded together. The interior walls are clad in white washed wood. The center of the home is taken up by the main living area with a small, but open kitchen that features a two-burner stove, a small fridge and an overhead rack for storage. On one end, this home also features a small covered deck, which is large enough for two people to sit on, judging from the photos.



The sleeping area is located at the other end of the home, just beyond the kitchen, and features a nice narrow window that lets in plenty of light. Across from the bed is the bathroom, which is quite large for such a small build. It is located behind a sliding door, which saves a lot of space and appears to be repurposed. The bathroom features a shower, sink and toilet, and is clad in zinc paneling, which matches the exterior of the home.


It cost only about $20,000 to build this hut. It serves as a sort of prototype, and its basic design can be further customized according to clients’ wishes. I think this tiny home would make a great getaway cabin, or even a full time home.

Eco-Resorts Going up in the Azores


The Azores, a group of gorgeous islands just off the coast of Portugal, has seen increased tourism in recent years. However fortunate that maybe, it also presents a problem for the environment, so in a bid to retain the unspoiled state of the landscape, the local Tourism and Agribusiness Development Company of the Azores (TADA) has come up with a way to preserve it. They will be developing eco-resorts across the islands, which will be sustainable and have a minimal footprint.


The resorts will basically be made up of solar powered cabins, which they are calling the Eco Pods. They are currently planning to build six of these eco-resorts and the first is already under construction in the Vila Franca Do Campo Region of São Miguel Island. It’s set to open in the summer of 2017.


The resort will feature an as yet undisclosed number of Eco Pods. The smallest of these will measure 161 sq ft (15 sq m) and will feature a sleeping area and a sitting area, along with a small food preparation space. The pod will be equipped with a fridge, a coffee machine and a TV. The bathroom will be located outside and will be heated by an external wood burner.


There will also be a few 215 sq ft (20 sq m) Eco Pods. These will have all of the above, but the bathroom will be an inside one. The largest of the Eco-Pods making up the resort will measure 322 sq ft (30 sq m) and will feature all of the above as well as a small kitchenette.

All the EcoPods are prefabricated and raised off the ground on stilts that are made from recycled electricity poles. Among the other materials used for the construction are locally-sourced pumice stone, windows made from recycled plastic bottles, and timber that is grown locally. The cabins will be powered by a solar panel array. The Eco-Pods currently have normal toilets with septic tanks installed, though the plan was to equip them with composting toilets, which sadly fell through.

The Eco-Pods are built to withstand high-winds and earthquakes, while TADA also plans to put the designs to use for other purposes, such as disaster relief housing, or garden pavilions.


Chopsticks Recycled Into Beautiful Modern Furniture

Chopsticks have been around for almost 4000 years, but they also present quite an environmental problem. It is estimated that just in China, around 80 billion chopsticks are thrown away every year, with the number much higher if we factor in all the Asian food restaurants around the world. I’ve often wondered, when eating at an Asian restaurant, what happens to the used disposable chopsticks. And so have the founders of the Vancouver, Canada based startup Chopvalue. They went a step further, and founded a project that turns used chopsticks into awesome pieces of modern furniture and home accessories.

Felix Böck, the founder of Chopvalue is a PhD student at the faculty of forestry at the University of British Columbia. According to his research, over 100,000 pairs of chopsticks get sent to the landfill every day just in Vancouver. That is quite an alarming statistic, which is why he decided to try and offset this waste. He started out by purchasing recycling bins, and asked restaurant owners to use them for throwing away the disposable bamboo chopsticks. Once full, the contents were collected and taken to the Chopvalue lab. There they were first cleaned, then coated in resin and finally hot-pressed with a machine, which yielded a flat board.

These bamboo boards can be cut and assembled to build a wide range of furniture and other accessories for the home, such as tables, shelves, coasters, cutting boards and more. For example, a side table they made reuses almost 4000 chopsticks, while the base for it is made from steel that was salvaged from local demolition sites.

The company was started in July 2016, and thus far, they have already successfully recycled 800,000 chopsticks. The recycling service Chopvalue offers to restaurants is also free of charge and greatly reduces their waste production and consequently the costs associated with waste disposal. This is a great example of how a simple idea executed by a small company can have a far-reaching positive effect on the environment.