The offbeat occupant: Emillie Parrish, at-home mom and food blogger
Other occupants: Husband, 6-year-old son, and 18-month-old daughter
Approximate square footage: 650-1000 sq. feet
How many bedrooms? Two
Lives in: James Bay, Victoria, BC, Canada
When did you move into this home? One year
Let’s start with the neighborhood. What’s it like where you live? We live in James Bay which is a traditionally lower income neighbourhood right in downtown Victoria. However, it’s really one of the best-located neighbourhoods in Victoria, with ocean-front views on three sides, and the large city park on the forth side. Within a four-block radius from my home are the government buildings, several museums, a marina, a ferry terminal, sandy and rocky beaches, a fisherman’s wharf, a petting zoo, playgrounds and most of historical Victoria. We really are spoiled here.
What makes your home offbeat? We live in a co-operative housing unit. Like all co-ops, it’s a blend between ownership and rental. We pay “rent,” but our rent goes towards the cost of our collective mortgage and the building upkeep. We buy in with a nominal share purchase, and collectively we are responsible for all our finances and upkeep. However, it’s not an “investment” like typical home ownership as the value of our share won’t go up over time.
Unlike rentals, every household (or member) has equal voting rights on all major decisions. And everyone has to volunteer to help with running the co-op (usually about 10 hours per month). We also have the ability to make changes in our unit that might not be allowed in a rental. For example, one member put up a climbing wall in his living room! Many of our members have lived here for 15+ years.
We are a small housing co-op with only 18 units. As a result, we are a tight-knit community celebrating many shared events throughout the year, including weekly potluck BBQs during the summer. Our backyard is enclosed, and the children play out there together from dawn to dusk. We are so lucky to have gotten in to the co-op as I can’t think of a better place for my children to grow up.
What’s the most challenging about this space? How do you deal with the challenge? Our lack of space is difficult. We’ve put a lot of our “spare” stuff into storage. Luckily we have a lot of storage space in the co-op, so we could stash away a lot of stuff!
What’s your favorite feature of your home? I love my double balconies and all the little zen-ful spaces that I have sprinkled throughout our home. It’s my way of making peace in the noisy chaos of our lives.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from this home? I learned that home is not the space that you live in, but the community that you live with. Our space is not limited to my home. My kids are always at the neighbour’s, and they know everyone by name.
Recently we had a member pass away. During his last few days in hospice everyone took turns bringing him his favourite foods, sneaking in his dog for a visit, and helping him eat. At one point the nurses asked us to stop, citing that “visits are for family members only.” However, we confidently told the nurse that “we are his family” and kept visiting him right to the end.
I have learned that we are alone in our homes, but we are not alone in our community.
What’s your grandest plan for the space? We want to build a wall of shelving and cupboards into the living room. Then maybe our stuff can all come out of hiding! I also want to mirror the backsplash in the kitchen. I hope to capture all that bright sunlight and breakup the odd combination grey and brown colours.
What advice do you have for other offbeat homies? The best way to fit into a community is to relax. We so often are bent on defining ourselves that we sometimes tread on other people’s toes. It takes all sorts of people to make a community, even people who don’t necessarily agree with my point of view.
Any stuff or services you want to recommend? I’m pretty much into second-hand stuff. However, I do love Capitol Iron, and I’ve bought most of my new stuff from them!
Show me the decor porn!