Friday, 19 April 2013

Design Tour - Ajoupa Garden Cottage

View from outdoor deck (Photo courtesy
 Nestled in the hills of  Upper Carapichaima, Chickland Village in Central Trinidad lies a quiet retreat for artists and writers to be inspired, surrounded by lush vegetation and rolling terrain. The quaint 19th century ajoupa styled cottage, characterized by its gable roof and wooden fa├žade (some versions employ mud/brick) sits on a four acre property and is run by Bunty and Rory O'Connor of Ajoupa Pottery. The former estate house (gingerbread style) is the couple's main abode, while the one bedroom cottage is the retreat, your home away from home.
Turning off the main road you're met with a beautiful tree lined entry which signifies what lies ahead. On entering this hidden pathway you understand that you are entering something special, you get a sense of the exquisiteness that lies ahead. Nature lovers beware, you will fall in love with the place. There are no photos of this pathway, they don't do it justice so, you'll just have to experience the majestic quality yourself!

On your arrival to Ajoupa Gardens there seem to be several pathways to treats beyond. One such, is the pathway to the cottage retreat below.
Pathway and entry to Ajoupa Garden Retreat  (Photo courtesy
The brightly coloured exterior reflects the warmth of this tropical paradise and that of the owners. This warmth and relaxation will seep into your soul and fill you with peace and serenity.
With Love...(Photo courtesy 
Downstairs-Main Living/Dining Area
Open Plan Kitchen/Dining allows views of the rolling plains beyond
 (Photo courtesy
The lattice work on the Eastern wall offers views to the exterior garden and the entry of North-Easterly prevailing winds. Throughout the morning, this decorative pattern provides an interesting play of light and shadow on the floor and walls. The cottage uses various species of recycled lumber including cedar, olivier and fiddle wood (locally called bois fidele) from one of the old cocoa houses that existed on the estate.
Bright and cherry kitchen (Photo courtesy
The Eastern wall of the cottage uses hurricane shutter windows which allow the cool tropical breezes in during the day and can be lowered to protect guests from the early morning sun or driving rain. The tropical foliage also provides a good measure of shading.
Wooden Shutters and streaked olivier wood graces the Eastern wall
(Photo courtesy

The Western wall seen below, is the original end of the cottage but this was amended in 1990 when an annex was constructed to accomodate a growing family. This included the addition of a writing room downstairs, which doubles as sleeping quarters for two small children or adults and an upstairs bedroom with lookout deck. This once family abode, now welcomes guests from around the world. The old Western wall contains built-in storage which displays Ajoupa pottery work, knick knacks and books.

Built-in storage displays pottery and books
Terracotta Sconce designed and made by Bunty O'Connor
Writing Room (Photo courtesy
The vibrant blue that weaves throughout the main living area
makes its way onto a folding accent chair.
Upstairs-Main Sleeping Area
The main sleeping area is located on the upper floor of the annex and looks out to the surrounding gardens below. The space is equipped with a few pieces of exquisite antique furniture collected at garage and estate sales over the years.

Colourful accents liven up the upstairs space
Antique storage piece
Bedroom balcony looks out into the garden below
You can book your spot at the Ajoupa Garden Cottage by contacting Bunty at or visit her at ajoupa garden cottage at to view more beautiful photos of the space and surrounding garden.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

DIY-Indoor Tin Can Planter

Unfortunately for us in Trinidad and Tobago, there isn't much of a drive to recycle anything. Carib Glassworks is doing their bit for glass, Recycle in Motion, Plastikeep, Piranha International and Secure Recycling Limited for plastics but where are our tin cans going at the end of the day? Into the landfills where they take 150-200 years to degrade. My planter is in no way a solution for the lack of aluminum recycling in our country but it's a way for you and me to reduce some of our personal trash reaching the already overflowing landfills. Using tin cans you can create your own indoor herb garden without much effort or money. You can also use old pots and pans in a similar way to create a suspended flower garden.

Here's what you'll need:
  1. Tin cans
  2. 1 Nail
  3. Hammer
  4. A white ceramic/glass/clay tray or an old saucer or plate is fine
  5. Herbs for planting
  6. Soil
  7. Clear nail polish/lacquer
  • Spray Paint
A. Tin Can Prep

  1. Remove the labels from the cans. This way you have uniformed, neutral coloured cans. If you wish you can spray paint your cans. I would opt for a mettalic colour or white.
  2. Create drainage holes or you'll rot the roots of your plants. Using the nail and hammer, punch 4-5 evenly spaced holes at the bottom of the cans.
  3. Using the nail lacquer brush paint lacquer all over the bottom of  the can and on the side/circumference of the can up to about 1/4 inch (to prevent rusting).  
B. Prep cans for Plants
  1. Add a layer of gravel or small stones/pebbles to the can.
  2. Add soil
C. Adding Plants

  1. Make a small hole in the soil and place the roots and part of the stem of the selected plant in the hole and cover area with additional soil.
  2. Using your fingers gently press down the soil around the stem of the plant to secure the plant from falling over. Be careful not to compact the soil too much.
D. Planter base
Here I used a black decorative dish I usually place fruits in for display. A white rectangular ceramic tray would look really nice in this project especially if the cans are lined up along the longest part of the tray.

  1. Fill your chosen base with river rocks or pebbles or place tin can with plant in base then fill with river rocks or pebbles. You may place the tin cans on top of the stones and allow water to drain to the base to be evaporated during the day or opt to not use the river stones at all.
  2. Place planter in an area on your counter that receives sunlight during the day. Do not put the planter ontop of your microwave. If using seedlings like I did with most of the herbs here, allow them to flourish a bit before using them for seasoning your masterpieces.

 This tin can garden is particularly useful for people living in apartments with little or no gardening space. You can also use this technique with seedlings until they are ready to be planted in a garden.

You can can get crazy with it 0_0 Here's a sample of my tiny container garden complete with 1/2 a 'Crix tin' planting on the far right.