Yesterday we joined the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Laneway House Tour to get the inside look at seven new laneway homes around Vancouver. Luckily, our designer, Laurel, was able to join us and even drove us around in her nice car (thanks, Laurel!). There were homes by Smallworks, Lanefab, LaneCraft, and Urban Lane Homes.
It would not be fair to compare homes to homes, because some were built on large lots and could use more square footage, some were obviously built to rent, and most didn’t have furniture so it was very hard for me to tell how places would look when they had people’s “things” in them. It was good to see what different builders and designers did with their homes, given the very strict rules about building LWHs. Of course we had favourites, due to the features that we could appreciate.
Stuff I liked:
- Several homes had low kitchen windows between the upper cabinets and the counter. You get to keep your window and your storage, too.
- paperstone, a product using recycled paper (although I would like a light coloured counter at this stage, and they seem to look best in dark colours)
- lighter kitchen cabinets up top, darker ones below
- smaller appliances
- staircases open to the top level gable, and a spot that overlooked the lower level
- high ceilings
- bathrooms with drawers instead of cabinets below the sinks. A couple of places used IKEA Godmorgon cabinets and they looked very good
- small square floor tiles in the bathroom — about 2 inches square in a dark grey colour
- bathroom mirror lights set into the mirror
- Parallam beams left out in full view — the only thing I took away from one of the houses we looked at
- blinds that pull up from the bottom of the window, rather than from the top. I can see us using them in the upstairs windows, letting in light from above while blocking the view into the room from outside.
- tankless water systems and radiant heat — no more registers and baseboard heaters
- slab doors, interior and exterior
- Smart Garage Doors — I had wondered about how we were going to install a garage door without using one of those systems that take up half the garage ceiling — but these roll into a nice tight tube right inside the door. Not one of the garages was used to park cars in, by the way. Everyone is using them for extra living space, and had TV feeds and telephone jacks already installed.
Stuff I’m not crazy about:
- polished concrete floors — I know they are nice looking and they are hip and stuff, but I just don’t like them. I think they look cold and they remind me of unfinished basements and parking garage floors.
- light coloured floors — nothing like having a few hundred people schlepping through your place (without their shoes on) to show how hard they would be to keep clean
- apron sinks — ugh, just don’t get it. Also those glass-topped stove tops.
- Huge triangle-shaped cathedral windows in the bedroom. Your neighbours are going to get very familiar with your habits, as there is no way to adequately cover those windows with drapes, blinds, or even taped-up newspapers (seriously, you will be awake at 4 every morning in summer)
- hot tub in the living room. Don’t ask.
A couple of things surprised me:
- We were at the first home on the tour a few minutes past 1 pm, and just managed to scoot into the last house a couple of minutes past 5. Keep up the pace or you won’t get to see all the houses
- Except for a couple of examples, the new homes didn’t fit in well with the existing homes. They stood out like a cuckoo in a sparrow’s nest, or a gardenia in a bouquet of daisies. It wouldn’t take much to paint the new places the same colour as the old, or to incorporate some of the same finishes on both structures
- Most of the kitchens were very small — like a total of maybe 25 square feet of area (not a surprise). Almost everyone had nice counters, but a couple of places used cheaper cupboards. You’re going to open and shut that drawer 10 times a day for years — why not get the better product?
- It’s plain that some kitchens were built for looks and not for use. Cupboards placed on their side look great, but you’ll have to hold the door with one hand while taking stuff out with another. A microwave behind a drop-down door? So you open the door and then open the microwave? And you have to do this every time? And the microwave wasn’t facing the rest of the room, it was on the side of the island facing the other counter, no one would really see it
- not one of these homes had the main bedroom on the main floor, like we are planning. That meant that the light just poured into the bedrooms, but a couple of main floors were kind of dark
- And the one thing that surprised me the most? DH and I cannot agree on what colour is yellow. We want to paint the house yellow to match the main house.