DH and I got into the car yesterday, which is a treat in itself as we usually use transit to get around. But there was not a minute to waste if we wanted to get through all 6 homes in the Vancouver Heritage Foundation Laneway House Tour.
Three years ago, it was the Laneway House Tour we took with our designer, Laurel, that showed us some of th4e features we wanted to incorporate into our lanehouse design.
Two years ago our house-in-progress was part of the tour, a great honour for us.
Now that laneway homes are becoming more and more common, it was interesting to see how the designs are being interpreted across the city, finding solutions to how to keep families together and even how to save a beloved tree.
The first home on the tour was not, strictly speaking, one of this generation of laneway homes. Instead it was a strata-title home tucked behind a heritage house in Point Grey. In 1988, architect Robert Lemon purchased the Barber Residence, built in the art deco style by Ross Lort in 1936. The home straddled the front part of two lots, and Lemon wanted to make sure that the home would not be torn down to take advantage of the land. So with a plan, patience, and perseverance, he convinced the city permit department to let him build a complementary home behind his, and to let him enter into a strata ownership with its inhabitants.
The result was stunning:
At 2340 square feet the home is a spacious one bedroom and den, and those two-storey-high windows bring light and an upstairs view into what could be a rather dark north-facing home. Skylights upstairs also lighten the interior. The decor and artwork are stunning, too. Comfortable but elegant, a perfect partner to the Barbour Residence.
But there was no sense in mooning about what could never be (for us, anyway), on to the rest of the homes.
We zipped up to House 4, just off King Edward Avenue and Columbia. Built on a 150′ by 50′ lot, this was the largest of the laneways we saw, 1000 square feet. There was a nice kitchen and sitting area, but the home is used as a vacation rental, with 3 bedrooms and two baths, so it didn’t say “homey” as much as “convenient”. The take-away from this home was the heating/cooling system — a heat pump. You get heating and cooling with the same system, and it costs much less to run, but costs much more to install.
House 2 is a real cutey:
It’s an adorable one-bedroom cottage, all on one level with lovely high ceilings in the kitchen/sitting area. That rounded front door is repeated in an interior hall archway.
House 3 fits in perfectly with the neighbourhood and allows a mother and child to live on the grandmother’s property (having grandchildren right there is a blessing!):
House 5 provided a solution to a marital break-up that didn’t break up the children’s lives. One ex-partner lives in the house, and one lives in a spacious laneway with room for the children to stay:
House 6 is right in our neck of the woods and provided another solution — how to keep a mature magnolia tree and build a laneway house. Lanefab found the answer:
The house is a reverse plan like ours, with the kitchen/sitting area up top and the bedroom in the lower level.
So what did we take away from the tour? All the homes were well-built, and most had radiant floor heat with boilers instead of water tanks. So new home technology is being used freely in these new builds. I’m sure all are energy efficient, and all make the most of the natural light available to them through windows and skylights.
We met some new builders on the tour, so you have lots of choice when it comes to pick your own you’ll have dozens of options. And the tour showed us that laneways are a solution, not just for Vancouver’s housing shortage, but for all kinds of problems that people have. A way to keep families together, to let children stay in the neighbourhoods they grew up in and to raise their own children there.