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VHF Laneway Tour — another great success!

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.

Vancouver Heritage Foundation Laneway House Tour is October 24

Three years ago, DH and I and our designer, Laurel, took the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Laneway House Tour.  It wasn’t the first time we’d been inside a laneway home — we’d seen a couple of examples — but it was a real eye-opener as to the esthetics of the different builders.  Plus it showed us that we didn’t have to be bound by old-fashioned designs and expectations — we could truly have what we wanted in our home.

Two years ago, our unfinished laneway was part of the Tour — a real honour for us.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to make the tour last year — but we’ve been looking forward to seeing what the VHF have in store for 2015.


This year those hard working people at the Vancouver Heritage Foundation promise fabulous examples of new laneway homes, showing a wide variety of design. Plus you can also see an infill home that was added to the property of a heritage home on the west side of the city over 20 years ago.

This tour is not just for people planning to build a laneway, it’s interesting for everyone who loves good design.  But it’s invaluable if you are looking for ideas to incorporate into your home. We had never seen a small window set into the backsplash between a counter and the upper shelves in the kitchen before we took the tour.  But we’ve got one now, and it makes the kitchen much brighter.  We loved the way open staircases allowed you to see onto the stairs and the lower storey — so our designer put that into our home.  After seeing how bright the upper floors were on the two-storey homes, we confirmed our wish to put our bedroom in the darker ground floor level.

Get your tickets now!  You won’t be able to get into those tasty homes without a valid ticket.  This is a tough tour to do by transit, if you want to see all the homes start right at 1 pm and drive between the homes — carpooling is a good alternative if you can find someone else who wants to take the tour.

See you on October 25!

Vancouver Heritage Foundation Laneway House Tour is October 25!

Get your tickets now for this year’s Vancouver Heritage Foundation Laneway House Tour!  The theme is Heritage, and one of the featured homes is over 100 years old.


The tour is a great way to see what laneway living looks like, and if you are planning a laneway you’ll get lots of good ideas you can incorporate into your plans.

Find out more and get your tickets at the Vancouver Heritage Foundation site.

Laneway House Tour Recap

We had a great time yesterday during the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Laneway House Tour.  We had about 275 people come through, and got to speak with quite a few of them.

Thanks if you came by!

Novell had really put a lot of effort into getting the place ready.  Friday the place was crowded with hard-working trades:

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen

The day of the show, the outside was painted so you could see what our home will look like when it’s finished. They had tidied up the front with river rock and gravel, so it looked nice.  Very nice!


Don’t be fooled by comparing the garage door opening to the height of the gentleman standing inside.  He is very tall.

Inside, it was hard to believe the chaos of the day before had created such calm and terrific-ness.  (Remember, the electricity had been hooked up the day before). All the pot lights were in, and looked great.

In the kitchen most of the cabinets were up (Good work, John from Pacific Rim Cabinets!) and they look fantastic.  They are finished in walnut and the grain matches exactly across the span of doors.  They look just like fine furniture — just the look we are going for in our combined kitchen/dining/sitting space.

The Blomberg fridge and stove from Colony looked super, and we were able to check out the new appliances for how much they can hold (DD will want some help with Christmas dinner, but we’ll have to see if the new oven can hold a big turkey).

Even our kitchen sink was in place, though the counters won’t be installed for another couple of weeks.  We wanted, needed, insisted on a double sink, and though it does take up valuable counter space, we are glad to have it.

The floor was finished upstairs, but the installers were not able to put it in the lower floor as the levelling concrete they had poured was not solid enough.  Novell put down some carpets to keep our shoeless visitors comfortable.

The beautiful tiling was in place in our teensy wash room.  The sink and toilet were there just to indicate where they’ll be installed when the room is finished.

Novell had a plan of the home pinned up in our “closet” area, with numbers corresponding to special features.  Design build efficiencies like the wall thickness, radiant heat, and the mechanical room placement.  Tight space fixes like the shoe storage in the staircase and the garage storage placed up high.  And healthy home solutions like the sundeck and the living roof.

LanewayFeatures20131019 (click to see the pdf)

Grant was there from Live Roof to explain all the advantages of having a living roof.  Everyone wanted to see it, we were happy to oblige, and it looked terrific.

Many thanks to the Vancouver Heritage Foundation and to the volunteers who helped with the crowds.  Cheers, Kim, Maureen, Deb and Sandra.

And thanks to the fantastic blog readers who came up to say hello.  You made my day!

It’s show time! The Vancouver Heritage Foundation Laneway House Tour!

No more rehearsing and nursing our part, we know every part by heart.

Today we’ll spend the afternoon up at the laneway house to meet and greet the participants in the Vancouver Heritage Foundation Laneway House Tour. We are expecting a few hundred people to come through the house, and it is as ready as it can be. The electicity was connected yesterday.

I dropped by the build to find our builder, Angelito, working with the finishing carpenters, the cabinet installer, the electrician, the tiler, the painter, and a couple of other people I couldn’t place.  To say it was a hive of activity would be an insult (busy bees? Ha! slackers in comparison).

We’re the last house on the laneway ticket, at Windermere and 8th Avenue, close to Rupert and Broadway.

If you don’t have a ticket, you can get one at the information booth (Garage of 945 W 33rd Ave.) from 12 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Even if you never make it out our way, I heartily encourage you to buy a ticket, support the VHF, and see some of the other houses out there.  You will never have a better opportunity to see a diversity of laneway homes.

By the way, the outside of the house looks a little different than on the ticket — the siding is on and painted.

The shape -- not the colour.

So this is the shape of the house — not the colour.

See you there!

Getting ready for the Big Show! Places, everyone!

We cannot keep away now — we drop by the house every day.  And every day we see more developments.

Today we couldn’t enter the house because we could hear the whine of the paint sprayers inside.  We admired the siding appearing on the exterior and the forms all ready for the concrete walkway and deck.

The rush is on, not just for us, but also for the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Laneway House Tour on Saturday.  We’re chuffed to be part of the tour, and want to put our best face forward.

The Vancouver Heritage Foundation is happy to have us, and have even put our picture in the invitation:

Cal Patricia Laurel Angelito SherVin editThat’s our crew.  Cute, yes?

Local media are writing up the tour, as in this story in the Vancouver Courier. The house and laneway featured in this story are up in Marpole.

“It originally sat here on a larger piece of property and was one of the original south Granville farmhouses built in 1912. It would be one of the very few surviving houses in the neighbourhood,” said Roberts, who’s owned it for about five years.

Laneway homes are being celebrated for helping retain the charm and character in older neighbourhoods while still supporting densification.

Will we see you on Saturday?  We’ll be there, and the house will be about 90% finished.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that BC Hydro will have us hooked up by the time of the tour, but that is completely beyond our control.  Except for the finger crossing of course.

Novell has promised to have something special for people who come to our house.  And N.A.T.S. Nursery might be there, too to talk about living roofs.

Hope to see you!  Be sure to say hello.

We’re a house! With a living roof!

I went out of town for a few days, and came back to see a HUGE difference in the laneway house.

Inside, the drywall has been put up and mudded.

Looking south in the upper storey:

Looking due south

Looking due south

See the rolled steel cladding on the outside deck?

The north wall of the kitchen

The north wall of the kitchen

And although the outside still has not received the final siding, there have been many changes

Yesterday the living roof was installed.

Yesterday the living roof was installed.

Today you can see how far the hardscaping has come:

Rebar and framing ready for the concrete.

Rebar and framing ready for the concrete.

The power still has not been connected to the laneway.  All the electricity to run the dryers and de-humidifiers that ready the drywall for painting have to be run with extension cords plugged in to different circuits in the main house (so they don’t overload each circuit and trip the breaker).

The great push will ensure that the Vancouver Heritage Foundation‘s laneway tour will see our little house in good form.  Have you bought your tickets yet?  It’s a great way to see the most laneway houses in the least expense of time.

Remember, there’s still a lot to be done in a short amount of time (losing a day on Monday for Thanksgiving Day).  The interior has to be painted and the flooring and tiling completed, the kitchen cupboards must be installed and the exterior siding must be put on.  The lights have to be connected, too.  So everyone is putting in extra hours to make it all come together.



The front door is open, but just give us a chance to straighten up the place inside.

Cute and little house in the woods.

Trying to fit as much living space — and style — into 500 square feet can be a real challenge.  You can see how that challenge is being met on the Vancouver Heritage Foundation Laneway House Tour on Saturday, October 19.  Get your tickets now for a great afternoon of discovering all the ways designers meet the constraints of building a home in a tightly restricted size limitation.  Our place and one other are the smallest homes at 500 square feet.  Some of the others go up to nearly 1000.  But in every one you will find lots of great decorating and renovating ideas.

Be listening to the Home Discovery Show Sunday morning, October 13, for a chance to win tickets to the tour!

Far away from Vancouver’s urban densification, homeowners outside of Golden, Colarado found themselves with a similar dilemna.  They wanted to build a studio/guest house close to their main dwelling, up in the Rocky Mountains.  But they were restricted by building codes to build in the footprint of a recently-demolished shack — to just 500 square feet.  And they wanted the new structure to fit in with the rustic style of their existing residence.

As this story in Houzz shows, the answer was a delightful little “Hobbit House” seemingly growing out of the granite of the hills.

Rustic Exterior by Golden Architects & DesignersTKP Architects pc

From the quaint rounded front door to the slate roof, every detail was carefully planned and executed.  Guests can make themselves at home in a loft bed

Rustic Bedroom by Golden Architects & Designers TKP Architects pc
Or a Murphy bed
Rustic Bedroom by Golden Architects & Designers TKP Architects pc
And the “kitchen” is actually a studio for the owner, a jewellery designer
Rustic Living Room by Golden Architects & Designers TKP Architects pc
There’s a modern bathroom that still fits the quaint esthetic (a custom concrete sink keeps the theme going).
Rustic Powder Room by Golden Architects & Designers TKP Architects pc
And the fireplace and open beams are a perfect way to incorporate “Hobbit” charm. The mullioned windows along one side are actually doors that slide open to the deck.
Rustic Living Room by Golden Architects & Designers TKP Architects pc
Once again we see that good design can overcome site difficulties.  Who wouldn’t want to make their way to this guest house after a day of hiking or skiing?
Rustic Exterior by Golden Architects & Designers TKP Architects pc

We will live a well-insulated life in our laneway

The laneway house is now on an accelerated completion schedule.  Because we have to be ready for the Vancouver Heritage Foundation‘s Laneway House Tour, we will be working hard to present a nice looking, almost-finished house to the participants. And by “we” I mean our builders.

So it was good to meet with Laurel and Angelito from Novell this week to see what’s happened and talk about what will be happening.

The rain-screening is complete on the exterior and just needs the sign-off from the home warranty inspector before the Hardie Board goes on.

The interior has all been insulated — and well-insulated, too.  We have a combination of batten and spray foam.

Here's a combination of batten and closed-cell spray foam

Here’s a combination of batten and closed- and open-cell spray foam

Here is batten above and open-cell spray foam below.

Here is batten above and closed-cell spray foam below.

Upstairs you can see the south-facing wall and the ceiling/roof:


Here’s the gable over the stairs with spray foam.


And here’s what’s going to keep us toasty in our shower:


You can see the packages of tiling here — ready to be installed once the special water-resistant drywall is in place.

The spray foam is a combination of open-cell and closed-cell.

Monday we will meet with the landscaper.  There’s not a large area to be landscaped, but we want it to be extra nice, for ourselves of course, but also for the people in the Main House and for the neighbourhood.

Next week we’ll see huge changes:

  • drywall
  • hardscaping
  • by Friday – tilework to start / doors installed / green roof and deck tiles installed

After Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving is the second Monday in October) we’ll see even more changes:

  • flooring
  • cabinets and appliances
  • smart garage door
  • plumbing and electrical finish

It may be a little cool in the house for the tour, Fortis isn’t scheduled to come in until October 22 to hook up the natural gas for the heating system, and we probably won’t have the counters installed in the kitchen.  But for the most part we will have a completed house.

It’s a laneway house world!

It’s that magical time of year again!  It’s time to get your tickets for the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Laneway House Tour!! We always support this effort to expose everyone to the best of laneway living.  But this year (and for the only time!) we are part of it!!!  No wonder I’m going crazy with the exclamation marks!!!!

The city is bragging about how many laneway houses are being built. It’s a movement that is taking hold.

The Huff Po is asking people to rent laneway houses.

And Global TV pointed out where laneway houses work for the increase of affordable housing in Vancouver — and where they don’t work.

And the Vancouver Sun mentioned our project (and my name!!!!!)

Maybe it’s the time of year (or as Joni says, maybe it’s the time of man) but the focus right now is on laneway homes.

We are SO PROUD to be part of this movement.

Shelley Fralic pointed out the one problem with laneway homes

Laneways are a good idea, especially as a means of increasing urban density and affordable housing while discouraging demolition. They provide rental income, and accommodation for university students or family members who don’t want to leave a cherished neighbourhood and their local support systems.

But here’s the problem with laneway houses.

They are built on lanes. Right on lanes. Which means, not to put too gritty a point on it, that when you live in a laneway house, you become a resident of a back alley, which is not always the most savoury of locales in which to spend your golden years.

True dat, Shelley, we will definitely be looking at the alley.  But, unlike our alley-facing condo where we lived (happily) for 13 years, we will have a south-facing laneway view — sunnier than where we lived before.  And as the TV story said, having eyes on the laneway will increase the security for the whole neighbourhood.

Are laneway houses the answer for affordable housing in Vancouver?  Of course not.  But they are part of the answer.  Co-op housing. low-rise condos, high-rise apartments, rentals, basement suites, are all part of the solution.

We are part of the solution.  And it just feels right.

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