Toronto's Mini House

written by:
November 2, 2010

Squeezed into a 14-foot-wide lot along a Toronto street originally developed for worker housing in the 1880s is fingerprint technician and musician Patrick Flynn’s 566-square-foot house by Linebox Studio. Now defined by a multitude of architectural styles, the street’s character has changed but the tiny lot sizes, resulting in homes that measure between 300 and 500 square feet, have remained. Flynn’s home—considered large by its surrounding standards—was conceptualized by Andrew Reeves, principal at Linebox, in close concert with the owner, a true minimalist who owns only a handful of T-shirts and sleeps on a yoga mat on an upstairs perch in the home. “What I hoped to really get at was a simple, industrial house with no ornamentation—very small and not excessive,” says Flynn. The resulting double-height structure, clad in concrete and Galvalume, “is totally green by scale,” says Reeves, who has dedicated a blog to the project. “It’s rare to be able to design a space around someone willing to go that stripped down and minimalist, with very raw materials.”

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  The house reaches above the neighboring homes but remains architecturally united; its windows reference those of the house immediately next door. “The neighbors’ houses on either side vary in their setbacks, so we found a compromise that would work with both,” notes the architect. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
    The house reaches above the neighboring homes but remains architecturally united; its windows reference those of the house immediately next door. “The neighbors’ houses on either side vary in their setbacks, so we found a compromise that would work with both,” notes the architect. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
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  The lot, which extends back 40 feet, formerly held a home that had become a meth lab and was razed, so the owner and architect were able to begin with a blank slate. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
    The lot, which extends back 40 feet, formerly held a home that had become a meth lab and was razed, so the owner and architect were able to begin with a blank slate. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
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  Despite construction delays resulting from a strike by city workers that extended the variance and permit process, due to its simplicity and size, the home was completed in just over a year. The project ultimately came in under budget, with construction costs hovering around $250,000, and total build-out, including land, city costs, lawyer fees, etc., around $385,000. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
    Despite construction delays resulting from a strike by city workers that extended the variance and permit process, due to its simplicity and size, the home was completed in just over a year. The project ultimately came in under budget, with construction costs hovering around $250,000, and total build-out, including land, city costs, lawyer fees, etc., around $385,000. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
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  Prior to construction, the architect studied light patterns and views for the most efficient and private window placement, which mirrors the verticality of the house. “All the neighbors seem happy and are complimentary of the house,” says Flynn. “Even food delivery guys going to the neighbors’ houses knock on my door, and I tell them to go in and take a look.” Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
    Prior to construction, the architect studied light patterns and views for the most efficient and private window placement, which mirrors the verticality of the house. “All the neighbors seem happy and are complimentary of the house,” says Flynn. “Even food delivery guys going to the neighbors’ houses knock on my door, and I tell them to go in and take a look.” Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
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  Reeves incorporated a slight pitch into the roof, which plays off of that of the neighboring houses. “The rooflines definitely respond to the weird angles of the roofs immediately around the property,” says Reeves. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
    Reeves incorporated a slight pitch into the roof, which plays off of that of the neighboring houses. “The rooflines definitely respond to the weird angles of the roofs immediately around the property,” says Reeves. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
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  “The back of the house is fully glazed,” says Reeves, who says the liberal use of glass at the rear elevation allows Flynn to enjoy sunlight and views to the cedar patio and small backyard—his first in many years, having been a condo tenant for a long time. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
    “The back of the house is fully glazed,” says Reeves, who says the liberal use of glass at the rear elevation allows Flynn to enjoy sunlight and views to the cedar patio and small backyard—his first in many years, having been a condo tenant for a long time. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
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  Reeves incorporated a sort of architectural refrain in the openings at the roof’s apex, which create interesting shadows on the exterior. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
    Reeves incorporated a sort of architectural refrain in the openings at the roof’s apex, which create interesting shadows on the exterior. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
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  Just inside the entrance is a small work area and a highly efficient kitchen with a two-burner induction stove on a rolling cart that can be stored away when not in use. The concrete floors are radiant-heated. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
    Just inside the entrance is a small work area and a highly efficient kitchen with a two-burner induction stove on a rolling cart that can be stored away when not in use. The concrete floors are radiant-heated. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
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  Near the floor-to-ceiling glass door to the backyard is a clean-burning ethanol fireplace to supplement the radiant-heated floors. “I wanted a really modern-looking wood-burning fireplace, but it was too costly,” says Flynn. “I found this piece for a fraction of what a wood-burning fireplace would have cost, and it can be moved outside.” At top is the small sleeping loft, where Flynn has a small open closet and where he rolls out a yoga mat to sleep on each night. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
    Near the floor-to-ceiling glass door to the backyard is a clean-burning ethanol fireplace to supplement the radiant-heated floors. “I wanted a really modern-looking wood-burning fireplace, but it was too costly,” says Flynn. “I found this piece for a fraction of what a wood-burning fireplace would have cost, and it can be moved outside.” At top is the small sleeping loft, where Flynn has a small open closet and where he rolls out a yoga mat to sleep on each night. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
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  A concrete pathway leads to the steel stairway to the sleeping loft, beneath which is a decorative “garden” of rocks with fluorescent tube lighting. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
    A concrete pathway leads to the steel stairway to the sleeping loft, beneath which is a decorative “garden” of rocks with fluorescent tube lighting. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
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  Skylights punctuate the ceiling above the loft, bringing in more indirect light. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
    Skylights punctuate the ceiling above the loft, bringing in more indirect light. Photo courtesy Linebox Studio.
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  The exterior design stayed true to its original incarnation, as envisioned in the architect’s 3-D rendering. Image courtesy Linebox Studio.
    The exterior design stayed true to its original incarnation, as envisioned in the architect’s 3-D rendering. Image courtesy Linebox Studio.
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  The floor plan. Image courtesy Linebox Studio.
    The floor plan. Image courtesy Linebox Studio.

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