A Compact Laneway House in Toronto Takes Back Underused Space

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By Melissa Dalton
Following a new policy change that allows housing units in Toronto’s back lanes, LGA Architectural Partners builds a crisp, light-filled example.

Thanks to a policy change in the summer of 2018, Toronto is encouraging residents to build small abodes along back lanes that were previously dominated by garages, making room for people rather than cars. These laneway houses are self-contained and typically sit on the same lot as a detached house, semi-detached house, or townhouse.

The College Laneway House by LGA Architectural Partners occupies a small footprint—just 1,450 square feet—where a dilapidated fishing lodge once stood. Its pitched roof blends in with adjacent buildings.

The College Laneway House by LGA Architectural Partners occupies a small footprint—just 1,450 square feet—where a dilapidated fishing lodge once stood. Its pitched roof blends in with adjacent buildings.

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"Toronto’s laneway by-law has the potential to improve the livability of our city while transforming lanes into neighborhood spaces," says architect Brock James of LGA Architectural Partners. 

The firm proves this theory with the recently completed College Laneway House. "College Laneway House addresses many of the typical challenges the upcoming wave of laneway houses will face," says James. "It provides compact, yet spacious-feeling rooms; framed views and landscape elements that provide privacy; and windows and skylights that bring light in at all times of day."

A strip of clerestory windows brings in lots of natural light to the living room, while their high sills encourage privacy from the lane.

A strip of clerestory windows brings in lots of natural light to the living room, while their high sills encourage privacy from the lane.

In order to maximize space, the architects utilized a split-level design that includes the living areas on the main level, two upstairs bedrooms, and a walk-out basement beneath the dining room. The wood siding was salvaged and restored from the previous building on-site, in order to bring warmth to the gray, seamed metal and reference the neighborhood's past.

In order to maximize space, the architects utilized a split-level design that includes the living areas on the main level, two upstairs bedrooms, and a walk-out basement beneath the dining room. The wood siding was salvaged and restored from the previous building on-site, in order to bring warmth to the gray, seamed metal and reference the neighborhood's past.

The interior includes furnishings from Nirvana Home, Article, and Restoration Hardware. The open staircase with clear balustrades keeps sight-lines clear and uncluttered.

The interior includes furnishings from Nirvana Home, Article, and Restoration Hardware. The open staircase with clear balustrades keeps sight-lines clear and uncluttered.

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HAY Élémentaire Chair
HAY Élémentaire Chair
For these streamlined, molded polypropylene designs, the concept was simple: accessibly priced chairs in subdued colors, designed for everyday use. "Not too loud, not too shy. Just exactly balanced," explains Ronan Bouroullec of the chair he designed with his brother Erwan.
IKEA HILVER Table
IKEA HILVER Table
This desk is made of bamboo which is a durable, renewable and sustainable material.
Room & Board Watson Sofa
Room & Board Watson Sofa
A winning combination of clean, timeless styling and tuxedo arms makes Watson an excellent choice for family rooms or living rooms. The shallow seat and high-resiliency foam cushions are just right for people who prefer a supportive sit. Two bolster pillows are included for versatility.
The kitchen was sunk down a few steps to better define it from the rest of the living spaces. Built-in Douglas Fir cabinetry, courtesy of Built Work Design, maximizes storage. The custom Douglas Fir table is by ZZ Contracting.

The kitchen was sunk down a few steps to better define it from the rest of the living spaces. Built-in Douglas Fir cabinetry, courtesy of Built Work Design, maximizes storage. The custom Douglas Fir table is by ZZ Contracting.

Sinking the kitchen floor let the architects optimize the glazing. The breakfast bar at the end of the room lets diners look out over the backyard, while the nearby freestanding cabinetry, designed by Built Work Design, offers streamlined storage that doesn't detract from the sight lines.

Sinking the kitchen floor let the architects optimize the glazing. The breakfast bar at the end of the room lets diners look out over the backyard, while the nearby freestanding cabinetry, designed by Built Work Design, offers streamlined storage that doesn't detract from the sight lines.

In an upstairs bedroom, a generous skylight from Big Foot Windows and Doors expands the sense of space and increases the natural light.

In an upstairs bedroom, a generous skylight from Big Foot Windows and Doors expands the sense of space and increases the natural light.

There is a half bath on the main level and this full one upstairs, which also has a skylight and generous ceiling height, thanks to the pitched roof. Douglas Fir cabinetry keeps consistent with the rest of the house.

There is a half bath on the main level and this full one upstairs, which also has a skylight and generous ceiling height, thanks to the pitched roof. Douglas Fir cabinetry keeps consistent with the rest of the house.

Project Credits:

Architect: LGA Architectural Partners / (@lga_ap

Builder: ZZ Contracting

Structural Engineer: Moses Structural Engineers

Millwork: Built Work Design

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