To Make Their Home Stand Out, They Covered It in Rows of Protruding Bricks

The family of five’s laneway house has a mesmerizing facade that distinguishes it from neighbors and minimizes solar gain.

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Project Details:

Location: Toronto, Canada

Architect: Williamson Williamson / @wwincto

Footprint: 2,300 square feet

Builder: Wilkin Construction Services

Structural Engineer: Atkins + Van Groll

Structural Engineer: Faet Lab

Landscape Design: Woodhill Garden Centre

Interior Design: Suzanne Wilkinson Interiors

Brick Installer: Magnum Masonry

Brick Supplier: Belden

Cabinetry: Scavolini and Ell-RoHd Holdings

HVAC: McCallum HVAC Design

Concrete Floor: Elemental Flooring

Photographer: Scott Norsworthy / @norsworthscott

From the Architect: "The Garden Laneway House is a 2,300-square-foot, four-bedroom home. Whereas most of the laneway suites built in Toronto under a 2018 by-law are small rental units or bonus rooms that add amenity—and area—to the main house, this laneway suite was designed to be a primary residence. The kitchen, dining, and living space are on the top level, which has the largest floor plate and the best light. Bedrooms for three teen boys are nested on the ground floor and a large basement space contains a primary bedroom lit with a large light well. During construction, the main house was converted into a legal two-unit principal rental, allowing for three families on a single-family lot.

"The family uses the laneway as their front door. The entrance is recessed deep under the carport canopy ensuring privacy from cars that access the garages surrounding the home. The facades facing the street and the laneway, south and north respectively, are primarily solid. The by-law glazing limitations reinforce the desire for privacy from the laneway and the rear windows of the principal rental. Animating the brick facade breaks up this solidity with pattern and shadow. Courses of twisted and nested brick alternate with flat courses. As the bricks are rotated out of plane, they create a triangular shadow pattern on the flat course below. This is not a utilitarian building on a laneway, but one that has presence and enlivens the laneway as a traditional home does a street.

"Inside, windows and skylights illuminate rich and natural materials. Polished concrete floors and oak cabinetry set the primary palette. A light grey trapezoidal balustrade connects the roof to the basement level with an open tread stair, allowing the roof-top skylight to filter light down through the house.

"Brick was selected to give the laneway house the robust presence that houses on the main street have. The house was designed to feel like a primary home, not like the wood and shingle clad garages that are typical of the laneways.

"The aesthetic goals were to bring beauty to the laneway and to create facades that would be animated with light. Brick was important to this because it is a solid modular material. It can be used to create a pattern that will create shadows while providing excellent building envelope performance for the long term. The pattern breaks up the solid facade and as the sun moves around the house, the shadows change shape."

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