An Asymmetric Laneway House Reunites a Mother and Daughter in Vancouver
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An Asymmetric Laneway House Reunites a Mother and Daughter in Vancouver

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By Melissa Dalton
Built for a daughter returning to her old neighborhood, this 640-square-foot dwelling feels surprisingly roomy.

This compact laneway house in Vancouver, B.C., was designed for a daughter moving back to the site of her childhood home, where her mother still lives. The new, 640-square-foot abode complies with the city’s laneway housing program, which encourages construction of detached units on laneways to increase soft density. While the program enables homeowners to build rental units, it also creates opportunities, such as it did for this family, for multi-generational living and aging-in-place. 

"The daughter lives in the laneway, her mother in the existing main house," says Javier Campos, principal designer at Campos Studio. "The laneway program allowed her to move back into the same neighborhood where she grew up and reunify the family in a way that would allow them to support each other across generations." 

"The building form was intentionally asymmetric and clad in hand-stained, split-face shakes and metal," says Campos Studio.

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For this project, Campos Studio did not want the laneway house to appear as a miniature Craftsman-revival build, which is a predominant style in Vancouver neighborhoods. Instead, the firm embraced an intentionally asymmetric form as a nod to the family’s Japanese heritage. "The design intended to reflect Japanese traditions that defined the family for generations, embracing qualities that impart imperfection and maintain a strong connection to the natural environment," says Campos.

The exterior shakes were hand-stained to produce natural variation and highlight the material’s texture. "The roof is simple, standing-seam metal panels that help to unify the asymmetrical volume of the house," says principal designer Javier Campos.

"The exterior of the laneway is defined by materials that assert their imperfection," says Campos. The dark color of the metal and shakes stands in sharp contrast to additional exterior detailing, including a soffit and walls clad in white, hand-stained cedar boards, their lightness foretelling the house’s interior.

The exterior materials are carried inside to a slatted entryway that conceals a utility unit and closet.

According to Campos, the challenge of designing a laneway house is making the small footprint feel larger. "The intent of the laneway program was to provide affordable housing through soft density. It has brought ongoing challenges to building form because of the minimal space allowed by this housing typology (640 square feet) to provide a truly livable environment," says Campos. "The challenge was to overcome the limitations of such a small space, and an even smaller footprint, to create serenity and variation. Where it is not the amount of space that matters, but rather the perception of that space as expansive and complex."

It is not the amount of space that matters, but rather the perception of that space as expansive and complex.

—Javier Campos, architect

In the living room, a large built-in sectional with integrated storage frees up floor space and can accommodate more people than freestanding furniture, which would chop up the interior. 

A staircase composed of white metal and pale ash wood treads appears to float in the space. The dark tinted concrete references the color of the exterior shakes.

Campos made sure to capture views to the landscape outside, so as to connect the city home to the natural environment.

"My favorite detail is the way the exterior is framed by the window openings to create a continuous ribbon that expands the interior with focused views of the green spaces," says Campos. "These carefully arranged scenes expand each interior space in a slightly different way, creating a variation and unity that enhance the spaces."

In the kitchen, white Caesarstone counters seamlessly top white flat-front cabinets.

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In the upstairs bedroom, burnt wood flooring echoes the dark concrete floors downstairs, while the window’s angles reflect the rooflines outside. Built-in storage optimally utilizes the available space.

Now that the daughter lives just steps away from her mother, Campos says, "The laneway has reunited the family and provided a house that reflects their cultural heritage in a subtle but significant way." 

Related Reading:

A Compact Laneway House in Toronto Takes Back Underused Space

Can Compact Laneway Houses Like This One in Canada Transform Inner-City Neighborhoods?

Project Credits:

Architecture: Campos Studio / @campos_studio

Builder: Boyd Co. Construction

Structural Engineer: Equilibrium