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For the Love of Toronto’s Modern Laneway Houses

Fact: Torontonians are housing-obsessed, with a growing subset further enthralled with laneway homes. We share this love for back alley abodes, too, and with pleasure look back on a few of our all time favourites

By Tory Healy

We’ve been at this a long time, featuring, mostly, single family dwellings of the obvious type: semi- and detached houses, apartments, condos and townhouses. Sure there’s been the odd cabin or cottage, even a couple of float homes, but every once in a while another rarity presents itself – the fabled modern laneway house. There are many reasons why this typology is so fascinating. First there’s the history of these structures, and the battles to renovate them (or build anew) are usually epic. It’s the massive amounts of ingenuity modern laneway homes express in such a little footprint that’s most thrilling. They might be on the small side, but laneway homes have a lot to offer in terms of space-saving, sustainability and style. Let’s take a look at five of our all-time favourites:

Modern Laneway Houses
The front of the laneway house, facing onto the shared property, is clad with restored Douglas fir barnboard salvaged from the original structure. Below the dormers, the roof is planted with lavender. Photo by Ben Rahn/A-Frame.

The Laneway House that Harbord Village Built

North of College, in a laneway running parallel to Bathurst, is this stunner designed by LGA Architectural Partners and built by ZZ Contracting, with help from the neighbours. With its glass front that accordions open and contemporary dormers, the new home is a far cry from the crumbling structure that originally sat on this site. Read the story here. LGA-AP.COM

Modern Laneway Houses
The 135-square-metre coach house by Archetype Construction sits nine metres behind the historic main home. Photo by Naomi Finlay.

Between the Lanes

For a guitar-playing thespian, Creative Union Network completely updated this old coach house residing not far from Queen West. The new interior features a double-height living room, a ribbed kitchen ceiling and more storage than you can shake a stick at. Read the story here. CREATIVE-UNION.NET

“I liked the mystery of its abandoned look,” Taylor says of the former dairy, renovated into a home in the early 1980s. But what he loved most was the chance to create a secret garden in the middle of the city. Photo by Gumpesberger Hafkenscheid.

Taylor Made

Architect Michael Taylor, co-founder of Taylor Smyth, has designed some of Toronto’s most contemporary homes – defined by clean lines, clerestories and cantilevered additions. His own home, a modern laneway house at Dupont and Dufferin, reveals trademarks of contemporary design, but the most defining feature is the secret garden. Read the story here. TAYLORSMYTH.COM

Studio Junction Terrace House Toronto Designlines Magazine
A bird’s-eye view shows how Studio Junction carved a two-storey home and courtyard out of an old cinder-block building. Photo by Rob Fiocca.

Living Outside the Box

Probably one of the city’s best known laneway houses, the home of Studio Junction principals Peter Tan and Christine Ho Ping Kong is actually a retrofitted warehouse. Inside is a clerestory, a double height space, a fully glazed wall to bring the outside in and, as you would expect from the studio, incredible millwork. Read the story here. STUDIOJUNCTION.CA

Early on the house was dubbed Origami House, and indeed, space unfolds in unexpected geometries throughout Superkül’s paper-white interior. Photo by Naomi Finlay.

In the Fold

Tucked away deep in the heart of Kensington Market is this little house by Superkül. Unmistakably modern, the house is in fact built on the same footprint as the 1880s worker’s cottage that was gutted by a fire in 2007. See how the dormer illuminates the interior by reading the story here. SUPERKUL.CA

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