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For the Love of Toronto’s Modern Laneway Houses

For housing-obsessed Toronto, laneway homes are gaining popularity for the unique opportunity they offer to enter the residential market. Here, we take a look back at a few of our all-time favourites.

By Tory Healy

We’ve been covering various types of housing for a long time now, mainly focusing on single-family dwellings such as semi-detached, detached houses, apartments, condos and townhouses. Although there have been some exceptions such as cabins or cottages, and even a couple of float homes, every once in a while, a rarity presents itself – the elusive modern laneway house. There are many reasons why these structures are so fascinating. Firstly, the history behind these buildings and the challenges faced in renovating or building them are usually quite noteworthy. But what’s most exciting is the amount of ingenuity and creativity that modern laneway homes display in such a small footprint. Though they may be small in size, laneway homes offer a lot in terms of space-saving, sustainability, and style. Let’s take a look at some of our favourite laneway homes in the city.

Parkdale laneway house
This all-electric, high-performance laneway home brims with sustainable design gestures.

A Celebration of Place

From the upper floor of this laneway house located in Toronto’s Parkdale neighborhood, one can experience a unique “backdoor perspective” of the city, as described by its architect Melodie Coneybeare from Solares Architecture. According to Coneybeare, “This is an urban home, and it faces a city view of rooftops and a laneway.” The laneway house has been designed in such a way that it allows the inhabitants to have an interesting and unique view of the city from the upper floor, showcasing the rooftops and the laneway. The architect has cleverly used the location of the house to provide a unique viewpoint of the city to the residents. Read the story here.

Brandon Donnelly and Gabriel Fain house
An interesting geometric form arose when the design was tweaked to accommodate an encroaching 100-year-old tree.

Long Time Coming

After eleven years of planning and collaboration, Brandon Donnelly, a real estate developer, and Gabriel Fain, an architect, successfully constructed a stunning laneway house. Their shared passion for architecture is evident in the final product, which boasts a sleek black exterior and pristine white interior, accented by a charming mint-green door. The laneway house serves as a striking improvement to the previously barren and unutilized land. Read the story here.

Laneway Houses Toronto
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 laneway home design is a far cry from the crumbling structure that originally sat on this site. LGA-AP.COM

Toronto Laneway House
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

modern home layout - Architect Michael Taylor
“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
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

Origami residence by Superkül
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 laneway 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


Old Coach House in Toronto
Photo by Riley Snelling.

How an Old Coach House Became a Modern Laneway Home

Not needing his home in Toronto anymore but still wanting a place in the city to call his own, a globetrotting creative director looked to his back lane. His century-old coach house was the perfect candidate to become a modern laneway home.

laneway house - Architect Craig Race design
Photo by Dave Rempel.

This Modern Laneway Suite is Built for Quick Getaways

Architect Craig Race designed a highly functional laneway home that accommodates both a homeowner and a lot of horsepower. The standard garage door was replaced with a fully insulated wall, which is on a hydraulic lift to hoist the heavier assemblage. The laneway home is located in the St. Clair and Bathurst area.

Prefab laneway house

This Prefabricated Laneway Home is Designed for Everywhere

The Superkül concept home is energy-efficient, modular and (relatively) inexpensive. When conceiving a prefab laneway home called Laneway Suite 1.0, the architect firm decided to push for an even greener design. The goal was to aim for Passive House standards, the certification process for the energy-efficient construction of buildings that consume up to 90 per cent less than comparable structures.

Vanessa Fong Design
Photo by Scott Norsworthy.

This Laneway Home Maximizes Natural Light and Preserves Privacy

In 2016, architect Vanessa Fong attempted to address the issue of a growing family in the West End by designing a basement apartment for the grandparents. The homeowners initially liked the idea, but later changed their perspective as they realized that as their children grew, they might need the basement space for themselves, such as for a den or play area. To overcome this issue, the logical solution was to build a laneway suite at the back, replacing an old garage.

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