Architect Vanessa Fong has designed a punk rock granny flat
The benefits of multi-generational living are manifold. The challenge, though, is comfortably fitting everyone into an urban home. In 2016, architect Vanessa Fong tried to solve the problem for a growing West End family by designing a basement apartment for the grandparents. The homeowners were interested, but changed their mind when they realized that, as their kids grew, they might need the basement for themselves – for a den or a play space. “Moving wasn’t financially feasible,” says Fong, “so we compared a few different scenarios, and the most logical one was a laneway suite in the back, replacing an old garage.”
Although the design started in 2016, predating the 2018 zoning amendment, Fong knew changes were coming and that the homeowners would eventually become one of the first permit-holders under the new rules. The real challenge? “We didn’t want the grandparents to feel on display, so we really had to think about how to bring in light while ensuring privacy in the lane,” says Fong.
As a workaround, Fong tucked the front door at the side and popped what she calls a “mohawk” out of the laneway-facing side of the suite: a rectilinear projection that’s lined with windows on either side, drawing sunshine into the kitchen, living area and bedroom without allowing direct views to the interior, thus preserving privacy in the laneway home while maximizing natural light. “That’s one of the things I like about laneway home design,” says Fong. “It pushes you to be innovative, to think about what this new form of housing can be.” VF-A.COM