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This Laneway Home Maximizes Natural Light and Preserves Privacy

Architect Vanessa Fong has designed a punk rock granny flat

By Matthew Hague
Photography by Scott Norsworthy

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.”

laneway home privacy
The living space is a maxed-out 26 square metres, which includes this kitchen built by the project’s contractor, Hugh Burke.

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.

Just off of the living room – and, uniquely, through the homes “mohawk” – a deck overlooking the laneway provides outdoor space.

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 housing,” says Fong. “It pushes you to be innovative, to think about what this new form of housing can be.” VF-A.COM

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