Peek inside this live-work laneway house

See for yourself how bright pops of colour and industrial details come together in this cool Vancouver live-work space, part of this year’s Modern Architecture and Design Society Home Tour.

September 14, 2016

By Kaitlyn Gendemann / Photo: Colin Perry

“All of our projects are designed in collaboration with our clients, so they’re always reflective of the homeowner’s tastes, personality, and adventurousness,” says Bryn Davidson, principal designer at Lanefab Design/Build (winners of Western Living‘s 2013 Designers of the Year Arthur Erickson Memorial award). It makes perfect sense then that this colourful and eclectic prefab— located in Vancouver’s Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood — is home to a local graphic artist. “She was willing to do something that was a bit different,” says Davidson, “And she obviously has a great sense of colour and style.”

Even the exterior packs a punch. Its corrugated steel cladding and black window frames are juxtaposed with a bright, hibiscus yellow trim and the larger-than-average patio is ideal for entertaining. Outdoor space is usually limited when property owners and renters try to maintain a sense of separation, but because the homeowner built on her mother’s property, Davidson could worry less about privacy. “The fact that it’s an extended family situation gave us the flexibility to make the patio and yard space a kind of shared courtyard between the two buildings,” he says. It also gave the Lanefab team a chance to experiment with an above-ground rainwater collection system (which seamlessly filters into the garden) and gabion retaining wall.

Despite being only 760 square feet, the interior is both spacious and functional. “I think some people come into it [building a laneway home] thinking it’s a glorified garage, but it’s not,” says Davidson. “It’s a full-sized house that’s been shrunken down.” Laneway homes are also governed by different city bylaws (a maximum height restriction of 19 feet, for example), so Davidson and his team have come up with a handful of clever design solutions—like partially sinking the building to maintain a decent ceiling height. “In this case we ended up with a split-level design,” says Davidson. “There’s this vaulted sense of openness.”

The rest of the space is similarly planned according to Lanefab’s tricks of the trade: The upstairs laundry nook and built-in bedroom drawers are both under four feet tall and therefore aren’t calculated in the home’s total floor area (hello, bonus space!) and there’s plenty of extra storage to be had in the crawl space, which extends beneath the entire living room. The homeowner was also keen to maximize practicality, evidenced by her decision to outfit a live-edge countertop on a set of casters. “Most of the time it functions as a kitchen island, but she can pull the whole thing out into the middle of the space in order to sit 8-10 people around the table.”

Working with someone who understands the design process, according to Davidson, is what makes a project like this so unique. “It’s always fun working with a client who says, ‘Yeah, let’s try that out,’ or ‘Let’s see what that looks like.’”

Tour this home and five others on the self-guided MADS Home Tours, which run in both Vancouver (September 17) and  Calgary (September 24) as part of Western Living Design Week. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door, with proceeds supporting design students in each city. More info at

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