Touring small homes

Two Saturday ago we were lucky enough to attend another offering of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation Laneway Tour.  We did the same thing last year, when we were in the very early stages of figuring out what to build on our newly acquired lot.  While last years peak into little homes was focused on design, layout and builders, this year we were all about the finishing details and the people.  It was really so nice to see so many home owners on-site this year, sharing their home with curious tour participants like us.

Last year, we braved a long line up to view Tania and Scott’s “Pint-sized house“.  I’d admired the exterior and the upstairs bedroom from what they had shared on their blog, but then there were nice little finishing details like the ledge at the back of the kitchen counter top – just big enough to put your salt, pepper and cook book stand on so that you don’t have to pick them up every time you wipe the counter.  (That may not be the why or the how, but it struck me as a smart move.)  The placement of a skylight at the corner of the stair case was also a nice surprise.  We knew we’d want a 90 or 180 degree turn in our stairs and the way the light washed in really added to the quality of the living space downstairs.  It’s no coincident that our stairwell has a similarly located skylight.

We also found another Smallworks home that was very in-line with what we were thinking at the time.  The finishing, the layout and the ample kitchen of the Arbutus really resonated with us.  This year we met other folks on the tour that also liked that house… so much so that they had nearly the same home built in their yard last spring and summer.  By swapping the location of the kitchen and living space around a great home plan became an even better one!

It’s a fact that I really like the homes Smallworks builds – there’s something about the nod to the past with the exterior architecture and the distinct lack of new home VOC smells. My favourite this year included an entry with a closet and nearby powder room and it’s exterior colouring is much like ours.

Another couple liked one of the houses they toured last year too so they signed up with that builder and now construction of a new space for their son and daughter-in-law is nearing completion.  It was really nice to see their space that isn’t fully finished yet.  We recognized the cut off bolts and foundation under the stairs.  It looks like they’re making a book shelf there too, although instead of the vertical beams (and false beam to accommodate a sewer pipe) that we’re going to have, they used a paralam beam on an angle to carry the weight of the stairs.

This year we also met Patricia and her dh who are building the tiniest house that was in the tour.  It may be small but it was easy to see that the new homeowners are delighted with what is developing before their eyes.

The last stop of our day was one we nearly missed because the exterior architecture was not of remote interest to me at all and I was exhausted from a whole day in city traffic.  I’m so glad we went though, as it was by far the best house on the inside.  The builder and land owner was a really interesting character and we had our best visit and conversation in his lane house.  His home was designed with the help of architect Helen O’Toole who has since passed away and when I find links to his project or photos I will be sure to add them.

As an owner in the midst of a build, I so appreciate that the folks from Heritage Vancouver were so strict on their no photo policy. I never even saw a camera or phone inside any of the homes! And I truly appreciated that so many owners were on site to share their stories and inspiration. It was a great way to spend an October day!


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