Withrow Laneway House

Laneway houses are a uniquely Canadian phenomenon — at least, the name is Canadian. Around the globe, rising populations and rapid-fire urbanization have forced a kind of ingenuity and resourcefulness when it comes to housing. Annexed mansions, subdivided flats, co-habitation, and even Hong Kong’s notorious ‘coffin homes’ have arisen as solutions to skyrocketing real estate and a serious lack of square mileage (or, more accurately, square footage) per capita.

First gaining popularity on the west coast of Canada, laneway houses in the Metro Vancouver area began cropping up as a means of making use of all available land and providing an affordable alternative to the city’s cutthroat housing market. But for many, these smaller abodes aren’t strictly a budget-friendly option; with similar sentiments that fuelled the rise of the Tiny House movement, there’s a growing trend amongst the xennials and millennials to downsize, simplify, and work towards a minimalist lifestyle and smaller carbon footprint.

Studio North, a Calgary-based interdisciplinary design and build practice, has developed a knack for designing unique laneway housing over the past decade. We recently reached out to learn more about the process and particulars of designing these chic little homes.

“Affordable housing in a thriving city like Calgary is a challenge for many,” says the firm. “We see alleys as a new place for community and dwelling.”

Over the next few weeks we’ll be taking a look at three laneway houses by Studio North. Click through the gallery above for images of Withrow Laneway House, a nine hundred and fifty square foot dwelling in Calgary, Alberta. It is situated behind a municipally designated historic house, which was also renovated by the firm.

“This project offers an opportunity to save one of Calgary’s heritage houses and to build an affordable, compact living space in the inner city,” says the firm. “The income from renting the heritage home to a family will pay the majority of the mortgage on the entire property, giving us the ability to build a laneway house for around $250,000 — about $100,000 less than buying a new condo of a similar size in the same community. This is one of many ways that laneway housing can be used to make owning inner city property in Calgary feasible.

“The contemporary family has changed since the original conception of Calgary’s neighbourhoods. Small, efficient homes offer a lifestyle that is desired by a large demographic of Calgarians, including families with fewer children, elderly people who wish to age in place, and young professionals starting their careers, to name a few. Laneway housing is a mode of development that diversifies housing stock in established neighbourhoods while maintaining the original characteristics of the area.

“The introduction of laneway housing is part of our ambition and vision to sensitively contribute to the established urban fabric of Calgary’s communities. We see it as a small, incremental change that gives neighbourhoods social, economic, and environmental diversity, and creates a vibrant place to live.”

Join us next week for a look at another unique laneway house.



All images courtesy of Studio North