News Home & Design Garage Converted Into Spacious and Modern Laneway Suite Laneway housing is yet another potential solution in Toronto to the lack of affordable housing. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Published August 29, 2022 02:00PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Lanescape News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Housing costs have soared astronomically in the last few decades, especially in big cities like Toronto, which was recently ranked one of the most unaffordable cities in North America. The city's lack of affordable housing has prompted interest in various solutions, like housing co-ops and community land trusts. Laneway housing is yet another potential solution in Toronto, where a secondary residence could be built in the yard behind an existing main house, or out of a detached garage that opens up into a rear laneway. The laneway suite has an interesting history in Toronto, and thanks to recent shifts in the aging boomer demographic, as well as the eye-popping increase in real estate prices in recent years, laneway housing is now understandably gaining a lot of attention. Lanescape is one local design firm that specializes in laneway suites in Toronto, and we get an in-depth look at how this affordable housing alternative might work via Exploring Alternatives: Located in the Corso Italia neighborhood of Toronto, a former concrete block garage has now been converted into the two-story Hudson Laneway Suite. Intended as a unit that can be rented out by the homeowners of the main house, the carefully designed project encompasses the original (and now renovated) 400-square-foot (37-square-meter) garage, as well as the newly constructed 500-square-foot (46-square-meter) suite on top. Lanescape The second-story suite, which cantilevers slightly over the existing garage on one side, has its own entrance on the ground floor. Lanescape Going up the stairs, we enter into the main living space of the unit, which features a modern, minimalist aesthetic to keep visual clutter to a minimum, therefore giving the illusion of greater space. Lanescape The kitchen is off to one corner of the main living space and has been designed as almost like a "hotel-style" kitchen, perfect for one or two people to have enough space to move around and cook in. Lanescape There are full-sized appliances here, from the dishwasher to the refrigerator, as well as a dual-function convection microwave that can also bake and toast. Everything is minimal in profile, from the undermount sink to the sleek induction stovetop, to make the kitchen feel open and modern. There is a combination of storage types here, from the closed cabinets to the open shelving, lit with LED strips. The cabinets have been designed to not go all the way up to the ceiling, in order to preserve a sense of "airiness and daylight." Lanescape The adjoining dining nook is really well done here, thanks to the inclusion of a large picture window that not only helps to bring in more natural light but also provides space-expanding views out, without impinging on privacy. The designers say they typically do kitchen peninsulas or island eat-in counters, but having an actual, formal dining space here makes it feel like a regular-sized home. Exploring Alternatives The living room is tucked in between the dining and bedroom, and features a custom-made couch and coffee table, which have been carefully tailored to fit into this space, without compromising the flow of circulation between the different zones of the suite. Exploring Alternatives Interestingly, the built-in shelving behind the sofa corresponds to an indentation in the architectural envelope of the suite, which was designed to accommodate an existing mature tree outside—a clever workaround. Exploring Alternatives Opposite the sitting area is a half-wall, which has an alcove built in to house a television. Behind the television, we see a skin of birch plywood emerge up and over, lending a bit of textural warmth to what would have been an otherwise white and sterile space. Exploring Alternatives Most importantly, the design incorporates a skylight above the main living area, which helps to brighten up the interior naturally. Exploring Alternatives Moving over into the bedroom, that bright skin of birch plywood carries over and becomes the wall and headboard behind the custom-built queen-sized bed. There are built-in bedside tables and integrated lighting on both sides. There is ample storage to be found in the wardrobes off to one side. Exploring Alternatives At the other end of the bedroom, we find two doors: one leading to the stacked laundry machines, and another sliding pocket door leading into the bathroom. There is a full-sized sink vanity here, plus a toilet, and a walk-in shower with a glass enclosure. A full-height frosted window here provides lots of light, without losing privacy. Exploring Alternatives Laneway suites are but one potential option when it comes to building more affordable housing. They do have some limitations, as they can be expensive to build. You also have to own the land that it's going to be built on, and laneway suites are not "severable"—meaning they cannot be sold separately from the main house. But as Tony Cunha, Lanescape architect and senior manager, points out in the tour, they can be one part of a larger, more comprehensive solution in places like Toronto: "Laneway suites are one prong in a multi-pronged effort to provide more density in our cities -- so basically, putting more people in less area, with more amenities, without jeopardizing the character of our urban fabric. So really, it's a way to address the gap in density where you have a 40-storey condo housing 3,000 people, and you have a 40-square-kilometer neighborhood housing that same amount of people. So [laneway housing] is not the silver bullet to the housing crisis, but it's one solution in a very complex effort to solve it." To see more, visit Lanescape.