Three’s Company—The Perfect Laneway House
This sleek laneway home is just right for a family of three. That’s because dad, Doug Weibel, was both the designer and general contractor. Look inside the perfect space he created for his family.
During their life together in New York City, Lisa Thé and Doug Weibel never invested much design time in any one home; they knew they’d be moving again soon. “I lived in one home a year, every year, for eight years in a row,” says Lisa. Furniture was something you forced the space to accommodate, or nabbed from the alley (Doug has a knack for spotting quality discarded furniture that he can refurbish).
When the couple finally came home to Vancouver, things changed. Lisa’s parents wanted a laneway house they could one day rent out, so Doug (then fully employed, now head of his own company, Weibel Projects) offered to be both designer and general contractor. “This would be a place for us to live in, and maybe even for our son to live in when he’s older,” says Doug.
The mod, light-filled space isn’t large for a couple plus baby—one-year-old Davis was born just months after they moved in. But a series of space-saving techniques have made this home roomy enough that Lisa and Doug use the upstairs for work and sleeping while the bottom floor can be devoted entirely to entertaining and living.
“It’s smaller but far more functional than the two-bedroom we were living in before,” says Lisa. At 770 square feet of living space, the home takes advantage of several allowable exclusions (based on lot size) to stretch beyond the standard 612 square feet that the City of Vancouver permits for laneway houses.
Even the landscaping was completed with an eye to maximizing space: the adjoining patio was pushed to the width of a compact parking stall so that extra parking could potentially be accommodated in the future.
Inside, a clean and open living space features a floor-to-ceiling media wall that blocks out unwanted views while storing shoes, jackets, electronics, magazines and Davis’s growing toy collection. A teak dining table was lopped off at the knees and now serves as a coffee table—but Doug saved the lower half of its legs so he can bolt them back on in advance of dinner parties. (The leaves fold out to accommodate up to eight diners.)
Porcelain tile on the main floor flows from living room to kitchen, where Doug installed an overachieving closet that holds not just the washer and dryer but also a sink and toilet.
“Hey,” says Lisa, “in New York this is totally normal.” (A proper ensuite bathroom was built upstairs, but giving guests a bathroom they didn’t need to cross a bedroom to access seemed like a key touch of civility.)
On the second floor, a single, 18-foot-long room does double-duty as sleeping quarters and also as a two-person workspace, complete with two Ikea desks (Lisa’s is a hand-me-down from the 1980s). Under-bed rollout storage keeps things in order, as does a built-in floor-to-ceiling cabinet that the couple installed after they realized they wanted more room for bathroom toiletries. (“It’s the exact depth of a roll of toilet paper,” says Doug.)
The home is a happy mixture of pure design and the resourcefulness that embodies the laneway house spirit. “I don’t go shopping in alleys myself,” says Lisa with a laugh, though Doug adds: “But people throw good stuff away all the time!” Home from a stroll in the park, for example, they might rest in a vintage Eames chair they’ve put outside—which they saved from somebody’s garbage. Even the fence, built by Doug, is reclaimed cedar cut from old fence components cut into a slender profile and made to fit their home. wl
Designer and contractor, Weibel Projects, 604-379-9133, weibelprojects.com. Jonathan Adler butter dish, Jonathan Adler spoon rest, VVD Ceramics grey ceramic bowl, Jonathan Adler Utopia Darjeeling cookie jar, Hinterland Skrimshaw table and lamp, Mint Interiors, 604-568-3430, mintinteriors.ca. Potluck bakers, Market mini bowl, Hario drip pot coffee maker with wood neck, Mariko linen napkin, Crate and Barrel, 604-269-4300, crateandbarrel.com. Hay Pinocchio multi-colour round carpet, Hay DLM Table, lounge chair, Stitch pillows, Hay Shift quilt, Vancouver Special, 604-568-3673, vanspecial.com. Belgium linen shale sheets, white linen deconstructed shams, Sterling blanket, throw pillow, desk accessories, CB2, 604-669-9797, cb2.com.