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The Globe and Mail

Cool Toronto home on an odd urban lot

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The Toronto laneway house of Alex Sharpe, designed by Craig Race, an intern architect at Sustainable.TO. The east end Toronto home was once an illegal, one-storey apartment in a converted garage. The site is 33 feet wide by 120 feet deep.

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The wood on the fin wall is charred - a Japanese method known as shou-sugi-ban. This labour-intensive process of burning the wood, dousing it, drying it, and then applying a coat of oil renders it practically maintenance-free while adding resistance to fire and rot.also.

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On top of the already thick concrete slab, a new concrete floor with a radiant heating system was poured; even when not switched on, sunlight entering the home’s big windows warms the polished floor.

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‘We wanted to remind people inside the house that they’re in a laneway house,’ Mr. Race says. ‘so we were really careful about where we placed windows so you’d get views of alleyways and sky; because the building is massed the way it is, you get great views in every direction but you’re not looking into anyone’s house.’

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Near the kitchen area, a window was punched into the existing cinderblock wall (two and a half original walls have been retained) and a previously sealed door has been reopened to access a narrow walkway to the alley.

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The kitchen.

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The lane access. ‘This was a huge feature for me,’ Mr. Sharpe enthuses. ‘At night it’s lit up very nicely and it’s quite inviting after coming down a gritty, urban scape.’

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The master bathroom.

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Of the small master bedroom, Mr. Sharp says: “It’s the way I wanted to live…we didn’t want a big house, we didn’t want to be living beyond our means. I think it’s important to live as tightly and as densely and as intelligently as you can, and this is a good way to do it.”

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At the top of the stairs, a sculpture of welded Indian cricket chairs basks in natural light from a skylight that doubles as a heat chimney. The wall has a shou-sugi-ban finish.

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Alex Sharpe (left) and Craig Race in the main floor living space. To keep with the home’s industrial vibe, Mr. Sharpe commissioned Zac Ridgely to create a strikingly minimalist staircase using an I-beam.

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