Great Spaces: five tiny homes that prove tight spaces can be completely comfortable
Toronto homes are getting smaller by the second—250-square-foot units are coming soon to a condo near you. Here, a look at how a few of the city’s early adopters have embraced the life Lilliputian
By Frances McInnis and Marit Mitchell | Photography by Derek Shapton |
Styling by Annie McDonald
1| A 579-square-foot one-bedroom condo in the
The person: Tara McMullen, a 32-year-old wedding and
The place: A 579-square-foot one-bedroom condo in the
When Tara McMullen bought her condo six years ago, she figured it would last her until she started a family in a bigger place. It was meant to be temporary—McMullen didn’t fully unpack until last spring, when she decided she ought to turn her pad into a home. She enlisted a good friend, an interior designer named Tiffany Pratt, to make her condo feel less cookie cutter. Pratt created a series of vignettes to break up the small space: a distinct dining room, a sitting area and the kitchen. With her Boston terrier, Angus, McMullen finds there’s more than enough room to feel settled. Her only caveat: closet space is excruciatingly limited.
The headboard was made from an old shipping pallet McMullen found at the side of the road.
McMullen was away for most of June. She came back to an entire wall Pratt had covered with awesome images. She loves that she can see it from the bed, too.
The ornamental jellyfish on the ladder are from Lilith in the Distillery District. “I’m hoping this ladder will be a living, breathing thing and will evolve,” she says.
The rusted-looking cabinet is from Smash. It provides lots of extra storage, which makes it great for her small space.
The person: Patrick Flynn, a 63-year-old fingerprint examiner for the Toronto Police.
The place: A 566-square-foot infill house near Gerrard and Coxwell, built in 2010.
Patrick Flynn is the ultimate minimalist. Two years ago he decided to build his dream home, and he wanted it to be modern and low-maintenance. He bought a lot that was just 14 feet wide, and commissioned Andrew Reeves of LineBox Studio to design a house with the illusion of space—20-foot ceilings, white walls and long, vertical windows make for a light, pared-down vibe. The small space is all about precision: exactly the right device, appliance and furnishing for each specific role in a one-man home. But it’s still in flux. Flynn isn’t sure whether he needs the single orange rocking chair, which he says is really only handy when people come over. “I like art,” says Flynn. “But then I get some and I think I’d rather have a bare wall.” So the Douglas Coupland painting he bought a few years ago is now stored in his friend’s basement.
One of the few pieces of art in the space is this shadow sculpture. Flynn purchased it at Daniel Faria Gallery on its opening night.
Flynn’s old desk was a stately Eames, but he “felt like a receptionist behind it.” He swapped it for a drafting table from Filter in the Distillery District.
The Japanese-style backyard garden is deliberately low-maintenance. He also has a rock garden under the stairs inside.
Flynn’s bed is a simple three-inch latex pad on the floor, next to his reading lamp and alarm clock.
The people: Ryan Wilding, a 29-year-old industrial designer, and Agata Piskunowicz, a 30-year-old freelance designer
The place: A 450-square-foot one-bedroom condo
on Dundas West.
Wilding grew up in Aurora in a house with four bedrooms. When he and Piskunowicz announced they were moving into a tiny condo, his parents kept asking, “But where are you going to put your stuff?” The couple had been living in an 800-square-foot apartment in the Junction and had accumulated a lot. They got rid of most of it. “We purged our youth. Now we just have the bare necessities,” says Piskunowicz. It was easier for her, since she had spent part of her childhood in a 344-square-foot apartment in Poland. They found creative ways to hide things. They expanded the galley kitchen, replaced swinging doors with sliding ones and tricked out closets to make better use of vertical space. Wilding built much of the furniture, including the combination couch–storage unit–guest bed (they often play host—Piskunowicz’s cousin stayed there for three months). A year and a half later, the couple say they have everything they need. “You don’t impulse-buy a lamp,” says Wilding, “because you’re like, ‘I don’t have anywhere to put this stupid lamp.’”
The magnet board is the top from the metal drawers embedded in the couch, which Wilding built himself.
Their desk, with its side-by-side Macs, makes their living space more office than lounge. “That means we have to keep our space really clean,” Piskunowicz says.
They wanted colourful cloth cords to hang Edison bulbs above the breakfast bar, but had a hard time finding any in Toronto. They ordered these from Germany.
The living room’s centrepiece is a storage unit and guest bed Wilding built around a set of drawers from the architecture office where Piskunowicz worked.
The person: Rose Pereira, a 39-year-old contributing art director at
The place: A 655-square-foot condo in the Annex (her oddly shaped unit in the converted hydro building was originally a cable storage closet).
Pereira’s home is only 70 feet long and no more than 10 feet wide—the size of a hallway in a Vaughan McMansion. Still, the narrow space has distinct rooms. She used her background in design to make the place feel bright and elegant. “I wanted a specific look—rough, natural textures, modern details—but had no money to do it with,” she says. So she furnished her place with salvage store finds and ’70s fixtures nabbed from her parents’ Mississauga bungalow. When she moved in at the end of 2008, Pereira thought she’d stay for a couple of years before moving on to something bigger and better. Now she’s not so sure bigger is attainable. In the building slated to go up next door to hers, one third of the floor plans are in the 400-square-foot range. One unit, listed at $240,000, not including parking and a storage locker, is 384 square feet. Her place is a monster home by comparison. “I realized you really don’t need more. It’s just more
The clock is hung purposely high. Pereira’s ceilings are 14 feet high, so it helps draw the eye up and make the space feel bigger.
The kitchen table, which doubles as an island, is industrial-grade stainless steel. Pereira got it through a friend who works in the restaurant supply business.
Pereira bought the coffee table for $60 at a yard sale. She stained it and added glass.
Her heavy wood credenza was cast out in an office makeover. She took it and re-stained it as a structural centrepiece to her living room.
The people: Jamie Alexander, a 36-year-old interior designer, and Joshua Breau, a 23-year-old hair stylist.
The place: A 580-square-foot loft in a four-storey building on King Street East.
Jamie Alexander and his husband, Josh Breau, live directly above Alexander’s design studio and furniture store. They don’t own the place, but with the blessing of an understanding landlord, they’ve done some serious renovations—they took down nearly all the walls, raised the ceilings and lowered the floor. Instead of populating the tiny place with tiny furniture, Alexander chose a few big pieces: a massive sectional anchors the living area, while the sleeping area contains a luxurious larger-than-king-size bed. And with a furniture showroom downstairs, the overall look is ever evolving. They recently acquired a Warren Platner–esque coffee table, and the search continues for the perfect bedroom chandelier. “The space is not about square footage,” says Alexander. “It’s the perfectly proportioned pieces within it.” It’s meant to feel open and inviting, even when they have company, which they often do—they entertained 40 people at Breau’s last birthday bash.
Alexander often gets themed birthday gifts from his friends. One year it was clocks. All of them are set randomly—only one tells the right time.
The dining room chairs swivel, so they can become part of the living room when guests are over.
Alexander originally thought about installing a Murphy bed, but then decided he wanted his own custom-made giant bed, so he designed the space around it.
In the kitchen, Alexander created a mini-office that just fits a 26-inch Mac. The electrical panel is behind the computer, and the shelves slide out for access to it.