Mini Craven sits on a 14’x70’ lot on Craven Road, in the ‘Tiny Town’ neighborhood of Toronto. First developed as worker housing in the 1880s, the street that was then a vacant railway corridor is now characterized by a series of 10’wide lots with homes between 300 and 500 square feet in size. Since that time, the houses along Craven Road have wavered between the unlawful and decrepit to the quirky and endearing. It is in this mixed and beautiful context that Mini Craven exists and participates in its neighbourhood.
The house that previously occupied the lot was a demolished drug lab and, subsequently, condemned. The client was nonetheless drawn to the vacant lot; he felt at home in the quirky and diverse neighborhood. He also found it affordable and the perfect scale for the ultra-compact, fully detached house he dreamed of building. It would be an alternative to “loft living” and more importantly, a dwelling outside the confines of a condominium building.
By working with the architect to turn ideas into reality and to refine a design that fit both the client’s personality and budget, Mini Craven was born. The budget was set to match the cost of owning a comparably sized condo which meant that creativity and resourcefulness were needed in design development. The contractor was also included early on in the conversations and design process, allowing for open and collaborative dialogue which helped to keep the very tight budget on track; this was facilitated by flexibility in the construction approach and adapting the design as required to economize building. Inexpensive and recycled materials were sourced from stage sets or salvaged from demolished houses, the efforts of which helped to mitigate costs substantially.
Mini Craven embodies a “hard loft” style with an industrial aesthetic and flexible floor plan. Despite its very small foot print, the home feels open and spacious. The client’s Spartan lifestyle is reflected throughout as the house stays true to materials and requires minimal maintenance. The floors are poured concrete, the walls are concrete block or white painted drywall without baseboards, and the windows are oriented to coordinate desires for view, natural ventilation and passive solar gain in the winter.
Mini Craven, sitting at 566 s.f., though restricted by the scale of both site and budget, has had a big impact on its neighborhood. As one of the first new, modern houses in this part of Toronto, it is a testament that that bigger does not necessarily mean better and that loft-style living is possible outside the bounds of a high-rise building.