The inventive reconstruction of a tiny home into an ethereal urban refuge was built sustainably and economically to allow a longtime resident to remain in her tight-knit community.

The complete transformation of this unassuming single-storey worker’s cottage in Toronto’s historic "Tiny Town" turned a run-down house into a luminous pandemic refuge. The client is a retired schoolteacher living on a fixed income, with a budget earmarked for basic renovations that would rescue her 112-year-old home from disrepair. The result is a delicately proportioned, light-filled home, built on its original foundations, while re-envisioning every other aspect of the worker’s cottage vernacular – a turn-of-the-century housing typology that has almost completely disappeared from the city.

Craven Road represents an unusual urban condition. Previously known as Erie Terrace, the street was originally developed to house lower-income labourers and immigrants in the early 20th century. With small dwellings lining only the street’s east side, and a municipal fence running along the west, this atypical thoroughfare was the site of Toronto’s highest concentration of detached homes under 500 sf. Today, Craven Road remains a close-knit community and unique architectural outpost in an increasingly unaffordable city. 

The house needed to be designed and permitted as a renovation. However, shortly after the builder mobilized on site, it was discovered that the top course of the foundation required reconstruction. To do this work would typically have entailed taking down the walls above the foundation, but this would have run counter to the City’s regulations, which required that at least 50% of the exterior walls remain in place for a project to qualify as a “renovation”, as opposed to a “new build”. The feat of engineering, architecture, and construction was made possible in part by the generosity of a neighbour who allowed the builder to use their rear concrete terrace as a buttress for anchoring a temporary shoring wall.

With the original footprint intact, and heights of walls, roof angles, and window-to-wall percentages strictly pre-determined by the City's renovation guidelines, the design process entailed a careful study of the existing worker's cottage typology in order to be able to de-construct, transform, re-interpret, and re-construct the home in a completely modern way.

These design decisions were a direct response to the client's mandate. A desire for abundant light, peacefulness, and a relative sense of seclusion from her busy urban surroundings. In response to this desire for inspired solitude the home has been transformed into a vessel of light and shadow.

The home consists of four rooms: a combined entry, living, dining, and kitchen space. Also a small studio/den that could accommodate a single bed. And combined washroom/laundry room; and a principal bedroom.

To ensure the house would be easy to build, hardwearing, energy efficient and economical to maintain, they sourced easily obtainable materials, including corrugated steel with a Galvalume finish for the exterior cladding and roofing, and prefinished wood floors.

The design for this home made use of every element of the space and budget to minimize energy consumption through the implementation of a high-performance envelope, high-efficiency equipment, and energy-efficient fixtures.

Official Project Name: Craven Road Cottage

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Size: 67sqm

Architecture and Interiors: AMA (Anya Moryoussef Architect)

Architect Team: Anya Moryoussef, James Swain, Deborah Wang

Photo Credits: Doublespace Photography, Scott Norsworthy, Anya Moryoussef