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501 Sq. Ft. Laneway House by Robert Johnson Architect in British Columbia


This is a Laneway House designed by Robert Johnson Architect in New Westminster, BC.

Because of zoning bylaws and site space, this modern house is only 501 sq. ft. The main floor consists of the living/dining/kitchen space and a bathroom (328 sq ft) and upstairs there’s a single bedroom and closet (173 sq ft.).

Enjoy the photo tour below and read what Robert Johnson says about this design at the end!

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Small 501 Sq. Ft. House on Land in British Columbia

Robert cleverly designed this small space to allow for as much privacy as possible.

The lane-facing side of the house has the fewest windows to maximize privacy.

This window brings light into the stairway corridor.

The downstairs kitchen area with a stacked washer and dryer flows seamlessly into the living space.

The living room windows look out onto a small patio area.

The bathroom downstairs still fits a tub.

The staircase leads upstairs into the only bedroom.

Upstairs the lower window allows for gazing outside from bed.

What Robert Johnson has to say about his design:

With spaces this tight, it is important to position windows strategically in order to lead the eye outward to the exterior. A corner window extends the living space both visually and physically to the private outdoor space beyond. Clerestory windows allow light to enter spaces while maintaining privacy and flexibility in furniture placement. In the upper floor bedroom, the pitched roof allows for a vaulted ceiling, giving this small space (13’-4” x 9’-6”) a larger feel. It has three windows; the main one has a lowered sill to give a better view when lying in bed.

Exterior materials are used to reinforce the two main masses. The lower level is clad in 5” exposed Hardi Planks (charcoal color) and the upper in Nichiha panels (grey color). Roofing is SBS mod bit torch on. Foundation walls are Quad lock ICF. Walls and roofs are wood framed, with R20 batt insulation in the walls and R28 in the roofs. Heating is from electric baseboards. A heat recovery ventilator is installed in the crawl space. The project and all site works was built by SLC Contracting Ltd.

Learn more

Our big thanks to Robert Johnson for sharing!🙏

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.
{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Maggie
    March 28, 2020, 1:01 pm

    Except for sleeping and bathroom being on separate floors, it’s perfect!

  • Christian
    March 28, 2020, 1:51 pm

    I appreciate the separation of living and bedroom especially when you have company over

    • Natalie C. McKee
      March 30, 2020, 3:05 pm

      Definitely a good feature. So I don’t *have* to make the bed, haha.

  • Bec
    March 28, 2020, 2:32 pm

    The biggest problem with tiny homes is the upper, or loft space. These would be ideal for older folk to retire to except most can’t do stairs or ladders. And younger people have children so the tiny homes are just to small for their needs.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      March 30, 2020, 3:05 pm

      Yes that is tricky. I think he was constrained by lot size — couldn’t go “out,” so had to go “up.”

  • D. Pedersen
    March 28, 2020, 4:34 pm

    Windows are too small, so there is not enough natural light. And at the same time dark flooring and black has been used too much. Not exactly cozy.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      March 30, 2020, 3:05 pm

      I think the lack of windows was largely due to privacy concerns since it’s on a little lot.

  • Samantha
    March 28, 2020, 7:02 pm

    I like it! I can see putting in an island for extra counter space, storage, and dining. Plus, an outside stairway to a rooftop porch! Since it is from a designer, I imagine I could have sliding glass doors upstairs, if I asked for them. (I personally would want that for additional space to sit outside.) I would be able to put planters on the outside stairs for growing vegetables and flowers! With a futon or a sleeper sofa downstairs, the upstairs could easily be turned into an office/guest bedroom combo.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      March 30, 2020, 3:04 pm

      Those are such awesome ideas for improving it!

  • Linda Baker
    March 28, 2020, 11:32 pm

    I think a washer/dryer combo tucked under the stairway and a pantry cupboard makes more sense – no drawers in the kitchen! Is there a closet in the bedroom?

    • Natalie C. McKee
      March 30, 2020, 3:00 pm

      Yes there is a closet in the bedroom.

  • Paul Larsen
    March 29, 2020, 8:19 am

    Great use of minimal space, and a great design! Windows are fine the way they are ! to many and there is heat loss in the winter . And use a porta potti in the bedroom if you need to avoid those midnight bathroom runs.

  • Donna Rae
    March 31, 2020, 10:02 pm

    I wish a little more thought had been put into the kitchen. It is sorely lacking counter space and storage. If they had put in two corner cabinets with carousels, that would provide lots of storage. Make the whole thing L-shaped and there could be lots of counter space, maybe even have a small peninsula with a drop-leaf that could be raised or lowered according to how much space you needed. Might have to close off the one area of the staircase to make a new space for the refrigerator but it would be so worth it. You could put the washer and dryer next to each other under the counter instead of stacked. Easy to say, I know, but with a little creativity, it could be done. Just trying to make it fit my own needs. It is basically well done and many will like it as is.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      April 1, 2020, 6:22 am

      Those are all great ideas! I love the thought of a peninsula.

  • Susan
    April 19, 2020, 1:22 pm

    This would be prefect for me, even with bedroom on the second floor. So far, at 66, my joints are okay, so the stairs would be good exercise. It’s well done, and perfectly livable.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      April 20, 2020, 2:08 pm

      So glad you like it!

  • Cate
    April 23, 2021, 4:07 pm

    This design is not conducive for seniors. Many of us cannot do stairs easily so putting the bathroom on the main floor for our “middle of the night” visits simply would not work; perhaps a commode and sink upstairs would help. Also, this house is very dark on the inside. You mentioned privacy issues – you can always have big windows and use curtains. With little room, it is not a bad design, albeit industrial ugly.

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