Smart Urban Designs Popping Up In Edmonton

Build a comfortable home on a lot only 25 feet wide? Surely you jest. But for members of the Infill Development in Edmonton Association, or IDEA, this is the new reality. The newly minted group, launched this past Thursday has 50 founding members. This is a private launch, with a public outing scheduled for the fall.

The group was formed after City Hall announced its intention to increase infill development throughout the city. Currently it’s at roughly 19 percent. City fathers want to see that grow to at least 25 percent. The changing of the zoning laws is getting a considerable amount of pushback, largely because the infill process is misunderstood.

Infill is basically taking a large plot of land and dividing it up, allowing homes to be built on smaller pieces. Opponents fear this will cause devaluation of their properties and the construction of structures that are not pleasing to the eye. The creation of IDEA is not only for those interested in infill construction. The group will provide a central source of information explaining the infill process and also a venue for those opposed to voice their opinion.

IDEA will take that feedback and use it when designing properties to fit on those smaller lots. The intent is to avoid a one-size-fits-all design that is reused over and over, a cookie-cutter approach if you will. It would be unsightly, not to mention boring, to see the same boxy home time after time on neighborhood streets. But if each of these infill homes were individually designed, showing a bit of personality and class, the practice would most likely win over more Edmontonians.  

One example of innovative design for such a small space is the home designed by Louise Pereira in 2010. He bought a lot that was 25 feet wide and that already had a tiny 500 square foot structure sitting on it. That structure was being used as a chicken coop. Considering that the land was next door to a farmhouse dating back to the early 1900s that’s not all that surprising.

Down went the chicken coop, and in its place rose a 2,400 square foot two story modern home. Floor to ceiling glass, one of the main features of the home, allows in plenty of natural light. At times when privacy is desired, special roller shades made of a dark but translucent material easily fall into place. All it takes is one flip of a switch. Occupants can see out, but no-one sees in.

Inside is a blend of modern materials with early 20th century charm, heavy on the chrome and soft-to-the touch leather with plenty of hardwood accents. Slightly minimalist, the clean-lined construction hides storage spaces and cupboards behind a seamless maple-wood wall. Wood for the energy efficient fireplace has its own hiding space behind that same wall.

The kitchen is galley style, a vision of white and contrasting charcoal tones. White quartz counter tops, black and white high-gloss appliances and neutral grey laminate flooring contribute to that contrast. A dropped ceiling helps define the kitchen and living room spaces without adding walls, creating an inviting open floor plan. Best of all the property is energy efficient, with its economical design still allowing for a rear courtyard and cherished outdoor space.

If enough of these innovative properties go into the new infill lots in Edmonton, chances are the ranks of the naysayers will thin dramatically. Who wouldn’t want to live in a modern, well designed, affordable property that was within easy reach of work, play and the delights of downtown?

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