Cliff Home: Edmonton’s smallest alley home

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Laura Severs

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Dec 11, 2020December 11, 2020Read for 4 minutes Join the conversation Marty Pawlina and Kairi Pawlick are building a laneway suite over a single garage. Marty Pawlina and Kairi Pawlick are building a laneway suite over a single garage. Photo by Walter Tychnowicz /Postal media

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Bring together two passionate local land development professionals and what do you get?

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A unique offspring who will become one of Edmonton’s most distinctive alleyways early next year.

The married couple Kairi Pawlick and Marty Pawlina, who work at Canada Lands Co. and Rohit Land Development, respectively, are not only excited about their new company, but also about giving others the opportunity to enjoy the urban lifestyle of living near the Downtown.

Years ago Pawlick and Pawlina bought a 1910 work bungalow in Riverdale. The house is situated on quite a large lot and overlooks Riverdale Park, the south side of which offers an impressive view of the river valley and the North Saskatchewan River.

“We have a lot of nice light because we are facing south and it’s on top of a hill so it’s this height,” said Pawlina, adding that Riverdale is so close to downtown that they can enjoy all the amenities, that it offers. “We want to give other people the opportunity to try out this urban lifestyle.”

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They will do that when their project called Cliff House, which will be positioned as a rental unit, becomes a reality. And at 368 square feet, it’s billed as the smallest home in Edmonton; a two-storey building with the residential unit on a single garage.

External features include classic, round half-panels that are layered in a mosaic with textured shades of gray. There will also be contrasting brick and steel elements. The interior is inspired by New York loft living: exposed bricks, high ceilings, steel girders and a mezzanine that is open downwards and accessible via a custom-made sliding library ladder.

The external presentation of the Cliff House, Marty Pawlina's and Kairi Pawlicks' garden house. The external presentation of the Cliff House, Marty Pawlina’s and Kairi Pawlicks’ garden house. Photo delivered by /Postal media

Working with a team with experience in laneway homes, the couple hired Timber Haus Developments as the builder and Space Squared to design it. But before they could enter the picture, Pawlick and Pawlina had to purchase a piece of land next to their property.

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As the couple put it, there was a remaining plot of land in the city that was intended for use. But it turned out that the city never used it and it became available. They bought it and had it consolidated on their property so they could move forward.

“Now that our property is a little bigger, we could build a house with an alley,” said Pawlina.

“Marty and I have always been a fan of garden suites and garage suites, and we even did some of the early training with YEGarden Suites,” said Pawlick, noting that Laneway Homes are a great way to meet the core Edmonton communities to condense.

“We looked at some plans and said, ‘Hey, we can do this,’ so let’s start designing something.”

These plans include a solar panel on the roof and give the interior a luxury rental feel.

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“Small space design always has its limitations, but when you get small you just have to get creative and that’s what I love,” said Antonio Gomez Decuir, German at Space Squared.

“The inspiration for the project was our own decision to live in downtown Edmonton,” said the couple. “Cliff House is about empowering others to try urban living and experience the benefits of a less auto-dependent lifestyle in one of Edmonton’s best infill communities.”

The couple’s builder, Timber Haus, has been at the forefront of building this type of home.

“It’s very unique, there’s nothing like it in Edmonton,” said John Wilson, vice president of Timber House, noting that at just four feet wide, it will be the narrowest house on the street.

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Shovels are supposed to go into the ground in January. It should take four months to complete.

“The view will be incredible,” said Wilson. “The way they set it up, the colors they picked will blend in well with the Edmonton River Valley and be quite a complementary piece that will add a lot to the downtown skyline.”

Small comes big

According to YEGarden Suites, a nonprofit for homeowners interested in building garden suites, the number of these types of homes is increasing.

In 2016 there were around 150 such houses, today there are around 400, with around 60 to 70 new ones being built annually. “We expect about 85 this year,” said Ashley Salvador, the organization’s president and co-founder.

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Most are built in mature neighborhoods like Bonnie Doon, Highlands, Ritchie, and Westmount, but some are popping up in new neighborhoods like Rosenthal as developers recognize that garden suites are an attractive product.

Many are being built for rent, but interest from a family perspective has risen sharply since COVID-19, Salvador said – building to keep family close; They have their own room, but they are right next door.

Name game

Whether laneway houses, garden suites, garage suites, backyard suites or coach houses, these are typically one or two-story buildings that are built in the backyards of single-family homes and have a kitchen, bathroom and living room.

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