January 5, 2023

Building Blocks of Haven

Featured image for “Building Blocks of Haven”

Life is like a game of Tetris,

(Hear me out...)

Like most kids growing in the 90s, I was obsessed my Gameboy. Tetris was my go-to.

Find the most visually satisfying and functional solutions to puzzles was something I loved, and I was pretty good at it too. Fast forward 30 years later and I still love working with spaces to find the most aesthetically pleasing and functional way to design a space. Be it in my home, my office space, my children’s playroom, everywhere. Even my children’s lunchboxes receive a considerable amount of psychological insight into their arrangement. Just so that I can send them off with a yummy mid-day snack while the Tupperware containers fit together just so. Call it OCD, call it a gift, maybe it’s both!

The Next Level

The most extensive game of home design Tetris I ever played was in 2018 in Vancouver. Two years prior we moved into what we thought was our dream home. Yes it was a rental, and yes it was ostensibly a garage, but we loved our beautiful laneway home. It was a smaller house that had been built on a large lot, facing the main (much much bigger) house. However, we were so used to being disappointed by absolute dumps that cost a fortune, that when we found a one-bedroom, two-bath, multi-level laneway house that we could call our own, we felt like we had won the lottery. Of course there was a lot of competition for this rare gem in the Vancouver rental market, but I worked some magic and was able to win the home-owner over with my winning personality and promises that I would help her with her gardens.

Living the Dream

The first two years in this abode were pretty close to bliss. All our friends were in tiny one-bedroom condos in high-rise buildings and even higher-traffic areas. Somehow we had found an oasis 15 minutes from one of the most beautiful beaches in Canada. We were surrounded by beautiful Vancouver gardens, and I was able to walk to both my work locations. It was truly ideal. The home itself was modern and sleek. It had a Scandinavian vibe and everything felt so tranquil and flowy. We had an upper loft area that attached to our bedroom, which was a great additional space for a cozy reading nook and all my plants. The windows and views into the garden created a feeling of connection to nature where we could reach out and touch the cheery tree, or pick a plum from an overhanging branch. On the one hand, we were renters on a dusty laneway, but on the other hand we lived in a magical garden, where birds and flowers were our neighbours. We chose to look towards the birds.

A New Adventure

Then the most magical time of our entire Vancouver adventure began. In August 2018 our two baby boys were born (at the hospital where I worked, actually!) It was the most incredible time and we were delighted to welcome our beautiful twin babies back to our home. Looking back, those newborn days were actually pretty challenging.. sleep was at a premium, and no one seemed to be getting any. At 5 months in, we decided we HAD to start sleep training so that we could stay alive. My husband and one of the babies spent the majority of the night in the office/garage part of our house, where we moved a couch for my husband to sleep on while the baby to slept in his basinet away from his brother upstairs. This setup, according to our expert sleep coach, was the only way to train our kids to sleep. We needed to separate them but there was really nowhere to go except into the garage. We moved everything around to accommodate, but it just wasn’t working. No one wants to sleep in the garage! This was the first sign that we were beginning to outgrow this beautiful space.

The End Game

The final round of Tetris began when we needed more family and friends to come and help us with the boys. We were struggling to do it all on our own in Vancouver without any family, so my sisters, my parents, even some friends came out to help us. Unfortunately, we were very limited in where our guests could stay. We had the space, but the layout and setup just didn’t really accommodate. Ultimately we put a bed (i.e., mattress on the floor) in the garage and tried to spruce it up with a plant or two, but the jig was up. There was not enough room for guests to come and stay comfortably, and our two growing boys had completely taken over our one tiny bedroom. We had to go.

Looking Back

It is interesting to reflect on this laneway house and why it didn’t work for us. It was designed very specifically for 1-2, able-bodied people. That’s it. It did not accommodate babies, growing children or guests. Even more interesting is that the main bathroom and bedroom were upstairs. I can imagine that this would pose a challenge for anyone struggling with aging knees or mobility issues, so I don’t think it was designed for an older person either. Given that this was a brand-new build, and that this was a home that was architecturally beautiful and very well thought out, it boggles my mind that it would be designed without considering how we grow and evolve in our space. Why not?

A Blessing in Disguise

While we were somewhat forcefully thrust out of this nest by nature, this ended up being the biggest blessing in disguise. I’m so glad that the space outgrew us and forced us to look at moving back to Ontario to be closer to family. In the end, I will thank this beautiful Vancouver space and our time in the laneway house for setting us off on the right foot and helping us start our family. And I will send thanks for my own bedroom back! ☺