Modern “shoebox” infill

37 Eccles Street

This infill on Eccles is now occupied. The occupants had it designed and built for themselves. You can read about it on their blog   The scale is compatible with other buildings on the street.

Personally, I like many of the homes built in this style, with exterior plywood panels and metal siding. Actually, I prefer corrugated metal siding rather than the smooth stuff, but that’s just me. Does anyone know the name of this architectural style? I call it shoebox, because that is what it reminds me of, a stack of shoeboxes. But that doesn’t sound very complimentary, so please educate me.

The owners worked around the large tree, which is good; but the driveway is huge and as shown above, the front sidewalk is really just another parking space. This hides the front door which is already understated, below the mini-balcony opening off the living room. I might also quibble about the windows: there is minimal engagement with the street, most of them are high to let in light but block out the street. I think urban neighborhoods work better when householders supervise the street while peds get their jollies looking in the windows. Speaking of jollies, there is a very private third floor roof deck tucked between “wings” of the house, for those seeking no tan lines.

The rough, unfinished concrete panel to the left of the garage conflicts me. The rough texture is a contrast to the other surfaces, but it still looks somehow too crude and unfinished for my liking. I guess I would my rough stuff refined.

Like it?

23 thoughts on “Modern “shoebox” infill

  1. One of our Chinatown neighbours. I do like it, but I agree with you on the front windows. I would have liked to see more in the front at street level. We watched it going up and the windows/house are more oriented to the back side, away from street traffic. It’s a very narrow lot, though, so I’m not sure how the garage could have been handled as there isn’t street access from the back. I’m still lurking, hoping to run into the homeowner so I can ask for a personal tour!

    1. Hi Sarah,

      As co-owner of the house with my husband, 2 dogs and 2 cats, we tried to optimize building on an old lot where the former house was destroyed by a suspect fire (No one was hurt, I checked prior to buying) and the streetscape view was a major mix from a view standpoint. The home was designed to maximize light without letting passers by see ‘too much’ of what was going on inside the home. From a design standpoint, we truly maximixed our interior living situation as the home is flooded by light and space without the frequent passers by seeing ‘too much’. There is a LOT of foot and car traffic on Eccles and activity on the street and most are only visitors to the neighbourhood, not ‘true neighbours’ which by the way are all really nice.

      We designed the driveway and garage so we had 3 legal parking spots. The outside areas inclulde a back terrace, small yard, tiny balcony, the atrium and access to the roof which will be made into a large garden next year. With the exception of the driveway itself, 100% of the remaining square footage of the lot is occupied by outdoor space. We purposfully saved the tree as I love it and the city was ready to chop it down.

      We truly tried to suit our now child-free lifestyle, invest in the city, and optimize a tiny lot to it’s fullest potential.

      We learned ALOT from this project and would do it again, a little differently I must add, but building lots are not easy to come by.

      Do feel free to knock on the door for a tour and intruduce yourself. Others do, and we welcome the opportunity to share what we have done, mistakes and all.

      The street level is a hall, garage and a 1 bedroom apartment that we built that is yet to be finished. Not much to showcse with windows in front!


      1. Thanks for chiming in, Marion. You might want to update your website on the house to include a post on lessons learned, what you might improve if you could rewind the clock, and maybe some indoor pic for the habitat voyeurs our here. (Make sure the pic don’t include stealables since we don’t need to provide a shopping list for B&E). An updated website would complete the story.

      2. My questions about this are:
        1) 3 parking spots? Really? I’m not sure the city needs this kind of “investment” in more pavement.
        2) Looks like there was only one spot out front before (based on the photos I could find). Is you parking pad legal?


        1. One space in garage, one on driveway, one on the “front sidewalk”.
          I have written before on the fallacy of assuming that infill housing occupants will show the same characteristics as existing centretowners, who have a low car ownership, walk a lot, and low carbon footprint. Many infill houses and condo towers bring in high-consumption lifestyles that are auto centred. It is fallacious to promote high density high end housing in urban areas based on existing residents who show a greater diversity of income, residence size, etc. Gentrification brings with it new behaviours, some good, some not so good. I plead guilty myself.

        2. One huge improvement would have been permeable pavement driveways. Typical interlocking bricks are not very permeable, it is necessary to use ones with largish gaps and porus granular fill. A poured concrete slab driveway is not permeable. The tree will be stressed by ever-more surfaces that shed water rather than letting it into the soil. My first house on Booth had a large tree in front; by time RJ Nicol the builder got through drilling under it, digging around it, paving up to it … it was dead dead dead. While there was nothing I could do (it was spec build by him, to “approved” plans, protecting the trees consisted of wrapping them with a bit of snowfence) I continue to feel somewhat guilty about that poor tree. I have made up for that since then, my newest patio (use the blog searcbox “permeable pavers) is 100% permeable in the heaviest rains. It can be done, and still look and function well.

      3. Ok..regarding the parking spots..a maximum of 3 but practically 2…you could park behind the garage but hten you are constantly shifting cars. Good for guests but not practical. The graound floor has aspace that is being readied for use as a 1 bedroom apartment. The extra parking space will be for the resident – which will be included in the rent. In our opinion, parking is always a plu for obtaining a good quality tenant. It would be nice if everyone that moved downtown could just ditch the cars and use public transit…but this is not always practical or possible. In our case, we both work in job situations that require rapid mobility across Ottawa Carelton…sorry the bus is not practical.

        Regarding the concrete pad and the tree. we had an assessment done to check on the impact to the tree and expect it to have many years of life. We did consider a permeable block for a portion of the driveway, but price and schedule did not permit…We hope to softscape the front to improve the harshness of the concrete this summer and will be adding irrigation and additional drainage for the tree.

    2. Feel free to knock on the door. More windows in the front, just means more expense to cover them up with blinds for privacy. Take a look at a typical house in the burbs…every window is covered with a treatment of some sort…what is the point of having windows if you are just going to cover them..privacy is a requirement for most people. We designed the windows intelligently to maximize light and privacy and reduce the need for wasteful and expensive window coverings.

  2. Love it!
    If I was building this house I would have extended the little balcony across the entire width of the house to increase the ‘front yard’ presence, and partially obscure the big garage.
    I would also have built a massive rooftop deck to serve as the more private ‘back yard’

  3. The style is simply “contemporary” though in Ottawa we sometimes call them “Hobin Houses” regardless of whether they were built by Hobin. I like the privacy aspects of this home especially the windows. Often this style of house features such large open window areas that you feel self-conscious walking by lest they think you are staring in. All in all, I think it works well…and much better than the putty coloured units to the right (in the pic).

    1. I would never call it a Hobin House. I hate the Hobin style – and this house, I like. Hobin designs soulless boxes… so you can proibably guess my feelings about Lansdowne…

  4. What I don’t understand, as with both this house and the example a couple of posts below, is the recessed door thingie that’s going on.

    Having that wall — invariably of the garage — provides very useful screen, at least in one direction of visibility, for break-in artists.

  5. I like it, all in all. It’s interesting without being overbearing. Still, it’s definitely fortressy from the front. Maybe the owner was a bit iffy about the neighbourhood and subconsciously wanted to wall it off. Once they’ve settled in and realized it’s not so bad, maybe they’ll put a porthole or something in that big beige panel. Part of the fun of living in the core is watching Street TV.

    1. Our intention is to watch the street from our roof desk..once it is constructed later this year. We could have had large windows in the front, and then spent thousands of daollars to cover them up with blinds take a look next time at homes with large front windows..they are closed off to the street and light by what is the point of having the windows. We had the windows designed to give maximum light and maximum privacy.. Because we opted for a simple “box” design to maximize space and save on the build cost, we are at a loss on how it looks like a “fortress”

  6. I hope to publish pictures of the interior spaces in the near future. The builder, Hidden City had some professional pics taken last week…which I would like to post rather than my amateur attempts. It is nice to see the level of interest in our project. I also hope to post lessons learned on use of subcontractors, budgeting, unexpected costs etc.. On the subject of roof deck, the roof has been designed to accomodate a roof deck and installation of solar panels. We hope to start the roof deck next fall. The apartment fit-up on the main floor will take the next 3-5 months. We also hope to start the softscaping in the front..any ideas would be welcome. We debated long and hard on the size of the concrete driveway. In the end, practicality won since a parking space in downtown Ottawa is a definite draw for any renter.

    1. Thanks for being available for discussion. Not everybody is going to understand why choices were made, and it isn’t for them to understand – it’s your wallet. It’s your lot, and you can do what you want within bylaw and building code. 3 parking spots looks like a good minimum to me, but then I’m a vehicle enthusiast – my dream infill home would have a double long, pull through garage about 12′ wide. The blinds in my home are always closed because I don’t like people looking in (exactly like you said).

      Keep up the great work (on your blog) and don’t take any guff.

  7. I don’t really know Eccles very well. The only real observation I can make is that it isn’t nearly as ostentatious as other infills.

    Regardless, credit should be given to the owners Marion and Scott for having an open discussion with the community. Too often, an existing community gets an infill shoved in (despite the objections of the community and sometimes the city). That creates a hostile environment which makes it more difficult for the neighbourhood to accept the change.

    It would be great if future infill developers could engage the community this way. Hopefully others could use this as a model. Well done!

    – A

    1. I have updated the blog with pics for the main floor…other pics of other floors to come later…

  8. I love a modern look, and this is one of them. Think the interaction with the community( after the fact )on this blog is good, very generous. The place does look too much like a fortress in my view, and it would be nice to see something similar that accomplished a friendlier, warmer appearance. Does anyone have any photos depicting such a thing?

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