Dream Houses for Grownups

When I was a kid, I used to love drawing pictures of dream houses: here’s where the library is, here’s the secret passageway that connects the snack room to the movie theatre, and here’s the hot tub, naturally situated in a treehouse. There’s something super gratifying about designing a living space to suit your needs exactly, right down to the double-dutch gymnasium and the kitchen that’s only for cooking breakfast.

When I got older, I lived in a student housing co-op, which is like that happens when you combine dorm life with a heavy sprinkling of bylaws. Sharing my space with dozens, if not hundreds, of different roommates both demonstrated the wide variety of ways people can be bullshit, and the different flavours of ways they can be awesome. The housing co-op provided internet, food, dirt for the gardens, money for parties. But co-op also did something else: it provided community.

Living in a single-family house is supposed to be the pinnacle of adulthood, but we live in Toronto, where the average price for a detached house is $1.17 million, and a three-bedroom condo (when you can find them) hovers near the one-million mark. Owning a house isn’t in the cards for us. But we still need a place to live, and it would be nice if that place could contain us, a couple kids (either NS singly + sleepover friends, or, you know…moar babbies), and M’s extensive DVD collection.

I’ve done a lot of thinking in the past few months about how to make a home, and make a life, in a city that sometimes feels like it clears its throat uncomfortably whenever we mention families. I’m thinking about land trusts and housing trusts, about starting a co-housing development, about rules that make it exceedingly tough to create housing for the middle class. It all seems so daunting and insurmountable. But: not impossible.

If I had to design a dream house today, here’s what it would look like:

  • a low-rise apartment building, probably with about 30 units over five or six floors
  • those units would range from a one-bedroom for the grandmas and college kids, to four (or more!) bedrooms for the families.
  • the individual units would be on the small side, but there’s a good reason for that! Because…
  • The building would have tons of amenities, and not just the usual party room/half-hearted weight room. Here’s what I have in mind:
    • a communal kitchen, with rotating crews prepping meals throughout the week
    • a fully stocked playroom, and maybe even a nursery school/day care, depending on the age ranges of the kids
    • a hot desk-style office space, for those couple hours when going back to the office is dumb, or working at home is frustrating
    • a garden for folks with a green thumb
    • a large deck or patio for folks whose outdoor time doesn’t involve man-handling plants
    • a hot tub (because who doesn’t want a hot tub?)
    • a shared cargo bike
    • a ton of bike parking
    • a shared car
    • a tool library, so that we wouldn’t all need to buy the same Handyman Harry starter kit
    • a cleaning supply library, because Dyson vacuums are expensive
    • a movie-screening space, for rainy day viewings of The Iron Giant and midnight screenings of Hobo With a Shotgun
  • a committee to help plan social events, like the aforementioned communal meals, that are both awesome and not annoying to people who love their alone time
  • units for people to own, and units for rent

I know this wouldn’t appeal to a lot of people. Folks want their own space, they want a house with a yard, they want to live the dream of home ownership. Or they look at this list and see a kumbaya lifestyle that would require those horrible Peruvian serape sweatshirts that hippies love to wear. Trust me, I am not interested in coming home to a patchouli-scented experience, either.

But I am interested in disrupting what it means to be an adult, and what it means to be in a community. I want my kids to grow up near their friends; hell, I want to live near my friends. Living in a city can be tough, and I want to do my part to recreate that village that it apparently takes a child to raise. From daycare waitlists to stroller-inaccessible TTC lines, from house prices that would bankrupt a king to parks that close when the Pan-Am Games came to town, being a parent in Toronto comes with so many little annoyances and wrinkles that you don’t see until you’re in it.

Living like this would at least give us all someone to gripe with at the end of a long day. And hell, maybe we all band together and finally get a treehouse put up.

About the Author

Kaitlyn Kochany
Author with 77 posts
More about Kaitlyn Kochany

Kaitlyn Kochany is a Toronto-area freelance writer and editor. She had her son, NS, in January 2016, and has been trying to sleep and write since then.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment