The Pop In! Volume Eleven – Lena Sin and Nick Tay


We’re knocking on doors and taking a look around peoples’ homes to see where your neighbours relax, hang out with their pets, and create! It’s an invitation to snoop, but we’re staying away from their medicine cabinets.Photos: @art3fact


Our Host: Lena Sin and Nick Tay

Who’s that? Lena works as a lifestyle reporter for the Vancouver Province and Nick is a creative director for designer toy company “Gup Gups” He is also an artist.

Beverage Offered: Earl Grey tea

**Lena and Nick live in a laneway house that they had input in designing. It was completed this past year**

When you first knew you were going to build a place here, what are the things that you knew that you wanted?
Nick- Lena had talked about having the indoor space flow with the outdoor space. We wanted a home that had some modern Asian features. We had just come back from Hong Kong and Bali and we gave our architect hundreds of pictures.
Lena- When the architect was explaining it to builders, he said the look was Scandanavian-Asian Modern. Everyone was really scratching their heads. I don’t know if you get that sense heavily here, but a lot of Asian homes that are modern, are very clean looking.

How big is the place?
Nick- It’s  around 1000 square feet, not including the storage

What are the challenges when it comes to designing your own home? How do you work with an architect and figure out what’s  important to you?
Nick- We kind of said “We’re not architects, we’re just going to give a list of requirements and let the expert ( Builder Lanefab & Architect Michel Labrie) do his job”. We said we wanted a flow of indoor/outdoor space, two bedrooms, and we did want a separation of space. We didn’t want something that was totally open concept. That was pretty much all we gave him.

And you probably specified you like clean modern lines, you like white, you like local materials.
Lena- Yeah, we wanted lots and lots of storage. My concern was that it’s not a huge home. When we lived in our apartment, we didn’t have enough storage and things were out constantly, all the time. I told them I need shelves that are tall enough to put a soy sauce bottle in, because we didn’t have that in our apartment so he (our architect) actually measured our soy sauce bottle! So there were a lot of strange things, not necessarily aesthetic things, just functional things.
Nick- This is the stuff you can do when you’re designing your own home! You don’t have to deal with soy sauce bottles being left out!
Lena- Yeah we love our soy sauce bottle drawer!

What do you guys do in your home?
Nick- We mostly just chill out at home, but we do have people over. It’s nice because we can open up all the doors.
Lena- It’s more of a summer entertaining house. We can’t have too many people in here just sitting.

And you say this is somewhere you want to stay for a long time. Are you planning on having kids?
Lena- Yeah for sure. That was part of it. We said we don’t want to move when we have a family. We wanted a home that can accommodate that.
Nick- I think a big part of it is Lena growing up in Hong Kong, having a family of 4 in 800 square feet. We knew if the space was divided well, it would be great.

Do you guys see laneway housing as a viable option for a lot of types of families?
Lena- We always felt like if more people could do this, they would, but it is hard the way the laws are currently written. You have to have a strong relationship to do this with a friend because it’s not a strata lot. We’re all in it together or we’re all out of it together. If you don’t have a strong bond and clear communication, it’s just not going to work.
Nick- Especially for people if they want to live in Vancouver — it’s really expensive. We were lucky that we bought the lot in 2005. If we couldn’t do this together, we wouldn’t be living in Vancouver.
Lena- And I get that density is hard for a lot of people if you’re not used to it and somebody builds a laneway house, but there are a lot of creative ways that you can make it work, so that everyone gets privacy. You just have to be willing to come up with the solutions.