Vancouver Special House Tour

Stylish Innovation of the Iconic Vancouver Special

2018 Date TBC

$30 or $23 with valid student ID

Back for its 9th year, the Vancouver Special House Tour offers a chance to get inside 5 examples of the now iconic housing style unique to Vancouver. With it’s basic floor plan and simple construction, the Vancouver Special is ideal for creative solutions and inventive ideas. This tour serves as a showcase for how these older homes can be transformed for modern living including some innovative solutions for housing several generations of the same family. Among the homes on tour this year are a 1975 Special updated by one of the pioneers of Special revitalization, Architect Stephanie Robb. The new design artfully blends memory with modern aesthetics that suit the new owners. We also have a 1970s era Special with a dramatic new renovation that includes a showstopping built-in wrap-around wood dining area that plays off the cedar ceiling. Ticket holders will also not want to miss the overhaul of a home that was once an ode to violet, with purple shag carpet and matching walls.

Often utilized for multi-generational living, or as income helpers, the possibilities for two full floors of living space are nearly endless. On this tour, ticket holders will get to see the multitude of ways homeowners have chosen to personalize and adapt these family homes. Many of the homeowners on this year’s tour have utilized the Specials generous floor plan to accommodate several generations in the same home. A younger homeowner has been able to transform an inherited childhood home into a modern living space while others have purchased family homes from older relatives, while including new living spaces for the whole family in the renovation. Learn about how to improve energy efficiency, speak to owners and experts in construction and materials about their own projects and come away with great ideas for retaining and reusing older housing.

NEW IN 2017 The Vancouver Special House Tour is bike-friendly! With all the homes in easy to navigate locations near each other on the city’s east side, we have also partnered with a local bike shop who will provide resources to cyclists. Stop by SideSaddle Bike Shop on Victoria Drive during the tour to access free mechanical support, air and oil as well as clean washrooms and fresh water.

Are you interested in taking a VHF house tour but not sure what to expect? Read our First Timer’s Guide to House Tours here.

Do you or someone you know live in a house that may be a good fit for one of our tours? We are continually searching for great examples of heritage or character, mid-century modern design, sympathetic lane homes behind heritage homes, or renovated Vancouver Specials to open on our tours. If you’d like to know more, or have your home considered for inclusion on a future tour, contact us 604 264 9642 or by email.

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From Restoring Community, VHF's own heritage documentary, the cultural history of the Vancouver Special with Naveen Girn and the St. Amour family. Watch the full documentary here.

The 2014 pre-tour lecture included a historic talk about Strathcona to explain the infill housing from the 1970's designed by Architect Joe Wai. Joe Wai talked at length about the SPOTA story and the community resistance that saved Strathcona in the late 1960's.

Watch the Joe Wai Talk - April 16th 2014

Love them or hate them, Specials represent a significant aspect of Vancouver's architectural heritage. On the 2014 tour, we opened 5 Specials all with a unique spin on the classic Special. Featuring a Joe Wai home, a style found only in Strathcona, to a European styled home constructed from concrete block.

The sheer quantity of Specials and their adaptability has made them very attractive to first time buyers. The well-built Special is adaptable for so many uses - family, rental suite, trendy pad - all making the most of the clean lines and minimalist living offered by these houses.

Professional Development Credits: The Vancouver Special House Tour qualifies for 3 Non-Core LUs granted by the Architectural Institute of British Columbia.

Many of the houses open on the tour demonstrate the integration of original Special features with modern Vancouver living, from modest to big budget.

VHF is excited to see this stock gain respect and value, so Specials are retained and not sent to the landfill!

Check out this great video produced by all about the Vancouver Special


Below are brochures from previous tour years