The thorax may be a curious source of design inspiration, but for Canadian firm rzlbd, it provided a smart solution for maximizing the buildable area of a small space. Challenged to build a home on the site of a recently demolished bungalow, architect Reza Aliabadi took advantage of existing zoning laws by adopting the former building’s footprint and thorax-like floor plan. “The bungalow had a ‘spine,’ the staircase, with functional spaces, or ‘lungs,’ on either side,” Aliabadi says. “We wanted to incorporate that model in a way that spoke to our client’s desire for a pared-down, modern home.” True to its name, the Thorax House’s double-height ceilings and efficient layout offer plenty of room to breathe. An entry foyer gives way to a staircase flanked by a pair of symmetrical alcoves. One side houses a living room with soaring ceilings, while a dining room and kitchen comprise the other. Upstairs, a slatted wood bridge provides access to two bedrooms connected by a shared bathroom. Pocket doors and skylights with operable shades provide natural light, and offer privacy without obstructing the home’s systematic design.