In the heart of the city, one laneway house stands out for its warmth and low-impact approach
Croft Street is a quirky urban treasure with a cottage-y twist. The narrow lane, which runs between College and Harbord near Bathurst, is mostly made up of mural-covered garages. But the parking is interspersed with laneway cottages, some of which date back a century or more. They were built as small homes to house tradespeople who were helping construct the surrounding neighbourhood.
In 2019, Zeke Kaplan, owner of ZZ Contracting, bought one of the old cottages and decided to turn it into a rental duplex. The two-storey, peaked-roof place had fallen into disrepair. Kaplan, who himself used to live on Croft for nearly a decade before his growing family required more space, set out to revitalize the property. In doing so, he restored some of its charms and brought the structure up to a contemporary standard of sustainability.
“Croft is such a warm, friendly and tight-knit street,” he says. “I didn’t want to do a conventional, modern laneway house with black cladding and lots of glazing. I also know the cost of heating with gas is only going up. To me, it was important to do something that would not rely on fossil fuels.” Working with architect Peter Latoszek of Lattag Studio, Kaplan kept more or less the shape and the footprint of the original house. “We managed to maintain about 50 per cent of the structure,” says Kaplan. “The rest had to be rebuilt.”
For the cladding, Latoszek and Kaplan chose to use a rich, honey-hued, thermally modified pine – a finish made durable simply through heating and drying wood planks as opposed to using chemical treatments. “We went through different options, but the knotty pine checked all the boxes,” says Latoszek. “It is environmentally friendly, locally sourced and rot resistant. In my opinion, it is what brings the exterior aesthetic and sustainable goals together.” Outside, the driveway is laid with Turfstone pavers from Unilock, which are filled with soil that sprouts grass in the warmer months, creating a permeable surface that helps storm-water drainage and prevents flooding.
The roof is another point of intersection between the desired look and a need for green – even though it’s actually blue. The aqua, standing-seam pitch is fashioned from recycled steel and echoes a Muskoka boathouse. It is also dotted with 24 solar panels. “Metal roofs comes with a lifetime warranty, whereas shingles have an expiration date. The standing seam metal profile also allows for low-profile solar racking to keep the panels tight to the roof surface,” says Kaplan. The panels generate enough electricity to power much of the house without relying heavily on conventional power sources. “The average hydro bill is less than $100 a month,” he says.
Inside, the 1,100-square-foot space is divided into two apartments, one on the upper level and another that spreads across the main floor and basement.
Both units are bright, with sun pouring through long strip windows that punch high-performance, highly insulated walls. “It’s quiet inside,” says Kaplan. Yes, it’s in the middle of the city on a dense, busy lane; but it’s also peaceful, just like any cottage should be. ZZCONTRACTING.COM; LATTAGSTUDIO.COM