6 Croft St., Toronto
Asking Price: $1,999,000
Taxes: $9,953.40 (2021)
Lot Size: 26 feet by 46 feet
Listing agent: Joy Verde, Re/Max Hallmark Joy Verde Group Realty
When Shari Austin bought her laneway house five years ago she thought it might be the last time she had to move. Getting closer to retirement, kids away in school and work and a divorce behind her, it seemed like a fresh start and all she’d ever need.
“I had never thought about a laneway house,” she said. “I’m not sure I knew they existed. But I fell in love with it when I walked in the door.
“I wanted low maintenance; I travelled a lot before. I wanted something you could lock up and go. Part of it is my place is like a fortress, there’s no way to get in other than the very solid front entrance.” She’d had a scary run-in at her previous home in Rosedale when strangers showed up in the backyard trying to get in, and only the dog and a housekeeper scared them off.
The community in the laneway looks out for each other: “I’ve gotten to know a fair number of people along the laneway. It’s a dynamic and diverse neighbourhood,” she said. The mix of graphic designers, artists and architects celebrate their tucked-away status with neighbourhood barbecues and other get-togethers.
Not that the neighbours had always been happy about 6 Croft St. When it, and its next door non-identical twin, were first proposed in the early 2000s, surrounding residents pulled out the stops to oppose it – even though the lane already housed a former rug factory that had been turned into condos. It took years of wrangling (this was long before the city passed a coherent laneway housing planning process) before the builders prevailed and the homes came to the market.
It’s also illustrative of the way property values have increased in downtown Toronto. When it was first sold in 2005, 6 Croft was pricey for the time: $690,000 to get into a neighbourhood that wasn’t building any new three-bedroom homes in laneways or anywhere else. By the time Ms. Austin bought it in 2016 it was worth almost $1-million more: $1.62-million according to property records. Now it is listed to attract bidders at $1.999-million.
In Ms. Austin’s mind, the location can’t be beat. The house is just a couple of dozen feet from College Street and the path has all the colourful graffiti murals, mixed brick and ivy and garage doors you’d expect of an urban laneway.
“It’s close to the action on College Street; it’s so easy to access and it’s square in the heart of Little Italy,” she said. Her top two recommendations for shops on the block just to her south are Manic Coffee (“best in the city”) and the durably delicious Ramen Isshin.
The house today
The front entrance and car port is a red-brick chamber sheltered by the overhanging building clad in black aluminum. It feels like the entrance to private member’s club behind its iron gate.
Through the sturdy door is a direct view to the kitchen and living room, stairs leading up to the other levels are on the left. “It’s open concept and surprising light-filled,” Ms. Austen said. “I’ve really enjoyed the fact when people come for the first time they are shocked, because it doesn’t look like much when you see it from the outside.”
The space is mainly white with some bulkheads giving it an industrial-loft feeling, and the floor is a wide-plank blonde wood drawing you into a kitchen with a mix of materials. The appliances, including built-in gas range, and the island/breakfast bar are covered in stainless steel. Dark wood has been used for the pantry wall and cabinet lowers. Frosted glass appears on the cabinet doors. There’s a window above the sink that looks into the atrium/patio, and around the corner is a set of double glass and steel doors that lead to the same small sheltered space.
“I redid all the floors, put in new closets, redid all the doors, and put in those loft-style glass doors,” Ms. Austin said.
The living and dining room anchors the back half of this space. The rear wall contains custom storage around a fireplace and media cabinet in a rich warm wood. One wall is exposed brick (painted white), the other covered by a floor-to-ceiling custom bookshelf (with ladder for those hard to reach tomes) next to the dining table.
Heading upstairs there is a powder room on the first landing, and the primary bedroom suite is on the second floor. There’s a large ensuite bathroom with double vanity, standalone soaker tub and a glass-walled shower. Slate tile climbs up the walls in the shower and behind the tub. There are four small windows, including one in the shower that opens onto a blank brick wall, giving you light but also privacy. The primary bedroom has a Juliet balcony door that opens to the front laneway.
Stacked laundry hides in a closet on the landing, next to a small office (or nursery?) next to the bedroom – currently used as a mini-gym. Doors open to a deceptively large balcony deck. From inside, it looks about two feet wide, but a turn to the right takes you onto a large space (also redone by Ms. Austin) on the back of the house with privacy screening and built-in seating.
The third level has more living space: two large bedrooms (one of which is currently a home office) and a second which could almost be a second primary bedroom in scale. There’s an ensuite with glassed-in shower (no tub here) that opens to the hallway so it is technically a shared bath. There are skylights at the top of the stairwell to draw in sunshine, and the office has a high window cut-out to the stairwell to draw in more light.
Ms. Austin really did have no intention of selling, but sometimes life has other plans.
When the pandemic happened, her adult children needed a safe landing pad to come home too. Suddenly, with three adults on intermittent lockdown, the three-bedroom, three-bathroom house seemed a little small.
Now she’s in the position of looking for a larger house in Toronto after she thought she was done with all that.
“It’s not that usual for someone at my stage in life to go bigger,” she said. “I started feeling like I wanted more space and more outdoor space, which has become more important to a lot of people after the last few years.” This time, the kids are helping her find the perfect spot for all of them to land as they start another chapter.
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