Cottage in the Cove – By Muskoka Life Magazine

Cottage in the Cove

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Story by Patti Vipond

Photos by Bev McMullen and Dave Opavsky

Some cottage communities are planned. Others evolve through a serendipitous blend of families who enjoy each other¹s company in a place that they love.

This beautiful little cove on Lake of Bays, is the latter.

Within the cove¹s handful of cottages are families who have cottaged on the bay for up to half a century.

The owners of the newest cottage on the cove have actually been part of the amiable community for about 20 years. Back then, buying their cottage was not a matter of desire, but of practicality. At that time, the husband worked in Huntsville for half of the week and lived in Toronto with his wife the rest of the time. After he had stayed at Huntsville¹s Comfort Inn for a year, they decided it was time to purchase a place up north.

In those days, the price of a cottage was within reach for a young couple. They bought a large, gently sloping property with a sandy beach, wooded privacy and a small but adorable 800-square-foot cottage.

In coming years, the couple¹s children would come to know every inch of the property, including its stream.

³Our kids disappear into the woods and will be down there in the stream playing with the dogs,² says the husband, whose family plants trees on the property to mark memorable occasions. ³They just love it. They were resistant to building a bigger cottage, but being in the same place on the same property helped a lot. The little cottage served us well for many, many years. We had lots of friends and family through it. But we outgrew it, especially in winter when we come up with skis and lots of dogs. Also, our children are getting to the stage where they want to have friends come up so we needed more room.² The family¹s old cottage found new life through their decision to donate it to Habitat for Humanity.

³They came and took the cottage right down to the foundations,² explains the wife. ³Habitat for Humanity has a ReStore in Bracebridge, so whatever they could take apart and use was brought to the store. The workers were from Beaver Creek, a minimum-security federal prison in Gravenhurst. Habitat has a work program with Beaver Creek. It was a feel-good project all around for us because it helped in a couple of ways.² With a new building area that was sited southwest to provide sunset views over the lake, the couple contacted Bob Vaughan of Algonquin Projects and Suzanne Shields, a Toronto-based interior designer with an architectural background, to design their new 7,000-square-foot cottage.

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³Suzanne came up with really interesting ideas that could be implemented between herself and our builder, Bob Vaughan,² says the husband.

³She worked with great people to make her vision happen and used very thoughtful design based on knowing how we live as a family.

Bob did a wonderful job, especially with all the unique features of this cottage.² ³Bob did beautiful trim work around all the windows and the sills,² adds the wife. ³We didn¹t use the traditional honey pine. We chose darker pine that almost looks like a 1920s Muskoka cottage. It really pops. Our floors are reclaimed dark pine. We are really happy with the outcome.² Building during the extreme cold and heavy snowfalls of the winter of 2014-15 was the biggest challenge faced by Vaughan and his crew. Relocating primary hydro lines to make room for the cottage, which meant clearing the lot and installing six hydro poles, was arduous in the deep snow. However some challenges, like perfecting wood trim and stonework, were wonderful.

³We tend to get excited about the finishes like putting trim together that makes window and door frames pop out at you,² says Vaughan, who manages construction at Algonquin Projects. ³The beams in the cottage create lovely shadows and lines on the ceilings. We enjoyed installing the beautiful natural stone fireplaces and the home gym that allows any type of body work out with all the bells and whistles you would find in a downtown members-only facility.² Designed to look like a traditional cottage with a bit of history, the retreat¹s blue and white exterior stylishly wraps around an expansive interior that includes five bedrooms and six bathrooms, including three ensuites.

³The cottage has modern amenities, but it is very traditional,² says the husband. ³It has big windows, wooden floors and pine throughout, with very little drywall. We didn¹t build closer to the lake because we have a nice grassy slope down to the water that¹s great for the kids and dogs. We kept the same blue exterior colour as the old cottage because we really liked it.² On approach, the house is reminiscent of Muskoka¹s classic cottages with its inviting covered front porch and quaint peaked dormer above the front door. However, the open entrance foyer leads to a spacious, stylish retreat that has lots of natural light and a northern lodge feeling. A panoramic view of the lake is offered in every room.

Beneath the living room¹s beamed wooden cathedral ceiling, a soaring dry stack Eramosa stone fireplace, quarried in Orillia, increases the cosy quotient. A deep sectional sofa in neutral tones complements the fireplace, while two soft armchairs add red and black accents to the serene décor. Shield¹s skillful selection of furniture makes the lofty room feel intimate as well as airy. Subtle uplighting along the ceiling¹s edge casts soft light along the warm wood. An antler chandelier suspended in front of the fireplace enhances the rustic atmosphere. In front of the wood-burning fireplace, a pillowy dog bed is ready for any of the family¹s three pooches to take a nap.

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³We used neutral colours so that the outdoors would be the prime focus,² explains the wife. ³There are many windows, so the trees became part of our decorating plan. Our furniture is a mix of new pieces and ones from the old cottage. We saved the board from the old cottage where we measured the kids¹ heights and put it in here.² The dining area¹s focus is a feast-length custom trestle dining table that seats up to 16 diners with a bevy of antique-style spindle chairs with upholstered seats. Being able to comfortably host large family gatherings at the cottage was a long-held wish for the couple. Above the wooden dining table hangs a striking rectangular lighting fixture from Restoration Hardware. Within a rivet-accented frame covered in metal mesh, its filament light bulbs softly illuminate the space. Diners can gaze through a wall of windows to a wide deck off of the main floor and beyond to the water. Beneath the deck and extending into the yard are exceptional stone patios bordered with stone garden walls.

³Despite the size of the cottage, all personal spaces feel private while still allowing full views of the nature outside,² says Vaughan. ³Though it looks traditional, the cottage has modern features, like a sound system with eight different sources that can be played independently of each other in 16 locations. An automated security system with video also monitors the interior temperature and can change it if the owners desire. The system will also call the owners if it gets too cold in the cottage. Hot water circulation pumps supply hot water on demand anywhere in the house.² Built for family living, the soft white kitchen by C & G Custom Cabinets in Gorrie, Ontario features extensive custom cabinetry with underlighting, island seating for four and a generous refrigerator hidden behind cabinetry covering. A trio of transom windows brightens the sink and Caesarstone quartz counters. Three beautiful stained glass pendants lend colour and complement the recessed ceiling lighting. This new kitchen has considerably more room than its predecessor.

³In our old cottage, we had a Œone bum¹ kitchen,² smiles the wife. ³Now we have room for a few more bums. The backsplash is one of the modern elements in the cottage. It is an iridescent, pearly, cascading tile. Elementally, it fits in very well because it almost looks like ice.² The cottage¹s adaptable four-season Muskoka Room lets family and friends enjoy spring zephyrs and summer breezes as well as cuddle up by the wood-burning stone fireplace during the frosty seasons.

There¹s lots of room to relax on a casual aqua, cream-and-beige-striped sectional sofa that cradles an antique coffee table.

The master bedroom plan included an adjoining den. The couple wanted to create a private suite for when their children are older and want the cottage to themselves. The den has a gas fireplace, television and furnishings that create a quiet living space. The bedroom¹s light-filled ensuite has a spa feel with a freestanding tub and double sinks. The couple can escape to the outdoors through a walkout to a private balcony overlooking the lake.

In the high-ceilinged lower level, four bedrooms decorated in antique-themed linens and furniture adjoin a common living area with ping-pong table, television and walkout to the patio. A functional wet bar is tucked under the stairs to maximize floor space. Nearby, a fully equipped professional home gym with weights, mirrors and machines is close to a sauna with a combination bathroom/change room and bathing suit dryer.

The gym reflects the couple¹s commitment to fitness.


³We are both very active and fit, so we built a very nice gym for working out with a view of the water,² says the husband.

Another unique feature is a main floor room dedicated to the family¹s three dogs. The dogs have their own eating area, sleeping spot and a shower for bathing and washing the outdoors off of their paws.

³The dogs love their bed, but haven¹t quite adjusted to the shower yet,² says the wife. ³We love the shower because it means no more muddy paws! At night we say Œinto bed¹ and they toddle off to their room.² It was during the second week of November 2015 that the family saw their new cottage finished and furnished for the first time.

It was a happy occasion, with the new cottage ready for its first Christmas.

³When our family came into the cottage, they were completely flabbergasted,² recalls the wife. ³The last time we saw it, it was a construction site. Seeing it as a home complete with a Christmas tree was wonderful. The children loved the ping-pong table and started playing immediately. They also loved that some furniture and special parts of the old cottage were here. It made them feel connected to the former cottage, which they loved, in this new environment.² Christmas in the new cottage supplied more than enough room to entertain lots of family and friends over the holidays. Decorating their huge 12-foot Christmas tree using a tall ladder has become a magical family memory. But though their home on Lake of Bays has changed, one important thing remains the same ­ the close community of neighbours.

³We really love our neighbours,² says the husband. ³We¹ve watched everyone¹s kids grow up and watched our children play with them.

We¹ve had lovely experiences with our neighbours and will continue to do so.²


€ From the pages of Muskoka Life magazine


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