Tour this lovely cottage on Lake Simcoe!
A designer lends her expertise to help a couple resolve a colourful debate over the scheme for their family cottage.
"He wanted dark tones and a woodsy Aspen vibe. I wanted everything white with clean lines." The “he” referred to is the husband, the “I” speaking is the wife, and in terms of their decor preferences for this new-build 4,900-square-foot cottage overlooking Lake Simcoe in Innisfil, Ont., they were clearly at odds. But the Toronto-based couple, who has a seven-year-old daughter, a five-year-old son and a Samoyed puppy, did agree on one thing: The design had to be practical. And after many reassurances on the wife’s part that her vision could be inviting and relaxing, she says, “My husband eventually gave me free rein. I wanted a gorgeous unfussy space that was easy to maintain.”
To get the look, she turned to Lidia van Zyl, a designer based in Barrie, Ont., who’s well known for decorating waterfront properties in the area. “When I was hired in 2014, the cottage was in its planning stage,” says Lidia. “This allowed us to pore over the plans and confirm almost every detail before the walls went up.” The walls themselves played a crucial role in setting the tone for the space. “Honouring the husband’s preference for a traditional look, I incorporated shiplap into the mix,” says Lidia. The wooden boards, which were most often used in the construction of homes, were applied horizontally in the kitchen, powder room, foyer and master bedroom. “Shiplap, even when painted white, provides a rustic contrast to drywall and has an informal feel that really adds to the casual cottage vibe,” says the designer.
While the scheme may be all white, it’s anything but stark. “The key to decorating with white is to use different shades of it,” says Lidia. “If you look closely, you’ll see the walls are a crisp white, while the beams are coated with a warmer shade.” Wide-plank pale hickory flooring completes the airy backdrop, which Lidia chose to punctuate with bold hits of black. “I love contrast, so I added black accessories to almost every room,” she says. Lidia extended this theme to the furniture as well and, with the kids and puppy in mind, paid specific attention to practicality. “The grey sofas in the living room are covered with indoor-outdoor fabric, so they’re stain resistant and easy to clean,” she says. “And some of the pieces, such as the living room coffee table and foyer console, are crafted from steel, so they’re pretty much damage-proof.” She also introduced a few well-placed antiques throughout the cottage to create interesting tension between old and new.
The 18-month process of building and decorating netted a year-round family retreat that Lidia describes as “refined but rustic.” And even though the wife had total control, she did make an effort to include her husband – sort of. She says: “He really wanted dark floors, but even he conceded the light ones looked better. So I let him think he helped with that decision in a roundabout way. Now we’re all happy!”
Accessories like the rope-hung mirrors and the lantern-style pendant lights make this practical space feel decorated. “I don’t like to take risks when decorating,” says one of the homeowners, “but I did want to mix things up in the kitchen so it didn’t read as plain.”
Designer Lidia van Zyl played the natural tones of wood and stone against sleek black accents to create character in the living room. The tall armoire holds things like games, books and blankets, while the bare floor, a practical option, is easy to clean. A trio of metal sculptures above the reclaimed wood mantel is a departure from the expected mirror or artwork.
In the foyer, the staircase’s natural wood handrail and treads were a purposeful choice. “If we had painted them black, it would have drawn the eye up the stairs as opposed to straight through the cottage to the lake,” says Lidia.
A mix of neutral tones creates subtle depth in the dining area. “The table and chairs appear white at first glance, but they’re actually a soft shade of grey,” says Lidia. the chandelier, painted white to downplay its ornate shape, illuminates everything from meals to crafts.
“This cottage always makes me smile,” says one of the homeowners. “It’s an amazing feeling to open the front door to beautiful surroundings.” the stone skirting – a concession to the aspen look the husband wanted – ties in nicely with the herringbone brick walkway.
The artful arrangement of dark-hued antiques in an all-white area of the living room makes a graphic statement. the antlers are a family heirloom.
“I love a white kitchen because I don’t like distractions when I’m cooking,” says one of the homeowners, “and I can also see what needs to be cleaned.” low-maintenance Caesarstone countertops and a glossy tiled backsplash on the range wall make cleanup even easier. the massive island is outfitted with cupboards that hold cottage necessities, such as candles, batteries and a tool kit.
While the silhouette of the chandelier in the master bedroom is traditional, its wooden beads give it an earthy appeal that suits a cottage. the wicker basket, sisal rug and rustic artwork (it’s made of wood and says “I Love Us”) echo that earthiness, which is tempered by the black furniture.
Hooks and baskets are enough to keep the mud room in order since the basement has ample storage. The built-in bench always comes in handy.
Like the rest of the cottage, the powder room is energized with hits of black. “I love the graphic mosaic-look floor here,” says Lidia. “It’s actually 24-by-24-inch tiles, and they have just the right amount of pattern for a small space.” Vintage racquets used as informal artwork perfectly fit the laid- back vibe of this family retreat.
Top 10 must-see rooms designers love most
We asked 10 designers to flip through past issues of Style at Home and tell us which shot of their work tops the charts – and why.
Take a look at 10 gorgeous spaces from the pages of Style at Home and discover what designers love most about them.
This bedroom from the November 2012 issue has a personal resonance for Stephanie Vogler – it’s her own. “There’s a lot going on here, but it feels restful because of subtle pattern mixing and a soft, muted palette,” she says. “Though the room is neutral for most of the year, I added blush pink pillowcases and florals for the photo shoot, which made the space even more romantic and evocative of a good night’s sleep.” Star power “The fabric on the tufted headboard is washable (essential when you have young children) and super comfortable for reading or watching movies in bed.”
This ultra-hip kitchen, which appeared in the February 2014 issue, was the centrepiece of Ingrid Oomen’s redesign of the first floor of this historic home. “The kitchen has a fabulous tall ceiling and opens to the dining room on one side and the family room on the other,” she says. “We added two new windows to the side of the house to ensure the space gets light all day long.” Star power “The open shelves are a nice textural focal point, and I love the usability of them. They add a real restaurant feel when styled with plates for convenient access.”
When Carol Reed renovated the kitchen of this tudor-style home, featured in the February 2013 issue, she started by revamping the floor plan. “The newly opened-up room doubled the amount of daylight and storage, as well as the number of guests the family can entertain,” she explains. “Customized details elevate off-the-shelf cabinetry, while the black and white palette grounds the kitchen in classic character that blends with the century home.” Star power “The antique monk’s table is a standout feature. Its worn patina reflects a history of gathering and sharing, which is exactly what this kitchen was designed for.”
Simple is sublime, according to Samantha Sacks, who chose the bathroom of her family cottage, first featured in the August 2011 issue. “There’s nothing to this room: For me, that’s where its charm lies,” she explains. “The simplicity – even the plumbing is exposed – paired with a few luxury pieces, such as some super-thick towels and an intricately engraved silver tumbler from Egypt, gives the space a feeling of barefoot elegance.” Star power “The back of the clawfoot tub slopes beautifully, while the cast iron holds heat. Our cottage is quite rustic, so a hot bath feels like a divine indulgence.”
This handsome bedroom, featured in the October 2012 issue by Feasby & Bleeks Design, has grown with the little boy it was designed for – and that was precisely the goal. “We love trends as much as anyone, but we choose to inject them into our designs in ways that can be easily updated,” says Erin Feasby. “For this room, classic nautical was our jumping-off point, and that really helped with selections and decisions. It made our job very easy.” Adds Cindy Bleeks, “Years later, this space feels as fresh as the day it was completed.” Star power “The wallpaper is graphic yet timeless. It adds so much life to this wall, and you never tire of it – plus, it’s great for all ages.”
Michael Penney, owner of the Whitby, Ont., housewares store Penney & Co., decorated this century home in Ontario’s Prince Edward County featured in the June 2012 issue. “I’d say this living room works well because it has a balance of classic and quirky, neutral and punchy,” he explains. “The shell of the space is a soft putty colour, which sets up the foundation for the bold blue velvet sofa and zippy striped chairs. Finally, shelves allow for lots of books and personal treasures.” Star power “The solidly built vintage sofa is full of personality thanks to its sumptuous peacock blue colour.”
This old-meets-new living room from the June 2011 issue brings together custom-made and vintage pieces. “Although it’s a fairly traditional space, it doesn’t feel too formal,” says designer, Christine Hanlon. “I still love the graphic grey linen fabric on the sofa and the way the mix of finishes, from natural wood to gold leaf, add warmth and texture.” Star power “I have a soft spot for the bamboo coffee table I bought from my friend’s shop.”
Kelly Deck brought her signature West coast style to this expansive bedroom in a White Rock, B.C., home, featured in the first Designer Secrets Special issue back in 2011. “I still appreciate this room for its scale and timeless coastal colour scheme,” she says. “The headboard wall is over 18 feet wide, but the custom millwork and oversized nightstands fill the volume of the space to make what could otherwise be vacuous seem warm and enveloping.” Star power “I’m quite fond of the gold pig with wings that sits on the nightstand – it’s a cheeky accent in a sophisticated space.”
Form and function plus a touch of luxe is Tara Fingold’s recipe for success in this glam master suite from the September 2014 issue. The dressing room area boasts a built-in makeup desk and bank of drawers, which serves as both a dresser and a window seat. “We included a ton of hidden storage to keep the room neat and tidy,” says Tara. “All the surfaces look precious but are quite practical and easy to clean.” Star power “The bird chandelier is so whimsical and evokes a peaceful, happy feeling when you walk into the room.”
Layers and colour are what make this white-walled living room, featured in the February 2015 issue by Shirley Meisels, stand out from the crowd. “The comfy sofa with loose cushions is inviting and a good neutral against the pops of colour in the rug, sidechairs and artwork, which acts as the focal point in the room,” says Shirley. “I like how the space is masculine with surprising feminine touches that negate the ‘man cave’ vibe.” Star power “The artwork is a finishing touch that adds personality and really makes the room come to life.”
West Coast minimalist design
In this from-the-ground-up project, BattersbyHowat Architects delivers a minimalistic yet cozy common area for a family of four.
The term "cozy modern" may sound like a bit of an oxymoron to most, but to David Battersby and Heather Howat of architecture and design firm BattersbyHowat Architects, it's almost a mantra. "Modern doesn't have to mean cold and repelling," says David, who, along with Heather, has designed many spaces that reaffirm the fact. And that's precisely why these homeowners - a pair of lawyers with two preteen children - hired the firm to design and build their 3,900-square-foot Vancouver house from the ground up. "They wanted a contemporary space they would feel comfortable in," says David. "And after they toured some of our previous projects, they knew we could deliver the style they sought."
The open-concept main floor delivers just that, from the 12-seater dining room and the strikingly expansive kitchen (with its whopping 17-foot-long island and cozy eat-in nook) to the light-filled living area, where the family enjoys spotting eagles soaring by through the huge windows. "The living room is so bright, we barely ever turn the lights on in there," says one of the homeowners.
The creative forces behind BattersbyHowat Architects, David Battersby and Heather Howat, offer not only architecture services but also interior design and landscaping. In fact, it's one of the things that attracted the homeowners to the firm. "We felt there would be greater cohesion to the overall project," says one of the homeowners, "which proved to be true."
David Battersby describes the style of home that he and Heather designed as West Coast modern. The mix of glass, cement and wood on the front delivers a quiet but statement-making modernism. On the top floor, recessed windows with extended side walls that angle outward add a feeling of privacy.
Subtle colours in the pale blue back-painted-glass backsplash and island base, as well as the turquoise accents in the eat-in area, soften the sleek white kitchen, while oak cabinetry warms it up. Having open shelving in a few intimate places, such as the eat-in area, gives the homeowners an opportunity to display favourite items and family photos, but keeps the open-concept feeling far from cluttered.
Intimate and inviting, the eat-in area of this Vancouver home's kitchen is a favourite spot of the family who lives here. From the Eames chairs to the Nelson Propeller pendant light, Mid-Century Modern furnishings lend a timeless look, while the sunny palette keeps it fresh.
Turqoise and sunny yellow tabletop accents help tie in the sunny colour palette.
The central staircase, hidden behind a sculptural screen, adds an artistic architectural element that was also cost-effective. "The screen that's providing the guard is also supporting every stair tread," says David. "So it's interesting but also essential."
The living area's glass nesting coffee tables are a light and airy counterpoint to the fireplace's cement hearth, which doubles as extra seating.
Contemporary kitchen with timeless appeal
Architect Yannick Laurin of Montreal’s La Shed Architecture works wonders on a dated kitchen that perfectly combines contemporary styling with timeless appeal.
THEN: There was limited connection between the living spaces and the backyard.
NOW: On the main floor, light pours into the kitchen from black-framed floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, which lead outside. Black was also used on the lower cabinets to ground the space and to contrast all the white. The white-painted exposed brick wall above the Corian perimeter countertop acts as a durable backsplash and adds a nostalgic touch. The sleek custom range hood enhances the modern look.
THEN: With dropped ceilings and tiny windows, the back of the main-floor flat felt confined. NOW: Replacing the dropped ceilings with a smooth surface increased the space’s height by a foot, enhancing its airy vibe. The sustainable wide-plank birch floors also contribute to the light and spacious feel of the house. To create continuity, the same birch appears on the white Corian-topped island, which complements the less variegated birch on the nearby staircase.
Floating maple cubbies help break up the expanse of white walls and cabinetry.
THEN: The small front vestibule had two doors - one to the main floor and the other to a staircase leading to the second floor. NOW: The staircase, now a major architectural statement, was flipped and pushed further back to provide more space in the entry. “We made the outside black and the inside birch to resemble a cut piece of fruit,” says Yannick. The staircase’s wide upper opening allows natural light from the massive skylight to flood the two storeys.
THEN: The view to the front of the house was originally blocked off; the main-floor entry opened onto a small living room. NOW: In the open-concept layout, the sculptural staircase connects the front of the house (a bathroom and small office) to the back (the kitchen and dining area). On the second floor, a white-painted perforated steel catwalk connects the corridor to the staircase. “We used perforated steel so it wouldn’t block the light,” says architect Yannick Laurin.