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.
A layered neutral living room
Follow designer Kelley McNamara's tips to creating a serene family home.
Designer Kelley McNamara turns a 3,000-square-foot Dutch Colonial home in Fort Langley, B.C., into a calming abode for her busy family.
Designer Kelley McNamara shares 10 tips to creating a serene family home.
Designer and homeowner Kelley McNamara fills vintage milk glass vases, ceramic jugs and glass jars with blooms to capture the country charm of her rural surroundings. “I always try to have fresh flowers in the house,” says Kelley. “They add an element of organic texture and colour.”
A French metal chandelier brings patina and visual interest to the dining room. “I want the house to look like it’s been here a long time,” says Kelley. The fixture ties in beautifully with the sun-bleached oak table, mix-and-match seating, white oak plank floors and salvaged antique barn door.
An aged-looking support beam gives this pristine space character – and it’s a clever trick. “I wanted salvaged timber, but it was too expensive,” says Kelley. Instead, she painted a new fir beam with a few coats of sun-bleached oak wood stain. A trio of wicker stools, brass-finished hardware and a vintage-style pendant light also lend the kitchen a well-lived-in vibe.
The mud room’s industrial sink makes it easy to bathe the family’s two dogs, Duke and Finnegan, before they track dirt into the house, while the slate floor is easy to clean. A Dutch door injects country charm.
Kelley panelled the range hood over the six-burner gas range to achieve a seamless look with the cabinetry. Installing the microwave in the island keeps it out of sight yet easily accessible for the children.
Kelley believes neutral rooms don’t have to be boring. She jazzed up the formal living room’s white and grey palette with linen fabrics, a wool rug and toss cushions in mohair, faux fur and hide. “The more layers, the richer the room becomes,” she says. A dark-brown-framed mirror creates a focal point over the fireplace, while brass library lights are a warm finishing touch on the built-in bookshelves.
Instead of setting this console against a wall or behind a sofa, Kelley gave it centre stage in her front foyer. To ground the vignette, she placed the console atop a rug and arranged interesting objects, such as coffee table books, geode crystals and a potted plant, on top of it. These decorative items bring the outdoors in and make the arrangement feel purposeful.
Kelley didn't overdecorate the master bath, allowing the glass shower and sculptural free-standing tub to make the statement. The accessories are quiet, except for the aged-brass-finished pendant light, which draws the eye toward the corner windows.
A dining room buffet gets new life as the master bathroom vanity. Kelley asked her carpenter to cut off the top of the buffet, and then had a plumber add a quartz countertop, undermounted sinks and wall-mounted faucets for rustic appeal.
Simple bedding, a tufted bench and elegant accessories signal that the master bedroom is a calming oasis. Soft grey is the only whisper of colour in the otherwise monochromatic room, while a few hits of brass add glamour.
Rustic-meets-refined condo design
Blogger and decorator Tim Lam adds his signature style to this 800-square-foot condo in Waterloo, Ont.
“Never underestimate the power of paint and fabric,” says decorator Tim Lam of the caned barrel-back chairs he upgraded from garage sale finds to favourite pieces in the living room. On the flip side, the sophisticated sofa is a Sarah Richardson original found on Kijiji that needed only a quick cleaning.
Where Chris is a little bit country, Tim is all city. “Chris likes rustic simplicity, and I gravitate to more polished and refined spaces,” says Tim. And who better to steer you in the right decorative direction than the one you love?
Tim insisted that the kitchen’s brown cabinetry, brown granite countertop and blue glass backsplash, which homeowner Chris Gabriel inherited with the condo, had to go. Though upgrading the countertop, replacing the marble backsplash, updating the faucet to a showpiece and adding the slide-in range was a bit of a splurge, the couple cut costs by simply repainting the existing cabinetry and applying a DIY barnboard treatment to the peninsula’s base.
Though country charm isn’t exactly in Tim’s wheelhouse, he wanted to indulge Chris’s style throughout the space – and that’s especially visible in the dining room, which doubles as an office. “That door is hands-down my favourite piece in the room,” says Tim, who found it at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for around $100. “And I got it just like that – I didn’t have to refinish it or anything.” He did, however, tape Alanna Cavanagh’s silk-screened artwork in the window to hide the stuff inside (which includes pantry and office staples).
The sideboard in the living room offers a nod to one of Chris’s desired elements: natural wood. Above it, the gallery wall displays artwork and travel mementoes the couple has amassed over time, including a quirky cuckoo clock that references the couple’s shared affinity for birds.
The bedroom’s soothing grey, yellow and white palette allowed Tim to play with pattern, from diamonds to stripes to polka dots. Asian-inspired elements like the faux bamboo nightstands and pagoda-shaped table lamps add elegance to the geometric look.
A tiny cheater ensuite with doors leading to both the living area and the bedroom left little wall space, so Tim had the bedroom door replaced with a wall, which now accommodates artwork and a towel bar. The builder-basic vanity was cleverly customized with a brass-coated toe kick for a floating effect, while the glitzy cream and gold bird wallpaper casts a glamorous glow.
The high-gloss dark grey wall paint in the bedroom acts as a luscious counterpoint to the suble texture of the grasscloth on the feature wall behind the bed. The herringbone throw is a souvenir from Chris’s hometown in Germany.
Chris (left) is from Germany and had planned to return there, but he met and fell in love with Tim and hasn’t looked back since.
Enrich your space with this season's hottest colour trend for a beautiful, cozy fall home.
Embrace the best of fall decorating with this season’s hottest colour trend: caramel! It’s time to steer away from the typical rich reds and burnt oranges of autumn and indulge in this new neutral. While it still offers that deep, rich colour to warm up your space, it’s easier to incorporate into your current decor thanks to its neutral hue. So once summer fades, try layering your home with our favourite caramel picks of the season.
A soft, full-grain leather sofa from Ikea's classic Stockholm collection. Stockholm sofa in Seglora natural, ikea.ca, $2,199.
Credits: West Elm
Take your workspace to a whole new level of sophistication with a top-grain leather swivel chair. Slope Leather Office Chair, westelm.com, $399.
This mid-century inspired bench is beautifully crafted to work anywhere in your home, whether in your entryway, dining room, or at the foot of your bed. Reverie bench in Coachella Cognac, eq3.com, $949.
Credits: Design Within Reach
Designed by mid-century French modernist icon Jacques Adnet, this mininalist mirror is thoughtful in design, beautifully constructed with a hand-stitched full-grain aniline leather strap and outfitted in brass details. Adnet Round Mirror, dwr.com, $1,099 – $1,399.
Create instant impact with ease thanks to these rich, saddle brown leather fringe pillows. Leather Fringe Saddle Pillow (18”x12”), cb2.com, $199.
If fringe isn’t your style, try this decorative stitched pillow. Catmando Decorative Pillow (18”x18”), bouclair.com, $34.99