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.
5 small space myths
We debunk 5 myths about decorating for small spaces.
Photography by Paul Chmielowiec
Small space myth 1: Don't use large furniture.
There's this strange myth out there that if you use large furniture in a small space, it will eat up the room. This can be true if you try to stuff a large bedroom set in a 10'x10' room, but you can still introduce large pieces in small quantities. Don't want to give up your queen-sized bed? Instead, cut back on other pieces like large armoires and bulky side tables. Your big bed will become a beautiful focal point in the room.
Photography by Kim Christie
Small space myth 2: Only use neutrals.
Sure, white walls can make a small room look airy, but don't limit yourself to just neutrals. The bedroom above (in a small Vancouver condo) has sandy walls, but also includes an artistic chalkboard wall. Pops of colour in the cushions bring life to the space and do anything but make it feel smaller.
Photography by Michael Graydon
Small space myth 3: They always look cluttered.
There's no need to get rid of all your 'stuff' just because you live in a small space -- just make sure you have savvy storage spaces. The teeny bathroom above has full cabinetry underneath the sink, but features sliding doors to keep things looking sleek. Thin glass shelves above the toilet neatly hold items that are frequently used so they're always at the ready.
Photography by Stacey Brandford
Small space myth 4: Avoid patterns.
Much like the myth of sticking to one focal point, many of us are scared to use pattern in a room in fear that it will look too busy. The living space above uses seven different patterns and they all blend together to create a cohesive space. The key is to use a similar colourway -- each of the patterns either use a neutral or the coral colour used on the walls.
Photography by Sue Stubbs
Small space myth 5: Stick to one bold focal point.
Many designers advise that you choose one eye-catching piece when decorating for a small space to avoid an overwhelming look, but this isn't always the case. The dining room above incorporates a bright feather wreath with a gorgeous natural stone fireplace and a Floyd Paxton pendant light. Even though each is a showstopper in their own right, the mix of one bright colour with neutrals ensures they work seamlessly together.
Stylish sun-filled family room.
A time-worn Toronto house is transformed into a lively family home with a welcoming design.
"We moved so we could have a pool,” says homeowner and decorator Jenifer Glover of J.G. Interiors. It was 2008, and she and her husband, Norm Brownstein, were keen to create a fun backyard oasis in the city for their four children: Gabriele, 15, Jackson, 13, Hayden, 10, and Maya, 7.
So when a house with pool potential in a prime Toronto neighbourhood came up for sale, they took the plunge, even though it was far from perfect. “We loved the location and the lot, which had space for a pool, but we didn’t love the house,” says Jenifer. “It was a rundown 1930s build with faux Tudor features. Our plan was to freshen up the rooms with paint to tide us over until the eventual tear-down and rebuild.”
Jenifer relaxes on a black leather bench in the family room.
Jennifer's family room before the elegant home renovation.
The design of the sun-filled family room had a surprising jumping-off point: the television. “With the TV in place on a custom cabinet, I designed the shelves above it and repeated them and the cabinet on the other side of the fireplace,” says Jenifer. “This symmetry allowed me to fill the opposite space with artwork that balances out the television.”
Lively patterned toss cushions dress up the family room’s classic linen sofa.
This vignette design in the family room is testament to homeowner Jenifer Glover’s personalized approach to decorating: “These are things I’ve picked up over time because I love them.”
Crafted from the same walnut as the kitchen island, the family room’s custom wood cabinets and shelves are both stylish and practical. “The wood ties these rooms together while really warming up the space,” says Jenifer.
The kitchen before its complete restaurant-inspired renovation.
Wooden accents and sophisticated accessories infuse the new-build kitchen with old-world charm. The gold-framed mirrors reflect one of Jennifer’s favourite inspirations: restaurant design. “I love sitting in restaurants that have mirrors angled downward – the light and the images that bounce back are wonderful.” Secondhand bentwood stools and an elaborate chandelier from France have a rich vintage feel that tempers the room’s white surfaces. The steel window frames and mullions were painted black to mimic the industrial appearance of the French doors.
A rustic-look dining table in the kitchen's eat-in area holds up to a house full of kids because, according to Jenifer, “It only gets better with age.” The space features framed artwork created by the couple’s children. “It’s elements like kids’ art that turn a house into a home,” she says.
Anything but oppressive, a dramatic black painted ceiling glams up the formal dining room. “It feels like the night sky,” says Jenifer. With leather and chrome dining chairs, a vintage-look brass pendant light and a traditional rug, the room has an edgy eclectic vibe.
Take a tour of this gorgeous family cottage on Lake Simcoe.
Designer Jessica Waks gives this family's second cottage its own unique flair, creating a spot to accommodate not only guests but also generations to come.
Nudged awake by the sweet smell of fresh cinnamon buns wafting from the kitchen, sleepy family members lumber downstairs, along the way catching sweeping views of serene Lake Simcoe – calm and quiet before the afternoon action takes hold. It’s a common Sunday scene at this Innisfil, Ont., cottage, which is peaceful in the morning until everyone gets up and silence gives way to animated chit-chat and laughter. Often, it’s not just the occupants of this abode in attendance, but the next-door neighbours as well – after all, they’re family, too. The homeowners, a Toronto couple with four adult daughters and two toddler grandchildren, weren’t planning on purchasing a new place – they bought a cottage only five years ago (featured in Style at Home’s July 2013 issue) – but when this 7,000-square-foot three-storey structure directly next door to the first became available, the owners decided to take advantage of the unique opportunity to keep their rapidly expanding family together on these adjacent vacation properties. To make the cottages look cohesive, they rehired designer Jessica Waks – Style at Home’s former design editor – of Jessica Claire Interiors, who had perfectly appointed their first place. “The homeowners wanted the spaces to have their own identities but to also look unified,” says Jessica, discussing how she took the nautical tone of the first property and layered a more country feel into the second. “I used a refined rustic aesthetic to temper its grand architecture, which boasts a spacious foyer and formal principal rooms,” she says.
Jessica was thinking Nantucket rather than classic Canadiana (“it’s more in keeping with the beach locale,” she says) when she rescued the dark and dated interior from its 1980s time warp. The most notable offences? Upholstered doors, inexplicable wall cut outs, tacky floral wallpaper (even on the ceiling in some rooms), mismatched flooring (including fruit-patterned tiles and pink-stained oak), heavily swathed valances, forest green toilets and sinks and a bizarre balcony that jutted into the living room from the second floor. In other words, the cottage called for a complete overhaul. So Jessica started fresh in almost every room, smoothing out the architectural oddities and replacing the flooring with dark-stained oak hardwood, which contrasts the newly white walls throughout – a timeless and cohesive envelope for the elegant nautical look.
Creating a furniture plan for the grand living room was tricky because it has so many points of entry,” says designer Jessica Waks. “Not only did it need to seat a lot of people, but it also had to look good from all angles.” Jessica cleverly selected items like the blue swivel armchairs that can face the central sitting area, the fireplace or the view (win-win-win)!
To make a statement in the foyer, Jessica set visually interesting pieces like the vintage spool-legged console with a curvy linen-upholstered settee against a simple, traditional pedestal table. The jug of maple branches is a nod to the cottage’s sylvan surroundings.
Above the console in the great room, the designer framed and hung a simple grid of antique Simcoe county maps. Believe it or not, the stunning console was a Craigs List purchase. “I love find ing preloved pieces online, at markets and at consignment stores – there are such gems to uncover,” says Jessica, who skilfully pairs these secondhand scores with new custom items.
Meals are often served alfresco with stunning views of Lake Simcoe on the side. To visually connect the two properties, Jessica chose the same outdoor dining furniture for this space as she did for the other cottage next door. “I love how the teak’s grey stain and toss cushions match the stone work and siding of the home’s exterior,” she says.
“The windows in the dining room look out to the front and side of the property,” says Jessica, “so to make up for the lack of lake views and to add visual interest, I chose a charming paisley wallpaper.” The blue-grey tone of the print perfectly matches the original slate fireplace surround.
In the kitchen, the white beadboard cabinetry offers a light and airy country look that’s grounded by darker elements, such as the leathered black granite perimeter countertops and slate-look floor tiles. The wide butcher block-topped island provides ample space for the homeowners, who are avid cooks, to prep meals for their large family.
A pretty patterned wallpaper distracts from this powder room’s awkward angles. Using the space’s drawbacks to her advantage, Jessica leaned a vintage wooden ladder against the wall to hang towels for guests.
The third-floor “bunkie” boasts the most coveted sleeping area in the house: the queen bed in the window niche overlooking the lake. “You can see the sunrise from this spot,” says Jessica. Nautical buffalo-check drapery offers sleepers privacy from the rest of the room.
“As a decorator, I love the strong sense of symmetry that comes from a set of twin beds,” says Jessica, who had these hard-to-find spindle-framed beds for one of the rooms shipped from the US. “I like how they stand out against the wallpaper,” she says. “You can really appreciate the spool detail.”