From simple cottage to luxurious retreat
A decade and a half of weekends and holidays in one place can shape a lifetime's worth of memories and attachments.
So when this Montreal family realized they had outgrown the lakeside cottage they'd owned in Lantier, Quebec, since their children were small, they weren't about to abandon the lake, the property, or the friendships they'd formed. They planned to build a new house, more practical for their present needs and attuned to their hopes for the future. But while their 50-year-old cottage was no longer worth salvaging, they were determined to recreate some of its best features.
The warmth of wood
The most important element, therefore, was the wood. "Our old cottage was all old wood inside. We loved that warmth," one of the owners says. In a departure from the white-on-white beach house look of many contemporary country homes, the walls and ceilings of this new house's living room, dining room and kitchen were panelled in pine beadboard and stained a deep honey colour. "That immediately imbued the space with patina and age," says designer Ellen Coopersmith.
"It was important. It started off the feeling of the house," the wife says. While the cottage had been very rustic, however, she grounded the scheme for the new house in the ambience of a Quebec auberge, finding in the old country inns' signature mix of natural and well-worn materials—stone, iron, leather, wood—an ideal that is both sophisticated and comfortable.
The auberge look is also a natural fit with the home's layout: It is spread out in casual ranch style along a single axis, with the living room, dining room and kitchen completely open to each other to encourage an easy flow. Windows across the length of the house offer an uninterrupted view of the lake.
To avoid having the house "look as if it was put up yesterday," Ellen says, "all the furniture was conceived as pieces that would gain character with wear and tear. That's the advantage of such traditional country style. The family likes to entertain, they have parties, the kids bring a lot of friends—it's easy if things already look a little worn."
The design of the wrought-iron and brass stair railing was inspired by a horse’s bit. The hand-stitched leather handrail will only improve with age.
Large furnishings were custom-made to look as if they were collected over time, from disparate sources. Nothing precisely matches, but the textural mix of a quilted-velvet-covered sofa, a large deep armchair in a paisley stripe, and a comfy loveseat in a wide-wale corduroy creates a winter-cozy space. The stone fireplace and the TV are both visible from the kitchen.
Picking the right colours
The house's colours add subtle layers of warmth. "We stayed with the colours of nature," Ellen says. "We were influenced by the fall colours, because that's when we first went to the property to discuss the new house. So there is green running throughout the house—mossy green, green slate floors in the mudroom and vestibule—plus touches of red, and paprika, and rust."
There are softer hues too: sage green and cream, pale wheat, mellow Dijon yellow, which offer contrast with the dark oak floors.
Occasionally, the beadboard has been painted in more traditional country style: white in the daughters' bedrooms, and a coat of cream for the kitchen ceiling that was subsequently 'antiqued' with a wash of the owner's favourite sage.
The effect in these spaces is to create a hint of separation from the other rooms and give a lighter, more open feeling. The different looks in different areas also create interest, notes Ellen, as you move through the house.
At only an hour and a quarter from Montreal the house easily fills up—"There are often crowds up here," Ellen says-but it also makes a lovely overnight getaway for the couple.
"Sometimes we go on Friday and come home on Saturday. Everyone leads hectic lives now," the wife says, "but we get in the car to go there and forget about it all. It's a true retreat—a place we'll have for many years."