Welcome to the lakehouse
The moment the french doors I'd saved from my great-grandfather's house (and carried around for 30 years) were installed in a guest room in my new house, I knew this was home.
In 2001, my partner, Tim Young, and I had just completed a tedious renovation of a cottage near Bobcaygeon, Ontario, when a friend called from the site of a recently listed 1901 Arts and Crafts summer house. Knowing my penchant for all things vintage, she told us: "Come look at their stuff, it's like a 1940s movie set." Twenty minutes later, Tim and I were viewing it, and two months after that, we owned it, minus the 'stuff.'
When we bought it, the rambling two-storey structure was a tear-down. It came with a bat-infested attic, leaking roof, sloping floors and a desperate need for modernization. But the location was idyllic - three acres of bush at the end of a road, stretching along 500 feet of shoreline on Pigeon Lake. In addition, the bones of the house were a perfect match for our brand of vintage style, with lots of space to display the collections we've gathered over the years. And the spectacular round dining room - glass with an uninterrupted view over the lake - that helped me envision how I could resurrect this grand dame is one of the cottage's crowning glories.
I drew endless remodelling plans and began working with framer John Vanderheide and carpenter Bob Jones on the transformation. All 22 rooms were taken apart, restructured, wired and insulated, carefully preserving the natural wood and character. Aside from the tedious bits of any renovation, we indulged in lots of whimsy, designing rooms around favourite pieces of furniture. The Linden room, for example, took shape around three 1930s iron hospital beds brought from a previous cottage.
In fact, we gave all the bedrooms monikers like Linden, Dewhurst and Tiverton, named after streets our friends live on. Archways were made to measure for doors I'd scavenged over the years, and the original doors were refurbished and re-hung. It's a source of pride that visitors can't tell the difference between old and new.
We spend a lot of time in the kitchen - Tim cooks, I bake and friends pitch in - so we designed the room around our collections, furniture and work space for several chefs. Reproduction schoolhouse fixtures light up the open shelves we've lined with antique bowls and old kitchen tins, while my favourite vintage signs adorn the walls. The baking counter was influenced by the number of glass canisters we wanted to line up. Windows face the garden and lake, allowing views of birds, deer, otters, heron, beaver, even the odd bear.
Inspired by old fabrics, rugs and cedar shingles, we chose a palette of greens, creams and yellows. I mix and match the same colours in every room, but the wall texture, room location and accessories produce different effects. The limited colour scheme creates continuity, while enhancing the nutty brown wood floors and drawing attention to the antiques. It all adds to the vintage feel.
When we purchased the cottage, we thought of ourselves as city folk with cottaging in our hearts - the plan was to pursue a different lifestyle, not necessarily escape the city. But now, each morning Tim heads to his office upstairs and I plan my day as a life coach and real estate representative for Kawartha Waterfront Realty. We don't get mail delivered, but the post office is a hot bed for socializing. There aren't any Starbucks, but Kathleen at Kawartha Coffee Co. makes a mean latte. We don't get to the movies, but we see more stars from our dock than we ever imagined. There's a balance. Life at the Lakehouse is healthy and rich.