Image: Donna Griffith | Design: Amy Kent | Styling: Ann Marie Favot
Downsizing has never looked as sunny and bright as it does in this lakeside Ontario cottage.
When her mother, Shirley Kent, decided to leave her spacious country home outside of Forest, Ont., on the banks of Lake Huron, designer Amy Kent (who has designed spaces like this sophisticated bedroom and this modern home) was charged with creating a simpler, more compact space that would nevertheless reflect her mom’s sense of style. “She has four granddaughters and entertains a lot,” says Amy. “We wanted to give her the means to carry on her lifestyle on a smaller footprint.”
A few kilometres down the beach, another house had a story to tell. When mother and daughter first viewed the 1970s log home on a freezing cold winter day, all the windows were boarded up. “We had to use flashlights inside, and when the light beam shone on the field-stone fireplace and the cedar floor, we were sold,” recalls Amy.
Amy and Ryan Martin, her business partner at Croma Design in Toronto, were charmed by the quirky nature of the cottage. “Apparently it came in a kit with planed cedar logs that you put together yourself, like Lego,” says Amy. “It came from Michigan; there are only a few of them in Ontario.”
Amy and Ryan had new windows installed to let the light stream in, cleaned and gently oiled the warm cedar flooring, and painted all the walls and ceilings pure white. To give Shirley, an avid cook, a spacious kitchen, they expanded it to include the old dining area, tucking the new one into the spot once occupied by the sunroom. The existing master bedroom was converted into a bedroom for Shirley’s granddaughters, complete with a dual set of bunk beds.
The original 1,100-square-foot cottage received a 900-square-foot addition, which seamlessly joins the main house across a central porcelain-tiled entry hall. “It creates some of the grandness felt in my mom’s previous home,” Amy says. The new wing includes a large master bedroom with an ensuite and a dressing room, plus a kids’ bathroom, laundry room and serving pantry.
Set on on a bluff overlooking the lake, the home is surrounded by two acres of nature, and from the deck that wraps around three sides of the cottage, the family can take in quiet views of the water and admire the sunset. “It feels wonderful to be here,” Shirley says. “Outside, there are lots of birds and bunnies and a beautiful crabapple tree. And inside, Amy and Ryan have given me a house that really flows.” Out of the darkness, they found light – from every angle, windows frame the beautiful vistas. Shirley trusted the designers would do it right, and Amy says the house played a part, too. “There were so many lovely surprises.”
Local woodworker Russell Fisher built the custom kitchen cabinetry and the island, which offers an expansive work area and a lake view. Carrara marble subway tiles line the walls behind the stove and counter.
The small yet sunny dining room is neatly decorated and includes a narrow table that extends to seat 12.
A beam that likely came from a local barn anchors the fieldstone fireplace. The cozy living room houses a compact sofa, a Boston rocker and rattan armchairs. The vintage blanket box, used as a coffee table, holds children’s toys.
Just a few kilometres from their original family house, homeowner Shirley Kent and her daughter, Amy Kent, and granddaughters Emmeline, now 5, and Beatrice, now 6, enjoy the beachfront below the newly renovated log cottage.
The small bench in the entryway, with its original worn paint, was found in the garage of Shirley’s previous house. “It predates all of us,” says Amy. Beside the master bedroom in the new wing, an antique drop-leaf barley twist table, with drawers in the original robin’s egg blue finish, sits under a vintage painting of a Quebec winter scene.
“We wanted everything to look timeless,” says Amy of the Carrara marble countertop and hexagon-tiled floor in the main bathroom, dubbed the kids’ bathroom. A narrow casement window is flanked by rectangular mirrors and wall sconces, all in polished nickel.
In the master bedroom, the panelling resembles the hallway wainscotting with crown moulding added to mirror the character in the original parts of the home. Floor-to-ceiling windows in this addition bring in light, and a large blue antique rug reflects lake and sky.
How to master the cottage-chic look:
1 Mix and match vintage, antique and contemporary pieces to make rooms look effortlessly put together.
2 Layer in organic shapes and natural textures to bring the beauty of the outdoors in.
3 Decorate with meaningful personal items to imbue spaces with both warmth and charm.
4 Keep window coverings simple to capitalize on picturesque views.
5 Place fresh-cut flowers in workaday vessels, such as ceramic pitchers.