Photography, Patrick Biller.
Candlelight, all-day fires and fragrant greenery are just some of the ways this new-build channels all-is-calm holiday warmth.
Karyn Gordon balances many professional roles: CEO, leadership and relationship expert, author, public speaker, TV personality. But at the Muskoka, Ont., home she shares with husband Brent Penner and their 16-year-old twins, Baron and Chase, her favourite roles are hot chocolate maker and board game player. “Our place is so magical in the winter,” says Karyn, who designed the 2,400-square-foot abode, while Brent, Baron and Chase pitched in by building its custom furniture.
When it came to layering in holiday cheer, Karyn called her designer friend Sarah Walker. “The Muskoka setting had everything to do with the styling direction,” Sarah says. “I wanted to bring the outdoors in and honour the beauty of nature that surrounds the property.” Her use of beeswax candles, organic textures and evergreens gets the look and promotes unwinding. Cue the softly falling snow and bring on the steaming hot chocolate!
HOLIDAY DECOR, STYLING, Sarah Walker, The Curated House. Custom COUNTERTOPS and FURNITURE, Penner Brothers. BARN DOORS, Home Depot. STOOLS, Structube. Footed BOWLS, CANDLESTICKS, STEMWARE, Crate and Barrel. BASKETS, IKEA. CANDLES, Honey Candles. CONSTRUCTION, (cottage and other buildings), Denco Sheds; Tailored Carpentry Solutions.
On the kitchen island, designer Sarah Walker used a mix of materials for the serving pieces. “I included marble, ceramic and wood accessories, along with organic shapes and textures that play perfectly with evergreen boughs cut from the property,” she says. “I wanted the ritual of lighting the beeswax candles to speak to the awe-inspiring simplicity of the setting.” The custom countertop is rough-cut, extra-thick lumber sourced and jointed together by Brent Penner. Wicker baskets add warmth to the black-and-white scheme.
SOFAS, CUSHIONS, RUG, IKEA. COFFEE TABLE, Penner Brothers. PENDANT LIGHTS, Wayfair. WREATHS, Port Carling Garden Centre. White VASE, Crate and Barrel. Alabaster VOTIVE CANDLE, House of Royals.
The living area boasts 24-foot-high ceilings yet doubles down on cozy vibes thanks to soft furnishings, a wood stove, and showstopper wood storage and display. “When I was designing the space, I told my husband I wanted the logs to go right to the ceiling,” Karyn says. “He thought I was kidding! It’s the wow-factor element everyone talks about when they first walk in – it’s beautiful and functional.” The wood, sourced from old trees from the nine-acre property, serves as display (in the upper cubbies) and as fuel storage (in the lower cubbies), and has an organic presence amid the orderly lines of the shiplap-clad walls. Its natural textures are picked up in the jute rug. Pendant lights offer drama, but their open design keeps them from dominating.
Wreaths from a local nursery embellish the wood storage and are complemented by garlands the family made from cuttings from the property. Two unadorned trees feel fresh. “They were also foraged from the property,” says Sarah. “I told Karyn I wanted a ‘Charlie Brown goes to Norway’ vibe, and Brent found the perfect pair of trees to fill the space under the stairs. They create a delightful Christmas moment, last well beyond the holidays, and their fragrance is intoxicating!” Comfy sofas flank the coffee table, which Karyn designed. Says Karyn: “It’s solid wood bolted together and supported by funky pipe fittings. My husband and our boys, the Penner Brothers, made it.”
PENDANT LIGHTS, Wayfair. CHAIRS, Structube. RUG, IKEA. DISHES, CUTLERY, STEMWARE, RUNNER, Crate and Barrel. CANDLES, Honey Candles.
The dining area is anchored by a solid wood table that Brent and the twins made. It seats 12 and Karyn contrasted it with white metal chairs. She says, “I love the combination of wood and metal on top of the natural jute rug, and the chairs are stackable and easy to clean.” Sarah layered in a tactile linen runner as a soft contrast to the hard materials and dotted it with bowls of greenery and more beeswax candles for a festive, modern farmhouse feel.
Pared down and peaceful
CURTAINS (in bedroom and bathroom), HANGING LIGHT, CHAIR, IKEA. STOOL, Structube. THROW, Alpaka. BEDDING, Linen Reform.
In the primary bedroom, Karyn designed a built-in bed using shiplap for continuity and simplicity. “I love simple, modern farmhouse style with a little flair,” she says. A single bulb suspended from the ceiling channels the pared-back look, while the pendant light adds some oomph. A stool, like the ones at the kitchen island, acts as a bedside table, and a wicker chair packs a warm punch in the pale colour scheme. Sarah added in soft wool throws and a vase that holds a single green bow for a sprinkle of seasonal cheer.
Soak in the beauty
PENDANT LIGHT, Wayfair. TOWEL, Linen Reform. VASE, Crate and Barrel. Blackberry BRANCHES, Fiori Floral Design. TOILETRIES, Sangre de Fruta. VOTIVE, House of Royals.
“I love this tub – it’s so romantic and I can look out at the trees and the lake while I soak,” says Karyn. The wooden bath tray is recycled wood from the property dressed up with a sweet little vase and green bough. The rough-hewn stool fits in perfectly with the aesthetic and has special meaning. “My dad found some old, recycled telephone poles that we cut and painted to use as stools and end tables inside and out.”
CONSTRUCTION, Denco Sheds; Tailored Carpentry Solutions.
A charming shed provides closed storage for tools and expansive open storage for easily accessible firewood. “We love having outdoor fires with s’mores and hot chocolate throughout the year,” says Karyn (shown here). The orderly abundance of logs references the display in the living room and offers a warm focal point in the snowy landscape. “We spend most winter afternoons outdoors, either snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or ice skating, so it’s magical to come back to a fire in the snow.”
Baron, Karyn, Brent and Chase (left to right) in front of their newly built home. “When we bought the nine-acre waterfront property, it had a little log cabin on it,” Karyn says. “We loved it but needed more space for our growing family, so we took it down and donated it to Muskoka Woods camp before building our dream home.” The new abode can accommodate up to 14 people. “We’ve named it Shiloh, which means ‘sanctuary’ and ‘a place of peace.’”
BAR CART, HomeSense. FIREPIT, Home Depot. BLANKETS, HillTop Interiors.
Brent built a stone surround for the firepit from flagstones found on the property, and Karyn encircled the welcoming feature with colourful Muskoka chairs. “Red is our ‘wow’ colour and we sprinkled it throughout the property,” she says. Red plaid blankets are cozy complements, while string lights and an outdoor bar feel festive (the tray on top of the bar is antique and used for gathering apples). A covered porch stores toboggans and snowshoes and offers a dry place to sit on snowy days. “It’s so relaxing sitting here because we enjoy such privacy on our property."
Step inside this Scandi-Chic holiday home