Cottage Project


As you look around your vintage abode, you may wonder if you should renovate or tear it down and start from scratch. It can be a complicated decision. On one hand, your cottage may hold sentimental value, especially if it’s been passed down from one generation to the next. But on the other hand, renovating it may not make sense from either a financial or functional perspective.

Other factors may also influence your decision. Building or renovating the structures on your property may require permits from your local township and public health approval for a septic system. In some cases, Parks Canada or other officials may also become involved. In some jurisdictions, structures like old boathouses may be grandfathered so if you tear them down, you can’t rebuild them.

In the case of this cottage in the Municipality of Killarney, a charming hamlet nestled on the northern shore of Georgian Bay near the world-renowned Killarney Provincial Park, the owners took a hybrid approach.

The main challenge was to provide a terraced design that provided better proximity of a walk out level to a seasonally dry beach lagoon that had become increasingly used by the owners due to dropping water levels in Georgian Bay over the years. In previous decades the shallow lagoon was under water all year but due to climate change, the lagoon had remained consistently dry for seasons making direct access to the more expansive beach area more attractive to the owners.

They kept the original cottage to retain their proximity to the water but gutted the interior to create large common room. They retained the existing Muskoka room, expanded the kitchen towards the bay and built a substantial wing that incorporates a new entryway, breezeway, mudroom/laundry room and dining room, as well as several bedrooms.

The result is an open concept floor plan with defined areas. Each major space – the great room, the expanded kitchen and the new wing – is like a mini cottage all its own, creating interesting nooks and crannies that offer a variety of breathtaking views. On the exterior, those resulting jogs in the floor plan create landscaped spaces sheltered from winds off of Georgian Bay on breezy days perfect for welcomed privacy if someone wants to tend the kitchen garden, curl up with a book or otherwise find respite from the wind, sun or need a quiet break from noisier activities.

The area’s rugged landscape, expansive pine forests, pristine rivers and lakes, glimmering pink granite and white-tipped La Cloche Mountains (also called La Cloche Range) inspired Canada’s renowned Group of Seven artists and certainly inspired Lakeside Architecture. The cottage, for example, is sited to take advantage of the bay’s receding waters and cascades towards the water’s edge.

By approaching each major space as a space all its own, we were better able to orient each to the lake so the family and their guests can enjoy exquisite panoramic views. The new wing seamlessly adjusts to the topography and drops to meet the bedrock – meaning its elevation is lower than the original cottage. Likewise, there are multiple rooflines because the roof drops down in levels. The cottage also boasts two expansive decks with glass railings for unobstructed views.

Natural materials like pine, douglas fir and granite were used throughout the exterior and interior of the cottage, which serves as a home away from home. The owners wanted lots of windows to take advantage of pristine views. Enlarging the kitchen, for instance, allowed us to install windows on three sides, as well as provide a convenient walkout to a deck. The dining room also boasts windows on three sides and offers direct views of the water.

Traditional double hung windows have durable, corrosion-resistant anodized aluminium on the exterior and pine on the interior. The cottage features reclaimed hemlock plank flooring, a stunning vaulted ceiling dressed up with douglas fir timbers, walls accentuated up with pine trims, and other douglas fir and stone details, creating a rustic yet contemporary feel that’s perfectly at home in its surroundings.

The result was that the cottage looks like and is in fact a completely new cottage, significantly expanded and with better beach access, built over and expanding upon the “good” structural bones of the existing cottage with higher rooflines and even a bedroom wing comprised of lower roof lines reminiscent of older style “Bunkie” architecture. 

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