Ah, the cottage. That wonderful sanctuary unto which we escape for rest and recuperation. That place where clocks run slow and wine runs, well, faster. And that’s just how we like it: Cab Sauv, if you don’t mind, preferably new world Argentinian.
In our world, with a schedule that propels us between Canada, Britain and, most recently Australia as design experts on lifestyle show The Living Room, we’re always searching for somewhere to catch our breath. That said, we love our job, so you’ll hear no grumbling from us.
Yes indeed, we’re happy with our professional mission: to make ordinary homes extraordinary for style challenged home owners across three continents.
Two years past, however, we met the trickiest clients we’ve ever worked with: ourselves. Having purchased a run down cottage in Muskoka, the race was on to transform it into a chic bolt hole before our nerves – and our budget – got the better of us.
To compound matters, we’d been invited to film the transformation for the Cottage Life television network. And they’d suggested a three month deadline..
Yes: three months. To rebuild a collapsing sunroom, refurbish a basement bedroom, tackle a large family room, install a new kitchen, create two new bathrooms and knock together two small bedrooms to create one killer master suite. Aye, it’s fair to say we had our work cut out.
The kitchen, updated by Batemans in Oro Medonte, is a hand built triumph finished in rich grey with Caesarstone detailing and nickel lighting. Slick Euro styling is important to us, so we discreetly concealed fridge and freezer separates behind doors: yup, the former in the left tall tower and the latter in the right, effectively sandwiching the built in stove and cooker.
Reworking the entire ground floor, to be honest, was simple, being that the biggest job (short of inserting triple French doors to afford better lake sightlines) was removing threadbare carpet and installing a slick wooden floor. Dressed with an outsized sofa and a leather ottoman, the scene is anchored by a large grey rug that seems to float, like an island, in front of the stone built fireplace.
To the other side of the room, modern black Windsor and grey leather chairs gather around an outsized Hemlock table while a faux antler chandelier floats proudly above providing atmosphere and adjustable illumination at the twist of a button.
Upstairs, in the house bathroom, we replaced dated tile with acres of slick Caesarstone wrapped across main wall areas and around a deep soaker tub. Above this, a rain head shower cascades high pressure jets while fixed glazing protects the room from water splash.
In the master bedroom (the result of combining two smaller rooms) we created relaxed atmosphere with a creamy painted scheme to ‘minimise’ the overpowering v groove pine. Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter was our weapon of choice, and, paired as it is against the joists (which we left unpainted) the resultant aesthetics are dramatic yet soothing.
For the most part pattern was limited, though we conceded a spot of Robert Allen Ikat fabric for drapery (and toss pillows) and geometric weave rugs from the C+J Home collection: find our line in stores like Homesense, Winners and Marshalls.
A large custom headboard stretches along one elevation, its soft nickel pins visually balanced by pale lumber night stands and dressers. Opposite the bed sit two comfy chaise longue which we found in Ikea: our schemes, as aye, are peppered with affordable detailing that helps moderate spend. It’s just how we roll…
In the basement, after ‘opening’ the space to make it eminently more livable, we created a large double bedroom and a comfy family room, each clad in pine and connected via a large barn door (custom manufactured by Rebarn in Toronto) which slides along a slick black rail.
The focal point in the family room is the oil burning stove which sits in front of a granite clad feature zone, while the focal point in the bedroom is the large padded headboard, custom made for the project. Both rooms feature double French doors, dressed with grey plaid drapery, that lead to a large sunroom rebuilt in the footprint of its near derelict predecessor.
The rebirthed sun room boasts Sunspace Weather Master Plus windows with plastic memory glass that’s virtually impervious to scratches or indeed breakage and bug screens to protect against entomological invasion. Dressed with weather proof wicker, and embellished with Robert Allen toss pillows, the sunroom is a climatic joy (even in cooler climes) thanks to the memory glass which helps insulate proceedings.
And finally: the downstairs bathroom. Accessed by another rolling barn door, its primary aesthetic is grey scale via ‘cement’ toned tile and graphite grout which enlivens basic buy ‘big box store’ subway tile. To add flair, we custom manufactured the outsized trough sink in conjunction with Dare To Be Different, a vibrant young company whose products can be sized to suit your application. The results, we hope, speak for themselves.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe we made the changes described in just three short months. Sure, we have a brilliant team, but it was a monolithic transformation, nonetheless, given the window of opportunity. As each other’s fussiest clients, we drove one another crazy: on a daily basis, it should be reported, we’d hone ambition… and then start from scratch. To say we were pedantic with each other – and our team, for that matter – is an understatement. At all times, however, we had the best interests of the cottage close to our hearts.
So would we do it again? In another cottage? Could we actually deal with our ‘most demanding’ clients ever…. in a second location? Well, as a matter of fact, yes. We could. During Season TWO of ‘Colin and Justin’s Cabin Pressure’ which has just premiered. And this time the drama is even bigger and the workload even more astonishing.
Yup, get ready for our ‘slanty shanty’ in Haliburton: the worst property we have ever corrected. Hey: you’ve been warned – prepare for decorative lift off as the Cabin Pressure lid finally pops!
‘Colin and Justin’s Cabin Pressure’ airs on, Sundays, at 9pm. The Cottage Life television channel is currently in FREE preview.