My Family Cottage Refresher
This past year I was faced with the challenge of renovating my family's cottage in Muskoka. Not an easy task when you think about it as each family member had their own idea of how they envisioned the space. We managed to work through our differences in the end and now that it’s all done it was completely worth it! We have just enjoyed an amazing first summer in the newly designed cottage and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.
The aim was to update the very dated living/dining/kitchen space and make it more functional for our growing family of three adult children all of whom are beginning to have families of their own. In short, we decided to completely gut the kitchen and get rid of almost all of our furniture in the living space and start from scratch.
Major changes included: A new layout, removal of the carpet, new engineered hardwood flooring, new family bathroom (photo not included here), all new furnishings, a bright new kitchen, new entry door (including moving it’s location) and all new windows and trim. With all the new elements It was important to me that it still felt like a cozy family cottage. As a result, I decided to keep the beautiful and rare exotic cherry wood walls and incorporate them into the new design. Resulting in a refreshed space that still feels cozy and inviting.
Here are some before pics of the space. I couldn't find my official before pics so these are a few of the family in the old space. Note the sexy gold drapery, dark wood ceiling, and super plush wall to wall carpet!
My first major challenge was in the space planning. The outdated U shaped kitchen was completely non-functional and often congested. With the fridge at the end of the U it was difficult just to grab a glass of orange juice in the middle of cooking a big family brunch without inconveniencing the cook. Adding to this challenge was the location of the main entrance; right in the middle of the kitchen, it was a magnet for wet flip flops, running shoes & dog toys. And then there was the glaringly obvious priority of the decor. First glance and one might mistake the space for an outdated hotel lobby, not to mention the inability for guests to flow from the fireplace sitting area out to enjoy the beautiful view.
Priorities for the reno:
1. Brighten up the space
2. Improve functionality of kitchen
3. Add a bar zone to help decrease kitchen congestion
4. Improve traffic flow from kitchen to dining room
5. Bring the space up to date while also keeping a cozy cottage feel
So, the planning and construction began ….
To tackle the issue of brightness I decided to strip the oppressive wood ceiling of it’s tongue and groove boards to make way for drywall and pot lights. The main entrance door was moved to the far right creating a nice entrance nook, away from the kitchen where flip flops and toys can rest. To help keep the space feeling "cottagey" I re-purposed the wood we had stripped from the ceiling and created a feature wall in the new entry nook. The wood paneled nook looks original and unites the new kitchen space with the rest of the cottage. Moving the entrance door freed up a lot more space for the new kitchen and improved flow into the cottage.
The old drafty kitchen windows were replaced with taller more energy efficient ones and moved to accommodate the new kitchen design.
An old shelving nook in the living room was converted into a bar zone with custom cabinetry including a wine fridge and plenty of storage for liquor as well as decorative storage for all the related glassware.
Finally, I designed custom sofas and chairs with fresh fabrics, clean lines and comfortable cushions to update the living space while keeping it an inviting place to curl up and relax. We removed the old gaudy drapery and valences to expose the incredible south views of the lake and to allow more light to enter in. Instead of hanging new window treatments we installed simple roller blinds for UV protection hidden behind a simple cherry wood valence that blends seamlessly into the walls behind.
In the end it is a bright, airy, functional space that still maintains the cozy charm of an old family cottage. The large kitchen island is now ideal for entertaining weekend guests who can perch with their mojito at the bar while enjoying the warmth of the fire on a cool stormy summer day or simply relax on the couch and enjoy the view!