Politics

Cottage living: Contemporary cabin blends into landscape


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When architect Ian MacDonald decided to replace the simple bungalow cottage that he and his wife purchased in the early 1990s, he knew he wanted to strike just the right balance between a cozy old cabin and a thoroughly modern dwelling.

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“The original cottage was built in 1967. It wasn’t well built, but I developed an affection for it because it was the vessel that held so many family memories. I remember when the kids would be so excited to get there every Friday night,” he says of the cabin, located on Go Home Bay, an enclave of the Georgian Bay archipelago.

“Eventually the building started to fail, and we needed to replace it.” The new cottage is a flat modernist rectangle. Like the original, it’s perched atop a tall slab of Canadian Shield rock, an area immortalized by the renowned Group of Seven artists. The landscape abounds with natural beauty but is increasingly vulnerable to development.

That’s especially true of over-scaled structures that are “objects in this landscape,” MacDonald warns. “In my view, that’s an unfortunate phenomenon. It means your sense of the natural landscape is diminished. No one goes to their cottage to see someone else’s cottage – you go there to be in nature.”

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The new cottage is low, long and close to the ground and thanks to a charcoal stain, disappears in the shadows of the forest. “We made it as small as we possibly could because scale is an important issue,” MacDonald says. Sustainable features ensure the cottage treads as lightly as possible on the nature surrounding it. “We knew how sweltering hot the old cabin would be in the dog days of summer and wanted to address those issues in the way we built the new building.”

The irrigated green roof boosts cooling with water drawn from the bay, exterior sunshades reduce heat gain while still providing views of the landscape, and the main space transforms into a screened-in porch with lift and slide doors to improve cross ventilation and take advantage of any puff of wind that might come along.

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“Often at cottages there’s an over inclination to focus on the visual aspects,” says MacDonald. “The thing about a cottage that’s really exceptional is that it opens up, so you hear the sounds as well – the sounds of the wind in the trees, the waves lapping on the shore, the birds and animals.”

Lake Mississauga Cottage in the Kawartha Highlands is a four-season escape located on the edge of a quiet bay. The heavily treed site is secluded upon approach yet opens to a dramatic vista. Architects: Tillman Ruth Robinson.
Lake Mississauga Cottage in the Kawartha Highlands is a four-season escape located on the edge of a quiet bay. The heavily treed site is secluded upon approach yet opens to a dramatic vista. Architects: Tillman Ruth Robinson. Photo by IMAGES PUBLISHING

The award-winning Go Home Bay cottage is one of two dozen hideaways featured in Northern Hideaways: Canadian Cottages and Cabins (Images Publishing, May 16, 2022), a book that showcases secluded homes that take the word cabin to a luxurious level while paying homage to their surroundings.

The hideaways share a simple, contemporary architectural aesthetic, clean lines and a pared down palette of natural materials. “They provide warmth, comfort and luxury from which to experience slivers of the vast Canadian landscape in all seasons,” Canadian designer, artist and educator Julia Jamrozik says in the book’s introduction.

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“Simplifying relationships to the outdoors by careful orientation, crafting fluid boundaries between inside and outside, and framing views, these holiday homes curate the experience of nature for their inhabitants,” she says. “Many of the projects presented work with passive and active systems to minimize environmental impact…The hope is that the cottage experience will lead to moments of pleasure but also to heightened awareness and ecological stewardship for generations to come.”

Cottage on the Point in Lanaudière, Que. was renovated to create an open space that takes advantage of beautiful views overlooking the lake. A contemporary extension to the top of the log cabin ensures the original structure remains clearly visible. Architect: Paul Bernier.
Cottage on the Point in Lanaudière, Que. was renovated to create an open space that takes advantage of beautiful views overlooking the lake. A contemporary extension to the top of the log cabin ensures the original structure remains clearly visible. Architect: Paul Bernier. Photo by IMAGES PUBLISHING

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Demand outpacing supply

The aggregate price of a single-family home in Canada’s recreational regions is forecast to increase 13 per cent this year to $640,710 as demand continues to outpace supply, Royal LePage reports.

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“Demand for recreational properties continues to vastly outstrip inventory in many cottage regions across the country,” says President and CEO Phil Soper. “Waterfront and mountain-top locations near cities are limited by nature, even in a vast land like Canada, forcing buyers into multiple-offer scenarios.”

The aggregate price of a single-family home in Canada’s recreational property regions increased 26.6 per cent year-over-year to $567,000 in 2021. During the same period, the aggregate price of a single-family waterfront property increased 21.5 per cent to $976,000 and the aggregate price of a condominium rose 15.4 per cent to $374,000.

In Ontario, the aggregate price of a single-family home in recreational regions is forecast to increase 13 per cent this year to $737,890. In 2021, the aggregate price of a single-family home in the recreational market increased 34.6 per cent year-over-year to $653,000 – the strongest price appreciation in the country. During the same period, the aggregate price of a single-family waterfront property increased 31.8 per cent to $888,000, while the aggregate price of a condominium increased 20.7 per cent to $496,000.

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