Cottage Guide

Clear Choices

Picture a standard Canadian cottage built in the 1960s — 900 square feet, with brown clapboard siding, poky wood-panelled rooms, and modest windows. Now revel in its reincarnation — a light, bright, and airy replacement that sits on the footprint of its predecessor. Located just southwest of Perth, this cottage seems to float above the lake, with lake-facing windows offering unimpeded water views courtesy of glass railings around the deck. “We’re so lucky that the owners shared our sensibility,” says Gabe Prost of Christopher Simmonds Architect. “They wanted a modern interpretation of their very traditional cottage, and they trusted us to maximize the site’s potential.”

The owners asked that the cottage offer a modern interpretation but respect tradition. Photo by: T.H. Wall

When the owners first contacted Prost and his team, they were looking to renovate and expand their cramped cottage. “They were originally thinking about adding a second storey,” Prost explains. That plan changed once he visited the site and saw it for himself. The original cottage, which was built at the beginning of the steep slope down to the lake, had the kitchen, living room, bathroom, and two bedrooms crammed into the 900-square-foot main level, while the unfinished basement was used for storage.

A compact Norwegian designed Jotul propane stove lets the owners avoid the hassle of shlepping wood. Photo by: T.H. Wall

Prost immediately saw an opportunity, sketching a plan to move two bedrooms and a generous ensuite into the basement. Because of the incline, the lake-facing west side was completely above ground, so he could incorporate floor-to-ceiling sliding doors in each room, allowing the occupants unimpeded views of the water. In the mornings, they could greet the day by stepping out onto a patio beneath the upper deck. Brilliant move. With the bedrooms and ensuite downstairs, Prost was free to dispense with all those tiny rooms on the main level, creating a dramatic open-concept kitchen, living room, and dining room with stellar views over the water.

The cedar porch with posts crafted from Douglas fir, turns the deck into an outdoor dining and living room. Photo by: T.H. Wall

The main-floor room boasts true “wow” factor. Here, wraparound windows on the south and north sides complement the main bank of west-facing glass, ensuring that light streams in throughout the day, illuminating the crisp white space. But though the room is resolutely modern, it is never cold. Warm floors of engineered white oak ground the space, while a pine tongue-and-groove ceiling creates texture and an inviting rusticity. The owners added to that vibe by wrapping barnboard around the kitchen island, using more of the weathered wood for pretty floating shelves on the walls on either side of the stovetop.

By moving the bedrooms downstairs, Prost made room for a generous kitchen space, which is open to the living room and dining areas. Photo by: T.H. Wall

Two sets of floor-to-ceiling patio doors allow access to the deck, which seems to float above the water. Those doors can be left open on warm summer days to provide a cooling flow of air through the cottage. Above the deck, a cedar porch turns the entire space into an outdoor dining and living room.

Glass railings around the deck allow unobstructed views of the lake. Photo by: T.H. Wall

As Prost looks back on the project, he is delighted at how well the cottage fits the owners’ needs, opening up new space and mixing indoor and outdoor so beautifully. “The space feels generous,” he says simply. “The design focused on quality over quantity, and it shows.”