Cottage Guide

Living the High Life

Behold the killer view, a sprawling vista across miles of forested hills and over Grand Lake. Today, a striking cottage on stilts sits on the site, floor-to-ceiling windows taking in the all-Canadian scenery. Still, when the owners of the two-acre lot invited Dean Caillier to tour the site in 2013, he admits that his first thought was, Are you nuts? It was a gorgeous spot, to be sure, but it was positioned at the edge of a rocky hill that dropped precipitously down to the water. The owner of Dean Caillier Design admits that he couldn’t quite picture how he would manage to build a cottage on the challenging site. “I loved the terrain, but it was daunting!”

exterior-cottage Photography: Gordon King
From the lofty cottage, more than 80 stairs lead down the steep hill to the lake. Photography: Gordon King

He would go on to walk around the lot with Tim Butler of In2trees, a company that provides both tree-removal and furniture-making services. Together, they looked at where to blast a flat area on which to build, as well as what trees would have to be removed and how to reuse them. From there, Caillier designed an impressive two-level cottage. Built by Alia Construction’s Ray Cheslock, it consists of a lower level that houses the kids’ rooms and play area and an upper level with a master bedroom and an open living room and kitchen. That living room, with ceilings that soar to 30 feet and floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, highlights what Caillier calls “the money shot.” “It really is the most incredible view down the lake.” To ensure that the scenery takes centre stage, the decor is minimalist, with polished-concrete floors and trim-free windows. Pine tongue-and-groove ceilings and comfy couches add warmth to the grand space.

Living-room-cottage Photography: Gordon King
The west-facing living room sees floor-to-ceiling windows soar to 30 feet. Photography: Gordon King

The kitchen is both fun and functional, a colourful gathering spot for this busy family of five and their friends. Glossy Ikea cabinetry is paired with a maple-topped island that Butler created from a tree removed during construction. Caillier further customized the kitchen by adding corrugated-metal toe kicks beneath all the counters, raising the height of the work surfaces for the taller-than-average couple.

Kitchen-cottage Photography: Gordon King
The maple-topped island in the glossy Ikea kitchen was created from a tree removed during construction. Photography: Gordon King

From the kitchen, a door leads to a screened 20-by-20-foot covered deck with similarly picture-perfect views. To ensure unimpeded sightlines, the bottom section of the deck is enclosed by glass, as is the upper section, while the middle portion is screened to capture the breeze while blocking the bugs. Before winter sets in, acrylic windows can be placed over the screens to stop snow from accumulating. On sunny days, the owners make for a second, open deck, the perfect spot to barbecue while enjoying the sunset.

When asked for one main thought about this distinctive cottage, which was finished in the fall of 2014, Caillier immediately answers “fun.” While the project was demanding, he explains that working on a cottage tends to be a more relaxed process than constructing a house. “For me, building this lakefront home was all about fun — what’s not to like about working in such a beautiful place and knowing how much the owners are going to enjoy using it.”

deck-cottage Photography: Gordon King
The cedar deck features glass on the lower section, screens in the middle, and glass again at the top. When it gets colder, the owners can slot acrylic panels into the screened sections to block rain and snow. Photography: Gordon King