THE LAZY DAYS OF LAKE SEASON: AN INSIDE LOOK AT THIS MUSKOKA COTTAGE

Waves gently lap the shoreline, and a swish of breezes passes between trees. The dock bobs. And delighted shouts of children send echoes across the mirrored lake. For the Toronto couple who cottage here with their four children, this is what vacationing in Muskoka, Ont., is all about – life unplugged and the clocks set to Family Time.

“It was 2015 when the homeowners bought this place,” says designer Sarah Birnie. “At the time, it was a cozy 1970s three-bedroom bungalow. But as my clients’ family grew from zero to four kids, it became clear that the cottage needed to grow as well.” So in 2018, a build-out of the lower level was completed, transforming the dwelling into a charming five-bedroom getaway. Spacious screened-in porches were added to three sides, and a cascade of stone steps was introduced to the hillside for easier lake access.

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Photography: Donna Griffith | Styling: Morgan Lindsay

“You can see the lake from every part of the house, but this area is really special,” says designer Sarah Birnie. “Centrally located, it gets beautiful light.” Set in natural blues, the table makes for a postcard perfect breakfast or brunch. “And the table folds down, so it can be set aside to make room for loungers.”

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Photography: Donna Griffith | Styling: Morgan Lindsay | DESIGN, Sarah Birnie Interiors, sarahbirnie.com | CONTRACTING, Gilbert + Burke | DINING CHAIRS, IKEA | bamboo TRAY, JKC Vintage Decor

Faux cut-glass goblets, washable linens and a vintage bamboo tray are pretty, not precious. “Fun comes first, here. Easy-care items like these are perfect for active growing families,” says Sarah.

Among the objects boated across the water to this island abode were furniture and vintage finds Sarah carried up with the homeowner in a U-Haul. “Five times, yes, five times, we loaded up a truck and hit the road,” says Sarah with a laugh. “It was crazy, but we just treated the whole thing as a great big adventure.”

Inside the cottage, Sarah honoured the homeowners’ desire to retain the original pine-and-stonework theme, but updated the furnishings and palette. “I wanted to echo the natural world outside the windows,” she said, referring to the soft greens and watery blues that now appear in the rooms. But her choices had to be more than beautiful – they had to be practical. “With four kids running in and out all day and rarely a weekend passing without guests staying over, everything had to be easy to clean and durable.” So yes, the sofa is grey, which is true to the new palette, but it’s also dark enough to hide everyday spills.

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Photography: Donna Griffith | Styling: Morgan Lindsay | RUG, IKEA | TOSS CUSHIONS, HomeSense.

Family- and lake-life-friendly furnishings, such as wipeable faux wicker and a carefree weather-resistant rug, make this lounge area at the top of the stone steps a great place to sit and read a book or to wait for the rest of the gang to pull on their swimsuits.

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Photography: Donna Griffith | Styling: Morgan Lindsay

The kitchen had been renovated by the previous owners. “We just warmed it up with a vintage landscape and some handcrafted cutting boards.” says Sarah, who also updated the lighting.

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Photography: Donna Griffith | Styling: Morgan Lindsay | SEAT CUSHIONS (on dining chairs), H&M Home | CHANDELIER, Universal Lighting Corp.

Most of the dining room furniture was already here, but Sarah updated it, painting the natural pine chairs a rich black and adding new seat cushions. The ship in the picture on the wall was built by the homeowner’s great-grandfather and had a rich history on this lake. A casual chandelier lights the way for board games and dinner.

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Photography: Donna Griffith | Styling: Morgan Lindsay | Custom CABINETRY, SHELVES, WALL HOOKS, Gilbert + Burke and Ora Kitchens and Bath | Philipsburg Blue HC-159 CABINETRY PAINT, Benjamin Moore | BASKET, WINE RACK, JKC Vintage Decor

Just inside the lower level is a bar with a freezer, sink and built-in fridge. “Cold drinks are always at the ready!” says Sarah. A long bench is a great perch for changing into sandals, and hooks for wet beach towels mean they don’t drip through the house. Sarah selected vintage landscapes and natural baskets to display on the custom pine shelves.

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Photography: Donna Griffith | Styling: Morgan Lindsay

Fresh herbs and lazy lunches with kids in sand-kissed bathing suits, midday hikes through the woods – it’s all about letting the days unfurl without a plan.

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Photography: Donna Griffith | Styling: Morgan Lindsay

Messes matter less than mellowing out here. So fun fabric patterns, such as these cotton shibori toss cushions with zip-off covers, were used on the super soft hardwearing sectional.

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Photography: Donna Griffith | Styling: Morgan Lindsay | SECTIONAL, Wayfair.ca | ARMCHAIRS, West Elm | RUG, Dash & Albert | BASKET (on mantel), JKC Vintage Decor

The flagstone fireplace in the living room, original to the cottage, is the gathering place after sunset. The leather chair duo provides visual symmetry and offers a modern element to offset the more traditional pieces. The sectional is durable and kid-friendly, and the indoor-outdoor carpet is perfectly practical. The side table used to be red; a few coats of chalk paint added new life. Natural materials, such as birch bark and wicker, are at home with the pine walls and stone hearth. Art on the mantel, antique tools and baskets impart a sense of days gone by; the loons were wedding gifts to the homeowners.

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Photography: Donna Griffith | Styling: Morgan Lindsay | Custom DRAPERY, Salnek’s Custom Window Treatments | HEADBOARD, Wayfair.ca | CEILING FAN, The Home Depot

The serene master bedroom was updated by replacing the previous wooden headboard with a wrought iron one. Lake-fresh blues and black accents ground the large open space. For lazy mornings, an armchair and ottoman are nestled in a corner. French doors reveal even more of the view everyone is here to enjoy. The formerly red lamps were painted black to match the wrought iron headboard. Linen bedding is textural and dreamy to sleep in, no matter the weather. Custom drapery speaks to the homeowner’s love of playful textiles.

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Photography: Donna Griffith | Styling: Morgan Lindsay

Board games and adult sips are just up from the living area. The washstand, now a bar, was original to the property. The vintage folding bamboo chairs were painted and reupholstered and the vintage rattan armchair by the bar is set with a nautical stripe pillow. The picture of the steamship Sagamo anchors the cottage to its lakefront history.

For the bedrooms, Sarah focused on family fun, not fussy details. “Every bedroom was designed to function like a mini-suite,” says Sarah. Each one features both a master bed and either bunkbeds or an extra single bed, and each room also has its own bathroom.

For the outdoor spaces, Sarah fashioned a series of landing spots. “The idea was to move outside and inside seamlessly,” she says. That means lounge areas ideal for plunking down after a long climb up the stairs, as well as dining areas for happy lunches and lingering dinners with sunset views. “Whether you’re indoors curled up by the fireplace, or outdoors curled up with coffee and a book, there’s always a view, and there’s always that life-by-the-lake feeling – as though time has stopped and this peace will last forever.”

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Photography: Donna Griffith | Styling: Morgan Lindsay | Custom VANITY, Gilbert + Burke and Ora Kitchens and Bath | SCONCE, The Home Depot | MIRROR, HomeSense

“This is a guest bath, but it’s luxurious enough to be for the master,” says Sarah. The window looks over the lake. The spa-like ambience is enhanced by a wood-framed mirror and framed shibori textiles. The vanity is custom.

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Photography: Donna Griffith | Styling: Morgan Lindsay | BEDDING, H&M Home | custom TOSS & LUMBAR CUSHIONS, custom DRAPERY, Salnek’s Custom Window Treatments | RUG, HomeSense

Tassels, custom drapes, linen and cotton bedding and a fuzzy rug make for a sweet destination. The graphic framed palm-leaf prints have a playful vintage vibe. “The vintage rattan headboard keeps to the natural theme, but it’s the white that makes the room so vibrant and fresh.”

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Photography: Donna Griffith | Styling: Morgan Lindsay | TABLE LAMP, square BASKET, JKC Vintage Decor

Every bedroom in the cottage is named for a colour, and the Green Room features verdant linen bedding and organic throw pillows. Vintage baskets and a pine end table echo the warmth of the natural wood walls. Out of view is a bunk bed, so a full family can sleep over.

 

Source: Styleathome