Cottage living: a contemporary cabin blends into the landscape

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When architect Ian MacDonald decided to replace the simple one-story cottage he and his wife bought in the early 1990s, he knew he wanted to strike the right balance between a cozy old cabin and a decidedly modern home. .

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

“Eventually the building started to break down and we had to replace it.” The new cottage is a flat modernist rectangle. Like the original, it is perched atop a large slab of rock in the Canadian Shield, an area immortalized by the famous artists of the Group of Seven. The landscape is full of natural beauty but is increasingly vulnerable to development.

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

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The new cabin is low, long and low to the ground and thanks to a smudge of charcoal, disappears into the shadow of the forest. “We made it as small as possible because scale is a big issue,” says MacDonald. The durable features ensure that the chalet treads as lightly as possible on the nature around it. “We knew how stuffy the old cabin would be during the scorching days of summer and we wanted to address those issues in the way we constructed the new building.”

The irrigated green roof improves cooling with water drawn from the bay, exterior sunshades reduce heat gain while providing views of the landscape, and the main space converts to a screened-in porch with patio doors. lift and slide doors to improve cross ventilation and take advantage of any puff of wind that may arrive.

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“A lot of times in cottages, we tend to focus too much on the visuals,” MacDonald says. “What’s really unique about a chalet is that it opens up so you hear the sounds too – the sounds of the wind in the trees, the waves lapping on the shore, birds and animals.”

Lake Mississauga Cottage in the Kawartha Highlands is a four season getaway located on the edge of a quiet bay.  The heavily wooded site is secluded on the approach but opens up to spectacular views.  Architects: Tillman Ruth Robinson.
Lake Mississauga Cottage in the Kawartha Highlands is a four season getaway located on the edge of a quiet bay. The heavily wooded site is secluded on the approach but opens up to spectacular views. Architects: Tillman Ruth Robinson. Photo by IMAGES PUBLISHING

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

The refuges share a simple and contemporary architectural aesthetic, clean lines and a clean palette of natural materials. “They offer warmth, comfort and luxury to experience fragments of the vast Canadian landscape in all seasons,” says Canadian designer, artist and educator Julia Jamrozik in the introduction to the book.

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“Simplifying relationships with the outdoors through careful orientation, creating fluid boundaries between indoors and outdoors, and framing views, these vacation homes curate the experience of nature for their inhabitants,” she says. “Many of the featured projects work with passive and active systems to minimize environmental impact… The hope is that the cottage experience will lead to fun times but also to increased awareness and ecological stewardship for generations to come.”

Chalet on the Pointe in Lanaudière, Que.  has been 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 that the original structure remains clearly visible.  Architect: Paul Bernier.
Chalet on the Pointe in Lanaudière, Que. has been 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 that the original structure remains clearly visible. Architect: Paul Bernier. Photo by IMAGES PUBLISHING

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Demand exceeds supply

The overall price of a single-family home in Canada’s recreational regions is expected to rise 13% this year to $640,710 as demand continues to outstrip supply, reports Royal LePage.

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“Demand for recreational properties continues to significantly outpace inventory in many cottage regions across the country,” said President and CEO Phil Soper. “Waterfront and mountaintop locations near cities are limited by nature, even in a vast territory like Canada, forcing buyers into multiple-offer scenarios.”

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

In Ontario, the overall price of a single-family home in recreational areas is expected to rise 13 per cent this year to $737,890. In 2021, the overall price of a single-family home in the leisure market rose 34.6% year-over-year to $653,000, the highest price appreciation in the country. During the same period, the overall price of a single-family waterfront property increased by 31.8% to reach $888,000, while the overall price of a condominium increased by 20.7% to reach $496,000.

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