Cottage Class

Decorating a cottage requires a different state-of-mind

By Jack Kohane
Photos by Charlotte Clements

Having fashioned a rockin’ home-away-from-home for Sir Elton John, it’s no wonder that Angela Jones is considered one of Canada’s top go-to cottage design divas. She was selected to bedeck the bespectacled Honky Cat’s dressing room for an Ontario stopover during his latest Canadian tour. “He was well looked after, befitting the superstar’s stature,” says the designer/owner of Lakeshore Designs in Peterborough, Ontario.

Also hand-picked by Canada Builds to design its 1,345-square-foot Manitoulin model cottage on display at last spring’s Cottage Life Show, Jones strutted her stuff to thousands of visitors. “Creating a warm, welcoming, comfy, cozy place where you would want to stay all summer long was my inspiration,” says Jones. “This is why I especially love to design cottages.”

A leading design/build company that specializes in building in a ‘controlled environment’, Canada Builds constructs its cottages using components assembled in an enclosed space in Lindsay, Ontario, to maintain temperature and humidity levels. Finished components are then shipped to the buyer’s site and re-assembled in about two weeks (most projects). “The end result is a dry, square, moisture-free structure,” explains Roy Graham, the company’s owner. “Building in a controlled environment means fewer weather-related delays and it reduces the amount of material and equipment that needs to be shipped to the site.”

For the exhibit, the Manitoulin (a bungalow with an open-concept floor plan) was built in two pieces, the foundation poured at the site, then a crane placed the two pieces together on the foundation. Graham says he knew Lakeshore Designs could deliver lickety-split on the interiors. “It’s pretty crazy to get a cottage built in one week,” he says. “Angela is an amazing designer and with her crew we put this three-bedroom cottage together in less then 24 hours and many truckloads of furniture. Angela chose all the colours, door casings, colour of cottage, everything. It’s a detailed project.”

Jones lauds the Manitoulin’s airy layout. “It allowed us to have a large comfy coral sectional that pulled you into the room. The ceiling was vaulted and whitewashed to soften the traditional pine ceiling. This blended well with the wall colour, which created a seamless look which created more height. The kitchen island resembled the charcoal exterior while adding interest by being accented with the lantern pendant lights. We chose Edison bulb lanterns for an older feel to the cottage and hung the bathroom lantern from a hook for some character.”

Pine doors were used throughout the cottage and accented with dark hinges and handles. Large stone surrounded the fireplace with log from a local timber mill adding depth and a great feature of the cottage.

“The fun part was bringing in the accessories and staging the cottage by layering textures, and fun accents that were playful adding dimension, height and interest,” says Jones. “Varying the heights and sizes are great ways to make mini vignettes that make the cottage have that lived-in feel. And we used artwork that was made from old pallets of wood, which give the cottage a special country charm and a down-home ambiance.”

Craig and Lynn Walters were so wowed by the Manitoulin when attending the show that they bought one on the spot as their own lakeside retreat, and teamed with Lakeshore Designs to customize its interior space.

“It was about both the simplicity and the efficiency of the floor plan,” says Craig, a retired buyer with a national department store retailer. He and his wife are currently living in a mid-town Toronto condo and purchased the cottage for their eventual year-round retirement home. “We were looking for something on one floor, easy to maintain, and that gave us a great view of the lake.” Their cottage is on Scugog Island in the quaint Ontario town of Port Perry near Toronto.

One big plus the Manitoulin offers, the Walters point out, is its attached screened-in porch. “It just flows as a natural extension of the interior space,” says Lynn, a former elementary school teacher in Durham, Ontario. “The cottage gives us everything we need to live, in a simple configuration. Its basic floor plan and design works well, and fits in with our lifestyle.”

The couple wanted their new cottage to make a statement – comfy cozy is what they wanted most. Lots of rustic furnishings were used throughout to accentuate the aura. “No kids, but lots of nieces and nephews,” smiles Craig. “We expect that they will fill the place.” And with additional space planned for a finished basement and more bedrooms, there will be lots of room of everyone to snuggle in.

When working with clients, Jones gets a sense of their style and what they want the cottage to represent. “Most often, they want it to have an inviting look with character,” she says. Then she gets to work, going through the existing home to see if pieces can be pulled and mixed with refreshed accents to lend a new look to cherished heirloom items. It may also require a sander and distressing or repainting wood pieces.

“We tend to stay to a theme throughout the cottage,” says Jones. “Whether we choose a nautical or a lodge-style cottage, first we start with a colour and build from there.” Playing with colourful accents and adding in fresh flowers of the same colour can also add an amazing look for a reasonable budget. Adding fresh flowers in several areas of the cottage brings in natural tones as well as a fresh aroma of the outdoors. To accessorize the cottage, she advises looking for pieces from yard sales, thrift shops and antique shops. 

“Having a cozy cottage is based on first impressions,” says Jones. “When people see that comfy sofa or that guest bedroom layered in pillows of different shapes, textures and patterns, it all adds a welcoming touch.”