Allair Media


The Hands Of TIME



As cottages start to feel their age, many of their owners wrestle with a difficult decision—should we rebuild or renovate? On the emotional spectrum, this is clearly a very personal decision. Cherished childhood memories have strong roots in the vintage cottages that have withstood the patter of sandy feet and echoed with the sound of cheerful chatter for generations.

However, old building materials and outdated designs don’t keep pace with Father Time. Many people find themselves facing a dilemma—they would like to respect the cottage’s heritage, but they also want a lakeside retreat that fits with their style today. Rebuild or rejuvenate? It’s not an easy choice.

In practical terms, the decision involves a judgment call about the viability of the structure. Peter Groza, Senior Designer at Gilbert + Burke, a design-build firm, has observed a growing trend towards renovating rather than tearing down. “If you have good bones in the cottage,” he says, “it’s a shame to knock them down.”

He believes that, when the structure is sound but lacks contemporary flair, renovating can offer better value than a new build in some cases.




One Lake Rosseau cottager recently chose to take the renovations course of action. Peter had worked with the family for some years, designing and building the home of the owner’s father, and so it was logical for them to ask him to upgrade the cottage.

Peter’s knowledge of both design and building techniques is a good combination. “I model in 3D instead of using a 2D floor plan,” he explains, “because I understand construction.” He favours a hybrid mix of materials and techniques—for instance, a blend of timberframe and upgraded conventional framing methods. “Together with glass and Muskoka stone, it is an ideal fit for this area’s topography,” Peter says. The expansive windows accommodate beautiful views of the lake, while the timbers add a note of rustic warmth, softening the starkness of the glass and coolness of the stone.



The grounds and exterior of any building create a strong first impression—whether it is one of admiration or aversion. Think of your last ramble down an unfamiliar residential street: your eyes were probably drawn to the most attractive lawns and gardens. It is a real pleasure to gaze at a well-planned and appealing setting, suggestive of the owners’ attention to their home’s appearance.

Landscaping upgrades were part of the plan for the Rosseau cottage. The driveway was reconfigured, with Muskoka stone replacing much of the grass expanse. A roof overhang was added, and the front entrance was extended, constructed of timberframe and glass to welcome in the light.

The redesigned floor plan was based on open-concept living, with the great room centred to look out over the water. The kitchen was updated, with new cabinets and granite countertops replacing their former counterparts. The effect of the wash on its ceiling makes an intriguing focal point, while an unusual table fashioned from Hawaiian monkey pod wood with varied wood grains has become a conversation piece.

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