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Tricks Of The Trade



Anyone who has built or renovated on a Muskoka property knows that no such endeavour comes without a few significant bumps in the road. A recent extensive multibuilding project completed by Sheppard Construction was far from the exception. Cutting Through the Red Tape After acquiring the stunning 10-acre property on Lake Muskoka, Darcy and Heather Sheppard made an unpleasant discovery. The two existing bunkies, guest cottage, and boathouse were all illegal in one form or another. Unimpressed but unperturbed, the Sheppard team immediately went to work, acquiring multiple variances, a zoning amendment, and a site plan agreement, all without compomising the agenda, or tight project timeline. According to Darcy, the company’s expertise at navigating efficiently through bureaucratic channels—achieved aft er decades of experience working with local building officials—is one of Sheppard Construction’s greatest assets. “We’re not a ‘clear-cut company’ and they know that,” Darcy explains. “The respect we’ve shown for municipal bylaws and building restrictions in the past helps in expediting the approvals process.”

An Uncommon Treasure

Viewing the completed project now, no one would ever know that there had been anything but smooth sailing along the way. Sheppard Construction has a well-earned reputation for building world-class cottages that blend naturally into the surrounding landscape, and this property will do nothing to dampen that renown. In sought-after south Lake Muskoka, where the average frontage is approximately 100 feet, this 10-acre gem with 235 feet of waterfront is a glorious exception. The sprawling, generously treed property consists of an architecturally striking main and guest cottage, two tidy bunkies—each with their own bathroom—and a deluxe two-and-a-half slip, one-and-a-half storey boathouse with a bathroom and an impressive wet-bar area. Perfect for frequent entertaining or an extended family compound, the property offers both private spaces and communal gathering spots.

In order to maintain the main cottage’s 25-foot setback (impossible by today’s standard), the decision was made to remain on the original cottage’s single storey, 2700-square-foot footprint. The spacious, open concept design of the main cottage belies that of its grandfathered profile. The space perfectly embodies modern cottage design, drawing on traditions of the past, indulging in luxuries of the present day, and incorporating tones and textures from the surrounding landscape. Reclaimed pine and salvaged 1800s Quebec barnwood flooring is magnificently restored throughout the cottage, while raw Muskoka granite masonry is employed to charming effect in the fireplaces, kitchen, and front foyer. With its close proximity to the water and large westward-facing windows, the interior of the cottage delivers vast and breathtaking views of the lake to visitors the moment they open the front door. Those view are maintained throughout the cottage’s open concept interior. In the evenings the sun sets within the apex of geometric upper windows in the Great Room and family room.

Beautiful by Design

The cottage’s interior was designed and decorated by Heather Sheppard, Darcy’s wife. While predominantly white walls throughout and an open-concept design generate fluidity from room to room, distinctly styled cathedral ceilings in the family room, kitchen and dining area, and Great Room create points of architectural interest and ensure that each room has its own unmistakable character. This effect is enhanced by varying wall treatments, from cedar shake shingle to beadboard to board-and-batten, and by carefully selected light fixtures. Stylish barn doors between rooms are handcrafted by Sheppard Construction carpenters to achieve a chic, rustic effect.

The delightfully appointed kitchen, outfitted with stainless steel appliances, features a soaring ceiling and custom white cabinetry. A large island with built-in sink faces the lake and overlooks the dining area, keeping the meal preparer at the centre of the action.

Daytime Living at Its Finest

As anyone who has boated around the lakes of Muskoka can attest, boathouses are no longer simply storage buildings for watercraft . Not only do modern boathouses often provide additional accommodation for guests, they are also frequently the lakeside public face of the property, while the main cottage is discreetly tucked among the trees. In this property, the three outbuildings are virtually invisible from the water. This helps maintain a natural-looking shoreline, as was promised by Sheppard Construction to the local municipality.

The boathouse, which extends impressively into the bay, was designed to meet all contemporary expectations, and then some. A completely new build, it was relocated and repositioned to offer more privacy and better views. Outfitted with two large boat slips plus an external Sea-Doo slip, it is ready to accommodate the family fleet of watercraft , with room for guests. The boat house portion of this build was completed by the Sheppard crew in just under 5 months of construction, utilizing the best of modern building materials and technology. For instance, to allow for the regularly inconsistent water levels of the Muskoka lakes, the building’s baseboards are raised ¾” from the floor to allow air flow up to and through the soffits. An all-new steel dock supports the structure, and all cabinetry at the water-level kitchen area is constructed of marine-grade plywood faced with high density vinyl board for unparalleled waterproofing and durability.

For functionality, the wet bar, living space, and washroom at water level mitigate the need for trips back and forth to the cottage.

Difficult to Part With

This property was originally undertaken as an investment with the intent to sell but all parties are now thinking twice about saying goodbye to this remarkable 10-acre gem. And who could blame them? A property this unique and beautiful in such a desirable location would be difficult for anyone to leave behind. “But who knows?” Darcy says, “For the right buyer and price, I guess anything is possible”.

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