Interior Design & Style
Artful design amid nature’s backdrop.
Merge the energies of an architect who takes pride in innovative solutions, an owner with a fine eye for detail, and a builder who appreciates creativity and quality . . . and the results are purely astounding.
Tucked behind the trees and poised on the hillside among massive rocks, this magnificent cottage challenges the stereotype of classic Muskoka style while still maintaining the natural elements that fuse so well with the grandeur of the native landscape. Mulched ground cover and granite flagstones lead from the water’s edge to an ingeniously designed and brilliantly realized wood and glass edifice.
Multi layers and quirky angles with a maze of intriguing catwalks and corridors exude a contemporary cordiality; and, both inside and out, sturdy timbers and steel strappings support clear tempered glass windows that blur the lines between the landscape and the interior.
The challenges of the build
The build process was undeniably a complex undertaking. In fact, just setting the foundations was a feat in itself. Aware that it was situated on a particularly windy alleyway of Lake Rosseau at Tobin Island, builder Darcy Sheppard and his team had to ensure that there would be no movement. The cottage is supported with ninety-six wide concrete piers braced with rebar, some reaching down as far as eighteen feet to the bedrock; and the structural steel within the walls ties into the foundation for stability.
Transporting and heaving the materials up on the island was no easy task. The beams weigh approximately 1,600 pounds, and the solid wooden stairway comes in at 2,200 pounds. The 170 windows were specially labelled at the factory for each room and perspective in order to expedite the installation.
Quality and design
The cottage was designed to take full advantage of the breathtaking views. A detached lookout room located halfway between the docks and the main building is just of many outlooks offering a gorgeous sunset view over the lake.
Quality is the key word for all the materials used in this build. The decking is constructed from Ipe, an attractive and durable Brazilian hardwood. The galvanized aluminum roof was designed with customized slopes. All of the steel brackets are made-to-measure, and the tempered glass windows and deck railings are specially treated to stay clean with minimal maintenance.
Inside, Douglas fir beams harvested from the outer coastal region are complemented by lighter-hued inner-coastal wood ceilings, both of them contrasting with the rustic hemlock floors. Pine cabinets provide another wood variation; and, as they season, their markings will become increasingly dramatic. Storage is neatly concealed, and the television is hidden behind sliding pine doors. The fireplace is crafted with dry-stacked stones, an effect echoed in the striking stone wall adjacent to the wide staircase leading to the lower level. The white painted walls are constructed from plywood, to prevent the cracking that might appear in drywall over the cold season.
Designed in a minimalist style, the diverse woods, black strappings, and austere furniture evoke a pure serenity, while the glimpse of the angled contours of the beams beyond the open kitchen adds architectural interest.
An obliquely-positioned corridor connects the main area with another wing of the building, opening into guest bedrooms and bathroom. The master bedroom affords a beautiful view of the lake through a massive window, with a walkout to the deck. Its ceiling boards are nineteen feet long, each one carefully bevelled. A set of steps leads to a loft overlooking the room: the perfect setting for a private workout room, furnished with a yoga mat and television set.
An eye for minutiae
“I’m a stickler for detail,” says builder Darcy Sheppard, “and I’m very happy that this owner cares about all the meticulous touches that make the cottage so impressive.” An Architectural Engineering graduate, born into a lineage of fine master builders, Darcy has the training, the instincts, and the zeal to tackle a major project like this. But, at the young age of 34, he had to prove to the architect and owner that he was the right man for the job over the course of several interviews.
He earned their trust, and his work soon confirmed that it was well founded. “It is rare to find a builder who not only understands the importance of the design,” says architect Brian Weber, “but who also embraces it and works to enhance its intentions through every detail.” A close scrutiny of the building reveals Darcy’s passion for precision — trim is notched carefully at every small corner; fascia boards include drip edges; the exterior stain was chosen to match the caulking on the window trim.
The visions of the owner, architect, and builder synchronized perfectly, and every tree and boulder was valued for its role in the natural landscaping. There are no manicured gardens to clash with the setting; instead, pine needles and leaves scattered amongst the river rock and granite flagstones create the sense of unity with the environment. The architectural intention was to create a home that looks and feels like a natural extension of the land. In Brian Weber’s words: “The tall timber columns mimic the pattern of the trees, with decks terraced among the rock ledges; and the use of natural wood and darker colour tones allow the cottage to remain hidden within the forested edge of the island.”
It is clear that the perfection of design and execution in this awe-inspiring cottage was born of the artistic collaboration among all parties involved, with a respectful nod to the natural assets of this island property. Darcy sums up the experience in one sentence: “Simply put . . . this project is a builder’s dream.” CCH
Photos: Robert Nelson