When a cottage becomes a home!

‘Cottage Country’ has become the destination of choice for many homeowners. The GTA is expanding and as highways extend their reaches into areas originally used for vacationing, it’s easier to commute. More and more people are able to work from home or take part in flex-hours, increasing the geographic area attractive to homeowners. And there is a demographic wave of 50+ retirees moving away from the city, interested in taking advantage of the boating, skiing and other recreational activities available around the Lake Simcoe, Georgian Bay and Muskoka districts.

Here is a short list of items to consider when you find that perfect location with an older cottage on the property. Most often, expanding or building off the existing footprint (as opposed to demolishing and starting new) may be the best route to successful planning approval because of restricted setbacks to lakes or watercourses. Orientation of rooms is critical to take advantage of views. Study the local climate, wind patterns, potential for snow drifting and position entrances so they are sheltered. Cottage country can be a magnet for friends and family visiting, so carefully consider the size of your home. Michael and Franca are very thankful for multiple spaces like the living room, covered porch area and upstairs Library/TV room when the house is full of people and it just happens to pour rain for an entire day!



For a ‘cottage-to-home’ conversion, there are many infrastructure & design considerations to research. Many cottage locations are not serviced by municipal sewers and adding square footage, bedrooms and plumbing fixtures will usually require a new or upgraded septic system. If natural gas is not available, careful assessment of the costs of propane, electric, solar, geothermal or alternate power generation sources should be researched. With remote locations vulnerable to power disruption from wind, snow or ice damage, incorporating a generator to provide a back-up for water supply and cooking is important. For all the outdoor activities, plan for ample exterior power outlets for tools & leisure equipment.

The following are some practical design issues to consider. Most importantly, the existing foundation and structure must be capable of supporting the addition and upgraded insulation. Exterior cladding materials must be carefully chosen in moist conditions near lakes and heavily treed areas. Pine needles, pine cones, and leaves easily clog eavestroughs, so leaf guards are recommended. Cost savings can be substantial if the structure is designed with wide roof overhangs to protect windows from the sun and positioning operable windows for cross ventilation. This may eliminate the need for air conditioning. Hard surfacing for patios and outdoor spaces should be considered instead of wood decking that requires more maintenance.

It’s fall and time to enjoy some cooler weather! This Seasonal newsletter goes out 4 times a year – Issue 15 and going strong! My hope is that these newsletters serve as a reference for ideas and inspiration regarding custom home planning. Please drop me an email or give me a call if you have some topics of interest or ideas to explore for upcoming publications! All previous Seasonals are posted to my website

LIFE ~ ‘When Cottage becomes Home’

This fall we’re heading to the east side of Lake Simcoe. Michael and Franca contacted me in 2010 about their ‘Viceroy’ cottage on the lake. They needed more space and at the same time wanted upgrades to convert their cottage into a year-round home. We worked through the design and then architectural plans were prepared. Permits were obtained from Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority and the local municipality. Michael & Franca hired a builder for the main construction framing and closing-in and then they finished off the rest of the exterior and interiors over a few years with the expert help of Scott Switzer from the Timber Mart in Brechin. They are rightfully very proud of the outcome - the finishing has been well thought out and skillfully executed. As Michael put so well, they wanted a home that avoided trends and opted for a timeless design. The new spaces form a backdrop for their unique collections of art and sculptures from around the world and their furnishings are a beautiful mix of antiques and newer pieces.

Architectural Design: Jane Cameron, Life Home Design
Structural Engineer: Steve Boyd, Quaile Engineering
Builder: Gilles and Hill (retired)
Septic System supplied by: Waterloo Biofilter
Septic System installed by:
Building Products supply, direction and great advice: Scott Switzer
Windows: Homelite Brand
Front Door: Therma Tru
Other Exterior Doors:
Exterior stone: StoneRox by Bradstone
Exterior siding: Portsmouth 8” Cedar Shingles by Royal Building Products
Garage Doors: Wayne Dalton 6600 Series
Kitchen cabinets: Ikea Akrum White
Master Bedroom closet built-ins: Ikea Pax Wardrobe System
Interior doors: Single Panel Shaker
Marble tiles and backsplash: Tilemaster

Baked Lentils with Cheese

When we ask people over for dinner I always ask if there are any dietary restrictions. When we are asked out, I am appreciative of the question because I have developed a recent allergy to salmon (it’s very sad because I adore salmon!). So if there are vegetarians on the guest-list, my solution is to plan at least two main course offerings – one with meat and one vegetarian. This lentil recipe has been a staple at home for many years. I always bake it at the same time with rice (see the Baked Rice recipe from Fall 2015).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine in a casserole dish:
1 3/4 c. lentils
2 c. water
4 bay leaves
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. each pepper, dired marjoram, sage, thyme
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 c. canned or fresh tomatoes (skinned, chopped or diced)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Cover tightly and bake for 30 minutes.
Uncover and stir in:
3 large carrots, sliced 1/8” thick
1 c. thinly sliced celery
Bake, covered for 40 more minutes, then stir in:
1 green pepper, chopped
2 TB. Finely chopped parsley
Sprinkle on top:
3 c. shredded cheddar cheese (old is best!)
Bake, uncovered 10 minutes longer until cheese melts.

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