Tondern Island Cottage

Beaumaris, Ontario

Tondern Island Cottage is located in a historic area of Lake Muskoka, settled in the late 1800s and early 1900s on islands surrounding the steamship dock at Beaumaris. The owners—brother and sister-in-law of Altius Principal Graham Smith—recognized and embraced the specific style of cottage-building in the area, and wanted to create a cottage that respected traditional styles while accommodating their contemporary lifestyle.

The succeeding cottage is almost invisible from the water, but provides long views across Lake Muskoka. The exterior follows the simple traditions of pitched roofs, wrapping verandahs, exposed rafter tails, wood siding and wood windows. Integrated into this are modern must-haves including a barbecue area, large lakeside deck, and screen porch.

Whereas the exterior is traditional, the interior layout is contemporary. The entry leads straight into the open concept kitchen, living room and casual dining area which doubles as a game and puzzle table on rainy days. Modest in size, the cottage features four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a laundry room, and a living space built for cottage entertaining.

The screen porch presents a teak dining set that seats ten (twelve in a pinch), and is the ideal spot for long outdoor dinners away from the bugs. It was important for the owners that the screen porch feel like an integral part of the cottage. To achieve this, we devised a huge custom pocket door, affectionately known as the “King Kong door”. Often left open for days and weeks at a time, this blurs the transition from inside to outside and creates a truly integrated living space that leads out to the front deck.

In the words of the owner: “Family comes first. I wanted the cottage to be big enough to accommodate them, but small enough to be cozy.”

A large stone fireplace anchors the centre of the cottage, and is built in the true Muskoka tradition of natural granite—uncut and undressed, cobbled together and supported by a large natural lintel. It carries a broad hearth where cottagers can sit to warm themselves.