Whalon Bay 2.0

Rosseau, Ontario

This winterized cottage is part of a set of architect-as-developer projects on Lake Joseph in Muskoka - a near mirror image of the Whalon Bay project further up the road. It was meant to be fully completed and sold without a client involved, but partly through the build, when speaking to a couple that were looking to find a new space, architect Graham Smith realized he'd found the right people to join the team. When the future owners visited the construction site they were convinced, and purchased the unfinished project with only the outer shell completed. They dove wholeheartedly into the interior design with the Altius team, recognizing they could have a new cottage customized to their requirements in record time.

The general layout and exterior materials mimic its twin down the road, with dark stained pine siding and black fibreglass windows that recede into the trees and pops of warm Douglas Fir at the Muskoka room and roof deck framing.

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Once inside, the interiors are strikingly different than its twin: it’s bright and airy with white and light grey painted bead-board cladding the walls, whitewashed fir decking as the ceilings, silver grey Ash flooring, and transitional white painted casings and baseboards. Bathrooms are simply finished with white subway tiles and bands of variegated mosaic tiles that emulate the greys and tans of Muskoka granite. The cool, neutral finish palette retains a cozy cottage ambiance by employing rough granite veneer at the central fireplace core at all storeys and exposing the warm, unfinished fir timbers that are highlighted with lighting valances at the ceiling, drawing the eye upwards and creating soft, ambient light even on overcast days.

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The program differs from its neighbour slightly based on the owner’s needs: It is still anchored around a central stair core with skylights that draw light down the double height fireplace wall and timber staircase, with social spaces facing out towards the bay, and a main floor guest bedroom and ensuite looking towards the forest. At the walk-out basement, a bunk room with ensuite for kids was added, along with a spacious gym, and a recreation room with a cozy area for movie nights, as well as a pool table, a games table, and a built-in bar with high-top seating.

At the second floor, the original partition wall layouts were modified to turn one bedroom into a study for working remotely and to introduce en-suites for the three remaining bedrooms so there was no longer an obvious master and adult children could have more privacy. Walk-in closets were ditched in favour of open hanging, benches, and dressers, knowing most visitors would live out of their duffel bags rather than hang up clothing. It's a spacious family home ideal for gathering, cooking, eating, and relaxing together, but with a primarily open plan there are still spaces to tuck away for quiet contemplation or with a good book. Specifically, the owners asked for a second small seating area and coffee bar at the upper storey that walks out to the second floor roof deck and takes in the lake view through the treetops.

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The dramatic site sees the cottage boldly perched above the bay upon massive boulders of Canadian shield. Being positioned right on the edge of a drop makes for magical vistas and creative outdoor spaces, with an upper floor roof deck that juts out at the treetops, a walkout stone patio with barbecue and fire pit that drops off precipitously to the forest floor, and stairs and decks that fold down the hill around boulders and pine trees to a matching boathouse with additional sleeping space. The setup is wonderfully private, a secluded hideaway with all of the comforts and amenities of a house in the city

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