There was a time when the cottage was a weekend place – you came up on Friday, left on Sunday, and rarely visited between Labour Day and Victoria Day. And if you weren’t there, the place was empty.
So much of that has changed in the past two-plus years. And with it, design and décor expectations have changed too.
“We are having so many more conversations about maintenance, durability, ease of care – topics that really weren’t much of an issue before,” says Rebecca LeClaire, lead designer with Ask4Design.
In many ways, she says, it’s a return to old-fashioned cottaging. “This is a cottage. There’s sand and dirt and wet swim suits. And if you’re not up, it’s increasingly likely that it’s rented. It needs to look stunning, but you don’t want to be worrying about maintenance.”
At the same time, the cottage is also becoming much more than just a place to relax. “People are working from the cottage,” says consultant Steve Kirkpatrick. “They need quiet spaces where they can work even when the cottage is full of people. We’re designing spaces to be multi-functional in a whole new way.”
Sharing the space
Families are also spending a lot more together time at the cottage, which brings its own set of design challenges. “Every cottage kitchen in Muskoka feels too small between about 9:30 and 11, when everyone is in there at the same time, getting coffee or breakfast, or maybe starting to make lunch,” says Steve.
Having a coffee station outside the main flow of the kitchen used to be a luxury; now it’s almost a necessity. And even mid-sized families are benefitting from multiple work stations and seating areas that let everyone cook together.
The Ask4Design team has always worked closely with local contractors, building a great relationship with tradespeople who will bring their designs to fruition.
These days they also look a lot closer to home to source everything from furniture to finishes. “Supply chain problems forced the issue, but now we’re loving working with so many fantastic Canadian suppliers,” says Rebecca.
Perhaps because they’re at the cottage more, people are also becoming more comfortable leaning in to their own personal aesthetics. “We are getting to work with so many more design styles than we used to,” says Rebecca. “There’s not just one or two styles that are ‘Muskoka cottage.’”
“We help our clients define their aesthetic, then we get to help bring it to life.”
TEXT A. WAGNER-CHAZALON | PHOTOS ANDREW FEARMAN