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Create your dream cottage while preserving the past

Jason McLean of MC McLean Contracting doesn’t shy away from a challenge. In fact, some of Jason’s renovation projects have allowed him to transform iconic landmarks into dream properties for his clients.

His historic school house project is a key example. The 150-year-old stone building has been a landmark in Walter’s Falls, outside of Meaford. It was left unoccupied for years until Jason was contacted by a past client to transform the building into a dream home.

Up to that point, it was as if the building was frozen in time. All the school desks were still in there, the woodstove was still in the centre, and the chalkboard was on the back wall. While it was in great condition, Jason notes that you only know how structurally sound the building is once you begin the demolition process.

“A project like this can be both exhilarating and challenging,” Jason says. “You never know what may be waiting for you when you open the walls.”

What lies within
A small renovation can turn into a large renovation, or even a full rebuild, very quickly if you find severe structural damage within the walls.

By hiring a renovation company that has a wealth of experience both in the industry and in the region, you can make sure your project runs smoothly – both on pace and within budget – regardless of the surprises that present themselves.

Jason has been a contractor in Georgian Bay and Muskoka for over 20 years, which has allowed him to grow and strengthen his team and Rolodex of trades.

“When beginning a renovation, it’s so important to have a breadth of experience and a strong network of trades behind you,” says Jason.

Older buildings often require structural reinforcements, have plumbing, electrical insulation, and HVAC issues, or require modifications to meet today’s building standards.

“Our goal is always to not only meet Ontario’s building regulations but exceed them by using the highest quality materials and most energy-efficient design.”

The tighter the envelope, he notes, the lower the operating costs will be. The higher the quality of materials, the greater longevity the structure will have.

Preserving the past
While the schoolhouse is one of the oldest buildings Jason has renovated, he notes that each home and cottage he’s renovated has a history and character worth preserving.

New builds may be easier in many ways than renovations. Still, Jason loves working with his clients to blend the latest innovations with the building’s original finishes to create a design that preserves the past while modernizing it to fit with today’s design concepts.

This balance between old and new is so beautifully balanced in the schoolhouse project. While the new build added to the square footage of the schoolhouse, Jason’s team was careful to preserve as much of the building’s gorgeous stone walls as possible.

“Working with our client’s architect, we melded that piece of history with the client’s vision,” says Jason. “We added large windows, skylights, and a glass sunroom off the back to maximize the natural sunlight and make the most of the property’s view. But we made sure to maintain as much of the stonewall as possible, especially the year that the building was first erected – 1873 – which can be seen above the schoolhouse’s front door.”

The result is a bright, minimalist design that feels warm and welcoming thanks to the rustic character of the stone walls and the warm texture of the exposed wooden beams.

“Working closely with our clients, architects, and designers, we created an eclectic design that captures their vision and allows the structure’s history to shine.”

You may not own a century-old schoolhouse, but if you’re considering renovating your cottage, Jason suggests working with some of the original character of your build.

For example, Jason notes that his team recently renovated a 50-year-old wood-panelled Muskoka cottage. “It was all wood panelling, without a stitch of drywall, so we kept with the theme throughout the renovation.”

The renovated cottage not only added to the living space but softened the natural beauty of wood, with soft hues that enhanced its natural beauty. This created a warm and inviting atmosphere that feels both timeless and refreshed.

To complement the painted wood accents, their team incorporated unlacquered brass fixtures throughout the cottage. This choice of fixtures added a touch of luxury and sophistication, with the brass developing a beautiful patina over time, enhancing the cottage’s charm.

“Our renovation process is tailored to your vision and lifestyle. We work closely with you to understand your preferences and create a bespoke design.”

From custom cabinetry and millwork to lighting fixtures and hardware, every detail is carefully selected and expertly installed to ensure a cohesive and elegant look that celebrates Muskoka’s heritage while embracing modern luxury.

“At MC McLean Contracting, we understand the unique allure of Muskoka’s heritage cottages. Our renovation expertise brings out the best in these classic properties, preserving their historical character while infusing modern elegance.”



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