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On Ctv: A Cottage Rebuild That Creates a Welcome Family Retreat

Posted June 20, 2018

A cottage rebuild for a family friend has become a cottage in name only as the transformed home on the water provides a modern and roomy family retreat. Take a tour of the home with President Steve Barkhouse and Leanne Cusack of CTV News at Noon.

“When you come to the cottage, you want to have a difficult time leaving, and that’s what this feels like,” Steve says.

The original cottage in West Quebec had been a long-time getaway destination for Jennifer Shields and her family, but while it contained many wonderful memories, it had seen better days. Besides, the two-bedroom A-frame had become too small for big family gatherings.


Steve had worked with Jennifer on design elements and helped her navigate things like building permits, but as an Ontario renovator, he could not do the construction in Quebec. Still, he was involved as much as he could be, overseeing the execution of a modern remake designed by Ottawa architect Rick Shean.

“It was a great opportunity to help some friends in need,” Steve says.

Shean envisioned a look that provides a Zen and minimalist feel with open sightlines from every room, making sure to capture views of the water. It also offers an open concept on the main level and plenty of discreet storage spaces that are perfect for hiding clutter.

“It’s not huge, but it really feels it,” says Leanne.

It’s built on the existing footprint, which extends into the water, but also includes an addition on the back using a technology called helical piles, which are basically giant screws that are drilled into the ground to provide anchors for the structure with minimal impact on the environment and at a fraction of the cost of a traditional foundation.

In terms of planning, work needed to start in late fall so that crews could work off the ice rather than have the expense of floating barges. While everything was frozen, scaffolding was set up on the ice, the original structure was torn down and rebuilt over the winter and then things were finished up in the spring.

The new cottage is a perfect example of how you can never have too much white, even in a cottage that sees lots of tiny, sticky fingers.

“It’s so gorgeous and clean,” Leanne notes. Plus, says Steve, even on a gloomy day, the home is bright, thanks to the many floor-to-ceiling windows and all that white.

“It feels like an oasis,” Steve says.

A waterfront property can often have many restrictions, as did this one, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style. Using the flat roof common to contemporary homes allowed for higher interior ceilings (10 feet on the main floor and nine feet upstairs) without exceeding the exterior height limit. And building on the existing footprint (as well as the existing deck) simply meant thinking creatively about how to make the layout work, whether for three people or 30.

And while this is a huge renovation, many of the little details it incorporates can easily be carried through to your space, if you’re looking for ways to update your own cottage. Flat doors on the walls, little secret panels, the storage solutions, the deep windows.

They’re all great ways to enhance that cottage feel.

Here’s what the cottage looks like after the transformation: