Décor Home Tour

Home Tour: A lakeside retreat

A MUSKOKA COTTAGE was a labour of love for Michelle Berwick of Michelle Berwick Design, thanks to a dream client and a builder who knows his luxe details.

A sliding barn door leads to an upstairs bedroom.


by WAHEEDA HARRIS     |     photography by LARRY ARNAL

A MUSKOKA COTTAGE was a labour of love for Michelle Berwick of Michelle Berwick Design, thanks to a dream client and a builder who knows his luxe details.

Meeting with her client last spring to work on a small design project, she casually asked if Berwick would be interested in another project, designing her new cottage in Muskoka. Purchased from R-Star Developments, the 4,400 square-foot cottage was a new build, rebuilt on the site of a former cottage, with an accompanying renovated 650 square-foot boathouse. But then the client asked, “could it be ready by the long weekend?”.

Berwick quickly squashed the dream of a quick turnaround but the two immediately bonded on the design plan, thanks to a vision board, detailing her design plan for each room of the project. Within four months, the cottage had been primped and styled, with custom made furniture and accessories tapped from many local sources. “We built the home around fabrics. My client knows her style and is clear what she didn’t want – nothing fussy or shiny,” explained Berwick. The home’s palette is a harmonious combination of gray and white, with hints of pale shades of pink and blue and endless views of Lake Muskoka.

This project was unlike many others says Berwick, as she was able to spend many uninterrupted hours with her client. “We would drive the five hours to the cottage, and she would tell me stories of her travels and adventures.” The Muskoka cottage is shared within the extended family, as the homeowners have four children and 11 grandchildren but still reflects the discerning eye of its matriarch. And thanks to the modern design taste of R-Star Developments’ Brent Armstrong, Berwick didn’t need to change details that usually need an upgrade, like overhead lighting and countertops.

The revamped boathouse (aka guest house) offers a light-filled and streamlined design for visiting family or friends, taking a page from Chip and Joanna Gaines with the liberal use of shiplap on the walls. The white and gray two-storey space includes three bedrooms (the loft space is one bedroom accessed by a stair ladder, the other two are on the main level), small kitchen, family room, bathroom, deck and lower level boat storage.

The family room’s interior includes a navy couch from CB2, a pair of ottomans made by Tonic Living, two side chairs from Lee Industries, a Gus Modern coffee table and a pair of stools for the kitchen bar from Structube. The homeowner acquired two pieces of art while in Scotland, that Berwick paired alongside a colourful print from Minted. A Dash & Albert indoor/outdoor rug makes for a perfect addition underfoot for this lakeside abode, and through the sliding doors, several pieces picked from Hauser Furniture are perfect to enjoy the lazy days of summer outside.

Entering the modernist cottage, the multiple seating areas throughout the home encourage together time inside or outside. A custom-made, circular table by Muskoka Living in a white-washed wood, with a set of four charcoal gray swivel chairs made by Niche Décor is a welcome spot for morning coffee or late afternoon board games. The living room is divided into two seating areas thanks to an eye-catching two-storey granite façade which sports a double-sided gas fireplace, multiple windows showcase the trees framing the view of Lake Muskoka.

Subtle shades of gray are seen in the rug, sofa and coffee table, sourced from Elte, and in striped accent pillows from Tonic Living and Muskoka Living, also the source of sleek side tables and two whimsical tufted ottomans. Beneath the exposed beams, high on the wall is a cluster of four Petros Koublis photographs.


The opposite side’s gathering area introduces blush pink into the home, starting with an abstract print from Minted on the stone façade, patterned accent pillows on the gray Elte sectional and the Elroy arm chair, a mid-century modern piece designed by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. Ceramic accessories are from Niche Décor while vintage pieces adorn the custom-made coffee table from Muskoka Living. A glass walled wine rack is a practical and stylish option for a selection of vintages, created by R Star Developments.

The centrepiece of the formal dining room’s is the Henley dining table from Bernhardt surrounded by a set of Tonic Living designed chairs featuring a combination of two linens – striped exterior paired with a denim blue for the interior. A custom white sideboard from Muskoka Living keeps all the tabletop items close, while windows are dressed in white linen curtains from Caroline Cecil Textiles make this area cozy at night. The simple and spacious kitchen was designed by the builder; an oversized island allows for prep work with a lake view and four stools to enjoy snacks or chat with the cook.

The main floor deck is walled with glass panels; a discrete door allows one to jump directly into the lake. There are several seating areas to socialize, soak in the sun on a lounger or enjoy dining al fresco on furniture sourced from Hauser, accent pillows made with Sunbrella textile and a Dash & Albert rug, carrying the interior palette to the outside.

The cottage’s lower level has a master suite featuring gray and pale blue hues, with Savannah Hayes textiles and Bernhardt furniture, an ensuite bathroom with slipper tub, a Tonic Living Roman blind and a laid-back den in shades of cream and oatmeal, with a Crate & Barrel couch/hide-a-bed and accessories from Muskoka Living and Tonic Living.

The upper level has three sleeping areas – a boys’ room, girls’ room and master suite. Both rooms include a lovable sheep sculpture with oh so soft Mongolian wool from Niche Décor. The boys’ room is styled in navy and white while the girls’ room is pale pink, oatmeal and white, both with modern ensuites – but the girls have bragging rights with a distinctive entry: a sliding barn door.

The elegant master suite is a soothing combination of white, gray and lavender, featuring Savannah Hayes textiles, side tables by Niche Décor and accessories from Muskoka Living. The master’s ensuite, includes a show stopping black clad Milano tub from Oceania, with a mini-gas wall fireplace to thwart any cool breezes at night.

This family cottage’s polished and unfussy design, paired with contemporary architecture is a welcome sanctuary to indulge in the lazy days of summer.

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