Nestled in the scenic landscape of Ontario’s lake country, the Muskoka Cottage is a nearly two-century-old dwelling constructed in the traditional style of the region. The waterside property, which was once part of a sprawling resort that was gradually demolished, has been renovated and expanded over the years by its current owner, serving as a summer escape.
The clients enlisted the help of design studio Reigo & Bauer to preserve and restore as much of the 6,700-square-foot building’s historical charm and original features as possible, while also infusing the spaces with a contemporary aesthetic that reflects the family’s personal style.
Reigo & Bauer’s sensitive yet impactful renovation of the traditional shingle-clad cottage involved modernizing the interiors, and curating a selection of bold and playful furniture pieces that would both contrast the existing architecture and complement the clients’ impressive collection of Pop Art, Warhols et al.
Approaching the former innkeeper’s lodge with soft minimalism—which has become the studio’s signature—contemporary elements were carefully inserted into the house as a layer added over the original western red cedar panels that blanket the interiors. Architectural interventions were limited to a crisp black and white palette, while colour was introduced sparingly yet dynamically through accent pieces.
This is immediately apparent upon entry, where a bright white storage unit and blue cushioned bench are installed to read as a standalone element, replacing a series of board-and-batten-clad closets beside the front door. Similarly in the kitchen, the cabinetry and stainless-steel surfaces and appliances are placed to create a stark juxtaposition with, and distinct separation from, the paneling. Custom units form an L around a central island—its top extending at one end to form a breakfast bar, and its base subtly curved underneath to allow an extra seat on the adjacent side.
In the bathrooms, vanities are cleverly hung like artworks in front of the cedar walls on powder-coated steel frames, which hold mirrors and marble tiles, and accommodate the plumbing. Showers are similarly outlined in black, carefully slotted into place and patterned with hexagonal tiling.
Furniture throughout the home is again treated like pieces of art, imbuing each of the rooms with personality through flashes of colour, a variety of textures, and a surprising mix of scales. Huge domed pendant lights create continuity between the kitchen, dining area and hallway, while an oversized Anglepoise lamp standing in the living room warps the perspective when looking through to the kitchen.
Hues from a dichroic glass vitrine beside the entrance, and a console with pixelated sides in the living room, are picked out in accent pillows, coffee table books, and other upholstered items. The cottage’s six bedrooms are treated in the same way, using colourful textiles and playful lamps to ensure none of the spaces feel too cold or serious.
A fresh lick of white paint transformed the screened back veranda into a bright and airy room that capitalizes on views out to the water. The narrow space is arranged into separate seating areas for adults and kids, which are demarcated using blue Paola Lenti outdoor rope rugs and populated with hard-wearing yet comfortable outdoor furniture.
An additional area for entertaining is found on the lake itself, where custom units that hold storage, cooking apparatus, and even a TV are built into a shelter on the dock. Expertly detailed to resist water damage, particularly in the case of inevitable spring floods, each unit is constructed entirely from powder-coated aluminium, and includes cleats around its perimeter so that a cover can be quickly pulled over in anticipation of adverse weather.
Throughout the project, the unexpectedly harmonious relationship between the modern and the traditional created by Reigo & Bauer’s light touch results in a celebration of the old, while enkindling an appreciation for the new.