THE PLACE: Christina Shane and Bryan Gardner had long admired Simply Cottage, a 6,000 sq. ft. furniture and antiques store in Bracebridge. When it came up for sale, they promptly bought it. “We couldn’t get here fast enough to put an offer in,” says Bryan. “The fit was perfect for us.” A film and television maker, Bryan was born and raised as a fourth-generation Muskoka cottager. Christina, an art history major with years of retail experience and an eye for design, grew up in Magnetawan. “Living the Muskoka lifestyle is part of our DNA,” says Bryan. “To be able to celebrate that through a business like this and then execute our media skills as well has been the most critical and exciting thing and the reason why we got into this in the first place. We’re truthfully living our dream.”
THE STYLE: “It’s very cottage and lake house chic,” Bryan says. “Antiques are a huge element for us as well because properly placed antiques that go with somebody’s personal interest or lifestyle, blended in the décor, is something that creates conversation and stories.” Emotional elements that tug on the heartstrings of nostalgia are vital to a relaxed cottage lifestyle, he says.
THE PRODUCTS: Christina and Bryan take a local-first approach. “Locally-made is first, Ontario second, Canada third and North American fourth is pretty much the hierarchy,” says Bryan. “We do a lot of custom wood furniture, custom wood art. All our furniture is made less than 50 kilometres away in our offsite shop.” Several artists, all within 100 kilometres, supply the store with wood and canvas art. “Our popular one right now is our big custom-made fish,” he says. “They’re all one-of-a-kind with antique hardware. It’s all wood from Georgian Bay and Muskoka that’s been underwater for years and years.”
WHAT’S HOT: Driftwood-coloured wicker is popular. So are Simply Cottage’s slipcovered sofas. Versatile and custom-made, they withstand pets and sandy feet. “You can remove the slipcovers and wash them,” says Bryan. “With the kind of slipcovers we do, you can still get a tailored look, which people want, especially with some of these big beautiful cottages that are being built.”