When a Montreal couple visited the Moon River at Bala over 60 years ago, they decided this jewel of Muskoka would become a family retreat for generations to come. Annual summer vacations continued for some 30 years until their retirement. When they finally moved to Toronto, they also purchased a modest cottage on a wooded acre of land on 130 feet of Moon River shoreline. The location allowed all the family cottagers to wade into the water and also have a western exposure for the wonderful Moon River sunsets.
The couple have passed the tradition, and the cottage, along to their children, who, in 2016 recognized that with some work, the existing, uninsulated cottage property could be enjoyed for many more generations to come.
They contacted Josh Wassenaar of From The Ground Up Construction in Bala. Josh's father Koos Wassenaar had done renovations on the original cottage in years before. Unfortunately, the aging structure needed an overhaul. Structural beams beneath the house were compromised, wiring and plumbing were not up to code and the fireplace would be expensive to repair.
“The old place was sitting on piers, not on a block foundation,” says Josh. Given these deficiencies and fundamental design issues like low ceilings, an entirely new construction was launched.
The new design has all the earmarks of the traditional north-country form, but incorporates the latest materials, surfaces, engineering and technology. The lake house has 3,200 stunning square feet on three floors, four bedrooms, five bathrooms, a gym, a family room, complete with ping pong table, and plenty of thoughtful areas to gather as a group, or perhaps tuck oneself away for some private time.
Elegant matching quartz countertops and meticulously designed and milled cabinetry were fitted in the kitchen and every bathroom, with the assistance of Woodsmiths of Muskoka.
Eight-inch, engineered white oak flooring in a brown/grey stain offers a superb combination of the traditional rustic look, with the benefits of the latest manufacturing. Rugged and striking, tongue-and-groove Lumberock flooring is used in the Muskoka room and flows out to the deck where the same material is gapped for drainage. This affords the texture to flow seamlessly from inside to outside. That notion of flow is the theme throughout – a floor surface moving from foyer to bathroom or a wood surface connecting one room to the next. It is not simply the materials or textures chosen, as much as it is how they were applied.
Josh proudly points to the barn board employed tastefully on the fireplace over the mantel, on an entry hall wall and in the master bedroom. “We had it milled on one side, finished with a clear protectant and then mounted it with black tar paper behind, so that any knot holes would be discreet,” Josh says. It is also cut and installed with precision and modern aesthetics in mind. Fireplace King supplied the Valor linear propane fireplace in the great room.
The smooth flow continues outside. The charcoal grey Cape Cod cedar siding from Muskoka Lumber, a must for Josh, is contrasted by generous white mullion-styled windows all around and trimmed out with tongue-and-groove woodwork in a complementary, subdued colour as a finishing touch. The colours and the look of the cottage transition effortlessly to the stonework designed and developed by TrueNorth Landscapes Design & Developments. Stone stairs cascade from the base of the structure down to sitting areas, a fire pit for evening gatherings and plenty of patio space to enjoy the shoreline and the spectacular view of the bay and western sky. These are the kind of considerations that truly make the difference. Mindfulness that goes hand-in-hand with comfort and authenticity.