Northern Seclusion: A Lake House on Lake Manitouwabing


A four-season forever home.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Early Summer 2019 issue of OUR HOMES Parry Sound Muskoka Huntsville Haliburton, p. 86. Find local businesses in our Muskoka directory

Debi Patrick and Steve McMahon still laugh at how they went about building their new cottage on Lake Manitouwabing.
“We did it backwards to the way most people do it,” says Steve. They first bought a boat. “Then we went to the cottage show, looking at docks, before we had any land to put it on. We found the land and we built a bunkie and then we built a house.”
The couple moved into their new lake house last fall, when their builder Cedarland Homes finished the home’s main floor. It has 2,400 square feet of living space with two bedrooms, three baths and an office that doubles as a guest room, built around a central great room and kitchen. When they haven’t been snowshoeing, skiing and snowmobiling during winter weekends, they’ve been working to finish the home’s three-bedroom walkout ground floor, preparing it for family and guests. “We are very excited about doing much of this work ourselves,” says Debi.
The couple chose Cedarland to build their lake house after visiting the company’s Parry Sound showroom and speaking with sales rep Mark Embury. He explained how Cedarland would work with them in budgeting for the project. He also indicated that the company was happy to utilize outside sources for some of the building components. “That flexibility and openness convinced us that this was a company we would like to work with,” says Steve. They looked at several Cedarland homes under construction. “We loved the quality of their work. We were very impressed with the detail.”
Before choosing a spot for the home, the couple and their friends had walked their 18-acre property all summer. “It’s beautifully wooded,” says Debi. They hiked trails, studied the topography and had a good idea where they wanted to site the house. When Cedarland owner Paul Lubbelinkhof visited the property, he confirmed they had chosen the right spot. A day or two later, the couple had contracted Hall Construction Inc. to build a 1,000-foot road into the building site.
Steve and Debi collaborated with Cedarland designers Amanda Munn and Katelyn Moore. Using the company’s model home, its open concept and big windows as a starting point, they produced a unique design with granite floors, pillars, fireplaces and bathroom tiles, reclaimed hardwood flooring and modern technology. The owners developed their finishing and furnishing concepts with Joan and Peter Winter of Creative Home Interiors. “They helped us create the comfortable retreat we were hoping for,” says Steve. 
Nostalgic Wood supplied three-quarter-inch, wide plank elm, milled from old barn beams, to cover floors in the main living areas. In a guest bedroom, the floor is made of hardwood, rescued from trees attacked by the deadly emerald ash borer. “The flooring is spectacular,” says Debi. “We treated ourselves to ash, which is a light grainy wood. It’s absolutely gorgeous.” Sean Bradley of Olde World Flooring installed and finished the elm and ash.
Mason Larry Felsman of Felsman Masonry Limited built the granite stonework around a Renaissance Fireplace from Fireplace & Leisure Centre. In the three-season room, he built a double-sided fireplace that can be enjoyed indoors or outside on the covered porch. Outside, he built more than a dozen pillars with granite bases, including several pentagonal-shaped bases. “He did outstanding work on our fireplaces and the pillars outside,” says Steve.
Through floor-to-ceiling windows, supplied by DEL Windows & Doors, the great room, dining room and three-season room overlook a wide lake channel, plied in the summer by kayakers and anglers casting for pickerel and bass. Open water is nearby. “If we want to take somebody water skiing we can take off from our dock and go out into the bay. We’ve got good deep water in front of us,” says Steve. Interco Fabrications built their dock.
The lake is a pivotal link. Steve and Debi had often visited their friends the Thomases, whose family has been on Lake Manitouwabing for generations. With two marinas, The Ridge at Manitou golf club, and a surrounding shoreline that transitions from farmland in the south to evergreen forests and the Canadian Shield in the north, the lake has a lot to offer. “It’s a very interesting lake. It has a lot of fingers to it that you can go and explore,” Steve says.
They created a symmetrical kitchen, with wooden pocket doors flanking the cook top and surrounding antiqued cupboards. One door leads to the mudroom and dog shower, the other to a walk-in pantry where they store food, small appliances and a standup freezer. “You close the door and the kitchen looks really tidy,” says Debi. Cambria quartz covers the kitchen island and counters. Made of reclaimed hemlock created by Provenance Harvest Tables, the dining room table seats 10 comfortably. 
Northern Iron custom built the great room chandelier, lamps in the front hall and porch as well as brackets for kitchen shelves. Debi and Steve had first noticed Northern Iron’s work in Toronto. “We’ve been keeping an eye on them for a couple of years, because we love their designs,” Debi says. “When we finally decided to look at our finishings for the home that was the first place we went.” 
When furnishing their new house, they turned to another couple they know, Karen and Scott Young of Young’s Antiques. “Scott started as a picker and now is a master at refinishing antiques,” says Steve. Two more-than-century-old work benches have a new life as vanities, one in the en suite bath of the guest room, the other in the powder room, where a wooden vice on the workbench is a towel rack. In the great room, an old sleigh with high curving runners is the coffee table. An antique factory cart serves as a sturdy table in the three-season room.
While they dipped into the past for antique furnishings and integrated natural products like granite and reclaimed hardwoods, they also enhanced their surroundings with modern technology. A submerged loop in the lake, installed by Geo-Thermal Furnaces Ltd. uses lake water to help heat the house in the winter and cool it in the summer. “It’s been very effective,” says Steve. They also had SmartCanada Automations install a Control 4 system. It allows remote control of lighting, heating, security and audio, all with the touch of a cell phone. Bathworks supplied all the home’s plumbing fixtures.
As warm weather approaches, Steve and Debi look forward to spending their first summer at their new lake house. They’ll comfortably enjoy Steve’s favourite space, the three-season room with the double-sided fireplace. Mornings are his favourite time of day at the lake. “It’s so peaceful.”  Loons call across the lake. Deer graze quietly on the shore. “My favourite time of day is all day and all night,” says Debi. “I never want to leave.”