Reclaim Repurpose Relax: A Piece of Paradise on Georgian Bay
For Tom and Laura, life has seemingly always been about having regard for the past.
Fairwinds is a charming little island in Shebeshekong Bay, just around the point from Dillon Cove. It is here, in this lovely inlet off the greater waters of Georgian Bay, that Laura Langevin and Tom Teed found their piece of paradise and an opportunity for renewal. A place that by all measure, speaks to second chances, to starting over, while paying tribute to a rich history and heritage.
For Tom and Laura, life has seemingly always been about having regard for the past, reclaiming and repurposing products and materials and making the most out of what they found or fell upon. “Treasure hunters in every respect,” they suggest.
Laura has a gift for seeing the possibilities in whatever she stumbles across. She is a Zero Waste Designer and co-owns and operates Echoes in the Attic, a company taking new, but excess textiles from high end designers and up-cycling them into a line of fashion and home accessories like bags and pillows. She believes textiles do not belong in landfills. They can and should be reused and re-fashioned, as opposed to simply being discarded.
Tom manages a substantial upholstery operation and found that he had volumes of textile waste destined for disposal. They made contact, began a mutually beneficial professional relationship and years later, a personal one, that culminated in their marriage. Laura's company has diverted over 100 tons of textiles off the path to landfill in 14 years. Both she and Tom are extremely proud of this accomplishment. It is a poster operation for the term eco-friendly.
Fairwinds was listed for sale on Kijiji at a time when the couple were looking for a cottage. It was to be a change from their years around Rosseau and Port Carling with their respective families. They were drawn to the bay, as many have been. “It is less predictable and adventurous, wilder and maybe primitive… the way it used to be,” Laura says. The island was a place they could invest time, hard work, creativity, along with a nominal amount of money.
The property, with a cottage built in 1948 and a 1960 boathouse, had gone to seed in most respects. It needed Laura’s vision and eco-consciousness and Tom’s handiwork and resourcefulness. The plan was to re-claim its history and heritage and breathe new life into it, without losing what it had always been - an idyllic getaway in an iconic part of the north-country. “An homage to the original intrepid owners who found it and constructed it back in the day,” says Laura. A challenge in every respect, but they were up for it.
They began this three-year odyssey in the winter of 2015, with numerous trips across the ice, ferrying building materials and supplies from Dillon Cove Marina or Katawoda Resort on the mainland. The couple remain very grateful to both locations for their hospitality and assistance with their project. Driving up every weekend and dealing with the harsh, demanding conditions was no easy feat, but as both Laura and Tom will attest, “It was worth every bone-chilling ride across the bay and all the frigid nights spent under mounds of blankets trying to stay warm.” Laura is not sure they could do it again. “It wasn’t easy, but we are so happy to have managed it.”
Laura and Tom started by deconstructing the buildings, board by board, and cleaning out decades of old debris. Anything that could be recycled would be. After all, that is what they are all about. Old work benches would eventually become countertops, old windows were repaired, repainted and hung as mirrors or picture frames. Shipping crates were modified, painted and installed as kitchen shelving. A beautiful old dresser, rescued just before it was left as junk, has become the centrepiece for their delightful guest bunkie.
Countless trips to the local landfill would reap a bounty of re-fashionable furniture, building material, hardware, artwork and the like. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Tom purchased sheets of plywood from McNabb Lumber Home Building Centre and had them cut into nine-inch wide strips. He laid them down in random lengths, whitewashed and sealed them, giving floors a look of reclaimed planking. Plywood was also used on the walls in a faux shiplap approach.
Again, they discovered a simple, effective, inexpensive and most importantly, an elegant solution. “We carried the theme forward by painting the existing wall panelling white and giving it a nice light new finish,” says Laura.
“There is an old storage building that was filled with all kinds of old hardware and an array of bits and pieces,” says Tom. “For the last couple of years, whenever I needed some piece of hardware, fastener or whatever, I was likely find it in there.” Nothing went to waste. Laura and Tom are masters at stretching the dollar. They both grew up in large families under tight economic conditions and so they take little for granted and make the most out of what is around them.
Three years have passed since they purchased the island and although the cottage, boathouse and bunkie are still a work in progress, the transformation is remarkable. It’s truly a testament to their vision and their craftsmanship.
Both Tom and Laura would like to think that beyond the reclaiming of their island and its structures, the local community has begun to flourish once again coincidentally. After many years, there are new inhabitants coming to nest on nearby properties. Laura and Tom are delighted with the outcome of all their hard work and would not change a thing. They take satisfaction in the effort they put in, the manner in which they approached the project. Now it is definitely time to relax, pour a glass of wine, put their feet up and enjoy the Fairwinds of Georgian Bay.