Nature’s colours, airtight construction and luxury envelop this Energy efficient cottage in Muskoka
It’s hard to believe that less than a year ago, this ultra-efficient cottage in Muskoka was a vacant plot of dirt. Even harder to believe is that my friend, builder Colin Hunter, built this home from scratch, oftentimes working on his own.
Colin and I began working together eight years ago on HGTV Canada’s series, Summer Home, a project that’s still near-and-dear to our hearts. Of course, when Colin asked me to help him decorate his dream home in the country – a home constructed using Passive House building principles – I was on board.
Energy Efficient Cottage Uses Passive House building principles
What exactly are Passive House building principles? Airtight insulation, top-quality, energy-efficient windows, and concrete floors that keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Of course, it’s a lot more complex and technical than that, but in simple terms, this high-efficiency home runs on as much energy as you would need to power two hair dryers.
Colin began building in the spring of 2018. “First we built the forms to hold the concrete slab foundation, then the plumbing and electrical went under the slab, the concrete floor was poured, and then the wall panels and roof went up,” says Colin.
Once he raised the roof, that’s where I came in. Naturally, if you’re going to build a super energy efficient home, you want to make the best ecological design choices wherever possible.
Local, Sustainable Fixtures & Finishes in Ultra-Efficient Cottage
We started in the kitchen with Ikea’s Kungsbacka cabinets, which are made of recycled wood and covered with a foil made from recycled PET bottles. (N.B. PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate, a highly valued packaging material). The cabinets have a simple flat front, which works equally well in both modern spaces and homes that are a little bit country. By adding the traditional cup pulls and knobs in brushed bronze, we were able to give the kitchen an old-school cottage charm.
Next, we topped the cabinets with Hanstone quartz counters. Locally made in Ontario, the quartz has the beauty of marble, but it’s also durable, heat- and stain-resistant – all features you want at the cottage. The kitchen has plenty of closed storage, but we added floating, solid pine open shelves to pick up on the rustic vibe of the home’s cathedral pine ceiling and sliding barn doors. Open shelves also provide quick access to frequently used glasses and dishes, as well as a place to display pretty things!
The Patina of Country Charm
To make the cottage look like it evolved over time, we mixed, matched and repeated textures such as rough-sawn, white-washed wood, brushed gold and bronze finishes, and colour. The soft golden tone and texture of the bamboo lattice pendants over the island, for example, echo the rattan dining chairs and cabinets in the living room, while a black industrial-inspired kitchen faucet works with the black cabinets and counter stools. Although most of the accessories are new, we carefully chose pieces that were handmade or had textured finishes.
The Beauty of Blue
At the last minute, we painted the kitchen island blue because I found the perfect lakeside blue art by Amy Stewart for the living room. The blue of the island is a few shades lighter than the art and the hue repeats throughout the rest of the home.
In the living room, symmetry reigns. Colin centered the ethanol fireplace between two large windows. “We wanted to create a classic Muskoka fireplace by using fieldstone in blues, greys, and even a few pink stones to pick up on the aggregates in the concrete floor,” says Colin.
In an ultra-efficient cottage, concrete floors moderate the home’s temperature. In the winter, the concrete absorbs the sun’s energy, and in the summer, the home’s overhangs block the sun, allowing the concrete floor to keep the home cool.
Texture & Balance
The large wool rug adds a layer of softness to the concrete underfoot. A hexagon-shaped ottoman in the centre of the room provides storage for extra blankets and pillows. And, to enhance the balance of the space, we flanked the fireplace with two identical sofas, and two rattan cabinets butted together on either side of the room. We piled pillows in soft blues and greys, and touches of pink – all colours found in the stone of the fireplace and floors.
Next to the spectacular lake and woodland views, my favourite part of the bedroom is the headboard that Colin made from pine board, which he white-washed and fastened together. It’s shaped like a classic upholstered headboard – just in a totally cottage-y material! We dressed the bed in the same lakeside blues of the living room and kitchen.
Luxury Lands in The Woods
The bathroom is a calming mix of rustic luxury. The panel moulding on the tub wall and tub surround create a luxe focal point. The vanity is a basic build made of extra rough-sawn beams that Colin topped with the same luxe quartz from the kitchen. The mirrors above the vanity are framed in pine, and slide back into the walls like pocket doors to take advantage of the view. The white-washed barnboard on the ceiling and surrounding the shower are rustic, while the water-conserving, brushed-gold faucets and fixtures add a touch of glamour to the space.
After all, who says you can’t have a little glamour in the country?
KITCHEN: KUNGSBACKA CABINETS, NUTID APPLIANCES, SINERLIG PENDANTS, DINING TABLE AND CHAIRS: Ikea CABINETRY HARDWARE: Richeleau COUNTERS: Quartz in Montauk, Hanstone KITCHEN FAUCET: Align matte-black faucet, Moen GLASSES, BOWLS, DISHES, VASE, CUTTING BOARDS, BOOKS: Home Sense CABINET PAINT (on island): Van Courtland Blue Advance, Benjamin Moore LIVINGROOM: SOFAS: Stocksund Sofa CABINETS: Ikea ART (on cabinets): artinteriors.ca RUG, LAMPS, SIDE TABLES, PILLOWS, ACCESSORIES, ART (ABOVE FIREPLACE): Home Sense YELLOW PILLOW: Tonic Living WALL PAINT: Decorator’s White, Benjamin Moore BEDROOM: RUG, BENCH, BEDDING, SIDE TABLES, LAMPS, CABINET, PILLOWS, BASKETS: Home Sense PAINT ON WALL, SIDE TABLES & HEADBOARD: Decorator’s White, Benjamin Moore BATHROOM: ALIGN FAUCETS, FIXTURES: moen.ca ROMAN SHADES: Ikea RUG, BATH ACCESSORIES, TOWELS: Home Sense WALL & VANITY PAINT: Decorator’s White, Benjamin Moore
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