Something about the Muskokas speaks to the heart. Perhaps it’s the result of its rugged past – most of the lakes and land being carved out over eons by advancing and retreating glaciers. Maybe it has more to do with its serenity: canoes slicing silently through the water at one with nature. Sunsets viewed from chairs on docks accompanied by the call of the loon and night skies alive with stars. Muskoka is more than a cottage destination, but rather a way of life – of enjoying time with family and friends, and simply getting away from it all. It is here, nestled in the Canadian Shield above the shores of Muskoka’s Lake Rosseau, that the vacation home of two area residents is perched. Transitional in design and featuring many modern luxuries, this 10,000 square foot Craftsmen-inspired retreat looks as though it grew out of the land on which it sits. Standing with doors open wide, the cottage welcomes family and friends home.

“The clients, who had always cottaged in the Muskokas, had walked this property for years,” explains BJ Cadman of Waterdown’s Barnard & Speziale Design Associates. “They sat on the very outcropping of rock that now anchors their home, dreaming of their future residence. When the opportunity arose to purchase the land, they moved quickly.” The homeowners hired architect Frank Bandiera, who together with builder Dave Heslop and the design team headed up by Morley Barnard and BJ Cadman, worked to bring a dream vacation home to reality. In keeping with the homeowners’ desire to use natural materials, rock and stone from the excavation was saved and later incorporated in many of the home’s features. “The use of the natural materials, local stone and cedar, allows the cottage to blend in with its surrounding so well that its size and newness is somewhat diminished,” explains Barnard.

The homeowners’ appreciation of nature and their surroundings is further evident as you enter the home. There, rich wood tones envelope you in warmth and comfort. The colour scheme throughout the main living areas augments this feeling. Pine ceilings and walls were stained a rich patina to blend with the hickory flooring. “The clients specifically wanted all of the interior walls to be wood,” Barnard begins. “Cedar, pine, hickory and granite from the Canadian Shield were used in many different forms throughout the interior – from towering stone fireplaces, floors and countertops to most of the wall and ceiling treatments.”

“The soaring ceiling heights and vast spaces presenteda serious challenge for the design team,” he continues.“We had to create an intimate living space for two people who, at the same time, wanted a home that was conducive to entertaining a host of family and friends.” Standing in the main living area, one is met with a unique post-and-beam treatment, an interesting visual element that serves a specific structural purpose: supporting the catwalk that joins the second floor turret and guest rooms.

In keeping with the homeowners’ desire to build not a cottage getaway but a home retreat, the kitchen stands proudly as the heart of the home. “The kitchen is the centre of the cottage and highlights the core design elements – cedar, steel, stone, granite and painted cabinetry,” Jan Speziale points out. The star of the kitchen is the custom-made centre island. “The top is a five inch thick slab of granite quarried from the property,” she continues. “The edges were left chiseled and it has a 700-year-old juniper root, from the west coast of Oregon, running through its centre.” The result is nothing less than a dramatic, organic statement, one repeated in the powder room via a sculpted granite sink and counter. “The design team worked with Walt Rickli, a Burlington stone sculptor, and Images Kitchen and Bath to create these pieces,” says Speziale. “Both are truly works of art.”

The rest of the home unfolds from the kitchen. To capture their surroundings and bring pieces of home (the Hamilton-Burlington area) to the retreat, the design team commissioned a dramatic oversized piece of art for the dining room. “This was executed by Horrocks & Co. of Hamilton on a large sheet of aluminum, which lends the piece a unique luminosity,” Speziale explains. The aluminum stands in contrast to its subject – trees and water that could easily have been found on the surrounding property. The dining room’s gracious windows open to a spectacular Muskoka view.

The focal point in the living room is the dramatic, soaring fireplace. Covered in rock excavated from the property, the design team literally brought the outside in. The sleek, dark, oversized sofas are warmed by the neutral colours in the rug and the red tones in the paintings. “The furniture and fittings are comprised of transitional designs in warm, textured fabrics in colours that reflect the outdoors: earthy browns, mushroomy creams, mossy greens and black,” explains Barnard.

The result of this vacation home is nothing shy of stunning. “The homeowners and their guests are treated to the ultimate in luxury and up-to-the-minute amenities,” says Cadman. “All the while sitting back, relaxing and taking in some of the most beautiful views has to offer.”

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