Nautical in Norfolk

An airy new reno opens up a cozy cottage for family play all year long.

Three hours southwest of Toronto on the shores of Lake Erie in Norfolk County, Turkey Point, Ont., is a summer hotspot for Ontarians—its two kilometres of sandy beaches are ideal for swimmers, and there’s plenty of fishing, camping and hiking in the hamlet. While most of designer Sarah St. Amand’s clients are in and around the Greater Toronto Area, she says she fell in love with the small beach town after a retired couple contacted her about renovating and redesigning their family cottage, located right on the canal. “They’ve had the cottage for more than 40 years and really wanted to create a place for their kids and grandchildren to migrate to in the summer,” says St. Amand.

The 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom home had never been renovated and the design had remained the same for most of the last four decades. “The space was quaint but awkward. The layout wasn’t working—it just wasn’t user-friendly. It also wasn’t equipped for year-round living, which was something that had been becoming increasingly important to the grandchildren, who enjoy spending winters cross-country skiing and snowmobiling
in the area.”

St. Amand and her team took their inspiration from the picturesque landscapes and decided to take a nautical approach when choosing the palette—she went with lots of bright white and navy hues. When it came to renovations, one of the biggest structural changes she made was having the ceiling in the kitchen raised to make the cottage seem more spacious, St. Amand explains. “We were able to keep the existing barn beam, and we painted the pine panelling and fireplace white for a clean look.” She also opted to hang a map of the area from the 1970s above the fireplace to pay homage to the homeowner (a fisherman who enjoys cartography) and hung his prized collection of decoys. “It was important to him to keep these treasures, so we found the perfect spot for them where they don’t encroach on table space.”

The main living areas in the cottage were in desperate need of a refresh. The kitchen was small and the layout made it difficult to comfortably maneuver. “The biggest challenges, though, were dealing with the food-storage and food-preparation problems—there was never enough space for either,” St. Amand says. “So we got creative. We put the microwave in a cabinet to get more counter space and added a pantry, which keeps the couple much more organized.” In the family room, St. Amand chose a large sectional to increase seating and covered it in a pet-friendly fabric for the four-legged members of the family. Yellow—a favourite colour of one of the homeowners—was added in the accent pillows, and it adds to the summery feel of the home. “The couple were shocked when they saw the finished space,” says St. Amand. “It had been so long since they made any substantial changes to the look and feel of the cottage, and they were so glad they finally decided to breathe new life into the space. It’s such a special place for their kids and grandchildren, and now the family can really call it home in every season.”

Photography by Nicole Aubrey