Nothing makes me happier than being at the cottage, and the best part, of course, is being outside. Gathering with friends, dining under the stars, gazing at a gorgeous view — maximizing our experience outside is key. How the building connects to the land and designing the perfect deck or patio is especially important. Here are a few that caught my eye.
Thom Filicia’s 1930s bungalow lake house in Skaneateles, New York (above) is situated so close to the water that it feels like an extension of his dock. The small landing at the end of the dock provides a second private seating area, and adds a sense of grandeur to the long, narrow dock. Soft lighting from candle-filled lanterns is a must to light the way at dusk.
Filicia’s bench/railing would never pass code in Ontario cottage country, but I love the idea of a railing that acts as seating. So practical, and it keeps the view open. I have the same modern chimenea at my cottage, which my contractor found — they are perfect for outdoor fires. Filicia has decorated his deck like an outdoor living room, with small groupings of chairs and tree stump tables, and even an Ikea sheepskin rug to keep it cosy underfoot.
Here’s another alternative railing treatment — using chic ‘X’ Nantucket-style planter boxes in lieu of a railing. But they aren't going to keep anyone from falling off the edge after a few too many glasses of wine, are they? Still, I love the beachy vibe accentuated by gravel on the lower level, and the neat row of white Adirondack chairs punctuated by pots of white impatiens. You can’t beat the classic look of grey and white paired with flea-market finds for a lakeside retreat.
If you’re lucky enough to have big stretches of gorgeous granite like Michael King does at his Muskoka cottage, you can use it as a natural patio. Easy and gorgeous! And the less 'decor' you add to this the better. You don’t want to compete with all that natural beauty.
Tree-covered properties usually have less rock, so a free-form flagstone patio can re-create the effect of granite. Laying the stone flush with an entry amplifies the indoor-outdoor connection. Designer Anne Hepfer added warm cottage charm here with gingerbread detailing, a classic screen door and French-style windows.
I first saw this cottage at the architectural awards last year, and was blown away. Architects Meg Graham and Andre D’Elia of Toronto firm Superkül have done a beautiful job of blending the building into the landscape through a series of decks that seem to grow out of the rock. Every room in the house connects with the outside.
Designer Michelle Lloyd of Lloyd Ralphs Design has used a similar tactic with a low sprawling deck at her Lake Simcoe cottage (only one hour out of the city!). She decorated with an eclectic mix of Moroccan-style pillows, white lanterns, neutral side tables and rustic elements, and the grassy umbrellas play up the beachy vibe. Painting the edges of the deck white allows it to blend in with the whitewashed cottage.
I’ve always loved Christine Ralphs’ (the other half of the design duo) deck that runs off the front of her cottage. Believe it or not, it was actually difficult to find this image from the House & Home archives because we shot it so long ago! You would never guess because of her simple, timeless white-and-wood combo, accented with black butterfly chairs. Seven years later, it still looks current. What a spectacular place to dine! There is even a double chaise at the end that faces a view of the lake. You could easily sleep under the stars!
1-2. Domino August 2008, photography by Jonny Valiant
3. House & Home July 2005, photography by Ted Yarwood
4. House & Home September 2006, photography by Daniel Dutka
5. House & Home July 2009, photography by Michael Graydon
6. House & Home July 2009, photography by Tom Arban
7. House & Home July 2007, photography by Stacey Brandford
8. House & Home Summer 2003, photography by George Whiteside