Decorating & Design

June 5, 2009

Natural Selection

After my parents sold our family cottage on Ontario’s Georgian Bay three years ago, I was determined to find one of my own. It took Arriz and I over two years of searching for something we could afford and that spoke to me in the same way as our place on the Bay did. I eventually did find it on a breathtaking acreage of raw, water-access land in the Haliburton Highlands — and it was an incredible deal too. It features an impossible-to-find 2,500 sq. ft. shoreline with a sandy beach, spectacular 200 ft. high cliff, a fern valley, dramatic waterfall and so many trees you feel like you’re in The Lord of the Ring’s forest of Fangorn. My fiancé, Arriz (he’s an architectural designer) and I are still dumbfounded by its raw beauty and staggering scale.

But along with the raw beauty come some pretty rustic living conditions: a 120 sq. ft. bunkie without running water. Spending a weekend here is hard work and feels like worlds away from my city life, but it always makes me incredibly happy. It has been humbling to experience just how powerful nature is and the respect it commands. This blog is a peek into our journey of living with the land, designing the building and planning the construction of our off-the-grid tree house — a journey we are still in the throes of. I’ll be blogging about it biweekly and I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride.

Suzanne on a boat

This was my first visit to see the land with my friend (and real estate agent) Diane Molenaar. A blanket of fog covered everything and it was freezing cold but it was still so beautiful.

Winter walk with friends

This was just after New Year’s on our first trip over after we took possession. Arriz and I walked across the frozen lake with friends who have also built in the area.

winter walk on Valentine's day

This is me in February getting ready to clear out the bunkie so we could start staying in it come spring. I laugh when I see this picture because my one bag wasn’t quite up to the job! You will see what I mean in later posts.

the point that frames the private bay

This is the point that frames our private bay. I fell in love with the flat rocks because they remind me of the terrain in Georgian Bay where I spent summers as a child.

fern valley


This fern valley and waterfall are our views from the outhouse. The ferns are like a bright, lush blanket covering the ground. 

Cliff at the edge of the property

Here you can see the 200 ft. cliff at the far end of the property. Last summer, the guys who are building the cottage put on climbing gear and scaled the outside. Way too scary for me!

sunset on the lake

Canoeing in Haliburton

And of course the views are amazing.

Check out Arriz’s blog for more on the architecture and construction of the cottage from his point of view.

Photo credits:
1-3. Arriz Hassam
4. Suzanne Dimma
5. Mike Carty
6-9. Arriz Hassam