Seeking a nature-inspired retreat, designer Suzanne Dimma and her designer husband, Arriz Hassam, built an off-the-grid getaway in Ontario’s Haliburton Highlands. Discover the cozy, modern space brimming with design inspiration.
Nestled in a bay in the middle of 2,500 feet of shoreline, the private cottage seems to float among the trees and is barely perceptible from the lake.
Like a bridge, the building (seen here from the back) is supported by black steel posts anchored to a cascading slab of rock. The tree-like posts pair with the open space terrain underneath to lend the building a floating quality.
“I contemplated removing the old tree stump lodged in the beach in front of the original bunkie but decided to leave it for now,” says Suzanne. “It feels like a natural sculpture and when I swim I use it as a towel bar. Beach fires are a big part of our fall rituals.”
“This property is extremely diverse,” says Suzanne. “My favorite parts are the private beach and the rocky shoreline, while Arriz loves the varied forest, the rolling terrain and the interior waterfalls.”
‘This image of our cedar-stripped canoe (originally from my family’s cottage) was on the ‘save the date’ notice for our wedding,” says Suzanne. “We got married here a week after the construction wrapped.”
Arriz framed a stunning view of a large cliff rock face to act as artwork in the living room; at night, it’s discreetly illuminated from below. Suzanne filled the built-in daybed, which doubles as an extra sleeping spot, with linen pillows in colors pulled from tones in the rock.
The solid white-oak dining table and benches were designed by Arriz. A photograph of old film reels by the couple’s friend, George Whiteside, creates a focal point against a wall full of windows.
A massive sliding barn door made from 120 year old reclaimed hemlock maintains the lofty feel of the space while providing privacy for the bedroom when needed. The Regency wood-burning stove can heat the entire building in the colder months.
“There is a wonderful luxury about the open space and minimal furnishings that is entirely liberating. And everywhere you look, there is a breathtaking view of rock, water or trees,” says Suzanne. “The sight lines and airflow are incredible and in the fall, the house literally glows with the warmth of the foliage outside.”
Suzanne and Arriz dreamed of an open concept kitchen that would be suited to casual entertaining. “The kitchen is a pleasure to cook in,” says Arriz. “Even with no upper cabinets, there’s a place for everything and so much work surface. From the island we can see right down the lake and from the sink we can see back in to the forest.”
The coffee table vignette illustrates the couple’s approach to design. Shed antlers found on the property are used as organic sculpture throughout the space.
A high wraparound deck acts as a lookout point. ‘This is the highest point in the cottage’s elevation. You really feel like you are floating in the tree-tops,” says Suzanne.
Photographer: Arriz Hassam
Even though there’s a guest bunkie down by the water, the screened-in porch is a favorite spot for guests. Arriz designed the white oak daybed. “We photographed the cottage several years ago and since then I’ve added a few more layers and hits of blue in here. It’s even more inviting now,” says Suzanne
From the bed, the couple can see through the 8-foot opening and look out to the lake. The window behind the bed looks back into the forest and allows cool breezes to cascade over you in the summer.
An Ikea Pax wardrobe was custom-painted, fitted with horn handles from Ochre and mounted on the wall to create a floating effect. Extra storage in a row of modern baskets fills the space below.
The bathroom features a glass-enclosed shower (not shown) with another stunning view to the cliff. “A long vanity with a simple grommeted curtain below keeps things relaxed. “I wanted the bathroom to feel a bit like a ship,” says Suzanne.
A tribal juju in the bedroom is a fresh pop of white against the Douglas-fir walls, and a study in scale with the smaller mementos below. The bench was fashioned from an extra roof beam during construction.
Watch a tour of Suzanne and Arriz’s cottage
House & Home October 2011
Arriz Hassam of arriz+co with Suzanne Dimma