Len and Teresa Conlon travel seven hours by taxi, plane and car from their winter home in sun-baked Scottsdale, Arizona, to their snow-covered cottage in Ontario’s Muskoka. But it’s definitely worth the trip. “Decorating a cactus is just not the same as decorating a Christmas tree!” says Len. Located on 300 feet of lake-frontage, their newly-built cottage was designed by Sarah Richardson Design’s Lindsay Mens Craig and assistant designer Laura Fremont.
To achieve Teresa’s vision of a rustic family retreat that would feel welcoming year-round, Lindsay and her team used a balanced mix of light, summer-worthy tones, dark wood floors and hard-wearing fabrics spiked with deep, rich colors and patterns. “ It’s our happy place,” says Len. Click through to experience the Christmas magic for yourself.
This picture-perfect cottage in Muskoka is the best spot to host Christmas for the Conlons.
Len and his wife, Teresa, on the steps leading to the spacious loft, where their grown sons, Sean and Neil, stay at Christmas and in summer.
A dark, jewel-toned antique Heriz carpet from Turco Persian Rug visually grounds the lofty living room. “I love the juxtaposition of ornate patterns, vintage pieces and clean-lined, contemporary furniture,” says Lindsay.
A stone fireplace inspired by the colors of the local scenery, and fresh-cut evergreen boughs provide classic Christmas-in-the-country charm.
By wrapping gifts in colorful, richly patterned paper and bold ribbons, Teresa and Len bring a lively holiday spirit to their understated spaces and riff on the home’s traditional design.
Clear glass balls sprinkled between favorite family ornaments act as palate cleansers amid all the jewel tones and add sparkle to the low-key interiors.
A worn wood console props up a sculptural model sailboat to the side of the fireplace.
One end of the big, square great room holds the airy kitchen-dining area. Lindsay outfitted the space with a 14′-long island and equally huge dining table by Woodcraft. “When we have a gang of people up here, we put all the food on the island, buffet-style, and everyone just helps themselves,” says Teresa. Symmetrically arranged cabinets, a massive steel and bronze range hood by Beaver Creek Metal and tall wing chairs at the ends of the table help anchor the space.
Vintage brass candlesticks instantly bring a festive air to the dining table, and bright berries carry the ruby red over from the living room. Christmas cards tucked into a framed map of Muskoka
(background) are an easy personal touch.
Lindsay tucked leather-clad stools under either end of the island for casual meals. While the kitchen includes all the modern amenities on Teresa’s wish list, the cabinetry, built by Elmwood Fine Custom Cabinetry, has a classic Shaker profile. The designer contrasted its blue finish with the knotty alder on the island, chosen for the worm holes and knots that give it instant patina.
Contemporary wall sconces from Elte provide task lighting and draw the eye to decorative dishes and wooden bowls piled with fruit and bread.
The principal bedroom was designed as a “calm, year-round retreat for Teresa,” says Lindsay, “but we didn’t want it to be girly.” She focused the palette on soft greys, like those in the rug from Elte, and dark woods. Men’s wool suiting fabrics were used to upholster the headboard and bench from Sarah Richardson Design, and the comfy chair, which invites midday naps in winter and siestas in warmer months.
For the principal bathroom, Len and Teresa’s only request was low-maintenance and no shower door. “They didn’t want to deal with fingerprints and water marks,” says Lindsay, whose clever solution was a quartet of subtly patterned curtains in a Kravet fabric that surround the tub “like a four-poster bed.”
In the home’s more colorful spaces, Teresa and Len keep embellishments to a minimum. This guest bedroom is dressed up with a rustic burlap stocking and a couple prettily-wrapped parcels. Lindsay wrapped the small guest room in grasscloth wallpaper with pale blue panelling on the ceiling “to make it feel like a little jewel box with a cozy ambience.”
Len goes for a long Christmas walk on the frozen lake at his cottage doorstep.
Author: Barbara Sgroi
House & Home December 2016
Lindsay Mens Craig and Laura Fremont, Sarah Richardson Design.