August 9, 2021

This Modern Cottage Embraces The Rugged Landscape Of Georgian Bay

In cottage country, it’s all about the movement of the water and wind that shapes the islands on Georgian Bay, and that of the cottagers as they unfurl from cars and stretch out on the dock. Then there are the cottage builds that require a special kind of creative flow between architect and designer. Architect James Ireland and designer Emily Hollis have one such partnership. They worked in tandem on this new Georgian Bay cottage for a Canadian couple living in New York, creating something very special on a water-access-only island plot. The couple has two adult children and a dog, and they’re all avid sailors. They wanted a cottage that was perfect for welcoming family and friends, somewhere they could leave the city behind and relax.

The 3,500-square-foot, three-season cottage project did present some unusual challenges for James and Emily, even though James, a seasoned architect, had designed many summer homes in the area. “It’s one of the most difficult building sites I’ve ever worked at,” he says. “The land is rocky and sloped, with marvellous old pines and car-sized boulders.” The modus operandi was simple: to work with nature rather than fight it. “We had to find a way to situate the cottage on top of the natural setting and, oftentimes, when things are tricky, it leads to very successful designs,” he adds. Cedar cladding on the exterior is stained in a blackened green that seamlessly blends in with the trees.

The clients needed to be able to cook, entertain and gather here, and Emily and James took their lifestyle to heart. The living and sleeping areas are at different ends of the cottage, and the more secluded bunkie (built on the site of the island’s original cabin) sleeps an additional four to six people.

Her clients favored a casual and approachable vibe, so Emily went with a pared-back style for this project, decorating simply in a palette of neutral hues. Art was then layered in to energize the calm spaces, with pieces often created from family mementoes with sentimental value.

Emily used Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace on all the walls, black window frames to highlight the gorgeous views, durable white oak flooring throughout, and clad the ceiling in Douglas fir, a nod to the trees outside. Only her clients’ most loved and useful furniture and accents made the trip over, since everything had to travel at once via barge.  It was also important to her clients that most things were made locally, or were at least Canadian in origin. “Everything selected had to withstand freeze-thaw, since the cottage isn’t winterized.”

Want to learn more about this modern cottage? Scroll down!

Author: Catherine MacIntosh

Donna Griffith


House & Home July/August 2021


Emily Hollis; Architecture by James Ireland Architect