Gilbert + Burke Blog

Custom Home Construction and Remodelling Tips

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It’s a Friday afternoon, and the highways begin to fill up heading out of the city. It’s the mass exodus of urban and suburban-ites heading “up north” for the weekend at the cottage.

In Canada, “cottaging” is a national phenomenon. And it’s no wonder. The cottage looks very different from the cottage you remember from your childhood, or have seen in old photo albums. Today’s cottages are becoming like second homes – they mirror the design touches and architectural preferences of their owners. These are contemporary getaways, not musty cabins void of great style and design.

Urban and suburban families are bringing their personal sense of style to the cottage. At times, it’s as subtle as a modern colour scheme, or upgrades to fixtures. But the cottage industry is booming in large part due to custom builds, large-scale remodels and new development. Families are investing in their weekend escapes, and putting their urban-chic spin on architecture and design decisions.


Renovating to reinvent the space

There is a lot you can do to “flip” an existing cottage into a centre-fold worthy family escape. A large-scale renovation, like an addition, landscaping, decks/patios, new windows, or layout changes, will take a fair amount of planning. Consider your space and budget, and consult with a professional before taking down any walls! The most common remodeling projects are adding new windows to bring natural light and beauty into the living space, re-arranging walls to create a more open concept layout, additions like Muskoka rooms, and exterior upgrades like decks, patios or landscaping. Focus on the areas that will create the biggest “wow” factor, such as your entrance, or high-traffic living spaces (think kitchen or family rooms).

Andy and Sue remodelled their cottage and turned it into their retirement dream house. > See the project

Adding urban-chic touches

A few weekend projects, and trips to your favourite design and hardware store, can instantly transform your family cottage. Pick a few rooms to repaint in a fresh, contemporary colour. Choose a wall to turn into an “accent wall” by adding a pop of colour, stylish wallpaper, or a photo gallery. Swap out your old fixtures for new. Replace the handles on your cupboards and install modern lighting fixtures or faucets on your sinks. Focus on your kitchen and bedrooms, that’s where you’ll get the most enjoyment of these small touches.


Building the dream destination from scratch

When building custom from the ground up, you can control every detail, from materials used to architectural design. Modern architecture is making its way “up north” – bringing a little bit of the city to the country. The use of high-end materials (exterior and interior) is transforming the cottage lifestyle; no more quilts and paneling. Instead, families are pushing the boundaries of design and architecture with glass walls, panoramic views, new materials, and sleek contemporary features. If your urban style leans towards clean lines, minimal décor and geometric symmetry – you can recreate the same style in your cottage. Don’t be afraid to ask your builder to break the conventions of cottage norm. Go bold. You can do it in a way that brings in the elements of your surroundings. For example, it’s on trend to use natural materials, such as wood, rock and minerals, but in a modern way; instead of river stones around a fireplace, use granite or marble, or instead of a typical wood flooring, swap in a more textural grain or unique stain. The focus areas of a brand new build are the ones that you will spend the most time in as a family, or entertaining.

The Cohens built the cottage of their dreams for their young (and growing!) family. > See the project

With some imagination and a plan, you can design, remodel, or build the cottage of your dreams – escape, but don’t leave your style behind!

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