Design & DIY

5 questions for Danielle Bryk

Danielle Bryk

Take a rundown Georgian Bay cottage, add a seasoned designer-contractor, toss in a film crew, and you have the makings for some cottager-worthy TV. The Bryk Cottage, a documentary series premiering on Cottage Life TV in March, is our latest reno show, featuring Danielle Nicholas Bryk. Bryk is no stranger to renos and no stranger to TV renos (see A Bryk at a Time; Building Bryks; Bryk House…you get it). But the cabin overhaul was the closest that she’s ever worked with her sister, Terry Nicholas—who owns the title cottage with her husband, Norman—and was the first cottage project that she’s done for TV. “I love shooting a renovation. I love the process of filming and documenting,” says Bryk. “Plus, every day I get a free lunch out of it. That’s a big perk.”

What sets this show apart from other reno shows?
It’s a documentary as opposed to a typical lifestyle show. It unfolds in real time. And it’s very emotionally loaded. A cottage holds such a special part in people’s hearts and memories.

What prompted the reno on your sister’s place?
It was beyond repair. Norman had bought the original cabin more than 20 years ago. It had no foundation, no heat source, a leaking roof…the doors wouldn’t even close anymore. It was time to tear down and rebuild.

How is working on a cottage different than working on a house?
The environment is a bigger factor. It’s a huge factor. You need to take into account the weather. You need to think about the shoreline and how to protect it. And there are unglamorous things to spend money on, like upgrading the septic tank.

What was the most satisfying part of this project?
It felt good to be able to create a building from scratch and tailor the design to the surroundings. I had the opportunity to apply passive-house principles: lots of insulation, triple-pane windows, situating the cottage to take advantage of passive heating and cooling. And it works. Once, we were shooting during a snow squall, with no source of heat, and it was still incredibly comfortable inside.

What was it like working with your sister as the client?
At times I felt like I was 16 years old and we were fighting over clothes again. On the one hand, there is no one on the planet who can push my buttons like my sister. On the other hand, we can be brutally honest with each other, and that saves a lot of time. I would never say, “I feel like scratching your eyeballs out” to any other client.

See Danielle Bryk in person, on the Main Stage, at the Ottawa Cottage Life & Backyard Show, 12 p.m., Saturday April 13th. Danielle will be talking about what went into the making of her Cottage Life TV show, The Bryk Cottage. 

Tune-in Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT., to the The Bryk Cottage, a documentary series on Cottage Life TV – now in free preview. 

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