Design & DIY

A lakeside cottage in the Kawarthas gets a design refresh

Joanna Smeeth's cottage on Clear Lake Photo by Jules Lee

Bright walls, colourful artwork, and treasured finds transform a Clear Lake cottage into a year-round family home. Joanna Smeeth, founder and principal designer of INDA Interiors, has given Cottage Life an exclusive look at the first phase of a redesign on her lakeside home in the Kawarthas. By remixing traditional cottage aesthetic with a funky vibe, the Indigenous-Portuguese interior designer has created a space that feels fresh, joyful, and ready for all-seasons living.

Smeeth is the founder and principal designer of INDA Interiors. Originally from Newcastle, Ontario, she studied architectural science at Ryerson University before launching a career in the commercial construction world. After managing large-scale projects and a stint on Love It or List It, Smeeth and her husband decided to make a home in Peterborough, where Smeeth ran a custom home building and design company.

But the interior design world was calling to Smeeth, and she found the opportunity to flex her creative muscles when she made the move with her husband and their two daughters to a lakeside property on Clear Lake. Used by the previous owners as a summer residence, the home is close enough to Peterborough that the family can easily make their way into town for school and work. At the same time, living in a cottage year-round means the family gets to be part of a lake community in what Smeeth describes as a “gorgeous” landscape.

The family purchased the property in the summer of 2019, but didn’t officially move in until March 2020. One of the first design challenges Smeeth had to tackle was the entryway into the home. Because the property had predominately been used by the previous owners as a summer home, a sliding door into the living room served as the cottage’s main point of entry. That meant no defined entrance into the home, no entryway closet, and little privacy from the road.

Some creative thinking solved the entryway conundrum. Smeeth installed a wardrobe set from IKEA between two support posts in front of the sliding door. “It gave us an actual entry separate from the living room” she says, “and it created a more private living space behind it.”

The backs of the wardrobes were dressed up with custom-built black shiplap. With the addition of artwork by Indigenous Canadian artist Norval Morrisseau, the wardrobes ended up not only defining the front entrance but also acting as the focus centrepiece for the living room. “When the wardrobe sets were in, it was a big ‘aha’ moment,” says Smeeth.

Norval Morrisseau’s Between Two Worlds (top) and Gathering of Shamans (bottom) rest atop custom-built black shiplap lightened by brass lighting fixtures. Photo by Jules Lee

Smeeth punctuates the white walls of the home with unique art pieces and salvaged finds. Her family’s most treasured piece is a dreamcatcher that they picked out at the Whetung Ojibwa Centre on Curve Lake. It hangs above a set of stairs that lead to the cottage’s downstairs bedrooms, to catch all the sleepers’ bad dreams.

Adjacent to the dreamcatcher is a glass-printed artist proof by Toronto artist Christine Flynn. “I’ve been a a big fan of her work for so long,” says Smeeth. “I use her pieces a lot in client projects.”

Fixed upon a 100-year-old nail Jo’s held onto since designing a brewery in Peterborough hangs her family’s most treasured piece: a dreamcatcher they picked out at the Whetung Ojibwa Centre on Curve Lake. Suspended to its right is a glass-printed artist proof by Toronto artist Christine Flynn. The numbers inscribed onto the glass are the date of Jo and Chris’ anniversary. Photo by Jules Lee

“I’m generally drawn to things, says Smeeth. “Sometimes a particular art or furnishing item will inspire the design for the space. Once I figure out what that is, everything else will fall into place.”

Greenery is also key to livening up the cottage. Smeeth’s home features some very impressive houseplants stretching up towards the ceiling. “I am huge on plants in spaces,” she says. “I love the pop of green and life it brings.”

Photo by Jules Lee

The houseplants on display made the move with the family from their old home in Peterborough. Smeeth reports that the plants are enjoying all the natural light in their new abode. The family also added some green outdoors by planting birch and spruce trees.

Since becoming full-time cottagers, Smeeth and her family have been creating new memories inspired by the surrounding landscape. Every morning the family meets in the kitchen and chats about the lake water: how it’s moving and what it looks like. If it’s the weekend, they’ll make plans around the mood of the lake. And every night before bed, Smeeth’s daughters pick a star in the sky and make a wish.

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