Design & DIY

Colin and Justin bring their landscape vision to life

It’s getting warmer in cottage country. Fact. Yup, little by little, the frigid snow is abating and the thick ice melting. Before long, God willing, we’ll be enjoying those glorious summery sunsets as dramatic displays of rich yellow and blush red fill the sky. Hoorah: soon we’ll be outside, breathing in that pure lake air. And diving into the crystal waters of Drag Lake. It can’t be long now. It just can’t

Preparing for summer to arrive, we’re looking longingly at our wraparound deck as it slowly emerges from several feet of snow. Lovingly crafted from Western Red Cedar, its sustainable to the max and derived from forestry businesses that respect the landscape. It’s such a rigid genus and, in this regard, we can be assured our deck hasn’t been undermined by the perilous white stuff which has hidden it from view these last few months. Even with Mother Nature at her cruelest, it’s as good as the day it went down.

Deck Before 3

Deck After 6

Colin and Justin’s cottage deck before (top) and after (bottom)

So what, in “usability” terms, makes a good deck? Well, just like any aspect of an interior scheme, it’s all about quality workmanship. Randy, principal contractor on Cabin Pressure, spent the best part of a week (ably assisted by his team) laying ours. And the results (seen here, but photographed at the end of last season) speak for themselves. It’s breathtakingly lovely, beautifully engineered, and sanded smooth at each corner.

But of course every scheme needs “layers” to bring it alive. In the same way that paint and furniture alternate interior “beat,” so too can visual and physical tricks make your exterior scheme look “considered.” This in mind, we opted to change the woodsy “beat” at our deck’s perimeter. To do this, we specified Sunspace ( glass and metal railings, built by the team at Nortech ( with whom we worked closely to appraise options.

Deck After 7

The deck’s new railing system and seating area

Chasing “visual drama,” we opted for a black frame and glass railing system. The ebony toned metalwork that wraps around the glazing is visually satisfying and literally “frames” sightlines to the exterior as viewed from the living room beyond.

When it came time to furnish, we created separate zones. First up, a dining area (which we’ll reveal in a subsequent epistle) and a “bar” zone dressed with circular metal framed tables featuring Acacia surfaces. These came from Artemano ( and serve as a wonderfully convenient hospitality zone during social gatherings.

Deck After 8

The deck’s dining area

To establish an inviting seating area, we installed a faux wicker patio set from Casual Life — Dressed with removable covers in soft, creamy linen, its position — directly in front of the sliding Euro Vinyl doors — appears to “stretch” the living quarters from inside to out. Dressed with cushions made up with scraps of fabric from last season’s cottage — and a sunny yellow throw from Homesense — it feels seasonally relevant. Jeesh: scanning these images we can hardly wait for summer to return! In the meantime, we’re already using the terrace, albeit warmed by the Solus ( firebowl which, powered from a propane tank below deck, is an asset that comes into its own at night when the dark Haliburton sky plays host to its twinkling constellations of stars.

Deck Before 1

The original underutilized landscape

As last summer faded, and with our deck complete, we hired Greg Brown Construction (discover a little of the company’s history by exploring their website on the recommendation of friends who’d been thrilled with their performance. For them, the hardworking family team installed a septic system (also part of our project’s remit) making such a good job of neatening the site (post dig) that they were immediately hired to work on other aspects of landscaping and gardening.

Colin and Justin

Guiding the excavator through the “warzone”

A family operation (Dad Greg masterfully herds his three sons, Benton, Andrew, and Jordan), GBS worked through dire weather as Mother Nature played despicable hardball, revealing, as she did, her full climatic repertoire of rain, hail, and sleet. The resultant landscape, it should be reported, resembled a war zone, but even this onslaught didn’t dampen the Browns ardour. Were we to suggest that we’ve never worked with more capable landscapers, we’d be doing Greg and his boys a disservice. Diversely experienced as they are, they’re a one-stop shop for all things build or contracting related – indoors and out.

Deck After 1

The landscaping transformation

All things considered, we’re knocked out by the overall transformation. The Cedar deck underpins the entire project and Randy and his gang made a marvelous job as they installed it, plank by plank. And the landscaping: Holy Moly. All hail Sir Greg and his saintly sons. Hey; at our behest they even plucked a derelict concrete drainpipe from the water’s edge which we subsequently turned into a fire pit. Dressed with rocks and circled with twenty buck second hand Lloyd Loom chairs, it’s the bee’s knees on cold evenings. The perfect place, indeed, to bake our s’mores and toast our mallows.

Deck After 3

The upcycled firepit overlooking the lake

As the last vestiges of Haliburton snow begin to melt, we can finally discern the future. And, as the ice abates, we’re thinking summery thoughts. It won’t be long, it won’t be long …

Watch the latest episodes of Colin and Justin’s Cabin Pressure below and stay tuned for new episodes, Sunday at 9pm et/pt. Enter our Cabin Pressure contest here for your chance to win an Electrolux vacuum cleaner! Cottage Life television is now in free preview. Find your channel here.