Design & DIY

Colin and Justin cook up a new cottage kitchen

Colin & Justin Photo by Paul Orenstein

Updated August 15, 2018

Our previous kitchen was functional, but it didn’t exactly excite. It’s fair to say the wooden doors and dated tiled counters (complete with floral scenes) had all seen better days. Add to the mix an elderly fridge and freezer, a huge white oven, and a buckling wood floor (damaged by a previous leak), and it’s clear to see why we wielded the demo ball.

It’s also fair to suggest that the time-worn expression “You can’t see the wood for the trees” was seldom more relevant. As such, the game was on to find cabinetry with a cottagey feel but sufficient drama to contrast with the thick logs in the rest of the room.

Photo by Paul Orenstein

Embrace trash as treasure

True to form, we did the homeland proud with our waste not, want not logic. Our next-door neighbour Jordan (a young veterinarian and new cottager) bagged the salvaged cupboards, while we sold the old appliances on Kijiji, adding helpful coin to the C&J cushion fund.

Hone the design

Creating a kitchen from scratch is pricier than buying stock cabinets, but it was an amazingly satisfying experience because it allowed us to get exactly what we wanted. We happened upon a family business, Bateman Furniture, in Oro, Ont., and were immediately smitten. Bruce, the family patriarch, is a larger-than-life character who, aided by his partner, Eve — she draws each kitchen by hand — and son Brandon, adds a personal touch, and a spot of old-school approach, to design. (Bruce also runs an on-site diner called B8’s and a classic car garage. Blimey — this guy is really living the dream.)

Photo by Paul Orenstein

First, Bruce visited the cottage to chat ambition and to carefully measure the space. Our remit? The finished room should enhance an essentially open-concept living area while discreetly concealing the large appliances. We opted for Arts and Crafts cabinetry (the traditional styling works particularly well against the backdrop of a log home) and chose grey to modernize the cabinetry’s lines. Thereafter, Brandon built the whole affair from solid wood. For us, cabinets that can take a few knocks (and be touched up with a dab of paint) made perfect sense: In the cottage environment, rough and tumble is part of everyday life. Also remember that, if you buy locally (as we did), you’ll save on transportation costs from the city.

As we are frequent entertainers, it was important to have ample storage included in our vision. We decided on enough cupboards to store at least 12 of everything (plates, bowls, etc.), loads of regular-sized drawers for napery and utensils, and two extra-deep drawers to accommodate pots and pans.

The original kitchen featured a large peninsula that really closed off the area, and only allowed for one narrow entrance and exit point. But we aspired to a free-flowing space. Our solution? We replaced the peninsula with an oversized island. Now, we can access the room from both sides, and the island is a place to gather and chat, and to enjoy a casual meal.

Lastly, we tried to subscribe to the “one out, one in” theory when envisioning our kitchen design. We kept the sink and stovetop in roughly the same place, which helped minimize costs.

Opt for strong surfaces

There are certain aspects on which you shouldn’t scrimp and, as we see it, kitchen surfaces fall into that category. Not only must they be up to the challenge of cottage life (multiple cooks in the kitchen, a tricky freeze-thaw cycle), they’re also a great way to demonstrate visible spend. We opted for Caesar stone, a quartz composite surface that’s incredibly hard-wearing and doesn’t mark like marble. Available in a host of colours and textures, it looks good in any space. Fitting it, however, is a specialist job, so do as we did and call in the pros.

Photo by Paul Orenstein

Integrate, don’t celebrate

C’mon, Canada, do you really need your appliances to look like they’re on steroids? We went for a very European feel—the oven and the cooktop are built-in separates that keep the stone surface lines unbroken, while the dishwasher, the microwave, and the separate fridge and freezer are cleverly hidden. Using integrated appliances also allowed us to trounce the golden rule of kitchen design, that appliances should never sit side by side, which looks clunky. However, if space is too tight to observe this rule, concealment really helps. And let’s be honest: Who really needs a massive appliance in a place that’s used as infrequently as weekends and holidays? It’s also worth bearing in mind that smaller appliances use less electricity, so do the maths! Crucially, the Canadian retail sector has caught up (arriving in Canada when we did, we found it almost impossible to track down compact appliances), and suppliers such as Hudson’s Bay and Ikea now carry adequate smaller-scale inventory.

Colin & Justin will be back with a brand new documentary show, Great Canadian Cottages, coming this Fall only on Cottage Life

Featured Video