1,000 sq. ft.
Why we love it
Groovy Euro architecture; fun vintage finds; a brilliant blend of new and nostalgic
For Lija Skobe, summer is synonymous with her grandparents’ cottage on Balsam Lake, Ont. “My brother and I were up there pretty much from the time we were born,” she says. “Our parents would drop us off for a month at a time.” Lija’s memory is now filled with idyllic images of swimming, catching fireflies, and playing board games until lights out. But it’s safe to say her grandparents’ cottage wasn’t like any other in the Kawarthas. Lija’s grandfather and grandmother, Elmars and Velta Skobe, escaped Latvia during the Second World War and fled to Canada. So when they bought property for a family retreat in the ’60s, they hired a Latvian architect to design a space with old-country flair that reflected their culture.
Fast-forward another 60 years and 41-year-old Lija, the director of fundraising and events for a Toronto-based nonprofit, and her brother, Arthur, 39, became the cottage’s inherited owners. Of course, the cottage they walked into wasn’t the cottage of their youth—it was packed with clothing, books, mouldy furniture, and appliances that didn’t work.
Rather than gut the four-bedroom space, they chose to celebrate it—from the unique tiled windows to the wood chandelier that plays on traditional Baltic weaving patterns. The siblings spent hours decluttering and had to make difficult decisions about what to part with. They realized that not every piece of history is worth preserving. “I tried to keep the things that my grandparents had purchased or been given,” Lija says. “It makes it feel as if they’d continued on.” Now, the three-season cottage is ready for its next incarnation: a getaway for Lija and Arthur to use separately with friends or together with their mother, and a rental property to help offset expenses.
It took three coats of primer and three coats of paint to cover the original wood panelling on the walls. Select spots, such as the ceiling and doors, remain unpainted.
Lija’s Best Bargains
1. She scored the grey early 20th-century modern chairs on Kijiji. $100
2. Her aunt found the frame over the sofa by the roadside; Lija had the mirror added inside the panes. $50
3. Lija turned a multipaned window into a frame for displaying family photos. $10
4. She used metal spray paint to transform the sconces installed by her grandparents. $12
Lija kept much of the original furniture, including her grandparents’ record player console (now a TV cabinet) and their dining table. She only purchased the sofa, armchair, and dining chairs.
“You can make spaces comfortable and pretty without spending a lot of money,” says Lija, an enthusiastic thrifter and curbside shopper. “I spent time instead.”