After co-founding creative hot shop Taxi, opening its New York office, and becoming its chairman emeritus, Paul Lavoie was wondering where his career could possibly go to reach the next level. After all, what place can possibly top the biggest city in America? Well, as any Canadian knows, the answer is our cottage country.
Lavoie and designer Lee Kline co-founded their company, Beau Lake, when Kline was inspired to design and build luxury vintage paddleboards that evoke the wonder of the 50s and 60s cottaging experience. He reached out to his old friend Lavoie, who was blown away by their look and quality. “I said I’d take two,” he laughs. Next thing you know, the two had created Beau Lake, a passion project meant to bring the classic cottaging experience back to life.
“Our reference in time is this quiet lake experience in the 1950s,” Lavoie says. “It was a much more innocent time, and also an exciting time in the world of design.”
The boards’ designs are truly unique and intricately detailed, unlike anything ever seen in the world of paddleboarding. The company’s flagship boards include the Muskoka, which is hand-shaped and covered with a real mahogany veneer, and the Tremblant, a board inspired by a midcentury Riva yacht. (“All our products are named after Canadian lakes,” Lavoie notes, “and we’re lucky, because there are more lakes in Canada than all the lakes in all the other countries in the world, which gives us a huge vocabulary.”)
Kline, who designed the boards, was inspired by a childhood spent on his family sailboat on Lake Ontario. “That was our cottage,” Kline says, reminiscing about summers spent sailing on the lake, sans motors. “I’ve always had that intimate relationship with the water and the wind, and also boat-making in general. The hardware on the boat, the materials, the integration between wood, metal, and fiberglass, have informed my work literally for the last 30 years.” And like boats, Beau Lake’s boards can even be made with custom monograms, making each piece as unique and personal as a sailing vessel.
Beau Lake’s ultimate goal is not just to create incredibly beautiful lake gear, but to evoke the spirit of the cottaging experience. After all, cottage life is about more than just the lake. It’s about all of the small things that make for amazing summer experiences: family, home-cooked meals, the smell of pine trees after a rain shower, and sweet silence. Beau Lake’s boards have been lovingly crafted to remind people of those golden, windswept days.
In fact, the boards are so beautiful that some people simply use them as works of art. “We have customers who just display them,” Kline notes. “They’re finished with the detail of jewelry, almost.”
Beau Lake’s ambitions don’t end with paddleboards. They’ve also created beautiful custom paddles (“One paddle is named after Lake Bras D’Or, or Golden Arm, which is what you’ll feel like paddling these paddles,” Lavoie says) and they have their eye on a redesign of one of the icons of cottage living: the Muskoka chair. “We wanted to take that classic Muskoka chair and re-envision it in a way that was meaningful, not in a frivolous kind of way. We really wanted to keep the essence of it,” says Kline. That means keeping the classic sloping back and straight arms of the original, but elevating the design, and incorporating new materials. “We decided to go with a wood that has played a huge role in North American history — black locust — that isn’t killing the rainforest and lasts over 100 years, even untreated.”
The wood choice is a nod to another of Beau Lake’s goals, to pay respect to the earth. They also create their boards with finishes without VOC’s — volatile organic compounds — which can have a tendency to leach out into the water. The company is also dedicated to avoiding motorized vessels, preserving the peace of natural surroundings.
To both Kline and Lavoie, the lake is a sacred place. “I dipped my toes in a lake when I was less than a month old — and I have a picture to prove it,” says Lavoie. “I’ve always loved the lake. It’s not where a house is, it’s where a home is.”
So where is the Beau Lake that inspired the name of the company? It’s located in your mind. It’s anywhere, on any Canadian lake, where people are relaxing and enjoying the beauty and calm of nature. “Beau Lake is not a lake in itself,” says Lavoie. “It’s more of a cottage lifestyle.”