The door is always “open” at Lena Patten’s cottage. “Our kids, their friends, our friends, neighbours, stray cottagers, you name it, they’re usually here.”
But as anyone in cottage country knows, hospitality is reciprocal.
“We also land on other people’s doorsteps on a Sunday without much notice,” says the Huntsville-area designer.
[quote style=”1″]It’s what cottaging is about – dropping in, relaxing, eating together – and not worrying about mess and maintenance.[/quote]
As a “cradle” cottager, Patten grew up with the “simplicity” design approach that she uses with clients.
[quote style=”1″]It doesn’t matter the size or value of the cottage, it has to be low-maintenance. When you work all week long, then fight traffic to get up here, the last thing you need is to spend your 48 hours of heaven fixing things.[/quote]
Hilltop Interiors in Rosseau has a wide range of cottage-style furnishings.
And that’s what she hears increasingly from clients. They want the cottage to be different from home, practical, but with all the nuances that spell out cottage style: wraparound porches with wicker furniture, wood-burning fieldstone fireplaces, wood kitchen cabinets, large harvest tables with seating for 10 or so, a farmhouse sink and a kitchen facing east. Though Patten’s typical cottage projects are large – since grown children and grandchildren need to be accommodated – she says function is more important than size.
[quote style=”1″]A kitchen that opens to the dining room allows living to take place, and a cottage should be oriented toward the lake because that’s where everyone spends their time – down at the dock swimming, fishing, water skiing. Furniture should beg lounging or reading and invite conversation. Colours should be warm and earthy and fabric should practically clean itself.[/quote]
A recent project of Patten’s – a Peninsula Lake cottage once owned by Tim Horton – has retained the Old Muskoka flavour, but the clients insisted on efficiency.
In place of drywall, for example, walls are wood panels – some stained in natural cedar and others in a colour wash, and ceilings are constructed of reclaimed barn board with the rough side up.
Because of the great room’s size, and the large bank of floor-to-ceiling windows offering a panoramic vista of trees and lake, the wood isn’t overwhelming. For warmth and a bit of whimsy, Patten has chosen brightly coloured vintage materials and painted Canadiana antique furniture.
In the bath, artist Cristina Delago has painted a wall mural and handcrafted a ceramic sink to go with the red claw-foot tub, wire baskets, and rustic shelving.
In one of Patten’s other projects – a brand-new cottage on Lake Rosseau – rustic touches and a more human scale allow it to feel as though it’s been nestled in the trees forever. Building on the casual theme – cedar shingle roof, dormer windows, knotty pine ceilings, and fieldstone fireplace – Patten painted walls a butter cream, upholstered furniture in bright yellows and red, and made bedrooms romantic with wrought iron or rustic wood beds, quilts, hooked rugs, and lacy curtains that riffle at open windows.
Creating low maintenance at the cottage is “easy” when you lay the groundwork, Patten says. It starts with a kitchen with enough space to accommodate the many people who will be helping out. In fact, she usually suggests having two islands – great for pulling together buffet lunches and serving them – to gather around.
It also means having enough dishes, cutlery, napkins and glasses.
[quote style=”1″]You want to walk in and have a dinner party on the weekend without having to worry whether you’ve got everything[/quote]
And for that you need sufficient storage – including a good-sized pantry for dry goods.
Having the right appliances also makes a difference, she adds, especially the environmentally friendly kind – like the Miele dishwasher that heats its own water and reduces the drain on the cottage hot water system, or the induction stove that Patten claims is 90 per cent more efficient than gas.
Baskets are a lifesaver for getting clutter out of sight fast, but don’t go “overboard on baskets.”
Slipcover the furniture – Patten usually opts for durable cotton or even Sunbrella outdoor fabric because it’s easy to clean.
[quote style=”1″]Make sure to mix and match, and don’t be afraid – bold and creative is good, boring is bad.[/quote]
Patten’s styling tips include:
Cover windows with light airy window treatments to let the sun in.
Mix and match – grandma’s silver with colourful new plates.
Mixing fabrics is simple when patterns are matched to the size of the furniture – large scale on rugs, and smallest patterns on pillows.
Add your own personal items, books, pictures, artwork, to fill the cottage room with amiable clutter. Run artwork to the ceiling to increase the sense of space.
Go bold with colour. It’s a great way to add personality and style.
Show off your vintage china on open shelving. Quilted, gingham or mattress ticking fabrics are cottage casual.
If budget is an issue, white painted dressers and tables lend a little harmony to otherwise disparate pieces.
Painted iron beds piled high with quilts, and blue and white striped pillows and floral dust ruffles are quaint and welcoming. Wicker chairs complete the look.