Friday, February 09, 2018

Cottage Threes

Ask both homeowners and Home Hardware design consultants what they love about Beaver Homes and Cottages’ Dorset II and they will give the same answer: its versatility. The spacious, 1300-square-foot home allows owners and designers to bring their vision to life—from bigger windows to more bedrooms to, yes, even secret passageways! Let’s look at how three families with very different needs adapted the Dorset II to make it uniquely their own.

The Retirees

Danny, a retired industrial engineer, and Janet, a dental hygienist looking to retire within the next few years, were looking for a cottage that would also become their permanent home. The Dundas, Ontario couple had purchased an existing structure in Oliphant four years ago, but soon discovered it had been rotting away and needed to be torn down. They went to the Wiarton Home Hardware Building Centre and talked to Design Consultant Jason Stevens about their options. The Dorset II gave them the space they wanted, the flexibility to get the most from their picturesque location, and options to make it a home that will work for them as they grow older. With only one level, they won’t have to trek up and down any stairs. They also opted for a propane fireplace to avoid the strenuous task of collecting and carrying firewood. Danny also explains, “We moved the fireplace from the south-facing wall, and instead added a third window for an unobstructed view of the lake.” Because everyone seems to gather in the kitchen, Danny and Janet wanted to add a few extra feet of space. They also upped the ante on their exterior with rich Fraser Fir shingles. After five months, their new cottage was ready to go. Over Thanksgiving weekend, they celebrated with family while their golden retriever, Muskoka, got to chase raccoons outside. “We moved the fireplace from the south-facing wall, and instead added a third window for an unobstructed view of the lake.”

The Permanent Residents

Erik Carlson, Design Consultant at the Espanola Home Hardware, had met the Sabourins five years ago when they were looking to build a custom home. When lakefront property on Manitoulin Island became available, their plans quickly shifted gears. And work began almost immediately. Sarah Sabourin is a manager of The Island Jar, a health food store, and her husband Kyle is a instrument technician. They have two daughters who are 4 and 6 years old. They chose the Dorset II because, “It gave us the flexibility we wanted, and it fit within our budget,” Sarah explains. “It was just as easy as buying a pre-built house, but a lot more fun!” Erik worked with contractor Shawn Taylor, of Taylor & Son Construction, to add a full basement for additional living space for the young family. And Kitchen Designer Derek Sisson helped create a kitchen that was both beautiful and functional for everyday use. The features and fixtures have a sleek, modern look. Sarah would see something in a magazine or online and send it to the Home Hardware design team who worked to bring her ideas to life. “It gave us the flexibility we wanted, and it fit within our budget.” Sarah explains. “It was just as easy as buying a pre-built house, but a lot more fun!” “I feel lucky to have had such an amazing team,” she says. During construction, she came to Erik with an odd request: “In our old house, the girls shared a room. But here, they each have their own. We still wanted them to share some space, so I asked Erik if he could build a secret passageway into each girl’s room through their closets.” Erik was happy to accommodate, but Sarah expressed a concern: “Once the girls are teenagers, I feel like I will be asking him to plaster over it again.”

The Siblings

“My father bought the property in 1954 as a bachelor getaway that soon became a beloved family retreat. I’ve spent all my summers here, gazing at the same rocks and water of my childhood,” she says. But, with three families now wanting to share one cottage, they needed something bigger. Maggie explains, “The Dorset’s layout and size were what attracted me. Thirteen hundred square feet was just right.” The three siblings worked together to create a space that accommodated the tastes and needs of not just one family, but three. “I closed in a porch overhang to make a screened porch –much appreciated when blood-thirsty mosquitoes are swarming outside, and I turned a second porch overhang into a mudroom. My brother chose the pine flooring, and he and my sister-in-law planned the kitchen, while my sister chose the door and closet hardware.” But getting the three siblings to agree was the easy part. The cottage’s remote location provided some unique challenges for Design Consultant Dave Traviss and builder Tim Hodges. “We had to clear a passage through the thick forest to drag all the materials up to the top of the hill by Bobcat. And because it’s only accessible by water, in the winter months we had to slide the materials across the frozen lake,” says Dave. Furthermore, Maggie lives in Peterborough, so she and Dave had to quickly develop a sense of trust when communicating their ideas solely over phone and email. She says, “Dave was terrific to work with. He had practical suggestions, and he always wanted to hear my opinion. He was quick to return calls and emails.” But all the effort proved worth it, with their uniquely stunning cottage resting on pillars on top of a lush mountaintop overlooking 6 Mile Lake.

Exactly What We Wanted

When Lynn and Roger Delany bought land on Manitoulin Island’s Lake Kagawong 17 years ago, it was the peaceful surroundings and million-dollar view that sold them. “Building a home was not on my bucket list!” said Lynn Delany, laughing. But the Delanys, who both work in the transportation logistics industry in Mississauga and hope to retire in the next few years or so, soon realized that trying to make one of the property’s 60-year-old cottages retirement-friendly or starting from scratch with an architect would both be a huge amount of work. “It made sense to me to pick something and then just tweak it until it was what we wanted,” said Lynn, “and that’s exactly what we did.”

Because building a house can be stressful, “we try to make it as easy as possible,” said Erik Carlson, who’s been a Beaver Homes and Cottages design consultant at the Home Hardware store in Espanola, Ontario, for the past 20 years. “We walk them hand in hand through the whole process, from budgets, to preliminary drawings to builders to sub trades and changes to completion all the way through,” he said. Customers get “a lot of perks with the Beaver packages,” including blueprints, insurance policies, and “the experience that guys like me and other Beaver consultants bring to the table. We’re also super-competitive,” and customers get contractor pricing on many items, he said.

The Beaver Homes and Cottages program offers models in a large variety of styles and sizes. Since Lynn knew she wanted a bungalow the Delanys’ choice was a little easier, and being able to begin with the Glenbriar II model, add 500 square feet and customize it “was a real advantage of the program,” she said.

“One-level living was designed right from the get-go,” with possible age-related mobility issues in mind, said Lynn. “I built the house with wider doors and no steps and the shower so that a wheelchair can get in and out, the far side of the garage has a huge limestone ramp—even the kitchen microwave is in a microwave drawer, not up over your head,” she said. “Beaver Homes was very accommodating in updating the original plans so we could get an overview and look at everything ahead of time.” Especially in custom homes like the Delanys’, it’s very common “to make changes and do two or three sets of plans,” said Carlson, “and there’s no extra charge for that.” And such accessibility changes didn’t add much to the final costs, the Delanys agreed. For their builder the Delanys chose Shawn Taylor of Taylor and Son Construction. Carlson often recommends Taylor and Son for Manitoulin Island builds, knowing that sometimes-anxious customers appreciate Shawn’s reliability, professionalism and calm demeanor. And both Carlson and Taylor understood the challenges that might be posed by the build site’s location, a six-and-a-half hour drive north from where Lynn and Roger currently live. The Delanys met with Carlson in the Espanola, Ontario store, “and started picking doors, windows, exterior finishes—even baseboard,” said Lynn. “But other than me having to pick out colours and making it right, that was it!” The couple were in frequent phone and e-mail contact with Taylor, who’d update them with photographs, but felt very comfortable not being on site. Even during the build when Lynn asked for an interior wall to be changed, “I thought it would be a big deal!” she says. “But they just got the new drawings up, had us check and accept them and then continued on.”

“People told us, ‘You’ll have to ship materials to the island,’ but they really made it simple,” she added. “Erik had everything transferred to the Mindemoya Home Hardware store on Manitoulin Island, 25 minutes from our build. And if Shawn called Erik and said ‘I’ll need this in 2 weeks,’ it was there.”

“Erik and Shawn were both amazing to deal with, always eager to help out in any way they could,” with product ideas and advice about what would work best, said Lynn. “It was personal service,” said Roger. “If I sent an email I’d get one back right away, the following morning if not the same day.”

“The majority of the building materials were above ‘builder’s grade’ and very well done,’” observed Roger, whose own father had been a builder in southern Ontario. The Delanys particularly like that, wherever possible, materials are Canadian-made. “And we’ve been really pleasantly surprised with our hydro bill,” which can sometimes come as a shock to a southerner, said Lynn. “We’ve got 17’ ceilings, so there’s a lot of air to heat and air-condition,” said Roger. “They’re efficient, well-built homes.”

Construction began in June of 2016, and although winter on Manitoulin Island often means issues with weather delays, the Delanys’ home was finished by March this year. “I think Roger and I were both surprised how easily and nicely it went,” said Lynn.

“We designed the house to take a lot of people in and seat people at a huge kitchen counter,” she said, and their Beaver Home is already the focal point of family gatherings, Christmases and Easters. When three dozen of their family and friends came together last year to celebrate the life of Lynn’s 98-year-old grandmother, “that house welcomed those people—it was exactly what we wanted,” she said.

“We had a really great experience—and a really ‘Wow!’ home at the end of it. We’ve already recommended it to others.”