Who lives here: A couple of empty nesters
Location: Muskoka, Ontario
Size: 5,000 square feet (46.5 square meters); 5 bedrooms, 4½ bathrooms
This semiretired couple was ready to get out of the city and closer to their northern Ontario roots. While living in Toronto they found a unique piece of property on Lake Tasso in the Muskoka District that felt more like home. Even though the property has lots of Crown land around it (which can never be developed) and the massive Algonquin Park nearby, they are often surrounded by lots of people, as their home has become the gathering spot for family and friends as well as the party house of the area.
Built with a simple, unadorned architecture that recalls Prairie style, the home is a bit of an anomaly among the more rustic homes in the area. Interior decorator Chris Lischkoff kept the exterior architecture, as well as the surrounding lake and woods, in mind as he outfitted the interior with help from frequent collaborator Hettel Nana. The result is a clean, casual and comfortable home that is designed to handle parties of 100, yet is cozy enough for the couple when they are on their own.
While the house has a clean and somewhat formal look, its design can take a beating. “We chose durable materials that can stand up to the constant parade of muddy boots, dogs, kids and party guests that come through here,” Lischkoff says.
On the main floor, the kitchen, dining room and great room are all open to one another. Lischkoff used the same paint (Dune White UC-70, Benjamin Moore) on almost all of the walls and the ceilings throughout the entire house. A signature colour, blue, runs consistently from room to room.
The kitchen has the sleek style of a bar in a chic restaurant. Because it is so open to the other rooms, Lischkoff didn’t want it to look too kitchen-y. “This is a very high-performance kitchen that often has two or three people cooking at once, but it has a more casual feel,” he says. There are two dishwashers to handle all of the large dinner parties they host.
The backsplash is made of hand-painted porcelain Japanese tile that shimmers and reflects the light, as does the glass door on the Sub-Zero refrigerator. The woven pendants from Italy add cottage texture, and the stools are a fun, more traditional touch that pops with the signature blue colour.
To the left, built-in drawers serve the dining room like a buffet, with plenty of space for placemats, linens, serving pieces, platters, trivets and more. There is also a large pantry with an extra refrigerator and wine refrigerator.
The single large great room was designed to seat a crowd. “There are two sofas, two chairs, ottomans and a hearth for seating. The hearth is covered in the same black honed granite the designer used on the kitchen counters. The surround is textured limestone.
“We had to deal with some really big walls in here,” Lischkoff says. One side has shelves painted an accent color for interest. “They go through a lot of wood,” Lischkoff says. The log storage wall adds more rustic woodsy lake texture to the clean-lined home.
The great room is completely open to this dining room as well as the kitchen. Just off the dining room is the “Muskoka room,” a porch where there’s space to barbecue, eat, lounge and watch wildlife.
The custom dining table can accommodate 14. “They often have a group that big,” Lischkoff says. He chose durable resin chairs that look like wicker, and chose all armchairs because people like to hang out after dinner here for hours.
A first-floor den-office has huge views; the doors offer easy access down to the lake. Lischkoff sized a sectional to accommodate grandchildren who sleep over, but it’s also snug enough to envelop the couple when they are home alone.
“The house was designed so that you see the water from every room, and the windows are low so that you can see the lake from a bed and from a bathtub,” Lischkoff says. Motorized blinds on the soffit above and recesses for curtain rods keep the views completely open.
Covering the guest bathroom walls in tile was another durability-minded move. There isn’t a surface in there that can’t take a big splash.
The master bedroom has its own fireplace, and the family member who tends to hog the window seat is the dog. The fireplace surround is honed marble on the bottom and flamed marble on top. They are actually from the same marble; the high heat has taken off a layer of the stone.
The floors are smoked oak, which means they are not stained. Lischkoff used 5-inch-, 7-inch- and 9-inch-wide boards placed in a random pattern diagonally for a more casual look.
The guest room leans a little more traditional. The heights of the tall headboards are accentuated by vertical stripes. “This kind of headboard is inspired by a more traditional style, but they are completely unadorned, which gives them a more contemporary look,” Lischkoff says. Leather ottomans at the end of each of the twin beds provide places to put down luggage.
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