05/22/2015 13:41 EDT | Updated 05/22/2016 01:59 EDT

Turning Tricks in The Cottage Master Bedroom

Why, pray tell, are many of the cottages we visit so much less like wilderness cabins (visually and ergonomically) and more like suburban bungalows? Consider our own formerly nervous wreck. Step indoors, and it might very well have occupied a street in any suburban sprawl.

Colin & Justin

Decorating slight of hand: Colin and Justin transform a gloomy attic bedroom into a contemporary space with more than a hint of cottage charm...

Okay, so we're perfectly aware just how much Canadians love to cottage. The holiday retreats (which come in various shapes and sizes from small shacks in the forest to massive McMansions overlooking twinkling lakes) are the beloved preserve of Canucks the land over. And, courtesy of landscapes like those we enjoy in Canada, it's little wonder.

As an escape from city traffic, the rough and tumble of urban (or suburban) life and simply to get closer to nature, we all seem to crave the great outdoors. We're aware of a "kit of parts," common cottage denominators, if you will, that must be religiously respected to hit the ground running. Wood finishes are sacrosanct, canoeing is compulsory and a firm belief that there's no such thing as a room that can't be improved with the addition of a wolf picture. You know -- one of those, ahem, "vintage" gold-framed 3D velvet effigies, eyes wide and sparkling, jaws cranked open in a terrifying warning howl.

So why, pray tell, are many of the cottages we visit so much less like wilderness cabins (visually and ergonomically) and more like suburban bungalows? Consider our own formerly nervous wreck. Sure, the location is the very image of rural perfection, set as it is beside a lake in Haliburton and lost to a forest of towering pines and tall willowy spruce trees. Step indoors, however, and (as we found it, certainly) it might very well have occupied a street in any suburban sprawl.

Jeesh. The shag carpet, the wallpaper and the dated beadwork that detailed every wall surface: holy crap. The boxed in ceiling apex, the lighting, the, well, the pretty much everything. Time to change? Come on: what do you think?

And so it comes to pass that this week's spatial correction pertains to celebrating the shape -- and indeed the original architecture -- of our cabin. And remedying, therein, an armory of abominations that was spoiling the potentially lovely room.

The evidence? Well, it's fair to report that our loft had a boxy feel with a dropped ceiling, squared-off walls and acres of shirt striped wallpaper. The platform had precisely nothing in its favour aside from potential. Our plan? Complete removal of the dividing walls and drywall ceiling to reveal a monumental peaked shape with dramatic slopes and acute corner angles. Liberated, the added width and height serve to create a generously proportioned sleep zone with bags of character.

Our team poised for action, we seized the opportunity to push our reno to the next level. The plan to add en suite facilities meant our only option was to construct a "shed" dormer space with a window trained directly onto the forest. We wasted no time in opening up one side of the triangular roofline and pushing out to accommodate a new wash zone, a built in wardrobe and a media cupboard. And we'll share the shower room transformation with you next week.

Lining the entire bedroom ceiling with walnut-stained pine proffers a whiff of mid-century modern appeal, an allure we bolstered with a Carl Hansen style chair and a black tri-armed Serge Mouille inspired floor lamp from MFKTO. Positioned on Dupont, behind an inauspicious storefront, the furniture mecca has a staggering inventory (priced at a fraction of competitors) that draws inspiration, largely, from the mid-century period.

The Carl Hansen inspired "Shell" chair seen here has a bentwood cherry frame, softened by a comfy black felt pad. Illuminated from above by an interpretation of the original tri-armed Serge Mouille floor lamp (again from MFKTO) the resultant vignette adds function to the bedroom's style package. Ironically, many of these so-called "modern" items are probably older than this room's previous décor. The original Shell chair, for example, dates back to 1963!

Further timber detail comes from the wall of barn doors, manufactured by one of our go-to suppliers Rebarn. We challenged company director Mark to create a dual railed sliding door system with two doors -- one for each cupboard -- and a third central portal which slides to reveal the shower room. All project lumber was rescued from a responsibly dismantled dilapidated Ontario barn whose structure yielded boards with metallic silvering created by a century of Canadian climate.

Being that the gallery bedroom enjoys a loft style view over the living room (and the front windows) the last thing we wanted was to create any type of visual obstruction. This in mind, our choice of banister and railings had to be glass. To compliment the deck railings outside, we used them again indoors. Cost-efficient (perhaps half the price of a regular interior banister fit out), the black frames and glass inserts of the Sunspace system compliment the windows while adding visual structure as the staircase rises from downstairs to up.

Adding screens to our new balcony doors allows air to flow -- even in the most entomologically challenging seasons -- while the Fan Shoppe central ceiling fittings (in both the bedroom and living space below) silently pick up the breeze and circulate cool air as required.

On Sunday's episode of Cabin Pressure, you'll see us visit Artemano, source of this imposing metal and wooden bed. The quest, therein: to bridge our cottage/urban design predilections in one fell swoop. The bed's steel frame adequately ticks the urban box, while the cottage vibe is elicited via the rough-hewn wooden headboard and frame. Either side sit nightstands (also from Artemano) whose irregularly shaped top surfaces are formed from cross-cut ebony-stained tree trunks. Dressed with steampunk anglepoise lamps, the resultant tableaus are moody and atmospheric.

To attire the bed, we used a combo of "on trend" chevron pillows and dark grey linens from Homesense, Marshalls and Winners. Our signature pop of vibrant red appears courtesy of a ruby toned pillow, scarlet throws from Ikea and an ottoman from Urban Barn, which floats on the textural woven hide rug, picked up in Homesense.

So there you have it: a rustic reinvention (with admittedly contemporary predilections) played out in a formerly awkward sleep zone. Salient points, in a nutshell? A simple recipe that puts wood in and wallpaper out. One that profiles classic design from the 50's and 60's and lumber recycled from an ancient barn.

Find us here, next week, with a point-by-point recipe that explains how we mastered the connecting ensuite bathroom in a space once occupied (literally) by forest air. Yup, during our next puff in The Huff we're throwing open the doors to our dormer extension. And it's nothing short of a bathing beauty...

'Colin and Justin's Cabin Pressure' airs on The Cottage Life television network at 9pm on Sundays. Check listings for episode repeat schedule or watch online at

Before -- a suburban looking bedroom

Stripped back to the bare bones...

Reroofed and ready to frame out the floorplan

Mike from Fine Line Painting doing his thing...

The Rebarn doors going in...

Our bedroom is complete...

The sloping ceiling and vintage barn doors add colour, character and the wow factor to this once dated bedroom

The mix of glass, timber, steel and black is dramatic and modern, yet still appropriate to cottage style

The view from the ensuite shower room


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