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1970’s Cottage Make Over

Nestled away off the beaten path just east of Detlor, Ontario – outside of Bancroft, Ontario there is a quaint little property tucked in along the shores of Jamieson Lake. The owner of this little gem is an artist and well respected sculptor with an obvious eye for detail. With a young family of his own, this property would be an escape from their busy lives. He, himself, spent many of his summers as a child on this Lake, only a couple cottages down the shoreline. 

When we first looked at the cottage property it was apparent it hadn’t been renovated for decades. While the property was clean and tidy and seemed to have good bones; it was surely in much need of a facelift. 

Fortunately the owner, being artistically inclined, had a vision of what he wanted. He could clearly see beyond the outdated facade and recognized the potential for an update space without losing the cottage charm. 

This is the story of that journey.

Cottage Modernization

The cottage had that traditional 1970’s cottage feel. Small rooms, small windows and low ceilings. The plan was to create an open concept as much as possible. The space needed to be brightened up. 

The cottage has two bedrooms, a mudroom, a bathroom, a living area with a beautiful stone fireplace, a kitchen and a sun porch. 

As you can see here the sun porch was completely closed off from the rest of the living space. The owner was inspired to open this wall up between the two spaces use it as an extension of the living space, for a small dining table and sitting space. 

The bedrooms didn’t need much more than a face lift. The goal was to remove the existing pine and replace it with shiplap grade ‘A’ pine. 

The low ceilings really made this space feel small. The goal was to give the space cathedral ceilings, exposing the collar ties and ceiling Joists. With a close inspection of the attic, it was determined that the ceiling could be removed so long as we reinforced the ceiling joists. Reinforcement might have been the more frugal approach but it was not very aesthetic. So we decided to budget for replacement of the ceiling joists as well. 

The loft space above the bedrooms, bathroom and mudroom would be converted into a storage loft with the potential of extra sleeping space.

Of all the rooms in the cottage, the bathroom was in the greatest need of TLC. Bathrooms are the most sought after kind of renovation but they can often be the most costly. The owner wanted to make the bathroom a little bigger. Like most 1970’s bathrooms it was little more than a powder room – It needed a serious make-over.

 Since the wall finishings were already going to be removed from the bathroom, the home owner decided to move the bathroom wall out about one foot. He requested a walk in tiled shower, tiled floor, half- tiled walls, new efficient water saving toilet, and a floating (wall-mount) vanity. 

The kitchen would be completely gutted and replaced with a custom IKEA kitchen with butcher block counter tops. The design would allow for a pass-over counter into the new dining space in the renovated sun porch area. 

The existing deck needed to be refaced as well, with new stairs and a new railing with metal spindles. The owner needed new stairs going down to the water. 

Due to the age of the property the entire building needed to be rewired. While this is often less glamorous work it can be an excellent opportunity to rethink your spaces accessibility and layout. Modernizing your electrical infrastructure is obviously an important safety precaution as well. The owner decided uplighting would be a nice added feature for the new cathedral ceiling. 

This was truly a space designed for both family time and entertaining but there was much work to do.

Building Code

The same rules apply to cottages as homes. Ontario has some of the strictest guidelines for building in the country. And while some homeowners find all the regulations and guidelines to be bothersome as they can occasional slow down work or increase costs; it’s important to remember that getting a permit ensures your build is up to code. And each stage of the build is inspected before you move on to the next. 

In this particular case we have a lot of experience with permits, inspectors and of course the building code. The build was fairly straight forward.

Plans & Permits

Not every project requires engineer/architectural stamped drawings. This project did not involve any major structural alterations other than the removal of the wall. For that portion of the project we did require an engineers stamp. One of the great things about the building department here in Hastings county is the level of cooperation and collaboration you receive with various departments such as engineers. 

The cottage renovation plans for this project were hand drawn by us at My Next Home Reno, so that the building inspector could follow our intended work structure as it aligns with building codes and regulations.


Once the building permits were approved it was time to strip the structure back to its bones, removing the drywall, the pine, and the old kitchen. Demolition is messy and dangerous work. Precautions have to be taken to document what kind of materials are being removed to avoid any exposure to hazardous materials and to ensure proper disposal. 

While this is the less glamorous part of our work it is always the stage where the project feels real and a sense of true transformation begins.

Ceiling Joists

The original ceiling joists ran parallel but they weren’t evenly spaced and hidden by the ceiling made of drywall. If we were going to make the ceiling cathedral on this hip-style roof, the inspector requested that the ceiling joists be replaced and reinforced with cross ties.

In order to maintain as much consistency as possible we selected to replace the ceiling joists throughout the cottage. Using a 2×6 pine cut from quality pine at Northwood Lumber, these ceiling joists really kicked off the modernizing feel within the space. 

Sun Porch Renovation

By removing the entire wall the full length of the cottage to open the space up into the sun porch we had to support the weight of the roof with a jack post and 22 feet of triple ply microlam roof support beam. Also the inspector wanted to see support piers under the cottage to transfer the weight to the ground. 

We opened up the space between the sun porch and the kitchen as well. This created a pass-over knee wall that  connected the kitchen cook top with the dining area. 

Now the sun porch was integrated into the main living space and a continuous extension of living space. Ready to serve as a dining area and sitting space with a wonderful view of the lake. 

Lake View - New Windows

The old windows in the original sun porch looked like a mish-mash of afterthoughts. They didn’t provide any uniformity or consistency. The home owner had a vision, however. He would have the entire lake facing wall rebuilt and install 7 new single hung slider windows. 

This new symmetrical layout of windows framed the lake to provide that true cottage feeling that a stretching body of water brings. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the glassy sky blue waters of the lake.

Cottage Kitchen Renovation

It was apparent to us that the old kitchen had undergone several changes over the years. It was originally separated by an old kitchen island some years ago that was removed to open the space up. The window above the sink was slightly off center and just didn’t look right and you could tell that the location of the fridge was also a retrofit solution.

The home owner wanted a kitchen that was adequate for both style and function. It was going to be a main hub of the cottage and therefore needed to look attractive but still be practical. 

We replaced the window with a larger, more centered new window. This created a more intentional balance along that wall. 

The home owner opted to remove the entire kitchen and replace it with a modern Ikea design kitchen that would look bright, clean and modern. This brought the kitchen counter tops right up to the fridge and in the process making better use of space and donning it, again, with a sense of intention. Joining the old with the new gave this space a real post modern feel and was truly a breath of new life. 

Cottage Bathroom Renovation

One of the biggest challenges we faced in this cottage was the bathroom renovation. Modernizing properties that are more than 50 years old, can and often will present significant obstacles. Building codes and standards have dramatically improved in the last 50 years and when it comes to bathrooms there can be a lot of wear and tear on the bones of the building in and around bathrooms. The slightest breach in the water barrier systems in bathrooms means that over 50 years the problem is amplified and compounded. 

This bathroom was not the worst we have seen but it did require more work than we originally expected in our primary scope. The cottage was built on piers or blocks just above the ground, and as we opened the sub floor to access the plumbing we found that there was no space between the ground and the drainage pipes. This meant we had to work very precisely and intricately as we made preparations for plumbing work. 

Once the plumbing work was done we installed two layers of subfloor to minimize any movement after the tile is installed. Because this is a seasonal cottage that doesn’t have a traditional foundation we knew there would be seasonal shifting and a double sub floor would help protect against that. 

As you can imagine, when it comes to tile work, everything needs to be as level as possible. And for this old cottage that was not the case. To combat this we applied an acrylic primer to the subfloor which allows better bonding when we poured a self leveling compound. 

In the shower area we used moisture resistant drywall. The rest of the bathroom drywall was standard drywall. 

For the shower we used the kerdi waterproof system and a prefabricated shower base. After setting the base in mortar we began installing the kerdi felt on the walls. 

The biggest challenge a contractor can face is maintaining even distribution of the mortar on the walls. Too much mortar in one area will throw off your tile application later on. Certain tiles will accentuate this issue even more and make the tile installation extremely challenging. 

Before we could start tiling the bathroom we had to finish the drywall work until it was fully primed. Once this was done we were able to start with the octagonal porcelain flooring tile that carried through into the shower base. 

We installed 12”x 24” ceramic wall tiles with a glass tile accent ribbon.  The whole bathroom was covered in tile 36” up the wall from the floor adding additional water protection. 

The shower was designed with a knee wall that would support a 10MM custom glass installation. This dramatically opened the space up.

Once the tile was installed we moved on to all the finishing touches. Installing the water saving toilet and the floating vanity which was already framed to support the mounting specifications provided by the manufacturer.  

All in all we have to say that this portion of the project went very smoothly but it was not without its fair share of obstacles. Because this bathroom was being renovated during the winter months in a cottage that was not winterized we had to get extremely creative and diligent to ensure the tile thinset and grout could cure properly. We had to install heaters under the cottage as well to ensure both sides of the floor were the same temperature. Also every morning would require buckets of hot water transported from the shop to thaw the tile saw as there was no running water on site.

Shiplap Wall Finishing

The homeowner wanted an old world, white-washed, shiplap wall finish. This traditionally Scandinavian look can be installed either vertically or horizontally. The term shiplap stems from, you guessed it; the technique used for finishing the interior of nautical ships. 

The home owner opted for a horizontal installation that would be later white-washed. And we made every effort to keep an authentic feel throughout the installation process.

Shiplap is often sparse with a slight gap between boards and was traditionally made of cedar but could be made of pine as well. We selected pine for our installation in order to keep within the overall budget of the project but the results were just as stunning.

Learn more about shiplap here from our friends at Remodelista!

The New Deck Replacement

While we would love to take credit for all the fabulous finishing touches in this project we have to digress. That’s the double edged sword of working with the creative and artistically inclined – their abilities and talent rob you of the joy that comes from that final staging. Fortunately for us he let us come back after his final touches were complete – and we were dumbfounded at the sheer beauty of the vision he brought to life. 

He white washed the walls and rafters, added sliding barn doors and finished the floor we sanded with a Danish soap finish. The results were fabulous.

A Final Thought

This project took place in the dead of winter while the cottage was not being used. While that presented some unique hurdles it was a real pleasure to work each day next to the quiet frozen lake and calm picturesque scenery as the fire roared in the fireplace. If you’re considering a home or cottage renovation like this, we would be happy to join you in the journey.

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