Lynda Reeves reflects on the joyful journey of reimagining The Lakehouse.
“It’s the last Sunday morning in October. I’m up before sunrise, sitting in the kitchen of our almost-finished lakehouse. Tomorrow morning, our photo crew returns for the final day of shooting, just in time for this issue. Soon, I’ll be able to enjoy this beautiful house without all the intense fussing for the cameras. Today, we’re having friends for lunch, and I’m about to make a tarte tatin. Michel is peeling apples and I’m rolling out the puff pastry. Last week, I brought up 40 years’ worth of recipes from our city house to my new country kitchen, where I plan to sort and file, and cook up a storm for years to come. Can I tell you how much I love this house? It’s so grand, and yet casual — warm and inviting, supremely comfortable and totally romantic. Yesterday, I told Michel that I didn’t recall the lake ever being so calm and serene as it is now. He reminded me that we were never up here overnight in October until this year. I couldn’t believe that, so I looked back over the photos and videos from the fall of 2020 and was stunned to see that, a year ago, this house was a construction site with no kitchen or bathrooms or finished rooms! And here we are now, totally settled in, and feeling at home.”
Keep scrolling to see the big reveal of the main floor!
“The gods have been on our side all through this project, starting with our good fortune to be able to buy this glorious one-season century-old home from the Stewart family. Lovingly preserved for generations, the great room, with its vaulted ceiling, had survived through 100 winters of no heat or insulation. I’m a big believer in keeping the largest upholstered pieces in one solid color. I find it’s visually calming, and it lets you change things up easily with new pillows and throws. I chose the Charlotte sofa, two matching chairs and ottomans from
Montauk, done in claret mohair velvet with a single bench seat cushion. We love them. An old Louis armchair in brown velvet came from the city house, the Ralph Lauren table in the window came from our former farmhouse, and the vintage card table and chairs came from our friends’ parents’ home. Michel makes beautiful wood furniture; the living room coffee table and long display table are his work. So are the mantels in the living and dining rooms. The floors are original oak, remanded and finished with hard oil.”
“Planning started in October 2019. We put together a great team of experts, came up with the structural, mechanical, insulation and construction plans, and applied for and received our permits just days before the Covid regulations kicked in. Lumber prices were still stable, and the labor and material shortages had not yet begun. Crews were available and, frankly, I had nowhere to go except to the design studio. The H&H media team were working from home through most of that year, so it was possible to motor through 18 months of construction, design, decorating and chronicling our progress for print and video, with little interruption.”
In the dining room, I hung a new work by Hunkpapa Lakota artist Dana Claxton, who’s from Saskatchewan. Above my head is one of two 1930s Murano glass pendants. The new Loewen casement windows throughout the house were clear coated, with screens to match.
“I’m so glad we have our 10-part video series that documents every step, from the excavation and building of our underground mechanical room, to the insulation, cedar siding and new cedar roof, to the interior construction including new windows and floors, and heating and air-conditioning. It was a huge undertaking, and almost without hiccups. If you’re interested in touring the original house, learning the details of the construction and seeing the progress as it happened, please watch our
video series. You’ll see the beauty of the wide cedar plank siding that transformed the house into a modern country lodge-style home.”
In the great room, the screen saver on the Samsung Frame TV feels like bold art. Michel made the beautiful table beneath it from a solid piece of Bubinga wood.
“The very first thing we did when we broke ground in the early spring of 2020 was renovate the original “chauffeur’s apartment” attached to the garage, behind the house, so we would have a place to stay during construction. The patriarch of the Stewart family was David H. Gibson, an executive at The Robert Simpson Company. Well-heeled and a lover of architecture, he hired George Molesworth to design his new summer residence in the 1920s. Hence, the chauffeur’s quarters and the maids’ rooms and, in total, 11 bedrooms and two bathrooms. Each bedroom included a sink. We reconfigured to make six guest rooms with ensuite baths.”
Here, the once-solid panelled wall was cut to create a secret door that leads through the bar and into the kitchen beyond. The table and chairs are antique, and the chandeliers were original to the house, so we rewired them and found a set of 24 vintage parchment shades in mint condition.
“My vision for this house was influenced by many things. In the kitchen, it was the dark-painted wood cabinets I had seen while staying at English country houses. These kitchens often combined antiques of different periods; they were highly eclectic rooms filled with character. I visited the showrooms of
Plain English in NYC for inspiration, and then turned to Bloomsbury Fine Cabinetry in Newmarket, Ont., to build my dream kitchen millwork, and Greensville Soapstone Company to supply our custom counters and kitchen sink. I had lots of help from the LRDS designers. Candace Thompson has a PhD in light fixtures! Gillian Atkins knows construction, how to solve problems and every kitchen faucet on the market. Some things were chosen just because I liked the idea of them, like our soapstone kitchen counters and high shelf. They turned out to be such a beautiful choice.”
An eight-burner Wolf gas stove is the star of our kitchen. It sits below a high shelf and backsplash in beautiful Stormy Black soapstone. I love the glass display cabinets in the background. The centre console is an old pine piece I’ve had in storage for 30-plus years.
“Another influence was the primitive style of new furniture we’re seeing from designers like
Christiane Lemieux and Leanne Ford that seems carved from reclaimed woods. Finally, I was inspired by Commune Design, whose renovation of a country house in California struck a chord. Then, there was the practical need to use what I had, which turned out to be exactly right for this house. Our dining chairs are from the House & Home collection for HomeSense — from two seasons ago! The chairs are very comfortable; I had bought all I could find and stored them for someday. Our sideboard is a drop-leaf Georgian Irish wake table from our Toronto house. The amber chandeliers are vintage from Stanley Wagman Antiques in Toronto. They add a hit of grandeur to the room. The armoire is a French country piece I’ve had in every house I’ve lived in. Here, it’s the essential dishes closet.”
“In the dining room, it was the modern country furniture made by skilled American craftsmen in the Hudson Valley that inspired me. Fortunately, we have our own amazing makers at
Coolican & Co., here in Toronto, who were able to make our fabulous Claro walnut dining table. Michel, who is himself a furniture maker, travelled to his favorite source in Massachusetts to buy our slab.”
My table settings are always mixed elements from many lives. Williams Sonoma painted pottery accent plates sit on black glazed dinner plates over woven placemats.
“I had a design vision for this house. The look would be “grand casual.” Inspired by the great room, it would be a house layered with both antiques and new seating, artisan-made wood pieces, mid-century modern elements, vintage rugs and a palette that sang against a backdrop of Douglas fir panelling, with its rich amber wood tones.”
In the bar, walls and millwork painted in Benjamin Moore’s Louisiana Hot Sauce hide the twin freezer drawers with ice maker. The counters are soapstone and the faucet is a pump style.
“My color fan for the living and dining rooms, kitchen and principal guest suite was amber, claret, mustard, orange and off-black. Then, in our bedroom and the second main-floor guest suite, I switched to stone, cream, mustard and smoky greys. In the guest suite, I introduced bleached-out woods, painted walls and pale rugs.”
In the dining room, a Rumford smokeless fireplace got a new floating mantel.
“A niche in the mudroom features a custom oak bench by Coolican & Co.”
“I chose the best appliances we could afford:
Sub-Zero fridges for the kitchen, an eight-burner Wolf gas stove with two ovens, a Wolf microwave drawer in the coffee bar, and Sub-Zero freezer and fridge drawers for the bar, along with a tall freezer and wine fridge in the mudroom. All are integrated, which means they could be concealed behind panels to look like furniture. The mudroom houses my laundry area, where I have the Miele TwinDos washer and Eco&Steam dryer, and my beloved rotary iron or “mangle,” to help cope with all those sheets and duvet covers!”
A fully integrated Sub-Zero freezer and wine fridge were clad in panelling painted in Benjamin Moore’s Mortar. The floors are sliced old bricks brought in from Iowa.
“The house is decorated like all my homes, with a mix of things I’ve often bought for no particular reason, except that they’re exactly my taste and, if I don’t buy them when I see them, they’ll be gone.
All through the house, the rugs are vintage from years of collecting, plus a few new additions.”
“Down the long hallway to the bedroom wing are more runners from Elte.”
“I learned so much from this project. The whole winterizing thing is huge. All I can say is, assemble the right team to guide you. There are so many ways to approach the challenge a one season cottage presents. If you get it right, you’ll end up with a warm and cosy, draft-free home that is energy efficient and totally quiet. That’s the goal.”
The handsome sink in the powder room was carved from a solid block of Carrara marble. The walls are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Grant Beige.
“We call the primo guest room “Woody’s suite.” An old tribal rug with hits of blue-black inspired the custom slipcovered headboard and bedskirt.”
“It was a labor of love to patch and refresh the fir walls, ceilings and beams.
Benjamin Moore guided us on what products to use where, and countless hours were spent patching, sanding, staining, sealing and buffing throughout the house.”
The hotel-style marble sink and brass base feel old world.
“In ‘Mom’s suite,’ Ikea’s Björksnäs bed frame and night tables work perfectly against walls painted in Benjamin Moore’s Jute. The runner is Christiane Lemieux for Anthropologie.”
“The adjoining bathroom features a
Kohler sink vanity, faucets, tub, toilet and shower set.”
“In our bedroom, I placed a blond console made of reclaimed wood and paired it with two modern chairs in creamy white fleece. I love the woven cotton rugs from
“In our room, simple cube night tables flank a linen bed from
Samsung Q90 TV and sound bar make viewing in bed amazing!”
“Our closet by
California Closets is a “room” hidden behind custom doors that open to reveal a full vanity, hanging rods, shelves and cubbies, with plenty of storage. I topped the vanity with a round mirror and two vintage lamps, and kept the original panelling on the back wall.”
“In our bathroom, my Kohler tub, wall-mounted brass faucets and Veil washlet toilet in its own water closet make me feel totally spoiled. Michel’s shower is amazing. There was too much glare to capture it in a photo, but you can see it in
Episode 9 of our video series. Totally worth a look!”
“The exterior was finished this past summer, just in time for the decorating to begin. I had Gillian Atkins and Candace Thompson from our design studio to help me. I had never lived in a house with wood walls, so lighting was a first priority. New windows and French doors allowed me to increase the light in the great room and kitchen. That made a huge difference. I might have gone too far with my combo of recessed pots, undercounter halogen lighting, wall sconces, pendants, spotlights, and floor and table lamps! But absolutely everything is on a dimmer and the Buster + Punch switches and knobs are, in themselves, beautiful.”
The original screened porch was totally rebuilt. We used TuffScreen mesh from Phantom Screens for the new custom inserts. The new wood floor was painted in Benjamin Moore’s Pashmina exterior deck paint. Our fake olive tree looks real.
“Off the dining room, the market umbrella shades the Clipper dining table and folding mesh chairs.”
“We created this front porch featuring recessed motorized Phantom Screens that are lowered to keep out the mosquitoes. The siding is from
Real Cedar, and four swivel chairs and two loungers create great spots to watch the sunset.”
“I could write about this house forever. There are so many talented people to thank for their care and hard work in bringing my vision to life.”
“Back to today. My lunch guests were Marilyn Denis and her husband, Jim Helman, and Brian Gluckstein. Marilyn and Jim had seen our house a year ago and they were stunned by the transformation. Brian and I are going to do one final video with his unfiltered commentary about my decorating. That should be fun!”
The front exterior captures the original feeling of the house, updated with a new cedar roof and Real Cedar siding.
“The tarte turned out well, and we used our beautiful monogrammed silver flatware. Many years ago, Michel and I were in Paris looking for a large set. We found a beautiful service for 16 at an antique shop, housed in a wooden chest. The shop owner explained that the set was only available because of the prominent monogram her clientele did not want. We bought the set anyway. As it turned out, the “LH” monogram fits perfectly with our lakehouse. Meant to be, as the saying goes. How lucky are we? Very lucky indeed.”
Author: Lynda Reeves
House & Home January/February 2022
Lynda Reeves with Gillian Atkins and Candace Thompson