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The Right Angle: A Lakefront Cabin in Ontario

One designer uses a simple, staggered cabin plan on a challenging triangular lakefront lot.
by Whitney Richardson | Photos by Robin Stubbert

A blank canvas upon which to develop the perfect lakefront home sounds like a designer’s dream. However, it becomes less a dream and more a puzzle when that canvas is a 40-by-20-by-45 foot triangular lot, and one side has restrictions because it is shoreline on Stoney Lake in southern Ontario.

Ontario Lakeside Cabin

Ontario Lakeside Cabin

Adding to the puzzle, the home was to be a prize in The Princess Margaret Welcome Home Sweepstakes, so everyone was a potential owner.

Craig McFarlane, designer for Linwood Homes, sought to solve that puzzle through a tiny 740-square-foot footprint, which gradually decreases in width from 13 to 9 feet. His goal was to minimize impact on the lot while maximizing views to attract a broad range of clients.

Set within an inch of the township’s waterfront setbacks, the post-and-beam cabin is essentially a set of different-sized squares stacked together to create an open, passive-solar-oriented plan that captures solar gain through the skylight in the upper-level bathroom. The two-story design is a departure from the preferred one-and-a-half-story layout for this style to view the woodwork overhead. The two stories allow the home to live more comfortably with the extra square footage to add a bathroom and bedroom.

The narrow footprint provides additional vistas of the lake. “You can basically see through the whole house,” the designer explains.”In a smaller environment, it seems much larger. The windows let the natural feel come into the house, which gives it that bigger feel.”

The home was erected and finished out within 10 weeks, based on a predetermined timeline that the team was able to hit namely because the design and interior selections were already decided upon well in advance.

Also appealing is the home’s consideration of nature — namely its adherence to Canada’s Energy Star guidelines (comparable to those in the United States) and inclusion of energy-efficient construction materials, Ecoflo septic system, green finishing touches and low-maintenance landscaping. Linwood Interiors staged the rooms of the home using handmade solid-wood furniture and vintage-inspired accents to create a loosely coastal theme.

Winner’s Circle
For more than 15 years, Nick and Tara Polischuk have been entering The Princess Margaret Welcome Home Sweepstakes — a lottery whose proceeds go toward cancer research at The Princess Margaret’s Cancer Program in Toronto — with the hopes of winning a brand-new home.

2011 finally proved to be the year. And with a spectacular lakefront view and energy-efficient amenities, it was a lucky win indeed.

“We are blessed to have won such a fabulous prize, and not a day goes by when we are there that we don’t say to each other, ’Pinch me, because I think I’m dreaming!’” exclaims Nick.The experience also has been an eye opener.

“The cottage makes us realize how much we take for granted in the city,” he adds. “We are more cognizant of the amount of garbage we produce, and we take more care in selecting things that produce less waste and pollution. This is a great lesson for us city types where these issues don’t exist. When you have to pay attention to what goes into the septic system and what cleaners and products we use and how this impacts on the environment, life takes on a whole different slant.”

Based on Nick’s answers to the questions below, that new slant sounds pretty appealing.

Q: What drew you to this particular home?
A: The amusing thing about this cottage is that it so closely resembles our taste and our principle residence. The furniture and the appearance overall suit our taste to a “T.” If I sent you a picture of our fireplace or our furniture [from our primary residence], you couldn’t tell them apart. A cottage has been a dream of ours for a long time, and to have it realized in this way is a complete fantasy.

The drywall in the home is covered with low-VOC paint to improve air quality by decreasing the amount of pollutants circulating throughout the cabin. Hallway entry to the home’s sole full bath makes it easily accessible to anyone.

Q: Have you done anything to personalize it?
A: We haven’t changed much at all as far as decorating. We added personal items such as bedding, dishes, etc., but otherwise, it is the same.

Outside, however, we have thinned out some of the brush near the lake and removed some dead wood, and we have done extensive gardening over the septic area that was washed away in June due to a large storm. The hills have been planted with ground cover and perennials throughout. A selection of natural coneflowers and typical wildflowers has been heavily planted along with grasses and evergreens. The walkway to the front door and the side adjacent to the parking lot was done in large flagstone to match the existing patio area. The rest of the flowerbeds were covered in a red cedar mulch and landscape fabric to keep down the weeds and maintenance.


Q: If you had the home designed specifically for you, is there anything you would change?

Recycled glass countertops are one of the more dominant green elements of the kitchen.

A: The only thing we would change is to treat the floors with a different finish. The milk stain that was applied wears very quickly and is difficult to maintain. The fireplace would be constructed slightly differently, but that is a matter of taste, not function.

We will be adding blinds on all the windows to reflect the sun in the summer months and to keep the cottage cooler. [The large expanses of glass, the southeast exposure and the dark color of the floors are overly efficient in heating the home.] We are also adding phantom screens to all the doors to allow for a breeze in the summer months and to keep the bugs out. Air conditioning will be next on the agenda.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do while you are there?
A: We both have stressful full-time jobs, so the cottage for us has been a godsend! This is the only time we both can totally relax. I enjoy the gardening, fishing, boating, and just basically taking time for ourselves. There is no TV — just a DVD player for the occasional movie — and we enjoy quiet time.

Q: Do you have a favorite spot in the home?
A: Our favorite spot is the whole place. The patio overlooking the lake is fabulous in the afternoon. When it is raining, cozying up on the couch and the wingback chairs is wonderful with the lake views. The TV room with its round window has a magical view of the bay. Watching a thunderstorm from our bed at the treetop height with a full view of the sky is breathtaking. Every room in the house is fantastic.

Q: What, if any, differences have you noticed between the efficiency of your primary home and the energy-efficiency measures used in this project?
A:The power-opening skylight in the bathroom is terrific in venting the bathroom. We haven’t experienced the air exchanger yet, but we understand that it will keep the quality of the interior air fresh without losing heat in the colder seasons. The windows are very efficient, and the on-demand water heater is more efficient than our large water tank at home.

Low-flow toilets and an on-demand hot-water heater keep the bathroom’s efficiency in check. The natural stone flooring serves as the perfect thermal mass through which to capture heat, while a venting skylight overhead helps summer heat escape.

Home Plan Details:
Square Footage: 1,432
Bedrooms: 2
Bathrooms: 1.5
Builder/general contractor; log provider: Parlevliet Construction (705-749-8862;
Cabinetry: Christiana Cabinetry (610-593-7500;
Countertops: Di Pietra Design – Glass II (705-727-0096;
Designer; timber provider: Linwood Homes (888-546-9663;
Doors; windows: Jeld-Wen – United (800-535-3936;
Furnishings: Munros Furnishings (888-267-6543;; Back in Thyme (719-587-3388)

Insulation: Knauf – EcoBatt Insulation (800-546-9663;
Interior designer: Linwood Interiors (888-546-9663;
Knobs/hardware: Berenson Hardware (716-833-3100;
Landscape designer: Drain Bros. Excavating (705-639-2301)
Masonry: Sweeting Masonry (705-742-8788)
Roofing: IKO – Cambridge (
Septic system: Ecoflo (877-738-2991;<)
Stain: Sansin – EnviroStain (877-726-7461;
Stairs: Kawartha Stair and Rail (705-652-6964)

Published in Country's Best Cabins
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