Colin and Justin’s 
cottage transformationPublished on May 29, 2016


  • Photo by: Brandon Barre

  • Photo by: Brandon Barre

  • Colin and Justin
    Photo by: Brandon Barre

  • Photo by: Brandon Barre

  • Photo by: Brandon Barre

  • Photo by: Brandon Barre

  • Photo by: Brandon Barre

  • Photo by: Brandon Barre

  • Photo by: Brandon Barre

In the Cottage Life Network series Cabin Pressure, internationally acclaimed designers Colin and Justin transformed a Muskoka cottage, featured in Ottawa At Home Spring 2015. Now with Cabin Pressure Season 2 they have turned their attentions to a ramshackle Haliburton fixer-upper where they worked with contractor Randy Blain to dramatically transform the space. To say the renovation was a big job is an understatement!  Ottawa At Home gets some insights on the renovation and decorating process from the design duo.

Colin and Justin on the process:

Sleeping Arrangements
Cleaning up our cottage act to the max, we turn our attention to the former laundry, whose transformation into a guest bedroom was made possible by creating new washing facilities in the basement. A cute wee table and chairs, positioned in front of the window, trick the mind into ‘seeing’ extra-perceived space because of the additional function. 

Next up was a spot of upcycling, which we tackled by using discarded boards from our old dock.  Sanded back to life, fitted from wall to wall and shelved, they make a commanding statement in the rebirthed guest space.  Overspend on a project?  Not us!

An IKEA double bed with drawers in the base amplifies storage. Dressed with space saving bracketed ‘night stand’ crates - and attired with Homesense throws and pillows - the tangerine and brown vignette is atmospherically redolent of cottages from days gone by.

Next up - another guest bedroom. To increase ‘connection’ to the great outdoors, we installed an outsized window. A dramatic move, perhaps, but just look at that transformation!  To proffer a modern esthetic, we opted for white painted drywall ‘topped and tailed’ with timber. The brushed oak flooring is hardwearing and attractive, its oiled 8” boards adding a ‘heritage’ vibe.

 A wooden bed suffuses the guest chamber with an organic ‘sensibility’, while gnarled wooden stools (topped with glass to extend their surface) and anglepoise lamps make it ergonomically sound.

 Upstairs, the galleried master, as we found it, had a boxy feel with pine cladding and peeling wallpaper.  Removing the lowered ceiling (before recladding it with walnut stained pine) revealed a monumental peaked space, the extra width and height delivers bags of character.  

 In keeping with the loft apartment vibe (hello – condo at the lake?) we added a statuesque brushed steel bed and timber topped nightstands.  The resultant look is modern but friendly, thanks to layers of faux fur, woolen throws and a scattering of plump, yielding cushions.  Note how the pops of red add drama. 

The Baths
 The guest bedroom complete, it was time for Cabin Pressure ‘Game of Thrones’.  Let’s be honest: this bathroom, as we found it, was a stylistic and visual washout.  And with carpet?  Yuk: the devil’s own harbinger of human excretions: toe nails and mouse poop. 

 But we can fix anything. To streamline, we specified flush mounted pot lights and, space being compromised, under floor energy efficient floor Warm Up heating.  Softest graphite marble proffers an indulgent feel, while dreamy ebony-toned taps and storage niches are cute finishing details.  Sweet, huh?

 To serve as a vanity below the new window, we cut live-edged hemlock into a tapered wedge and topped it with a stone sink.  Further visual softening comes from the wood-topped stool and the naturally-shed deer antler found in the forest surrounding our cabin.  Details, right?
  Further detail comes from the salvaged wood barn doors, behind which lies the ceramic-tiled ensuite.  We opted for a long steel framed Unikstone vanity which, topped with a custom black faucet, oozes ‘modern cottage’.  If you follow our work, you’ll know we love trolling antique barns and thrift stores for items to upcycle.  Examples of this are the ten-buck shoe moulds, which we sanded, sprayed black and arranged in a neat row as towel storage.

Eating, Living, Dining
 Next up was the kitchen rejig.  First job? Removing the walls and opening the space to the main, double height living zone.  A tall rear elevation of white IKEA cabinets conceals built-in refrigeration and a sink, while a run of units topped with concrete Caesarstone form a breakfast bar that contains an built-in hob and oven. 

  Our final destination was the living/dining room.  Swapping out rickety windows and doors  for larger, black-framed alternatives transformed our cottage externally and internally.  Furniture is spaced into two areas – sitting and dining - with a relaxed sofa providing the familiar ‘lived in’ look you get with soft brown leather. The live-edged dining table delivers a wow factor and is clustered with Wegner-style wishbone chairs.  To warm the space, we added a compact wood stove, which, flanked with vintage chairs, is a fabulous focal point and somewhere to nest to when temperatures plunge.

  See the brand new season of ‘Colin and Justin’s Cabin Pressure’ on Cottage Life, Sundays at 9pm.  Visit
 ‘Game of Homes’, a competition reno series with a house as first prize, features Colin and Justin as judges.  Tuesdays at 10pm. on The W Network. Visit for info.

Colin McAllister & Justin Ryan

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