Oh so CanadianPublished on June 26, 2019


  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • An Andrew Berks cow painting adds whimsy to the open staircase
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Fresh and colourful collected dishes complement Theresa’s entertaining style
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Beach buckets used as planters and a music stand bookcase show Theresa’s talent for fun with décor
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Painted furnishings are found throughout the cottage to bring new life to old pieces
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

Whether they buy, build, share or rent it, Ottawans love their cottages! With a capital region that is situated on three major rivers and surrounded by hundreds of nearby lakes, vast forests and topped by the ancient Gatineau Hills, it’s not surprising that local residents are instinctively drawn to the pastoral charms of the cottage lifestyle.

Dotted along the region’s many shorelines or nestled up high on wooded hillsides, you can find every size and style of cottage from simple cabins to luxury waterfront homes. In addition to private waterfront properties and estate lots for sale, cottage resort developers offer fractional ownership and resort condo-cottages with low-maintenance benefits.

Renters can find cottages through realtors, as well as on major websites such as CanadaStays, Home Away, Airbnb and Trip Advisor, plus many local cottage-area sites. Renting is an ideal way to experience cottage life without a long-term commitment, or to check out a particular lake, community and region before buying.


New cottage owner Theresa Doorly O’Rourke, found her slice of “real Canadian” waterfront for sale online. The traditional style, two-storey cottage with wood siding and a metal roof is a new build that sits high on Clark Lake, a private stocked lake in the Outaouais region. The allure of vaulted pine ceilings, wood flooring, a wrap-around deck and bedroom balcony with sweeping lake views, appealed to her Canadiana sensibilities.

Ever since Theresa arrived in Ontario as a teenager from the British Isles, she had always imagined finding her quintessential special place. It took a while, but now she says, “Here it is—a cute cottage on a lake in the forest. I finally feel like I am Canadian!”

Both from Irish families, Theresa and husband Patrick O’Rourke moved first to Goderich, Ontario, then Toronto but have lived in Ottawa for over 20 years. With three children in their early 20s, the couple were striving to create more relaxed family time and believe that establishing cottage roots will keep everyone coming back from wherever they may roam.

“The rules are much more lackadaisical here—and I have not told anyone to pick up their socks yet!” says Theresa. Without TV, she adds that they play lots of board games, Rosie paints, Maggie knits, while Eamonn and Patrick like boating on the lake and visiting the local pub. “Well they have nothing else to do!” laughs Theresa who relishes her own quiet reading nook with a cup of tea or G&T.

Not only was family bonding a motivation to buy a cottage, they needed a second home to house a huge collection of inherited treasures and refinished furniture stored on a Doorly hobby farm in Goderich. So, part of Theresa’s plan was to lovingly fill the cottage with these repurposed furnishings and other uniquely whimsical items that reflect her fun personality and sense of humour.

Some of the fascinating cottage pieces include a chicken incubator cupboard, a converted Singer sewing-machine table, a colourful selection of hand-blown glass purses and ornaments, and an antique wooden stand for law books that was used in Westminster by generations of Doorly politicians. Amusing artwork and creative upcycling projects are scattered throughout the cottage.

“I’m no artist, but with the wonders of chalk paint you can easily make any old furniture look great,” notes Theresa who took a series of Annie Sloan paint workshops in Hintonburg. She admits to getting overly enthusiastic—to the point where her lawyer husband threatened divorce if she chalk painted anything else.

With touches of Canadiana décor from local sources, Theresa makes satirical statements around the cottage while promoting a casual, relaxed vibe with chill-out messages in unlikely places! “It’s all just a bit of fun,” she says happily. “I can indulge my whimsical nature here in ways that I cannot do at home.”

Called “Breffni By The Lake,” thanks to an O'Rourke family tradition of naming homes far and wide after the medieval Kingdom of Breifne in Ireland, the cottage is a delightful hideaway where the family can truly escape. Theresa and Patrick are hoping that the cottage is the beginning of a new Irish-Canadian legacy; one that their children will continue to enjoy with their own families one day.

Jane Whiting

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