The summer cottage. The mere words evoke images of sun-dappled woods and sparkling waters, breezy screened verandas, and the promise of lazy afternoons. Often our most treasured retreat, the cottage has become a metaphor for relaxation, escapism, and family kinship. Above all, it's the place where we can cast off our city shoes and worries, sink into an old porch rocker, and simply be ourselves... Judy Ross
Not only are summer cottages the depository of people's most cherished memories, they often are the depository of anything the family has collected along the way that they can't quite let go of for one reason or another. Whether it's a comfortable family chair or a long-ago mother's day gift, these items always seem to migrate to the family cottage.
In the Banchory Lodge cottage of my childhood, it was no different and there was quite an eclectic collection of furniture, all of which had a story. "Those little blue chairs came out of the Sunday school rooms of ________ church." and many other such tales attached to everything from the china cabinet to the outdoor furnishings.
So it should have come as no surprise to us when the agent showing us the Winnipeg Beach cottage seemed to be a bit nervous before taking us inside. On the surface, the cottage seemed to tick all of the boxes of what I could ever want in a summer place. It was big enough, having started it's life as a 12 bedroom Inn, (I'll share more about that later). It was right next to the lake, in fact you could see the water from the front yard, and it was built in 1910 so it should have had the vintage charm that the first Banchory Lodge cottage had held for me. But it seemed that the agent was trying to prepare us for things to be "less than charming" to say the least. She told us that "it's a bit like a museum inside" and "other buyers have been overwhelmed by this cottage and walked away". And so as she went around the back to open up and let us in through the screen porch, we braced ourselves, imagining the TLC show about hoarders and thinking that we would likely have to rent a large dumpster if we decided to purchase the cottage.
Well, the interior was not quite as bad as I was anticipating, but we definitely had to look past all the "stuff" inside and picture the bones of the cottage and its long term potential. Massive gothic antiques and silver tea sets were mixed together with saggy sofas, a mid century mod bar, and an endless china collection. There was really no rhyme or reason to it, but like I said, "the family cottage becomes the depository of souvenirs from every kind of life experience" and clearly these owners had experienced an eclectic journey. For those of you who have known me for years, I think it could be said that I thrive on taking things from broken to beautiful. So as we toured the cottage, I was becoming increasingly excited, while Murray my partner in adventure for the last 35 years was likely thinking... "Oh no! Here she goes again"!
This is the cottage as we found it, plus my vision for what we will do with it...
The Screen Porch
The agent knew exactly what she was doing by letting us enter by the screen porch. Nothing says lake living like a screen porch and this one was huge. 12ft x 22 ft, it had room for both a dining and sitting area and I was already picturing lazy afternoons laying on the feather daybed that I had rescued from the original Banchory Lodge back-yard. The decor seemed to be wicker meets office furniture, but it was easy to see past that, at least in this space.
The Dining Room
This was also a huge room (remember this cottage started as an inn). 12'x18' with 14-foot vaulted ceilings, but it only had a very small table in the corner and numerous antique furniture items pushed against the walls. It did have beautiful transom windows, but someone had fogged them over with some kind of film.
The vision for the Dining Room- A huge table that will seat up to 16 people, off white walls, navy trim and a side server and hutch in coral red. Casual vintage chairs, and fun nautical accents. Yes, of course we are doing a nautical theme.. it's a beach house!
The Great Room
When I was a child there was a show about a friendly giant that opened with the words "look way up" ... those were the exact words that went through my head when we stepped into the largely untouched great room. It had vaulted 20 ft tall ceilings and was full of strange antique furniture. There were also several weird cartoons painted on some of the walls. This room was also really large 18x18, and it appeared that some of the original doors leading off of it had been closed off sometime in the past.
The vision for the great room is quite simple. "Add white"... but not on the walls. It turns out that this cottage is one of the few remaining in Winnipeg Beach that still has its original unpainted (if you don't count the cartoons) walls. So with the overall goal being to restore this cottage back to its vintage style, we have decided to keep the walls in the original cedar. The floors are also original wood and will be refinished, and all of the cartoons will be removed from the walls.
Here are the vision photos... Think, casual slipcovered canvas sofas, comfortable side chairs and fun nautical accents. The fireplace will be repainted in a cream tone and refitted with gas logs.
All I can say about the kitchen is that it looks like someone refitted it from a 1980's staff room. On the positive side, there is an attached walk-in pantry, original farmhouse sink, and charming plate wall reminiscent of an Irish dresser...
The vision for the kitchen is to gut it completely. We will only keep the farmhouse sink. I have purchased a vintage wood kitchen out of an older home and we will be painting the cabinets the color seen below in the inspiration photos. We will be adding wood countertops and closing off the doorway on the end wall of the kitchen, which will allow us to have an L-shaped kitchen with a centre island. We will reopen the great room doors which have been boarded shut in order to gain entry to that part of the cottage.
I am only going to show a couple of photos of the bedrooms here because there are so many. There are currently 9 bedrooms of all different sizes and shapes. This is due to the original walls from the twelve small bedrooms being moved several times. We plan to resize the bedrooms down to 6 medium-sized bedrooms, and then turn the extra bedrooms into a den and second bathroom. The bedrooms all look similar. They are old, basic, uninsulated and you can even see the light shining through the walls in some spots. All of the bedrooms were overflowing with stuff. Some were so bad we couldn't even open the doors due to the amount of clutter in the rooms. These are two of the tidiest rooms.
The vision for the bedrooms.
We will be sealing, and insulating all of the bedroom walls, and bringing them up to full ceiling height. Sorry, Nana, there will be no spot for nick-nacks! We will also be finishing the walls with tongue and groove pine that has been whitewashed. The vision for the bedrooms is an Air B&B look with beautiful light-colored bedding, and vintage quilts.
Did I mention that this cottage is HUGE..?
As we toured it that day, it just seemed to go on and on. One of the strangest rooms was a long 8 ft x 27-foot space that had been covered in OSB board and varnished. This space as far as we can tell was originally bedrooms. We will be converting it back into one bedroom and a den. The den will retain the OSB board and be done up with a vintage fishing theme. The other room will need to be re-boarded with beadboard walls and ceiling. It's impossible to show the whole 27 feet, but these photos show two views of the room.
The final room I will show you is the bathroom, which runs off of a large mudroom with laundry facilities.
The bathroom was actually "ok". It will only get a cosmetic overhaul, as we will be adding in a second bathroom with a vintage clawfoot tub in one of the old bedrooms.
So that's the tour of our beach house project. Banchory Lodge 2.0. We are planning on a 2-3 year renovation including the exterior of the cottage and I will be updating my progress here. The last two photos I have posted here is a pencil sketch floor plan of how the cottage was laid out in 1910 when it was built, and how we plan to lay it out during our renovation.
I do have some interior design software that will print out a floor plan, but there is something about a piece of graph paper and a pencil that is much more satisfying when designing a home.
In my next post, I will show you the one room that we have already completed!
Now in my 50's as I write this, it is obvious to me, that I wasn't so much trying to break into the cottage, as I was trying to find my way back to something very special which my family had for generations held onto, which was in essence, a way of life. A way of life which reached out and said: "come on in, your welcome at the party and there is always room for one more around the table."
Just a normal part of Irish hospitality. After all you need to whet your whistle if your going to sit a while and tell some stories.
It was a carefree place, full of food, fun, drinks, and stories, and probably a bit too much of all of those were consumed every weekend from the first time my grandparents were in residence.
Of course, under this tough exterior was a man with a very caring heart, and so, by the time my own children knew him as grandpa, he had mellowed to the point where he was utterly idolized and adored by them, and seen by all as Captain Dan, fixer of any problem, driver of large fire trucks and huge boats and softy towards all pets and children.
My parents by then owned a large 46' trawler called the Thunderbird that had in some ways acted as a substitute for Banchory Lodge for them. (As I said, my dad loved anything BIG). It was large enough to take out a party of people on the lake for the afternoon, and my mother's "room for one more" attitude, had many people spend a night onboard.
So I put the thought behind me, and if fate had not intervened that would have been the end of it. After all, it wasn't like I could move Banchory Lodge across the lake. However as is the case with most wonderful things that happen in life, there is nothing you can do to purposely make them happen, but if you simply let go, and trust in the ways of God and the universe, the most amazing things do come about, and right at the perfect time that they are needed.
Brenda went on to share that her Grandparents had had a lakefront cottage similar in some ways to the one I grew up at in Grand Beach, and she began to tell me of all the fond memories from her childhood there. She went on to say that her grandparent's cottage had been torn down, but they were on the search for a 4 season cottage that could eventually be a retirement home for them and a place to visit with their American grandchildren. Brenda concluded her story with... "Oh, and there was this one cottage, that was totally vintage" and she went on to describe a cottage that sounded so similar to Banchory Lodge, that I was pulled down memory lane with everything she said. "It's over a hundred years old, and it's right near the lake, and it's never been remodeled, and Wendy I couldn't help but think of you and Murray and how good you are at renovating." and we all laughed.....
And two days later, we bought that cottage!
Thanks for reading. This blog will be a place where I will chronicle the physical restoration of our 110-year-old Cottage which after consultation with my mom, and permission from my aunty Lorna will be re-named "Banchory Lodge" in honor of our family legacy, and in search of the special magic that the Mailey's knew how to create. We want of course to hand that legacy down to our children and grandchildren, but we also want to let them the hear story of where that legacy came from. So each of my posts will talk about the past and the present. I want to share some of the family and friends stories and memories from the Banchory Lodge and also invite you to watch the complete restoration of a 110-year-old original lake house, as we work our special kind of renovation love and style into its future as Banchory Lodge 2.0
So if you are reading this, and you have a memory, a photo, or any other record you can share with me about the original Banchory Lodge in Grand Beach, I would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments, or send me your photos and memories to: email@example.com
Watch for my next blog post where I will share photos and details of the "new" Banchory Lodge as we found it on the day we purchased it.