Creating Balance in Muskoka Design

Posted by Andrew Bulloch on Tuesday, December 1st, 2015 at 12:00pm.

Muskoka cottage tastes and attitudes about design evolve from year to year, creating the perfect space in your cottage can sometimes feel like a never-ending process. Our client wanted to reinvigorate her cottage with an enduring sense of style. Here we explore how mixing traditional and contemporary elements can unlock a timeless aesthetic.

Complex & Simple

We are able to maintain a rich symmetry between the traditional and contemporary styles by finding ways to gentle complicate simple pieces. The traditional essence of the chest of drawers comes from the ornate woodwork, yet is balanced by the soft, white lacquer and polished nickel drop pulls. The lamp adds a touch of complexity with its gold detail and traditional diamond weave. The dark wall provides a contrast in colour against the white chest, following the house’s overarching design sense.

Formal & Relaxed

The living room is a classic centrepiece that typically enjoys more attention and fuss, relative to other areas of the home. Here we have taken a largely traditional space and re-imagined it to include modern design cues. The rounded fireplace mouldings have a traditional aesthetic that matches the crown that traces the room. The frameless gas insert balances these elements and anchors many of the modern touches throughout; specifically the abstract artwork that hangs above the mantle, as well as the adjacent photography.

The wool drapery hangs with elegance and precision, continuing an overall design language that prioritizes clean lines and soft colours. We use curved sofas and chairs to draw on a traditional style, complete with ornamental tufting and strong curves. This is a direct contrast to the coffee table and console table, both of which provide a rich variation of style in the form of simple lines and minimal detail. The chandelier is a traditional fixture that complements the modern aesthetic brought to life by the crystal standing lamps.

Gentle Curves & Clean Lines

This master bathroom is a testament to the elegance created when classic design elements are harnessed in concert with modern style. Here we’ve designed custom cabinetry to create a baseline for the entire space, while Statuario marble creates a luxurious countertop and floor. Statuario is commonly found in kitchens and bathrooms. We used Gris de Savoie marble accents to create a unique, modern twist that continues the linear design language.

Adding a waterfall edge to the counters and incorporating square vessel sinks with single-lever faucets gives a current vibe to this classic beauty. Glass cabinet hardware inserts just the right amount of detail in the form of modern nuances. This aesthetic continues with the light fixture, yet conveys a more classic ambiance due to its traditional design. We used a free-standing bathtub with gentle curves to diverge from the linear design language and punctuate this deliberate balance. A monochromatic colour palette helps to make this bathroom stand the test of time.

Classic & Contemporary  

Scale is always a factor when designing a small space. In this home we re-imagined a powder room by focusing on simple, clean lines which are evident in the edge detail of the countertops, the door profile of the cabinets, and the apparent  lines created by a two-tone paint finish. The vanity design is clean but still offers a contemporary sense of style. We’ve used a two-tone paint style to create a modern feel, choosing a white-grey colour palette to add balance.

The rectangular handles and polished nickel faucet with double levers add a refined sense of simplicity. The classic-contemporary duality can also be seen in the wallpaper; typically a traditional design cue, this wallpaper enjoys understated style due to its straightforward floral pattern and monochromatic palette that adds an undeniable sense of calm.

Restraint & Indulgence

This dressing room is like opening up a fine jewellery box.  The use of mirrored doors keeps this area feeling spacious and organized. The blown glass pendant above the island is a new take on the classic crystal chandelier, giving the room some current pizzazz. The linen drapery features a large-scale print — which itself is a more modern element — and is hung from an acrylic rod to create a fresh and fun look without stealing the show. The timeless style of the bench, complete with its tufted cushion, is updated by simply painting the legs with a high gloss white lacquer to create a peaceful look that complements the overall feel of the space.

Elegant & Casual 

This breakfast nook located off the kitchen is a casual space that features a curved sofa and French bistro table. This coupling offers a traditional aesthetic at first glance, yet the simple upholstery of the sofa helps create a decidedly unfussy space. The clean lines of the Roman blinds are both plain and sophisticated, further articulating the nuanced balance of the house’s design language. The trim around the bay window is clean and accentuates the understated elegance of the pendant light. The cane-back chair is an unexpected anchor, providing a refined contrast with its dark stained wood and ornamental curves.

By bridging classic and modern aesthetics, we can create spaces that withstand the test of time, and add exceptional value to one’s home. This balanced aesthetic can be achieved with furniture, accents, and materials that are used in unique or unexpected ways, creating a style you will love for years to come.


By Karen Kayne, and originally published in COLLECTIONS by Harvey Kalles Real Estate. To see the original article, visit

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