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Colin and Justin in Cottage Country

Cottage country will never be the same.

Those talented, funny and likable designers – Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan  (the duo who gave my book such a good review last fall) – have bought into the Canadian dream: owning a cottage.   It’s on a lake in Muskoka, three hours north of Toronto, and every time I look at the photo below, I burst out laughing.

Blog Photo - Colin and Justin in the WoodsColin and Justin, “Cabin Pressure”, Cottage Life TV

As usual, they’ve gone whole hog.  No modern Muskoka Mansion for these two.  They’ve bought the quintessential Canadian pioneer dwelling:  a log cabin.

A log cabin, you might ask? Are we talking about the same Colin and Justin? The famously jet-setting designers known for creating glamorous interiors and sporting oversized flowers in their lapels on their previous TV series, Colin and Justin’s Home Heist?

Blog Photo - Colin and Justin Design

Yes.   They co-purchased the log house with two friends.  And they’ve made a TV show about their adventures, called “Cabin Pressure”, (Tuesday nights in Canada on Cottage Life TV).

Of course, no matter where they go, they’re still Colin and Justin, after all.   The same witty Scottish-accented pair who live in Scotland, England and Canada and make us laugh while sharing their clever design skills.

So, as they told the Canadian Press:  “I think we scared the living bejesus out of a lot of people. Because we arrived in fake-fur, floor-length coats and trailed around the lake in the middle of summer like the Kardashians on crack.”

Oh, dear.

Colin and Justin Cabin Pressure
“Cabin Pressure”

But if there’s one thing I know about these two, it’s that they’re very talented. And another: they’re smart.  They’re also very knowledgeable about the deep feelings people have for their homes. (See Colin and Justin’s review of my book, A Good Home.)

So what can we expect? You’ll have to watch the series to find out.  But I’m betting you’ll learn a few things about log homes, cottage life, and a lot about interior design. After all, many of us would find decorating a log home very challenging.  As did Colin and Justin.

They visited a dozen cottages before settling on this one.  It passed inspection.  But when the renovation was starting, they encountered a rotting deck, dangerous wiring, and several other problems.  Their new purchase seemed to be “a pig in lipstick”.

Still, they describe the experience as “brilliant. It’s made us better people.  We’ve learned such a lot about ourselves.”

Cabin Pressure on Cottage Life TV
“Cabin Pressure” on Cottage Life TV

So cottage country may never be the same, but it appears that our famous designer duo will never be quite the same, either.

Get ready for a new take on “Canadiana” – Colin and Justin style.

A Good Home, Art, Artists, Canadiana, Cottage Life, Landscape Art, Ontario Cottages

The Cottage on Sugar Lake

It puzzles new immigrants no end:  what is this thing that Canadians speak about so lovingly – this thing they call, simply, “The Cottage”?  And why do they seem almost maniacally happy when they mention it?

Canoeing on Sugar Lake - Photo by Hamlin Grange
Don Corbett Canoeing on Sugar Lake – Photo by Hamlin Grange

One new immigrant told me that when he first came to Ontario, he thought everyone – except him – was going to the same mysterious cottage somewhere.  Another immigrant laughed as he recalled a visit to a friend’s rustic cottage.

“I couldn’t believe it!” he chortled. “That people actually CHOOSE to spend their summer weekends in such primitive conditions. Where I come from, only very poor people would live in a place like that!”

These days, many of the old family cottages on the lake are being replaced by ‘Muskoka Mansions’ – huge houses with fancy kitchens and bathrooms – the kind you see in decor magazines.

But whatever its size, “the cottage” occupies a sacred place in the hearts of many Canadians.

Blog Photo - Dons painting

Artist Don Corbett does much of his painting in his studio at the family cottage on Sugar Lake, a nearly 3-hour drive north of Toronto.  It’s where he finds much of the inspiration for his art.  Don paints landscapes.

The family has owned the cottage since the 1970’s, and though improvements have been made, it’s still a modest building. Theirs is the quintessential Canadian cottage, made of wood.  Up there, it’s the lake and the trees, the fresh air and family get-togethers that matter.

“I love the solitude, (but I also love) the opportunity to be with my family and friends,” says Don.  “I just love the north country and the cottage gives me a good anchor.  The cycling is awesome too,  and so is the cross-country skiing. ”

Blog Photo - Cottage on Sugar Lake

Perhaps that’s part of the appeal of Canada’s lake-country cottages.  They encourage the outdoor life, whether swimming or canoeing in warm weather, skiing or snow-shoeing in winter.  And they remind many people of a bygone era, when conveniences at the cottage were few, but a family from the city could find pleasure, comfort – and a summer home –  in the wilderness.

“Home is where the hearth is,” Don says.  “The fireplace is warm there, the sensibilities are clearer…no urban noise to clutter thought or negatively alter one’s mood.  And for 7 months of the year I can go jump in the lake, or take my red canoe for a meditative paddle along the shore. The seasons are more defined in the north….Vivaldi would approve!”

Don's Studio - Photo by D. Corbett
Don’s Studio – Photo by D. Corbett

I’m betting composer Vivaldi didn’t have our Canadian winters in mind when he wrote “The Four Seasons”.  Just weeks ago,  Don says, he removed about “31 tons of snow” off the roof of the main cottage.  It goes with the territory, and doesn’t diminish his love for the place one bit.

If he had a choice, Don would live at the cottage full-time.

“But my wife Jan would leave me, paint brush in my hand,” he jokes.   Jan likes to visit, not live there.

Blog Photo - Doris on the dock

From Wednesday, March 12 to Sunday, March 16,  a selection of Don’s paintings will be displayed at the McKay Art Centre on Main Street in the historic town of Unionville  (on the edge of Toronto).   The hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

Blog Photo - Red Canoe

The show is titled:  My Heart Leaps Up — Landscapes by Donald Corbett and Friends.

I’m honoured to be among those friends.  I’m no painter, mind you.   But Don has invited me to read an excerpt from one of my stories in Canada’s Art and Architecture magazine,  Arabella on Saturday, March 15, and to do a short reading from my new book, A Good Home.

Above paintings by Donald Corbett

For more information: doncorbett@rogers.com