From camp cabins to chic cottagesPublished on June 18, 2012

  • Vintage charm in a claw-foot tub and tongue and groove panelling.

  • Kayaks wait at the dock for guests looking for activity.

  • Fabricland fabric and custom foam from Hardy Mattress, on Richmond Road, transformed thrift-shop chairs.

  • The cottage.

  • Dining table from Countrytime Furniture in Kingston.

  • Modern meets rustic.

  • HomeSense is an ideal place to look for bedding.

  • La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries was a source for cottage-inspired furnishings.

  • HomeSense is an ideal place to look for bedding.

  • Vintage fabrics refresh vintage finds.

Sitting perfectly on the picturesque waterfront of Newboro Lake in the Rideau Lakes area, five pretty cottages have emerged from a ramshackle camp of old fishing cabins and buildings.

It took an exhausting 18 months to complete the ugly-duckling transformation, but owner Sharon Monson put her interior designing skills and enviro-friendly mindset to work, resulting in a deluxe vacation retreat called "The Cottages at Turtle Hill," with which she is thrilled.

From ugly-duckling cabins . . .

Sharon and her husband Harvey Rosen, the former mayor of Kingston, have enjoyed more than a decade of summers at their Newboro Lake cottage with their combined family of five boys, now aged between 21 and 31. So when an opportunity came a few years ago to buy the outcropping of land next door, a popular location for visiting fishermen, they took it during a "moment of insanity," as Sharon recalls drily.

"Although we had always thought about buying it, we never actually expected it to happen," says Sharon, who still has an Australian accent, which she adds with typical humour has "survived 32 Canadian winters."

Still, being very ecologically minded and valuing the heritage status of the area, the urge to beautify the run-down property was strong. Taking care not to change the footprint of the buildings on the waterfront, the major renovation process involved going green by using natural, recycled and sustainable materials wherever possible.

Staying true to the green principle of going local, Sharon enlisted the services of tradespeople from the area and builder Carl Wyse. Together, they constructed the eco-friendly cottages using durable, low-maintenance cement-board siding, with solar panels and Enviroshake roofing made from recycled material. The interiors feature many energy-and water-saving products, as well as reclaimed lumber and reused original windows. Hardwood flooring is found everywhere and the rooms are loaded with natural finishes and fabrics.

To pretty Turtle Hill cottages . . .

Named after their own "Turtle Hill" cottage, located on a hill where snapping and painted turtles come to nest every summer, Sharon designed all the vacation cottages herself - inside and out. Noting that her greatest pleasure was in taking something awful and making it beautiful, she explains her approach to decorating and furnishing the five unique cottages.

Comprising three one-bedroom cottages, one two-bedroom with a second-storey dormer addition, and the Lake House with five bedrooms, Sharon imbued them all with a relaxed chic-cottage style. However, she was careful not to have a cookie-cutter look.

"I designed each one differently and treated them as if I would be staying there myself," she says. Acknowledging that the majority of vacation homes are chosen by women, Sharon believes 98.5 per cent of other women would like her design and décor decisions. Already, some of the men who used to stay at the old fishing cabins plan to bring their wives on their next fishing trip for the first time ever!

Combining cozy and comfortable with high-quality solid-wood furnishings and modern convenience, including Wi-Fi access, Sharon shopped everywhere for the interiors. In addition to finding great buys at nearby village stores and businesses, she also had some of the original cabin contents assessed and restored by a local antique dealer.

"I found some darling pieces of framed needlework, including one of a charming little red barn and another of a mountain scene. They were incredibly dirty, but turned out to be real treasures once they were cleaned up and reframed."

Antique finds, upscale furnishings and generous use of natural materials, including the reclaimed river-run pine in the Lake House, add extra warmth and character to the renovated spaces. And outside, where the cottages are all dotted along the lakefront, the scenery is just as lovely. Each cottage has a landscaped garden with a paved terrace and large stone steps that lead to a private dock.

Sharon's attachment to Newboro Lake and the historic area is evident in her new project to build a year-round house to replace their existing cottage. She loves being surrounded by a world of nature within a cultured community, and hopes that guests will come and enjoy it as well. To ensure a sighting for those who might miss the early summer nesting time, she even installed a giant recycled-metal turtle as a permanent fixture on the cottage grounds. It's a tender touch to honour the ancient reptiles and a gentle reminder to slow down to a turtle's pace and just relax.


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