Classic & chic cottagePublished on July 24, 2015

  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Photo by: Mark Holleron

When you step inside the flagship Shepherd's store at the Ottawa Train Yards, you'll find some unique items for the home along with classically chic clothing and accessories. The beautifully decorated store is a perfect showcase for the owner's celebrated sense of style and highlights Marlene Shepherd's twin loves of fashion and home décor.

Marlene's passion for spending summer days at the cottage with family and friends is also a high priority in her life. So when she inherited the family cottage eight years ago, she applied her styling skills to a major renovation that successfully combined her two passions. The century-old cottage on Quebec's historic Blue Sea Lake has been restored to retain its traditional character while creating a carefree, designer décor for easy living.


Marlene's father bought the cottage in the mid-1940s from a prominent Ottawa family who were well-known for their social presence on the lake. "They had lots of personality, so it was party central with big Saturday night dances every summer," says Marlene, who recalls the common folklore that the previous owner lost the cottage in a gambling debt!

More than 100 years ago, Blue Sea Lake became a popular destination for families who could travel up high into the Gatineau Hills by train from Ottawa. Families stayed for the whole summer, while husbands and fathers would commute there on weekends. This traditional atmosphere permeates throughout the cottage where Marlene has fond childhood memories, along with decades of happy summers with her husband Francis LeBlanc and their two kids Robert and Rachel, who are now young adults.

"It's on one of the best lots on the lake - perched up high on one acre with wonderful views and great sunsets," says Marlene. "The cottage is not winterized and there's no TV," she adds with a conviction that emphasizes classic cottage life.

It was important for Marlene and Francis to keep the same footprint for the cottage to maximize their enjoyment of the outdoors. "We have a lovely garden with a hedge of white hydrangeas and a big firepit to gather around for after-dinner storytelling and music."

This relaxed, feel-good approach is evident in the cottage décor, which is themed in a Sarah Richardson palette of butter yellow, blue and white. The furnishings are designed for stylish yet comfortable living with sofas and chairs covered in chintz prints and denim-blue cottons, coupled with old pine furniture, treasured antiques and family heirlooms.


The renovation of the two-storey, six-bedroom home was carried out by Gilles D'Aoust, a master carpenter. Marlene praises his excellent craftsmanship and attention to detail that respected the building's heritage and restored the charm of the era with low-maintenance materials wherever possible

The process included reinforcing walls, installing a new roof and all-new double-hung vinyl windows. Yellow vinyl siding was used for the exterior and the wraparound deck was redone with synthetic wood. A large screened-in gazebo was built off the kitchen to entertain big groups and it's Marlene's favourite place to hang out. "This is where we eat most of our meals. It's the coolest spot outdoors with a good breeze and we're protected from the sun and bugs."

Inside, the kitchen was completely gutted and the outside door was repositioned for easy access to the gazebo. It features customized white wood cabinets with open shelving to display antique plates, plus a built-in buffet and pantry. There's a cozy upholstered window seat for resting and plenty of space for Marlene and friends to dance in the kitchen!

Character detailing is on full display in the spacious living areas, with high ceilings, wainscoting, crown mouldings and foot-wide baseboards. The red-brick fireplace was rebuilt as a two-sided feature between the living room and dining room, and all the original wood flooring was stained white.

Marlene's special touches are evident in the elegantly casual furnishings and distinctive pieces such as the wrought-iron rooster chandelier over the pedestal dining-room table. Antique oak-framed photos of local landscapes hang on the walls and a lovely old Findlay stove stands proudly in the dining room.

Two of the upper bedrooms have balconies overlooking the lake. One is off the master bedroom and the other, decorated in blue and white toile with board and batten walls, is reserved for Marlene's mother. It's another true reflection of how the cottage shares the classic Shepherd's style of combining simple elegance with casual comfort.

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