A wonderland of vacation magicPublished on October 14, 2018

  • Colin and Justin visiting the home of Toronto based architect Vanessa Fong.
    Photo by: Jeremy Hohm

  • The Opinicon's new facade
    Photo by: Photo provided

  • This modern cabin features a ‘forest’ of timber genus, all of which work together beautifully.
    Photo by: Stamp Architecture

  • Stairway to heaven – a modern glass fronted staircase sits invisibly against a heritage barn wood wall.
    Photo by: Stamp Architecture

  • A wonder wedge – the precision of this modern structure serves as a foil to the natural landscape.
    Photo by: Stamp Architecture

  • The Opinicon
    Photo by: Photo provided

Ahead of their new show “Great Canadian Cottages”, Colin and Justin throw open the doors to a wonderland of vacation magic.

Navigating Canada, we’ve visited many unique cottages.  But as much as they’re all different – they share one thing in common: each is the realisation of a dream.

The biggest dream realised, perhaps, is that of Fiona McKean.  And hey: to think it all started with an ice cream cone, some thirty years past.

As a kid, Fiona vacationed in a family cottage near the Opinicon resort in Elgin, where her folks would treat her to an ice cream cone from the on site kiosk.

In adulthood, she spoke of the place to anyone in any way interested in the area’s typography.

But of course adult life took over.  Later, she married Tobi Lutke and children arrived. Then one day Fiona heard that the Opinicon was going to auction.

All at once, the ice cream memories flooded back.  Oh, those halcyon days.  Could she revisit them?  A ‘Hail Mary” bid was proposed, and Fiona held her breath. 

Bingo! Fiona’s offer was accepted.   It was 2015, and, closed and derelict for years, massive work lay ahead at the Opinicon. Trees were felled, lawns raked and roofs repaired.  Windows fixed, floors installed and walls painted.  Gradually Rideau’s Grand Dame was reborn.

Each of the 16 cottages is now restored with rustic touches and 1950’s Mid Mod magic.  Beds are dressed with artisanal throws and cushions for which Fiona scoured markets.

As we chat, Fiona reminisces about the times she’d visit as a child to enjoy those ice creams.  “This wasn’t just for me and my family,” she rhapsodises, “it was for the community.  And the support has been amazing. I count my blessings.”


Envisioned by Chris and Susan Meiorin, and designed in association with Brad Netkin of Toronto’s ‘STAMP Architecture’, the 2,400 square feet hill top reserve is stunning.

On the main floor, there’s a kitchen, a lounge, a dining area and an ancillary outdoor eating space. To one side, a towering barn board wall delineates the living area from sleeping quarters and washrooms on the ground and top floor.

Statement glazing is prominent (Chris owns respected fenestration manufacturer Euro Vinyl Windows) with tilt action framework within every elevation to welcome – or baffle - lake breezes and keep the interior temperate.  

Next up is ‘The Coo Shed’ whose name nods to the history of its creator’s home land.  Centuries past, in Scotland, animals and humans commonly lived under one roof with livestock arranged at one side, family to the other.  It was from this ‘longhouse’ vernacular that Scottish builder Scott Young drew inspiration for the home he shares with wife Lynn. 

Little wonder it’s now the stuff of folklore: an average day sees onlookers snapping selfies and asking questions, none of which are a problem for Scott – he’s always happy to share his story and indeed his inspiration.

And you can expect SO much more as our new series protracts.  There’s a house built from straw bales.  A home built within an abandoned cooperage.  And a wildly ambitious home built literally around an original 10’ x 12’ log cabin.

If you’re looking for utter escapism, superlative design and stunning landscape, don’t be shy: pull up a chair and join us when our show broadcasts.  It’s a journey of discovery, to say the very least…

Great Canadian Cottages airs from October 18th on Cottage Life. For details, visit www.cottagelife.com

Colin McAllister & Justin Ryan

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