Craftsman lakeside cottage atop a natural patio

The Rock Cottage sits atop a rocky lakeside cleft in the eastern Ontario township of Rideau Lakes. Six small cabins previously occupied the site which was largely preserved in its naturalized state and used as a recreational fishing retreat. The concept of a ‘grouping of cabins’ became a guiding principal for the design of the cottage. The use of natural materials was a response to a desire to make the cottage feel like it was an extension of the surrounding natural elements while keeping true to the essence of place. The palette consists of wood, stone, polished concrete, metal and glass.

The floor plan is organized around a large, flat rock outcrop for which the cottage was aptly named (the name came from the owners’ young children, who would gather around the rock outcrop to play while their parents surveyed the site – the name became inherently valuable to the design and ultimately one of the grounding successes of the project). Upon their first visit to the site, the owners envisioned each of the cottage’s rooms spilling out onto this natural patio.

Three distinct pavilions are connected along two coinciding axes, formed by a glass hall which allows a person to step outdoors from virtually anywhere in the house. Slabs of slate flooring bridge the interior space out onto the lakeside deck. Designed as a cooling gap to reduce the demand for mechanical cooling, a landscaped edge conditions the interior spaces along the glass hall and helps reinforce a connection with nature while minimizing large expanses of hard surfaces.

The project is as much an indoor experience as an outdoor one, and continuity between inside and out is a recurring theme for this composition. While stone piers and chimneys anchor the cottage to the ground and create a rhythm in the facades, the contrasting horizontal planes of glass and beams seem to allow the roof to float above. This perceived lightness contributes to the airy feeling of the cottage whose long linear wings might otherwise appear heavy and squat.

Front entrance

A rustic stone wall announces the front entrance and connects the arrival court through the foyer and out to the lakeside deck. Timber benches line the front pathway to the cottage, sawn from a lightning-damaged tree that once stood upon the site. On the lake side, the large wood deck features a built-in hot tub and extends from one end of the bungalow to the other.

Hot tub deck

While much of the house sits at existing grade, the west wing of the bungalow projects from the bluff, offering the opportunity to introduce a maintenance garage and boat storage at the lower level below the screened porch.

Screened porch

The owners’ desire for versatile floor space resulted in an open concept living space. Loft retreats offer additional sleeping space within the framework of the single storey design. As a seasonal dwelling, maintenance and durability were key factors in the selection of finishes and systems. The metal roof, aluminum clad wood window frames and exotic hardwood deck boards will withstand the harsh seasonal changes, and the naturalized landscaping and permeable surfaces can evolve on their own while the owners are away.

Main living space

A passion for nature, respect for heritage, and desire to create a retreat that will live long into the future for the owners and their children guided the design of the Rock Cottage. It is a place of serenity, homage to the history of the land, and is one with its surroundings—not only for its inhabitants but for others who look upon it, some of whom will remember the fishing cabins that once stood there.

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