This DIYed Cozy Canadian Cottage Is Modern, Minimal, Thrifted, and Practically Perfect

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Credit: Olga Wrezel

Name: Leigh Partington, my husband Mark, and our dog Tucker
Location: Georgeville — Quebec, Canada
Type of home: Cottage
Size: 1100 square feet
Years lived in: 5 months, owned

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I grew up in this small village in the Eastern Townships (1.5 hours east of Montreal) called Georgeville. Almost 100 percent of my family still lives there. When the opportunity arose to get property here we jumped. We had a cottage about 45 minutes away and decided to sell at the beginning of the pandemic to purchase this land. We initially bought a shipping container and turned it into an insulated, livable space with outhouse, and we spent weekends in that while building this with my father, who happens to be a general contractor (between him and his father they have built probably 30 percent of the homes in this community — it’s a tall tale but probably near the truth).

With my father we designed numerous iterations and finally came upon the one you see here. Due to high prices of materials he came up with ingenious ways to save money where we could (ie: “build it like we did back in the ’50s”). My husband and I did the odd jobs every weekends that his team did not want to touch. I am a high school teacher in Montreal and my husband is a marketing director. We had many heated debates about the design, the build, and basically everything in between (especially when stuck in the 20-foot long shipping container in -30 degrees Celsius), but we overcame it all and could not be happier.

Credit: Olga Wrezel

My husband loves interior design and has been happy getting the inside just right. What’s funny is in his head we were going to have a modern, minimalist interior like everyone seems to do these days, but I mentioned I wanted an old cottage feel that had patina, and he panicked. Luckily he fell in love with the challenge of completely rethinking the look in his head, and together I think we made something special that works. Almost all the furniture and accessories are from family members or friends (with exception of the sofa and matching chair). It was beautiful to be able to find a design aesthetic that did not entail purchasing new products across the board. It really made this house a home.

Credit: Olga Wrezel

Our cottage captures the idea that you inherit much from your parents and family genetically, and that as adults you have to build on it to grow as a person. This cottage was truly a family endeavor. My father spent countless hours helping, my mother would come randomly to help paint siding or bring cookies, and my aunts would do the same. We spent hours chatting about the past and the future, listening to their suggestions (sometimes ignoring their suggestions), and building something that was us, but also them. My husband loves random art (he had a friend who is an artist paint Oscar the Grouch under the wooden toilet seat) and so we have many different styles within our attempt at an English cottage, but it is that “eccentricity” that captures us. I chose lime paint and a pale brown palette for the walls and rooms as my homage to English country houses (or at least how I picture them in my mind). This is a place of relaxation and our palette certainly helps us achieve that.

Credit: Olga Wrezel

Finally, I think this house is built in part by practicality and in part by a desire to dream. We couldn’t afford the windows to the floor or the sauna or the Viking stove, but that’s not us. The cottage grounds us in reality, but lets us dream at the same time. It is who we are at this moment in time.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Thrift store English cottage

Credit: Olga Wrezel

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? It technically wasn’t the last thing we bought for the cottage, but dare I say the first. The large painting you see in the background of many of my Instagram pictures was done by a friend and up-and-coming Montreal artist Dan Climan. My husband saw it and had to have it before we even decided to build our cottage. But in a funny turn of events we designed the cottage around that painting. The wall where it sits was measured to have it put there in permanence. So in essence, the house was built around it. The real answer is: the woman who took the pictures of our cottage is an ER doctor and LOVES interior design. She had to take pics once we were done and ended up gifting us this beautiful wall tapestry that touches all our color palettes, as a house warming gift. She picked it up at a thrift store in Montreal and it is funky.

Credit: Olga Wrezel

What is your favorite room and why? The living room, without a doubt. I love the warmth of it both literally and figuratively. The light is unbeatable all day as we laid it out to get sun all day. Like a cat, you can laze all day in there even in Quebec’s cold winters.

Credit: Olga Wrezel

Any advice for creating a home you love? Don’t have the idea of a perfect home right set in stone; it won’t end up looking like that. It needs to simmer, and take on layered flavours. It takes time and can’t be forced. And dammit, enjoy the process.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.