On her website, the award-winning Toronto-based designer Karen Sealy says that she is “equally at ease in a hardhat or heels,” but she could also add “aboard a sailboat” to that list.
Sailing is “one of my passions,” says the owner of Sealy Design Inc., regular design expert on TV’s Cityline and host of the HGTV series Summer Home. Typically, Sealy indulges that passion at her cottage on the east shore of Ontario’s Lake Simcoe, “which I like to call the windy side and is great for sailing.” Of course, the prospect of a spin on her boat off the bucolic property means that she rarely wants for overnight guests.
In the past, Sealy would house them in a small cabin that had been on the site for years. Such bunkhouses – or bunkies, as they’re informally known – are common fixtures at weekend homes in rural Ontario and elsewhere, so called because they traditionally contain bunk beds to maximize sleeping space. “But when hosting a family reunion presented itself,” Sealy recalls, “I knew I needed way more places to house people.”
So she set out to install not one new bunkie, but two (pictured above). The one on the right, with the red door and red Muskoka chair out front, “used to be an outhouse that years later was converted to a washroom.” That room was torn down to make way for the new structure – only the footprint remains. The bunkie on the left, meanwhile, was entirely new. Since both of the structures, which are about “30 steps from the main cottage,” are less than 100 square feet each, no building permit was required.
And outfitting them couldn’t have been easier or more economical, says Sealy, who gave each a distinct style: One is bright and nautical-looking; the other also conjures a ship, but is darker and richer in tone, evoking below deck on a yacht. Here is how she pulled both off.
Bunkie No. 1: Nautical and bright
Although Sealy built this particular bunkhouse from the ground up, those renovating the interior of an existing structure can do so, she says, extremely thriftily.
“Instead of hanging and mudding drywall, which is messy, time-consuming and requires some experience to do it well, [go] with painted beadboard, adding vertical nailing strip on the seams every 12 inches to create a board-and-batten feel.”
Once that’s done, up to four bunk beds can be built out of MDF and plywood for under $200, she says. The two bunks shown at left were installed at different heights and opposing angles, with lots of storage above and below. (The blue dresser, from IKEA, was dressed up with knotted “monkey-fist” pulls fashioned by “Pappa Sealy,” Karen’s father, while the rod holding various storage buckets was “meant for a kitchen, but works perfectly here.”)
Over all, the scheme is nautical, but also whimsical: “Its blue, white, red and yellow palette is preppy and crisp,” Sealy says. “Its painted yellow floor is homespun and welcoming.”
Just about everything in the room, moreover, was either salvaged or homemade: The upper cabinets were re-faced with nautical charts, the pillow bearing the red cross is an old German flag, the drapery (not shown) is upcycled sail material. Ostensibly, Sealy says, the bunkie was designed with kids in mind, but has since “been enjoyed by young and old.” It’s not hard to see why.
Bunkie No. 2: Rich and yacht-like
Decidedly more sophisticated in look and feel, Sealy’s other guest cabin, intended to evoke a bedroom on a yacht, is often referred to, she says, as “the adult bunkie.”
“It has a woody feel, with rich chocolate tones and brass accents,” she says. “It’s cozy and feels like a warm hug, [making it perfect] for snuggling in with a good book or DVD.”
The room, she points out, “also has some hidden features, like under-bed ‘rollies’ that, when pulled out, are large enough to accommodate the biggest backpack or duffle bag.
My favourite surprise feature is the hanging table (seen in the top picture at right) that drops from the ceiling for breakfasts in bed. Purchased at a salvage store and then refinished, it’s an authentic nautical table that is lowered with a pulley system above the bed.”
Unlike its neighbour, this bunkie also boasts one more luxury: a fully functioning powder room. It’s a legacy of the cabin’s siting where the outhouse used to be, but far less rustic – to say the least.