Emma Shahar moved to Israel from her native Toronto just nine years ago. “I met Ofer, found love, started a family, started a business,” she says. The Shahars run a multidisciplinary design studio called Craft & Bloom, with projects spanning furnishings to interiors, from Australia to Israel (a recent restaurant design brought the pair to New York). “We’re really good at jumping deep in with our clients to help them in a holistic way,” Emma says.
Speaking of jumping in the deep end: The couple just had their second son, Dezzy, this summer, while their eldest, Milu, is 3. So they’ve opted to extend their typical two-month Canadian holiday this year at the Rosseau, Ont., property belonging to Emma’s mother. They plan to stay until October. “We just thought it was important to raise a little kid in the nature of Northern Ontario, as opposed to city life in 40-degree heat [in Tel Aviv],” Emma says.
Ultimately, however, they’re fans of both. “We’re Geminis, so we need to have both city and nature, the inside and the outside,” she says.
That said, it’s hardly been a vacation. While here, in addition to child- and newborn-rearing duties, they’ve continued their consulting work and completed the on-site, one-room bunkie that’s been two years in the making. Just a one-minute walk into the woods from the main cottage, with no running water or electricity, the space feels a world apart. The couple built it to test materials and methods in the Canadian context, and its size – just under 100 square feet – is small enough that they didn’t require a permit.
“We started by thinking, what’s the purpose of the bunkie, and how can it fulfill that purpose?” Ofer says. The double-pitch roof raised the height of the space for sky-high yoga poses, and the large, single pane of glass offered an unencumbered view of the surrounding woods and lake. “We took the biggest window the window company could deliver into the woods without a crane,” Ofer says.
“They broke it twice,” Emma says, laughing.
Materials are celebrated for their inherent qualities. “We wanted it to be as natural, local and simple as possible,” Ofer says. Instead of mixing, matching and layering materials, they are used uniformly and remain unadorned. Birch plywood from a mill in nearby Parry Sound is used for interior cladding and burnt cedar for the exterior.
“There’s so much depth to it,” Emma says. “It’s not just a plank of wood painted black. It has energy.”
The interior, likewise, is simply fashioned and furnished. LED battery-powered lanterns from Stylegarage provide after-dusk illumination, while a carafe and hooks by local designers Michelle Organ and Kroft are both beautiful and functional. “We love working with local designers as much as we can,” Emma says. “It’s all about community and being able to lift each other up.”
Bedding is by Tel Avivian designer Meira Sitton, and the bed, designed by themselves and built by local shop Etherington Designs, consists of two singles that can be pushed together to create a king, or, alternately, arranged in an L-shape. Pull-up side tables (also custom-designed) are flexible, too.
“We really wanted to make it dynamic, and to fit many purposes,” Emma says. When the kids grow older, they can bunk there on their own. “Having a little bit of separation is nice,” she says.
And while the bunkie is an experiment, the entrepreneurial couple see nothing but potential. Emma explains that they envision a few of these eventually scattered about the property as an “interesting alternative revenue model … so we can lead the life that we want and make the most of what we have,” she continues. “That’s the 10-year plan.”