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Rock steady: Building a cottage around a solid foundation

Architect Charles Gane's cottage on a remote island in Georgian Bay is perched on top of rock, the shape of which he wanted to preserve. The open concept combines a love of outdoors with architecture that blends beautifully into its environment, Anya Georgijevic writes

Charles Gane's kitchen in his island cottage in Monument Channel in Georgian Bay near MacTier Ont. in the Muskokas on Friday, June 3, 2016.

Charles Gane’s kitchen in his island cottage in Monument Channel in Georgian Bay near MacTier Ont.

J.P. Moczulski for The Globe and Mail

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"If you get a chance, you should take in as much nature as you can," says Charles Gane, Toronto-based architect and partner at CORE Architects. A love of the outdoors led him to a remote island in Georgian Bay, where the architect designed a modern, solar-powered cottage that seamlessly blends into the environment. Its Douglas fir post-and-beam construction is perched on top of rock, the shape of which Gane wanted to preserve. "There was natural gully in the rock, so we used that as a place of entrance. The upper floor – the living room, dining room and kitchen – is like a long bridge: It lands on a rock on the lakeside and spans over," he says. The long and narrow, open-concept 900-square-foot space is for family gatherings, with the kitchen taking centre stage. "You have to go through it to get anywhere," says Gane. "And it becomes the hub."

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With the nearest town being a 45-minute commute (15 minutes by boat and half an hour by car), Gane, his wife Robin (who does most of the cooking), and two teenage sons enjoy all their meals at the cottage. The spacious kitchen allows for ample storage, with an epic 18-foot island that offers space for multiple prep stations. The family hosts friends in their four-bedroom cottage and everyone likes to help in the kitchen, gathering around the large island comprised of laminated 2x4 pieces of Douglas fir. The woodsy surface is juxtaposed by a slick, stainless-steel sink from Ginger's, complementary appliances (Fisher & Paykel propane stove and Bosch fridge and dishwasher), and polished aluminium Déjà-vu stools by designer Naoto Fukasawa.

The kitchen's backdrop is tiled in Stonetile's Piasentina limestone, chosen for its similarities to the surrounding rocks. "It's cut in layers so it looks like it's laid up like the stone," Gane says. (Piasentina is also used for the bathroom walls and showers.) Rowntree Custom Millwork built the lacquered MDF cabinetry, and the spanning Douglas fir bookshelf holding various mason jars, a selection of wine and reproductions of famed Group of Seven paintings. "One of the best things about the kitchen is the nook right next to it. The kids would be on their computers, and they would be part of the action. That was kind of a key element," he says.

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The Gane family makes use of the six months that the cottage is accessible (the lake freezes over in cold weather), spending most of their spring and summer weekends hiking, kayaking and boating around Georgian Bay. The polished concrete radiant floors make the cleanup from the constant ins and outs easy, and keep the family warm during the cooler months. "Fall is great when you're up there. You turn on the radiant floors, and it's cold and windy outside. It makes a big difference having your feet warm," Gane says. Before the cottage was built, the family used to camp out on the vacant property. While their sleeping quarters have gotten substantially more luxurious, the cottage's vast glass panels create the illusion they are still in the great outdoors.

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