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Dorland, Ont. home of Julie Bogdanowicz and Blake Markle, originally built in the 1790s.Julie Bogdanowicz

Approaching the hamlet of Dorland, Ont., the setting sun washes the sides of metal farm buildings with temporary gold paint. As our vehicle turns from South Shore Road onto the gravel of Quaker Hill Road and then Dorland Drive – named after Loyalist Philip Dorland (1755-1814), a Quaker granted 2,100 acres in Lennox and Addington County – the water behind Julie Bogdanowicz and Blake Markle’s 1790s house takes on the colour of quicksilver.

White siding, a central gable centred over the front door, and symmetrical windows. It’s a lovely carrot.

Carrot? That’s my wife’s shorthand to describe the one big thing that keeps us on the treadmill of life. That dangling, tantalizing object that’s almost out of reach, financially, but something that, if a few things are sacrificed, can be made possible. For us, we still haven’t decided if it’s an old 1960s A-frame cottage on Georgian Bay or a condo in Palm Springs.

For Ms. Bogdanowicz, an architect and senior urban designer in the City of Toronto’s planning department, that decision had already been made: “She already always wanted that particular carrot since we met,” confirms Mr. Markle, an audiovisual manager, with a chuckle.

But, with a limited budget, a house in their preferred Prince Edward County with a water view was completely out of reach. They knew because they had looked, and looked, and even bid on a few houses, but were outbid each time. Then, one day, while staring at a big wallpapered map of PEC on a wall of their room at the Picton Harbour Inn, a light bulb went off.

“What’s this stuff over here?” Mr. Markle remembers asking as he pointed to the map. “Oh, that’s Napanee, but it looks like it’s just more PEC.”

So, the couple expanded their search to the Greater Napanee area. It took some months, but, back in Toronto on a Friday night, a listing for a 1790s house on Hay Bay came up. And, incredibly, it was listed for $325,000.

“Look, it’s on the water, what the hell?” Mr. Markle remembers saying. “It’s all cool and old and funky, do you like it? ‘Yes, I like it.’ We both liked a place for the very first time … and we were there on Sunday but there were six other cars in the driveway. And on Monday, we had bought it.”

And yes, there was a bidding war. But, because Ms. Bogdanowicz attached a letter to her offer explaining that she was an architect who would honour the bones of the building, their bid of $515,000 – not the highest – was selected.

That was in the winter of 2021. Over three years and $209,000 in renovations later, the house on Hay Bay is shining as brightly as sunny sparkles on Lake Ontario.

  • Dorland, Ont. home of Julie Bogdanowicz and Blake Markle, originally built in the 1790s.Cindy Blazevic/LXIV

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Entering through the front door and the visitor is faced with an original, wide, somewhat steep and definitely not-to-current-building-code, staircase to the second floor. Climb it and one can’t help but think of the 230 years of footfalls that came before. But first, a turn to the right reveals a large living room warmed by a pellet stove; here, one gets their first eyeful of Ms. Bogdanowicz’s love of colour and quirky décor, as window frames are painted orange, a raspberry-coloured rug lies underfoot, and a tall turquoise lamp commands a corner.

Turn the other way and pass an orange-painted powder room before entering an informal dining area that connects to the kitchen. A small step down and one enters a large, tiled room with a wood-burning fireplace and a large conference/dining table – from Ms. Bogdanowicz’s father’s engineering practice boardroom – that gives granny-chic vibes due to the colonial rocking chair and 1970s crocheted blankets.

Upstairs, in addition to the blue bedroom with a view of Hay Bay and the pink and mossy green bedrooms, there is a kid’s room with bunk beds (the couple have two little girls) and, the piece de resistance, the tiled canary-yellow bathroom. Here, under the arched window, sits the princely potty, where one can survey their land (on the walls are wooden cardinals to sing as you do so) while doing their business, or stare at the axe-hewn beams to remind oneself of the labour that went into the house’s construction.

Back downstairs, if one is so inclined to play the drums, there is a completely separate music studio/apartment in the converted garage; here, Ms. Bogdanowicz has chosen bright green paint along with thrifted 1950s kitchen hutches to give the room its funky identity.

“Part of it is just that my design style is maximalist,” says Ms. Bogdanowicz. “And we’ve been to so many soulless Airbnbs that are whitewashed and have Ikea furniture … and the other thing with the coloured rooms is it’s kind of a way-finding thing.”

Since the only way the house is financially feasible is though vacation rentals, this makes sense. But, since the architect has also learned that Philip Dorland (and his brother Thomas) came to Canada with slaves in tow, and being ever mindful of Indigenous people that lived here before European settlement, Ms. Bogdanowicz has a wider vision for her “Hay Bay Hideaway Retreat.” In addition to practising “landscape restoration” by reintroducing plants that are significant to Indigenous people, she’s trying to get to know her neighbours on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

“The vision, ultimately, is to provide the place to that community at no cost for rental for cultural groups to come together and do a retreat. … I’m just trying to make amends for those darker times in our history.”

A colourful carrot, and one with a purpose. How lovely.

While I would’ve profiled it anyway, Ms. Bogdanowicz and Mr. Markle allowed my wife and I to stay two nights at their vacation rental, which can sleep 10. Find it on Airbnb using keywords “Hay Bay Hideaway – Retreat & Conference Centre.”

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