Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Aaron David and Orlee Wertheim's lakeside cottage in Ontario's Prince Edward County.

Maxime Brouillet/Maxime Brouillet

When Aaron David and Orlee Wertheim decided to build a lakeside cottage in Prince Edward County, a rural community two hours east of their home in Toronto, the couple knew they would offset the construction and carrying costs by putting the place on Airbnb. What they weren’t necessarily sure about was how to stand out in an area already saturated by vacation rentals. In 2019, 1,500 homes in Prince Edward County, or nearly 10 per cent of all houses, were available for short-term lets, according to the municipal government.

“We didn’t see a lot of well-designed contemporary homes,” says Ms. Wertheim, owner of Coco Market, a trendy food shop in Toronto. “It’s what we would want for ourselves. We just couldn’t find it elsewhere on the market.”

The couple figured that if they built the missing modern, others would be interested as well. The strategy initially proved fruitful. When construction finished in spring 2020, the house was “booked solid,” said Mr. David, with rental fees as much as about $900 a night. However, more recent provincial stay-at-home orders have temporarily halted rentals, and the couple are staying there themselves.

Story continues below advertisement

On the surface, the house doesn’t look terribly different than the many century-old farmsteads dotting the surrounding fields. The overall shape, conceived by Montreal architecture office RHA Works in collaboration with Toronto-and-Maine-based AAMP Studio, borrows from local barns, with pitched roofs over long, simple boxes.

The home is clad in shou sugi ban – cedar planks charred using a Japanese technique.

Maxime Brouillet/Maxime Brouillet

To the well-honed eye, the exterior siding provides the first clue that the house is unique. It’s clad in shou sugi ban – planks of cedar, charred using a Japanese technique that brings out the wood’s natural insect-and-rot resistance. The boards, sourced from a company called Blackwood Siding Co., north of Prince Edward County in Ontario’s Addington Highlands, are not only more durable than typical, unfinished cedar, they have a rich, distinct aesthetic. “From afar, they look solidly black,” says architect Anne-Marie Armstong, who worked for Frank Gehry before co-founding AAMP. “The closer you get, there is a beautiful variety in the tones, almost a shimmer. The appearance changes every time you look at.”

For the design team, one of the challenges was creating a custom home to suit both Mr. David and Ms. Wertheim, as well as all the potential tenants whose needs they could only guess at. “At the beginning, I gave Aaron and Orlee a lot of homework,” says Ravi Handa, founder of RHA Works. “I basically asked them to think through all the things the house would need, in terms of rooms and programming, as well as all the ways the house might be used.”

“We played through many, many possibilities and scenarios,” Mr. David says. “We really tried to envision how guests would arrive, unload their groceries, unload their things, inhabit each space. We had a lot of fun doing it.”

The home's shared spaces – kitchen, living room and dining room – are in one end of the L-shaped structure.

Maxime Brouillet/Maxime Brouillet

The forethought is partly why the house has its character defining, L-shaped layout. One end of the L contains four bedrooms, arranged one after the other down a long, window-lit hallway. The other end has the kitchen, dining and living areas, white-walled but made warm with touches of light wood. The separation of more public and private areas solves a typical cottage conundrum – how to balance social time with friends and family, with the need for the peace, quiet and solitude that probably inspired the rural getaway in the first place. (There was a second reason for the L: it buffers the prevailing north winds, sheltering a patio area that faces south over adjacent Lake Ontario.)

The bedrooms are aligned down a long hallway.

Maxime Brouillet/Maxime Brouillet

A roomy, glass-walled vestibule hinges the two arms of the L together. A few steps from the end of the driveway, it’s an easy spot to unpack a car stuffed with all the things city escapees tend to bring. To one side of it, it leads directly into the kitchen pantry, with storage for chips and marshmallows and bottles of whatever. To the other side, the bedrooms, all on the same level, so no suitcases need to be hauled up stairs.

The two sections of the L meet at a glass-walled vestibule.

Maxime Brouillet/Maxime Brouillet

Throughout, the cottage is kept simple, with just a few pieces of furniture (sourced by Toronto design consultant Meg Cassidy), and subtle-but-hardy materials, like stone kitchen counters. “I’m not saying renters don’t care about the place they are staying,” Mr. David says. “But I wouldn’t put it past someone to think, I’m in a rental, now is the time to try deep-frying for the first time in a vat of spattering oil.”

Story continues below advertisement

The pleasures of the home come down to simple details – the grain of the wood in the ceiling, the crackle of the fireplace.

Maxime Brouillet/Maxime Brouillet

Instead, the charm of the place comes down to more elemental pleasures. The beauty of the wood grain in the ceiling. The crackle of the fireplace in the living room. The windows were particularly well placed to capture the natural environs. In the dinning area, a large picture window punches the wall above the table, framing a tableau similar to a pastoral painting: a neighbouring farm, a few trees and bushes, big blue skies with fluffy white clouds. Every now and again, maybe just to keep things real, a car drives by.

The kitchen counters are stone, subtle enough to fit the home's visual style but hardy enough to last in a rental property.

Maxime Brouillet/Maxime Brouillet

Because the house was completed last spring, in the most uncertain days of the pandemic, Mr. David and Ms. Wertheim had a moment of wondering if they should sell the property. They weren’t sure if their plans to rent would fall through under the looming lockdowns, or how much use they themselves would be able to get out of Toronto. “We honestly didn’t know what we would do, or what was going to happen,” Mr. David says. “Then we spent a night in the house. Looking out at the night sky from our bedroom, seeing all the stars, seeing the lake in the distance. That made us think no matter what, this is it, this is ours.”

Maxime Brouillet/Maxime Brouillet

Your house is your most valuable asset. We have a weekly Real Estate newsletter to help you stay on top of news on the housing market, mortgages, the latest closings and more. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies