story by Janice Henshaw, photos by Janis Jean Photography –
Why does a homeowner decide to go to all the trouble and expense of adding a cottage to 0.99 of an acre in North Saanich? Sheila, a certified professional accountant and partner in Paterson Henn CPA, (Sidney) and her husband Serge Gabilondo, a sailboat rigger at Blackline Marine Inc. in Canoe Cove, decided to build the cottage as a vacation rental; it would create a solid investment for their retirement years. However, plans change and now they have family moving in from Alberta.
When you hear the word “cottage,” what comes to mind? A rustic holiday cottage by the lake? Cottage Country in northern Ontario? A picturesque 19th century English cottage surrounded by a tranquil garden and climbing roses? In his book, Cottages Ornés: “The Charms of the Simple Life,” Roger White writes: “It is arguably the only architectural genre that spans the entire social spectrum … with the very select handful of royal and imperial cottages at the apex, shading down through the more ample ranks of those built for the aristocracy and middle classes, into the cottages and lodges of the working classes.”
Sheila and Serge’s custom-built 989-square-foot cottage is a thoughtfully designed, elegant little home. The location is great too; it is only a five-minute drive to Swartz Bay Ferries – if there’s traffic! And best of all, there are multiple walking paths to hikes at Horth Hill Regional Park. But back to basics – building a cottage is not a decision to be made lightly. Just as in a tiny home, the price per square foot is actually higher than for a larger build. Costs for this cottage started around $300 per square foot but additional non-sexy expenses to be factored in include a new septic field, hydro changes, engineering and permit costs.
The planning and build for the cottage took over a year and Sheila and Serge are currently waiting for their occupancy permit. Hook & Hook Designs, based in Sidney, managed the project and did the architectural drafting and design. Andi Hook, principal designer, arranged to have the plans engineered and worked with the Town of Sidney to obtain the building permit.
Andi keeps projects manageable for the homeowner through careful consulting and then limiting choices to what she thinks will fit in best with the client’s budget and design preferences. For this cottage, Andi chose the flooring, countertops, tile, paint, trim, windows, doors and hardware (design). The exterior build was completed by another construction company and then Hook & Hook Designs finished the interior and custom built all the cabinetry.
In the kitchen, stylish white Shaker cabinet doors have modern matte black pulls and self-closing hinges. Two corner cabinets have shelves that hinge open and out, allowing full access to everything on them. The glossy quartz kitchen countertops and white herringbone-tile backsplash reflect light and add to the sleek clean look. No waiting for a kettle to boil: there is an instant hot water dispenser. The single bowl undermount kitchen sink has a seamless edge and non-porous quartz surface that is easy to clean and helps prevent bacterial growth. It looks large enough to clean cookie sheets or bathe a baby!
Dark-faced appliances include a French door refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave and a stove that is currently very popular – an electric induction stove – special cookware required! In this type of stove a fluctuating electro-magnetic field under the glass surface transfers current directly to the magnetic pot bottom, which heats up. This process allows the stove surface to remain cool.
A stylish tiled electric fireplace with a bed of resin crystals in the main living area adds warmth and ambience. Above it a giant TV offers an “almost theatre” experience. Storage cabinets frame it on either side and seating is provided by a large sectional couch. The picnic-style dining table has built-in seating and chairs so there is plenty of room for entertaining family and friends.
The main bedroom has a walk-in closet complete with custom-built cabinetry. In keeping with the local bylaws, there is a second “flex” room that is currently being used for storage. Ceiling pot lights, two skylights and multiple windows ensures that the south-facing cottage is filled with light. The ceilings are a spacious nine feet high. All the paint was purchased from Cloverdale. The interior walls are a warm light grey (Balboa Mist), and the accent walls are “a crystal lake blue with a night sky undertone” (Clear Skies).
The cottage has 1.5 bathrooms, each with cozy in-floor radiant heat and the same white custom cabinetry and matte black trim. The glass bath/shower door and window keeps it bright and fresh and there is a handy recessed space for bath products in the white subway-tiled walls. The second bathroom shares space with a stacked washer and dryer, and the additional cabinetry is a welcome feature.
A heat pump is installed in the crawl space with the condenser outside. There are two decks, front and back, built with painted pressure-treated deck boards. The HardiePlank® siding is painted in Barley Field, a matched colour, which is a warm and neutral taupe-based hue. The trim is Pale Oak, also a matched colour.
A few remaining projects to be tackled include a retaining wall and a front patio of stone pavers. Ten dump truck loads of fill were brought in to keep the entrance level low. Landscaping tasks will include seeding grass and planting bushes to create separation from the road. A final deluxe feature will be a hot tub in the back yard. Conveniently located beside the back door is a wall-mounted butterfly wine rack and compact beverage cooler.
This type of housing on land that is not sub-dividable can, like laneway housing, provide additional rental space but it requires a large investment which unfortunately may result in a correspondingly high rental fee. But with efficiencies in costs, building smaller, energy-efficient homes on larger properties may one day become the “way it is.” I sure hope so – I would love to live in a cozy and elegant little cottage like this one with climbing red roses by the front door.