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A New Take on the Muskoka Cottage


Cottage season is almost here! If you live in Canada, you’ll know how much we are all counting down the days to warmer weather, when we can enjoy time by the lake or amongst the woods. Regardless of if you own a lake-side property, or rent one for the summer, we can all agree that we need a little time to disconnect and change our scenery. This week, we want to share a few essentials so that you can achieve that “Muskoka Cottage” look, but with a contemporary take on its design. Let’s talk about this look and why it's so popular.

For those of you who don’t live in the “Great White North”, the term “Muskoka” may not sound familiar. The Muskoka lakes are located in the province of Ontario and are one of the premier areas referred to as “cottage country”. Lakeside and waterfront properties are the reason why every summer, families across the province migrate to Muskoka to enjoy the outdoors and nature. Think of it as the Hamptons of Canada!

Going Awesome Places

We will focus today on the lovely reinterpreted contemporary-traditional cottage look favoured by a younger generation of adults. This style incorporates the design of the structure into its natural surroundings. These new structures are not only beautiful but are also creating a new market for environmentally friendly living in the woods - with a few luxurious perks of course! There are 4 main elements we will lay out to create this style: materiality, functionality, affordability, and aesthetics. Let’s begin!

Materiality is all About Nature


The appeal of Muskoka is the beautiful landscape and scenic views that surround you. After all, cottages are all about the lake views, right? The architectural design of a cottage should not only respect its surroundings, but also use them as the main inspiration: stones, woods, the variety of green tones, and the textures of the shoreline and water.

A contemporary Muskoka cottage embraces its surroundings and takes advantage of its location. Large windows in main areas like bedrooms and living rooms bring access to nature and natural light. The use of natural finishes like stone and wood should be integrated into countertops, millwork, and flooring. Furnishings should also follow a nature theme with neutral tones or toned-down colours. If you want to go in a bolder direction, we recommend adding some accent colours through wallpaper or accessories. We are firm believers that the interior of a cottage should celebrate its architecture and blend in with its outdoor surroundings.

Here are some of our favourite decor findings door that cottage look:

A Functional Space That Adapts to Your Needs

West Grove

Cottages are a great place to disconnect and relax with your loved ones, but you may have to account at times for visits from small or large groups. The interior layout needs to bring out the full potential of each room to utilize the space well for activities and visitors. We recommend an open concept entertaining room where you can gather and share while having other cozy and intimate nooks to read, meditate, and relax. The bedrooms and bathrooms are important places for self-care and relaxation. It's important to have an atmosphere of comfort and luxury to increase your overall well-being.

We love the design of this bathroom! The idea of disconnecting and relaxing is all about self-care, so anything that creates that "spa" vibe will work!

To create this look, we recommend a stand-alone tub, darker faucets to create contrast, natural fibres like cotton and wicker, soft fabrics like linens and towels, light décor pieces to uplift the space, and sections of wood on the walls, ceiling, or millwork. Stay within a neutral colour palette for wall paint and finishes so that you don't overwhelm the natural textures and colours of the wood and stone. In this way, the design will also be timeless and won't appear worn over time.


If you love this look as much as we do, you can shop it here:

Sustainable and Affordable Living Style

The Spruce

There are a wide variety of materials, construction systems, and smart technology aimed to reduce not only your personal footprint but that of your home as well. The concept behind the tiny home movement is not only to create a basic yet beautiful space to live in, but also to make it affordable for a younger generation who want to downsize or are looking to live in nature while reducing their environmental footprint.

When we talk about smart design, we refer not only to technology but also strategies used by architects and interior designers to reduce costs and any negative impact when creating a livable space. By using design strategies such as modular construction systems, multipurpose rooms, space-saving sliding doors, passive lighting, smart ventilation systems, rainwater harvesting, and greywater irrigation systems for improved water efficiency, you can reduce your impact on the environment and the cost of your cottage over time.

GV Sprinklers

How It Looks and Feels

Huffington Post Canada Canadian Home Trends

There are a few more elements needed to complete that contemporary Muskoka cottage ambiance in your space. We all love classic Canadian décor such as plaid patterns, moose heads, canoes, paddles, and snowshoes. For a more contemporary twist, use the same Canadiana style, but in a minimal, toned-down way. When selecting colour schemes, try to stay away from bright colours, and stay within a colour palette of 3 or 4 options, including neutral tones. Also, remember that wood is vital in creating a room with a cottage feel! From blond oaks to darker walnuts, wood can elevate a room substantially.


Regarding décor and accessories, always strive to have at least two décor options to rotate throughout the seasons. Go for a cozy and intimate look for the fall and winter, and a bolder and more exciting look for the spring and summer. We recommend adding contrast through dark accents on doors, hardware, wooden beams, window frames, and fireplaces. This will not only create a contemporary look in your space but will also highlight key architectural elements. Here are some of our favourite picks for that perfect contemporary Canadian look:

We have covered the basics of the contemporary Muskoka cottage style, but there is still much more to it! Now that you know where to start, you can continue your exploration in this style. If you are working on a current space or planning on it in the future, feel free to give us a call or send us a message if you need additional design advice! We would love to be a part of designing your Muskoka cottage-themed space. After all, White Dahlia Design is a proudly Canadian business, and we are here to help you.

Cheers to the coming cottage season!

White Dahlia Design Team



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