Interiorssneak peeks

Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin’s Canadian Cottage Transformation

by Sabrina Smelko

Colin and Justin are a fun-loving international design duo hailing from Britain who I first fell in love with years ago when I glimpsed them on CityLine (Toronto’s morning show). Their wit, sense of humor and down-to-earth attitude and design style has since won thousands over.

They’ve interviewed Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Madonna and many more as red carpet reporters for City TV and they develop proprieties across the globe. But if that wasn’t enough, they also manage a rental portfolio in Toronto, London and Glasgow, are columnists in The Toronto Sun, Cottage Life Magazine and Huffington Post, and have their own home product line, Colin and Justin Home, available in Canadian stores such as Homesense, Marshalls and Winners and via American retailers like HomeGoods and TJ Maxx. While all of these things add up to the reasons why I’m a super-fan, I’m most giddy about their recent doings.

Mere months ago, they undertook their largest design challenge yet: to renovate a massive (and extremely run-down) cottage in northern Ontario in — gulp — 12 weeks. I followed along with their process on Instagram and now, they’re finally done and breathing a sigh of accomplished relief. But the best part of all? They taped it all! Their show, Colin and Justin’s Cabin Pressure, airs on Cottage Life television (and not since the days of Extreme Home Makeover and Genevieve’s Renovation have I been so excited for a home show)!

Today, the effervescent Colin and Justin tour us through the cottage they made over during Cabin Pressure, Season 1 and were kind and, not surprisingly, gracious enough to write their own essay on this monstrously awesome project of theirs. Read it all after the jump, including how to enter a contest to win a trip to this spectacular cottage! –Sabrina

Photography by Brandon Barré

Colin and Justin’s Cottage

Ah, the cottage. That wonderful sanctuary unto which we escape for rest and recuperation. That place where clocks run slow and wine runs, well, faster. And that’s just how we like it: Cab Sauv, if you don’t mind, preferably new world Argentinian.

In our world, with a schedule that propels us between Canada, Britain and, most recently Australia as design experts on lifestyle show The Living Room, we’re always searching for somewhere to catch our breath. That said, we love our job, so you’ll hear no grumbling from us.

Yes indeed, we’re happy with our professional mission: to make ordinary homes extraordinary for style-challenged homeowners across three continents.

Two years past, however, we met the trickiest clients we’ve ever worked with: ourselves. Having purchased a run-down cottage in Muskoka, the race was on to transform it into a chic bolt hole before our nerves – and our budget — got the better of us.

To compound matters, we’d been invited to film the transformation for the Cottage Life television network. And they’d suggested a three-month deadline.

Yes: three months. To rebuild a collapsing sunroom, refurbish a basement bedroom, tackle a large family room, install a new kitchen, create two new bathrooms and knock together two small bedrooms to create one killer master suite. Aye, it’s fair to say we had our work cut out.

The kitchen, updated by Batemans in Oro Medonte, is a hand built triumph finished in rich grey with Caesarstone detailing and nickel lighting. Slick Euro styling is important to us, so we discreetly concealed fridge and freezer separates behind doors: yup, the former in the left tall tower and the latter in the right, effectively sandwiching the built-in stove and cooker.

Reworking the entire ground floor, to be honest, was simple, being that the biggest job (short of inserting triple French doors to afford better lake sightlines) was removing threadbare carpet and installing a slick, wooden floor. Dressed with an outsized sofa and a leather ottoman, the scene is anchored by a large grey rug that seems to float, like an island, in front of the stone-built fireplace.

To the other side of the room, modern black Windsor and grey leather chairs gather around an outsized Hemlock table while a faux antler chandelier floats proudly above, providing atmosphere and adjustable illumination at the twist of a button.

Upstairs, in the house bathroom, we replaced dated tile with acres of slick Caesarstone wrapped across main wall areas and around a deep soaker tub. Above this, a rain head shower cascades high pressure jets while fixed glazing protects the room from water splash.

In the master bedroom (the result of combining two smaller rooms) we created a relaxed atmosphere with a creamy painted scheme to “minimize” the overpowering V-groove pine. Benjamin Moore “Revere Pewter” was our weapon of choice, and, paired as it is against the joists (which we left unpainted) the resultant aesthetics are dramatic yet soothing.

For the most part, pattern was limited, though we conceded a spot of Robert Allen Ikat fabric for drapery (and toss pillows) and geometric weave rugs from the C+J Home collection (find our line in stores like Homesense, Winners and Marshalls).

A large, custom headboard stretches along one elevation, its soft nickel pins visually balanced by pale lumber nightstands and dressers. Opposite the bed sit two comfy chaise lounges, which we found in IKEA: our schemes, as aye, are peppered with affordable detailing that helps moderate spending. It’s just how we roll…

In the basement, after “opening” the space to make it eminently more livable, we created a large double bedroom and a comfy family room, each clad in pine and connected via a large barn door (custom manufactured by Rebarn in Toronto) which slides along a slick black rail.

The focal point in the family room is the oil-burning stove, which sits in front of a granite clad feature zone, while the focal point in the bedroom is the large padded headboard, custom made for the project. Both rooms feature double French doors, dressed with grey plaid drapery, that lead to a large sunroom rebuilt in the footprint of its near derelict predecessor.

The rebirthed sun room boasts Sunspace Weather Master Plus windows with plastic memory glass that’s virtually impervious to scratches, or indeed breakage, and bug screens to protect against entomological invasion. Dressed with weather-proof wicker, and embellished with Robert Allen toss pillows, the sunroom is a climatic joy (even in cooler weather) thanks to the memory glass, which helps insulate proceedings.

And finally: the downstairs bathroom. Accessed by another rolling barn door, its primary aesthetic is grey scale via “cement” toned tile and graphite grout, which enlivens basic-buy “big box store” subway tile. To add flair, we custom manufactured the outsized trough sink in conjunction with Dare To Be Different, a vibrant young company whose products can be sized to suit your application. The results, we hope, speak for themselves.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe we made the changes described in just three short months. Sure, we have a brilliant team, but it was a monolithic transformation, nonetheless, given the window of opportunity. As each other’s fussiest clients, we drove one another crazy: on a daily basis, it should be reported, we’d hone ambition… and then start from scratch. To say we were pedantic with each other – and our team, for that matter – is an understatement. At all times, however, we had the best interests of the cottage close to our hearts.

So would we do it again? In another cottage? Could we actually deal with our “most demanding” clients ever…. in a second location? Well, as a matter of fact, yes. We could: During Season TWO of Colin and Justin’s Cabin Pressure, which has just premiered. And this time the drama is even bigger and the workload even more astonishing.

Yup, get ready for our “slanty shanty” in Haliburton: the worst property we have ever corrected. Hey: you’ve been warned – prepare for decorative lift-off as the Cabin Pressure lid finally pops!



Colin and Justin’s Cabin Pressure airs on The Cottage Life television network, Sundays, at 9 pm. The Cottage Life television channel is currently in FREE preview. Check listings for exact broadcast times and premier dates for Season Two.

To win an all-expenses-paid trip to Colin and Justin’s cottage (a prize that includes a chauffeured drive from Toronto and back, lunch, dinner, free “on-the-spot” design consultation and swag bags), visit www.torontosun.com/contests!

For more Colin and Justin awesomeness, follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest — oh, and for all things Cabin Pressure the show, they have a Cabin Pressure Facebook page, too!

Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
Colin and Justin's "luxe lodge" mixes wood finishes, leather details and grey linen to elicit a soft and relaxing vibe. Black, via the drapery and accessories, anchors the room. The sofa is from Casa Life and the chairs are from Sunpan.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
The rough hewn wooden table conjures the spirit of Restoration Hardware, one of their (and my) favorite stores. The mirrors are from Winners.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
All of the blinds throughout the cabin are from Levelor and all floors are from Kentwood Floors and installation by Taylor Carpetone.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
The mix of leather and black wooden chairs adds texture and drama, but perhaps the biggest wow piece of all is the faux antler chandelier!
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
To the right of the living and dining space is the kitchen.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
All the the kitchen appliances are concealed behind the grey cabinetry to keep things visually clean. All planning and installation of the cabinets were by Bateman Furniture. The nickel ceiling pendants are from Casa Life.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
The master bedroom boasts a relaxed atmosphere courtesy of the creamy linens and wooden details. The rugs are by Colin and Justin Home which you can find in stores like Homesense, Marshalls and Winners. The drapery fabric was found at Robert Allen and made up by Workroom by Design.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
The headboard was custom made by Ultra Upholstery and the entire bedroom set of chests, drawers, nightstands, benches and the console table is from Urban Barn.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
This "junqtique" table (inherited with the cottage) was repurposed for use as an exquisite vanity area. The lights are from Rejuvenation and the sink, tub and faucets are from American Standard.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
The entire cabin's interior paints are from Benjamin Moore; most of the walls are painted in Revere Pewter HC172, and the trim and doors in Whale Grey 2134-40.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
The wedge-shaped wash zone features dreamy Caesarstone, used in both bathrooms. All installation and fabrication was done by The House of Granite.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
I love that Colin and Justin painted some of the wood and kept some of it unpainted. The chaise lounges are from IKEA.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
The guest bedroom is filled with red accents and lots of mirrors to add zest to what is otherwise a tiny 9’ x 8’ space. The bed throws are from IKEA, the nightstands are from Hilltop Interiors and the headboard is from Harris Furniture.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
The basement family room is made to feel ultra-cozy thanks to the plaid and shots of yellow. The sofa and side tables are from Sunpan and the cowhide rug is from IKEA. Accessories are from Marshalls.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
The basement bedroom features yellow accents against a grey neutral backdrop. Most of the accessories are from HomeSense, the bed throws and linens are from IKEA and the wall cladding is from Muskoka Timber.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
A massive barn door from ReBarn separates the bedroom from a TV room.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
The drum tables and X-frame stools are from Sunpan.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
The compact shower room boasts a custom concrete sink by Dare To Be DIfferent and tile work from Tile Shoppes. The bulkhead lights are from Home Depot and the mirror is from HomeSense. All of the cabin's shower screens were installed by Access Glass Inc..
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
In addition to renovating the existing cabin, Colin and Justin decided to install a separate bunkie, which was delivered over land on a flat bed truck from Canada Builds. The bunkie may be small, but it's perfect for guests and features two bedrooms and a living room.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
The wire storage system adds some much-needed storage and makes the most of the small space.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
An airy living and dining area separates the bunkie's two bedrooms, which are at either end of the long, narrow structure.
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation
Cabin Pressure: Colin & Justin's Canadian Cottage Transformation

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  • Amazing! I’ll be pinning every picture, especially the plaid family room, and bunkhouse living space.
    Question: did you have a cover made for the base/skirt of your IKEA chaise pair in the master bedroom? I have a similar piece, but trying to find a way to cover the holes in the upholstery (for connecting to sofa, etc.).

  • The color of the wood and that coffee table/ottoman in the living room is beautiful! Love the light wood table in the kitchen and the Bateman Furniture cabinetry. It’s gorgeous! The fact that the white is brought into the master bedroom is actually a really wonderful idea. There is also not much dark grey here, only light grey and it really works and flows well. Leaving the beams of exposed wood that matches downstairs really brings a sense of uniformity to it all. Great work!

  • How cool to see the legendary Colin and Justin pop up in my Design Sponge email? This place is awesome and I can feel a wee touch of Scotland in there too. With love from Bonnie Scotland.

  • There is nothing like cottaging in cottage country. Love the Haliburtons (where this one is located) and love the Kawarthas where we cottage each summer.

    Looking forward to the summer already! Waterskiing, wake boarding, swimming, kayaking, hanging out with my family – all good.

  • So excited to see Colin and Justin on Design Sponge! I grew up with a family cottage in Muskoka and I think they have captured the vibe of the region beautifully. It looks like such a chic but comfortable place to unwind.

  • These guys do stunning work, I also seen them the first time on Citylines and grew to love their style and sassy scotch wit. This project is next level beauty, so well thought out by the look of it, well done them. Martine

  • Dang, that’s the best cabin I seen in ages. Not watched these guys show before but Ill be sure to tune in, I love what they done here, its very restoration Hardwears, my favourite store. Where else can I see their TV projects? There’s a lot of stuff looks the same on television at the moment but this is very different, trust Design Sponge to showcase. Well done!

  • Thank you Design Sponge for showcasing this: it’s quite beautiful. The owners have set a very relaxing vibe in there that makes it all very soothing. Were I ever lucky enough to have a summer home this is how I would like it to look. Mrs Barbara Mathis, Larchmont, NY.

  • This is perfection. As a photographer, the house would be a dream to shoot. I’m going to look these guys out to proposition if Im ever in Canada: I would love to work on a project with them sometime. I particularly love the great room – the logs provide a wonderfully atmospheric backdrop to the scheme. It doesn’t say if the designers also build houses from the ground up – if so I would love to follow their progress on a new build from planning to furnishing. Just a suggestion.

  • Ah, the cottage. That wonderful sanctuary unto which we escape for rest and recuperation. That place where clocks run slow and wine runs, well, faster, We have more cottage here

  • Nice spread, I have enjoyed these designers on BBC America for some time with their British and Canadian shows and wondered what they were doing now. Can I watch Cabin show on US television? This reminds me of a house I used to visit in the Hamptons when I was a child. It doesn’t say where exactly this house is? Pat

  • Okay I’m putting it out there, we need these guys on American TV; this house is WAY WAY more beautiful than any so called cottages Ive seen in this country!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOVE!!!!!!!!!!! How do I hire them to come do my little shack?????

  • Great page, I’m expat British/Canadian in Montreal and while I like that them lads are doing well (my wife just bought their sheets outa Homesense in Toronto last week, yellow and white ones) and while I like theyre cottage projects its that Brit humour I tune in for mostly. Its a breath of fresh air in todays often depressing world. That said this cottage would make me very happy and my wife sure loves it. And what she says goes in my house! They should come over this way for theyre next season and do one of them chalets near the water. Still some great house bargains to be had in and around Quebec. Mike P

  • This is running. I dream of a place like that. Great inspiration as always on DS. THANK YOU for giving me a place to live our my rustic fantasies! Nic Hardy, Texas

  • What is the paint color on the cabinets? Please someone send me the name I am trying to match it.

    • Hi, I have the issue of Cottage Life that features this makeover.(Fall 2014.) The paint for the kitchen cabinets is Benjamin Moore, Iron Mountain 3134-30. Hope that’s what you meant.