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A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Dorset, Ontario

by Kate Oliver

Some places are just special, evoking a feeling that we can’t quite put our finger on. Yet we are drawn in, wanting to stay awhile and bask in the goodness. In the case of Tara Gilchrist Love and Caitlin Hutt Love, two immeasurably creative women living amongst the trees and on the lakeshore of Canada’s Dorset, Ontario, it’s not just the beauty of their home, it’s the love they have poured into it and the people around them that makes it so special. Love, like their chosen unified last name, is at the core of everything this couple does and touches: they even started a summer festival for their community called Love Fest. The gathering was inspired by their wedding last September, where they shut down the street in front of their home and hung twinkle lights and celebrated their marriage and love late into the night.

Tara, Caitlin, and their sweet kitty, Devi, live in a rustic barn built in the 1890s. The space houses quite a lot: downstairs is a thriving pottery/yoga studio, retail shop, and espresso bar, and upstairs is a 600-square-foot apartment. Tara, a Toronto native, purchased the home initially to build her pottery business near her family’s summer cottage; and Caitlin moved in later, knowing this home was “the one” because Tara was in it. The space is not without its challenges — sometimes the pair finds it difficult to separate work from home, as they are “open” all the time — and as they prepare to grow their family, they know they’ll need additional space for children. In the coming years, they plan to build a larger home on their property, transitioning out of the tiny space they currently reside in.

In their home and studio, the pair has created an organic space that is truly reflective of their passions: items collected from travels to India, Guatemala, and Colorado, as well as pieces Tara has created at home and abroad. The things they love and are inspired by most are found throughout their cozy, lofted house with lake views. The women want to feel connected to the pieces they bring into their home, but not attached or bogged down by them, so they choose items carefully and purge regularly to keep the clutter from piling up.

Tara and Cait’s strict budget has also not limited them, instead it only inspires creative and romantic solutions. When Caitlin moved in and started her yoga studio as an extension of Tara’s business, the ladies built the outdoor studio floor from shipping crates that carried home pottery Tara crafted in India. That very floor was where Tara would later propose to Caitlin, and has become a tangible symbol of their lives and businesses intertwining. Tara and Cait love that their home is truly theirs and a part of their story, a work in progress that is constantly evolving, just as they are. —Kate

Photography by Kate Oliver

Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
In such a small space, the women love having the skylight and many windows. Caitlin spends the most time in this kitchen space making rice bowls and brewing kombucha. "The barn board cabinets were made by our neighbor," Tara says.
Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
A staircase behind the barn leads up to the living space and a deck in the trees. A painted sign from the couple's wedding resides permanently above the studio doors.
Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
The built-in thick maple surface was created by using an old shuffle board tabletop from Tara's father's business. Indian blue ribbon covers tube lighting, and a modest collection of plates and bowls for everyday use lines the shelves and counter.
Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
The women are so busy with their thriving business that they don't often sit at the hand-me-down family stools at the bar! The lovely ceramic tiles on the counter were made by Tara as she was moving into the space.
Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
Favorite kitchen utensils sit in Tara's grandma's old jar, and the collection of glassware on the open shelf was gifted for the couple's wedding. The tin backsplash was installed by the previous owner and a treasured salad bowl and vintage toaster sit on the counter.
Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
A hand-me-down love seat fits perfectly in the tiny living space, and Indian cushions that make for a great second seating option were some of the few furniture pieces Caitlin brought to the space when she moved in. A door from Tara's family cottage serves as a dividing wall and houses a piano keyboard salvaged from her days of living in Toronto. Most cookbooks have been let go as they are not often used, but a few special ones remain on the shelf below.
Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
In the corner, a small painting (a wedding gift from a friend) hangs. Below, a collection of candles and stones from special places traveled decorates the rustic shelf.
Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
The couple's "vision board," housed on a wall by the front door, is a collection of dreams ranging from building ideas to baby names to meaningful love songs.
Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
A small portion of Caitlin's book collection, comprised primarily of volumes on theater, Ayurveda, and self-love, is found on this corner bookshelf, but many more are tucked around the home. Birds with beads brought home from India hang in the window.
Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
Birch trees cut from the couple's property hold up an old salvaged door from Tara's family cottage, built to create privacy from the front door and kitchen to the sleeping area. The felted pillow was a wedding gift made by Caitlin's cousin, and the antler pillow was gifted to Tara from Caitlin at their first Christmas together. Everywhere you look in the home, tributes to the couple's love are found.
Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
"Our dear friend Blanche O'Sullivan made several boards with loving messages for our wedding last fall," Tara shares. "This one sums it all up nicely."
Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
Tara painted the piece on the bedroom wall while in art school, before she had been in a relationship with a woman. When Caitlin came into her life and they came together as a couple, this painting started to look like a premonition. Caitlin, being a yogi, can often be seen with a bun on her head, and the height difference and general body shape matches the couple. It's beautiful. Below the painting is Caitlin's meditation altar.
"We don't get to play as much as we would like, but we always seem to have our ukelele and guitar nearby," Caitlin tells us. "In the sweet fall and winter months, we are known to spend the morning hours staying in bed with coffee (sometimes with a splash of Bailey's) and dreaming up the next project we are about to take on."
Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
"Our little nook that will one day become a crib space for our first child," Tara mentions. "The Hudson's Bay Blanket was a wedding gift from family, friends, and the officiant at our wedding." Caitlin adds that the baby outfit was purchased on the couple's travels to India to encourage fertility as they try to start a family. The flower crowns were worn at the couple's wedding, and the sloped ceiling is home to Tara's pottery vision board.
Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
Doors to the gallery/espresso bar are on the left, and doors to the studio are on the right. A clay water fountain brought back from India is filled with succulents and sits atop an old pottery wheel. Above the entrance to the gallery is a window with views of the beautiful lake.
Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
Kiln room built by Tara's brother. An entrance to "The Open Space," Caitlin's yoga studio, was needed at the back of the gallery, and so recycled doors were added, and the windows that fill in the space were all donated by a customer that no longer needed them. All the supporting beams are actually the beams that hold up the deck off the back of the living space upstairs.
Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
Home of "The Open Space," where Caitlin teaches yoga classes and Tara teaches kids' clay classes. Indian sarees and bedsheets were sewn together to create privacy from the road for yoga classes. The opposite two sides are left open to connect to the beauty of the rocks and trees. This is the floor Tara and Caitlin built together and the one on which they decided to spend the rest of their lives together through proposal. A collection of pots made by Tara and others sit atop the timber frame.
Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
The Loves, Tara (left) and Caitlin (right), at the entrance to the gallery/espresso bar.
Design*Sponge | A Love-Filled Home & Studio in Ontario
"What we love most about our home is that it's cozy and small while holding all of our big dreams."

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  • This is SO lovely. The rad energy these two humans have created in this space totally comes across in the pictures.

  • Beautiful home!

    Modest request for the future: Since the general headline format is City, State, I’d love for DesignSponge to follow that with Canadian content. Or City, Province, Country — if needed.

    • G

      I hear you. Generally we try to keep locations to two descriptors because after that titles get cut off. Do you feel this sort of listing is inaccurate this way? I just want to understand your concern so I can better address it with the team.


      • It’s not so much about accuracy as intent or resonance. I see a lot of US references of Canada jumble style when it comes to listing specific places. Ontario, Canada or Toronto, Canada when it’s usually city, state, etc.

        If the choice is for clarity, I’d argue that changing the style for Canada will just continue the confusion. (If someone gets confused over references to Ontario, BC, Quebec…, that confusion can easily spread to thinking Ontario is a city, etc.)

        If it’s just for brevity, then the “Canada” bit should be implicit when saying Dorset, Ontario. (Though in this particular case, “Cottage Country, Canada” would work.) And if it’s not, there’s the intro!

        It’s something small, but it could help educate just a little by continuing the style!

  • I don’t really have the words, but I’ll try :)

    This place is simply perfect: cozy place, BIG dream, all LOVE! And the piano keys! and the vision chart!!

    I’ve been on the thing about doing my vision chart for a few weeks now… collecting magazines for the material… however, most of my inspiration comes online – and honestly feel like I should have this whole place there on my chart!! So happy to see this! =D

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