AA DECADE AGO, my husband, Paul Kilback, and I had three young kids, an oversized mortgage on our Toronto home and no job security to speak of — I’d left my post at House & Home and was launching my f ledgling design business. It was terrible timing to buy a dingy hunting shack in the woods of Frontenac County, Ont., but common sense had never stopped us before. Boasting 280 feet of crystal-clear shoreline packed with towering birch, pine, cedar and spruce, the property had nary a neighbour in sight, and we couldn’t resist the opportunity for a secluded escape fromour city lives. Just bringing plumbing and electricity to the 800-square-foot cabin drained our pockets, so we finished the job by spraying the interior white (that old trick), then lapped up the views of the lake while revelling in the cottage’s rustic charm. Ten carefree summers later, our little family had become five nearly full-grown bodies, and our tiny cottage was testing our bohemian ideals. We needed walls and, frankly, an outhouse was no longer cutting it. We agonized over losing the cabin’s relaxed, beach shack sensibility, but we decided to take the leap and double its size by adding an 800-square-foot addition. The old cottage became one large great roomwith an open-plan kitchen and dining area, while the addition held three bedrooms and two — yes, two! — full bathrooms complete with deep, freestanding tubs. Inspired by a mashup of surf shack, safari camp and Dutch Colonial styles, we installed hard-wearing vinyl f loors that look like white oak and kept the rafters exposed. The extra height makes the rooms feel especially airy, and13 skylights f lood the cottage with light, even on the dullest days. When it came time to choose furniture and textiles, I stuck to materials such as rattan, wicker, unpainted wood and nubby linens that would cater to our swimsuit and barefoot aesthetic. As for the cabin’s original charm, that escape-from-it-all quality that inspired us to become cottagers in the first place? More square footage and f lushable toilets haven’t affected the vibe at all — this joint’s still got it in spades!