WHEN ELTE’S KEN AND RENEE METRICK FINALLY DECIDED TO EMBRACE COTTAGE LIVING, THEY BUILT A CONTEMPORARY RETREAT THAT’S AS PERSONAL AND POLISHED AS THEIR ICONIC STORES.
IF IT'S RARE TO FIND a family that can work together, it’s rarer stillto find one that, atthe end of a long workweek, can’t waitto getto the cottage to spend more time together. Ken and Renee Metrick and their sons, Andrew and Jamie, are the third and fourth generation of Metricks overseeing Elte,the wildly successful Toronto-based home decorating juggernautfounded by Ken’s grandfather 100 years ago in 1919.Almost a century later, in 2015, the family expanded its refined sensibility withElte Mkt, a sister brand focused on affordable luxury. The Metricks also own kitchen and bath retailer, Ginger’s. To putit mildly,the Metricks are devout city dwellers. “We’re not cottage people,” says Ken. “Summer for us was tennis and then dinner on the patio at one of our favourite restaurants in Little Italy.” Renee adds, “We used to rationalize it saying, ‘The city’s so great in the summer — there’s no one here!’” Elte was also a large part of what keptthem far from cottage country. Renee, who was Elte’s principal buyer for years, says they’re a family of workaholics with Ken, especially, living and breathing the business. Then there’s the factthat retail — like everything else — has changed over the years. “What used to be working five days a week is now seven days a week,” she says. “We never thought we could own a cottage. We were retailers and that meant always being available. Plus, we travel allthe time for work.” The idea of a family retreat outside the city eventually became more appealing when their two sons grew to take on more responsibility at the company (Andrew is the principal furniture buyer and Jamie handles the buying of rugs and broadloom). “Occasionally, we’d visit our friends at their cottages and see what a wonderful life it was,” says Renee. “And with better technology, we realized we’d still be able to work at a cottage if we needed to.” So she and Ken looked at places in Prince Edward County and Niagara-on-the-Lake, butthey were daunted by the drive. Then they found it: a northwest-facing waterfront property on Muskoka’s Lake Joseph that was less than a two hours’ drive from Toronto. Ken and Renee hired Kelly Buffey of Akb Architects to design the cottage. They appreciated her clean-lined style and meticulous approach. Their idea was a warm contemporary take on cottage living with a spa-like ambience. “We envisioned pods,” says Renee. “One for us and one for our kids off a central hallway.” The cottage would be a one-level structure made up of interconnected wood and glass units, designed to both naturally recede into the landscape and celebrate it by beautifully framing the magnificent views. Fitting like a puzzle piece into the lot, one side ofthe cottage would face the forest,the other, rocky terrain, and yet another would offer unobstructed vistas of Lake Joseph. To begin, Ken and Renee walked the site with Kelly, who examined its angles and where the light fell at different times of the day. “Our priority was to locate the pods to capture the best and longest views from each one through the bay and beyond,” says Kelly. The finished cottage is all about wellconsidered details. The metal-clad roof has a deep overhang that creates shade while enhancing privacy. Inside, walls and ceilings are wrapped in Thermory ash, an ash that’s been baked to give it a deeply ingrained hue. The interior decoration continues the minimalist outlook to a degree that’s surprising for a family in the home decorating business. There’s no artwork on the walls and very little colour. “I wanted itto be spa-like — serene, without a lot of clutter,” says Renee. Every bedroom has the same beds and linens; every bathroom has the same vanities and sinks. “It’s very us. We’re aware ofthe beauty of simplicity. We all dress simply, in neutraltones and primarily in black.” When the family, which now includes Jamie and wife Heather’s nine-month-old daughter, Zena, gathers atthe property, most days are whiled away on the boathouse dock where lounge chairs are lined up to look atthe lake. “As soon as we get up in the morning, we go down there, put on coffee, sit on the dock and enjoy the views,” says Renee. “After building allthis, we spend our entire time in this six- by eightfoot corner,” says Ken with a laugh. But keeping it simple has always been part ofthe strategy. “For us, it’s aboutthe serenity and peace,” says Renee. “By the time we hit Barrie, the sense of calm justtakes over. Within five minutes of being here, we relax.” Renee remembers friends saying, “You don’t want a cottage; it’s so much work,” but these urbanites have absolutely no regrets. “Honestly, it’s the bestthing we’ve ever done.”
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