NOT LONG AGO, even newly built cottages favoured a more traditional style, with lashings of gingerbread trim and smaller windows. The results were charming and cosy, but they also tended to be dark and disconnected from the landscape. So when a couple with grown children who had children of their own confessed to Margot Bell and Dasha Ricci of Peaks & Rafters that they were ready to replace their family cottage with a design that emphasized light as well as the rugged surroundings, the designers, who specialize in cottage properties, immediately understood. “This was a dream project for our clients,” says Dasha. “They wanted something more contemporary.” Since they gravitated toward a modern look, Margot suggested Toronto architect Peter Berton of +VG Architects, whose contemporary sensibility matched the dynamic spirit of the project. The new one-storey cottage on Muskoka’s Lake Joseph has a low profile that tucks under a canopy of trees and hugs the rocks. Peter calls it the “Bridge House,” a reference to the suspended Muskoka room that links the guest wing to the main cottage. To access the lake, one descends a stairway and passes underneath the room — a pathway that encourages a shift in mind-set. “It delineates a line between the urban life they’ve left behind and cottage life,” says Peter. “There’s a looking glass thing that happens, like you’ve crossed a threshold.” Margot points out that the walk is just as moving in reverse. “The cottage is equally beautiful when you walk up from the water,” she says. The interior’s expansive windows, complemented by natural materials and ample glazing, give the impression of being outside when indoors. “Even when it rains here, it’s bright without lights,” says Peter. “You can still see the lake — you can see everything.” A predominantly white palette enhances the effect and creates a loft-like gallery feeling, especially with the clients’ extensive art collection. The kitchen boasts sleek white, wood and steel cabinets from Italy, and contemporary and mid-century modern furnishings accent porcelain tile floors that have the look of polished concrete. “Contemporary style can be a little cool and daunting,” says Margot. “We tried to keep the warmth. Even though there’s steel and concrete, the cottage connects you to the outdoors and feels friendly.”Creating that feeling was key for the owners, who often entertain friends and family. “When they have a party, people f loat from the cottage to the patio to the boathouse,” says Margot. “The property is beautiful for that kind of easy summer entertaining.” Setting the mood is as simple as taking a stroll under the bridge.