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I’m a romantic when it comes to cottages. I don’t care if they’re on a beach or a rocky shore line. For me, cottages work when they feel like a retreat. A beautifully designed space that takes advantage of what nature has to offer – that’s perfection.

Even the simplest building can be charming. If living on or near the water is one of your dreams, take a look at what I think is the best of classic Canadian cottage design.

Toronto-based architect Peter Higgins specializes in high end residential architecture. A multi-talented guy who grew up in a large family, Peter gets how people really live. He and his wife have raised four kids. He understands how to build a retreat that will stand the test of time. His cottages are luxurious and soulful. I love his work in the city (Peter designed a reno of our home many years ago) but it’s his cottages that I can’t take my eyes off.

It’s all about a mix of natural materials and beautiful details.

Peter’s work captures the best of old Muskoka style. Many of his cottages have beautiful wide decks and screened-in porches. He’s fond of designing square pillars.

Take a close look at the detail in his porch railings.

Some of the most stunning cottages are built close to the shoreline. Owners often use the grandfathered footprint, which allows them to tear down an old building or boathouse and rebuild on the same site. It makes for an incredible view – particularly when you’re on an island. Can you imagine having your morning coffee here?

A dark facade often blends right into landscape around it. The trim work sets off the details.

Nailing down these details gives a cottage that one-of-a-kind appeal. There’s a common thread in Peter’s work, but no two cottages are the same.

I love to see a cottage that’s been designed to slip into the existing pattern of trees and rock.

Is there anything better than sleeping above a boathouse?

This cottage takes us back to the simplicity of the turn of the century. Even the colours are classic.

The perfect bunkie! What a great light on the tree.

The window design, roof lines and trim make such a difference in a well-designed cottage. This is where an architect’s expertise really pays off.

The colour of this cottage looks like it was pulled from the patina on the rocks.

Repetition of the window detail really works in this design.

One day I hope to hire Peter to build my family a dream cottage. (I guess I need a great piece of land first!) If you’re on one of the big three Muskoka lakes this summer, see if you can pick out Peter’s work. We rented a cottage on Lake Joe for many years. Checking out cottage eye candy was a cherished pastime of mine. I later discovered Peter had designed most of my favourites.

In a future post, I’ll show you some stunning contemporary cottages in Canada. Until then, if you’d like to see more of Peter Higgins’ work, check out his website here.