“Cottage Addiction” is a thing … here’s how to prepare for it and embrace it

I think new cottages should come with a warning.

It’s like an itch that starts around noon on Thursday and turns into a full-on nervous tick come Friday.

You’ve gotta get out of these work clothes, out of the city and up to the cottage.

It doesn’t end once you get there. In fact, the addiction is just starting. Those lazy days in the sun, swimming off the back of the boat and having dinner on the deck with your family and some friends as the sun goes down … a couple of measly days at the end of every week just don’t cut it.

Next, you’re figuring out how you might be able to stretch your summer vacation into working from the cottage for a few days (or weeks if you’re lucky).

You don’t want to go back. You dread late Sunday.

And before long, you’re dreaming about never going back.

As in “every day is Saturday”.

And then a new countdown begins. The countdown to making the cottage your home.

We’ve seen this story play out over and over again. And because we’ve also spent decades building gorgeous homes for active retirees choosing to live in cottage country, we know a thing or two about great floor plans for that stage of your life.

So as we sit down to help our clients create their dream cottage, we help them look a little further down the road because done right and with the right floor plan, today’s cottage just might be home when you retire.

5 Ways to build a cottage you could call home one day:

The Cottage Office

Depending on your work and the flexiblity you have, the cottage office might help you transition from working from the cottage to full retirement. And for some, full retirement may never come. So why not have the best of both worlds and plan a room with a view that inspires? You really can have it all.

Embrace Single-Level Living

When it comes to designing a cottage you could retire to, first-floor living a must. Placing all of the essentials – like the master suite and laundry room – on the main floor means you’ll be able to skip the stairs and enjoy a cottage that carries you through your senior years with ease.

Of course, before you choose a floor plan that accommodates single-level living, you’ll want to ensure your property is accessible year round.

If your cottage will be situated at the end of a twisty, barely-there path, you’ll want to address access issues before building a cottage that’s designed for year-round use.

Look to a Loft or a Basement

Having all of your necessities on a single floor doesn’t mean friends and family have to crowd into a single level. If your site allows for it (and we find the best cottage sites along the water often do), a walk-out basement can give you the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to adding extra space to your single-level floor pan.

Extra bedrooms for guests, a recreational room and utility and storage spaces are all popular uses for walk-out basements in our cottages.

Another one of our clients’ favorite ways to add extra space to a home designed for single-level living is to add a loft into their vaulted ceiling. A loft space can double as a recreation room, media space or office and provide extra sleeping quarters. Plus, it will allow you and your guests to take advantage of gorgeous lake views.

Opt for an Open Floor Plan

Today’s open floor plans readily lend themselves to retirement living. Closed-off rooms that are difficult to access through narrow hallways and twisty turns have given way to wide-open floor plans that combine main gathering areas into a single, large space.

While modern, open plans have eliminated unnecessary hallways and doorways, if you would like to ensure wheelchair accessibility, we can expand walkways from their traditional 36 inches to 42 to 48 inches and boost doorway clearance to 36 inches.

Create a Custom Kitchen

Ask anyone where the busiest spot in their cottage is, and you’re probably going to hear “kitchen” in response. It’s the heart of the home. And, when a space gets that much use, you want to be doubly sure its designed right for ease of use and safety.

We’ll give you the opportunity to customize your kitchen from the top down. And, as you do, we’ll make suggestions that will help make your kitchen retirement ready.

Possible suggestions include multi-level countertops and custom features like pull-out steps and shelves, which can make a significant difference when you get a little older (and we all do).

Focus on the Details

Even if retirement seems like a long way off, it’s a smart move to go ahead and incorporate small touches that can enhance your cottage’s functionality in the future. We look at things like:

  • Installing adequate and uniform lighting. Having sufficient ambient lights, focused task lights and night lights becomes especially important as you age
  • Swapping out traditional door knobs for lever handles, which offer easier in-and-out access
  • Opting for a walk-in shower, low-rise tub, and taller toilets

The takeaway? Prepare for the addiction.

There’s a good chance today’s cottage will be tomorrow’s dream retirement. With a little foresight, you’ll be enjoying the Sunday sunset as everyone else races back to the city!

Cheers to that!

From “oh no!” to “oh wow!”: How the Woods dream home became a reality.

For four decades, Steve and Donna Woods spent lazy summer days at their family’s cottage in the Haliburton Highlands. They came for the lakes, trails, shops and welcoming culture, but most of all, they loved the laid-back vibe.

When it came time for the couple to retire, they knew there was nowhere else they’d rather be. But their cottage wasn’t suited to year-round living or aging in place, so they began looking into a custom build. They purchased a piece of property on 12 Mile Lake in Minden and designed their dream house.

Their must-have list:

  • amply-sized rooms,
  • an outdoor living area,
  • a walkout basement and
  • a master on the main floor

When they reached out to builders to price it out, their hearts sank.

“The numbers were astronomical,” Steve says. Donna adds: “There was no question that building was out of reach for us.”

Then, they visited our Port 32 community in Bobcaygeon, and everything changed.

“We stopped by the model home and immediately felt at home,” Steve says. “We walked around, got a feel of the floor plan and realized it was very similar to what we had designed. We were ready to just move to Port 32; then we discovered they had a custom-home building service.”

When it was time to talk numbers, Steve and Donna braced themselves for another letdown. But this time their surprise was a good one. “It was half of what we were quoted for the custom build from the other builders,” Steve says. “As soon as we heard the price, we got excited.”

Once they sat down with our design team, Steve and Donna’s enthusiasm continued. They chose The Bobcaygeon – a four bedroom, three-bath 1960 floor plan used in the model that included all of their “must-haves” and modified it to suit their lifestyle and tastes even more closely. (The original design called for brick, but the Woods wanted more of a cottage feel and craftsman style.)

We were a match. Quickly, the couple realized we cared as much as they did about getting things right. “Three days. That’s how long we spent going over all the details with Marshall Homes,” laughs Steve.

That’s not uncommon. That’s what our stress-free custom cottages and custom homes approach is all about: starting with a great plan and customizing it. It’s how we get to your ideal and avoid those jaw-dropping budgets.

A few feet here, a window there and a great big fridge…

During those three days refining the Woods’ home, much of the discussion centered around customizing the design. The couple loved the open concept in the original model but wanted to adjust a few areas in the main living area.

For starters, they wanted a larger dining room to accommodate an antique table. We bumped the house out an additional four feet in the front, and also shifted a pair of windows to frame the matching sideboard.

In the kitchen, the couple relocated the wall oven to the opposite side of the room and requested a side-by-side refrigerator freezer. We removed a small pantry to make room for the the larger appliance.

“With the addition of the refrigerator, the island had to be shifted down to accommodate the doors opening,” Steven explains. “It was the Sales & Decor Manager at Port 32, Georgina, who alerted us to that. Marshall Homes really nailed out the details.”

After removing the pantry, the couple knew they needed additional storage and serving space, so they removed a bathtub from a main floor bathroom to create room for a spacious butler’s pantry.

The couple made a few changes outside, as well. They planned to convert the screened-in porch portion of the home overlooking the lake into a sunroom but wanted to finish the project themselves. They also hoped to take on finishing lower level bedroom and adding granite to the fireplace surround.

“Marshall Homes is very flexible on a custom build,” Steve explains. “They’ll let you do as much or as little as you want.”

If you ask us, that flexibility is one of the things that sets us apart in the world of custom home builders. None of our clients are exactly the same, and we don’t think their houses should be either. That’s why we are committed to helping our clients fully customize their finishes.

“Georgina took time to source things out and get us pricing,” Steve says. “We looked at tons of samples, but there was no rushing at all on Marshall Homes’ end.” The couple says the crew who worked on their home was equally attentive and patient. “You could see they really took pride in their work.”

Now, with all of the design details and construction decisions behind them, the couple agree the experience was even better than they expected. “It was actually a ton of fun. There were a few bumps along the way, but Marshall Homes helped us through it all. Building a home should be an enjoyable experience, and it really was,” Steve says.

Donna agrees that building with Marshall Homes was fun, but living in a Marshall Homes house has been even better: “It’s a wonderful, relaxed and informal lifestyle. We sit out at night and have bonfires and enjoy the beautiful views of the forest, lake and wildlife. It’s everything we hoped for.”

407 ETR: Another reason to bet on the Kawarthas

Kawartha Region offers beauty, accessibility and strong investment potential thanks to rising property values.

The prettiest patches of fresh water you’ll ever see. The soothing call of the loon. Nothing but relaxation for miles around. Summer vacations in cottage country are the best. But, actually getting to a lakeside retreat can be a different story.

If you’ve ever hit the road on a Friday afternoon during cottage season, you know the misery that is Highway 400. For years, cottage owners craving the luxury lifestyle and social scene of the Muskokas have paid the price of crawling through a bumper-to-bumper procession for hours on end. (For Americans not familiar with the area, Muskoka is the Canadian equivalent of the Hamptons or Cape Cod.)


For many prospective owners looking to purchase a recreational property outside the GTA, the traffic snarls into the Muskokas have become a deal breaker—and one of the reasons why the Kawarthas are now the lakeside destination of choice whether you’re building your cottage dream house or settling into one of the new, luxury retirement homes in the area.

It’s no secret that the relative ease of heading into the Kawarthas has long made the area a better bet. But, now, an expanded road network is set to make the jaunt from the city to the cottage of your dreams — or the drive into the city from your retirement paradise in the Kawarthas — even better. That’s right, mind-numbing standstills are nearly a thing of the past. (Cue the Hallelujah Chorus.)

You’ll be going from desk to dock in record time

The Highway 407 project is responsible for the area’s improved accessibility. From downtown Toronto or the west end, soon you’ll be able to hop on the 407 and forget about traffic jams. Even with only the Highway 412 extension linking Highways 401 and 407 currently open, the escape from desk to dock (or back into the city) is already much improved. It’s a painless two-hour jaunt to or from the GTA. The impending connection of Highway 407 to Highway 115/35 (a four-lane highway) that is set to debut in the fall of 2019 will be another boon to the local commute.


(Note: While you can expect tolls on the new network of roads, if you’re located in Pickering and East-of-Toronto, you’ll benefit from lower tolls on the the provincially-owned 412 (and portions of the 407), as compared to the privately-owned 407 Express Toll Route.)

Not surprisingly, there is a clear correlation between the Kawarthas’ improved accessibility and rising property values. During the economic downturn of the last decade, it wasn’t unusual for properties to sit through a season or two. Today, the market is thriving, and the ease of access is just one factor behind the rising interest. Young families and retirees alike are being drawn in from Toronto and surrounding areas by the promise of lower costs of living combined with excellent services and a relaxed lifestyle. Likewise, Americans coming in to take advantage of the strong U.S. dollar and purchase recreational properties are also driving up demand.

And, it’s no wonder why the area is seeing a spike in popularity. Gorgeous scenery, a friendly vibe and an abundance of activities are the ideal trifecta for those searching for a vacation destination or year-round living. While the Kawartha region still maintains the simple feel of small-town life, it has just enough of a big city edge to stay interesting. In growing hotspots like Bobcaygeon, you’ll find shops and restaurants embracing the artisanal movement, along with entertaining options like festivals, fairs and concerts. Of course, opportunity for rural pursuits, like farmers’ markets, boating, fishing and snowmobiling area are always in abundance.


The Kawarthas’ intrinsic allure and improving accessibility make now the time to move—literally and figuratively.

If you’re looking at the Kawarthas as a place to build your next home or cottage, there are two opportunities you should know about:

Encore at Port 32

Thinking about retiring to the Kawarthas? Set on the shores of Pigeon Lake amidst one the Kawartha’s favourite towns — Bobcaygeon, we will be building 33 well appointed and impeccably finished homes in a park-like setting and an established community of happy, welcoming people that make for fast friends. We expect these homes to sell quickly so we advise signing up to get updates.


Building a Custom Cottage: 4 Reasons Why New Beats Old

Life is better at the cottage. No one knows this better than folks lucky enough to escape to the Kawartha Lakes. Whether you’re gathering with family and friends for a weekend of fun or escaping for a quiet respite where relaxation is the only thing on your agenda, this idyllic region, with its abundance of lakes and natural beauty, is the ideal getaway.If renting or borrowing a cottage is your usual go-to getaway plan when you head to the Kawarthas, there is one thing guaranteed to make your vacations even better: having a home away from home of your very own. But buying an existing cottage can come with a slew of issues, because, let’s be honest, old cottages come with old problems. That’s the bad news. The good news? You can create your own, new cottage with all of the benefits of a custom build and none of the hassle, stress and expense that typically comes with designing a home from scratch. Really.For more proof that building a new Marshall Homes cottage beats buying a pre-existing cottage every time, check out these the four realities of old vs. new cottages:

1. Older cottages need updating.

It’s true that an aging cottage can possess a certain charm, but even if the architecture appeals to you, old plumbing, electrical and heating systems probably don’t. In addition to the costly job of bringing these older systems up to date, replacing other worn out building features (think: insulation, roofing, and windows) can result in high, out-of-pocket expenses.

Besides the cost, let’s be real, you want to spend time enjoying your cottage, not fixing it. The last thing you want to be worrying about during a weekend getaway is replacing leaky pipes or old wiring. When you build new, you’re guaranteed quality, up-to-date materials; the only thing you’ll have to think about is whether to put up your feet and relax or seek out some family fun.

Besides the cost, let’s be real, you want to spend time enjoying your cottage, not fixing it. The last thing you want to be worrying about during a weekend getaway is replacing leaky pipes or old wiring. When you build new, you’re guaranteed quality, up-to-date materials; the only thing you’ll have to think about is whether to put up your feet and relax or seek out some family fun.

2. Newer cottages are more comfortable.

Because older cottages weren’t constructed with modern, energy efficient building techniques, they (and their inhabitants) are at the mercy of our challenging local climate where temperatures swing drastically from sweltering to freezing. The result? An uncomfortable living environment and sky-high energy bills. Relying on the latest in building innovations, Marshall Homes creates quality-built homes that respond efficiently to local climate challenges, thereby keeping you (and your wallet) comfortable, no matter the temperature.

3. Older cottages can’t be customized the way a new one can.

When you choose a pre-built cottage, it is what it is, unless you’re willing to take on expensive and time-consuming renovations. But when you build with Marshall Homes, you are in control. You’ll have the opportunity to add your own custom touches to one of our modern, livable floor plans up front. Love to cook and have a custom kitchen with specific features and finishes on your wish list? Need a basement to ensure plenty of space for family and friends? Want plenty of windows to usher in natural light and gorgeous views? Check, check and check. At Marshall Homes, we will work with you to create a custom cottage suited to fit your family, lifestyle, and budget without the hassle, stress, and cost of designing from the ground up.

4. Newer cottages can be built at your perfect location.

Whether your happy place is a stone’s throw from the lake’s edge or perched high on a hill overlooking a forest of pines, Marshall Homes can place your custom home there. No more need to compromise between the ideal property and a cottage that fits your family’s needs. When you build a new cottage, you can have your perfect property and your perfect cottage, too.Ready to start building memories? Let us help you create a cottage or home that you’ll be proud to own and share with friends and family for years to come.

Finding the perfect Kawartha Lakes cottage property

Searching for the perfect piece of land for your new getaway? Check out these tips to help you on the hunt through cottage country.

If you’re planning to build a Marshall Homes cottage in the Kawarthas, selecting the right cottage property is a vital step in ensuring the successful outcome of your project. For most, the dream of owning a cottage is as much about your surroundings as the cottage itself. A spot that makes you feel inspired, relaxed and at home is ideal.

But, the land you choose for your custom cottage must also meet a number of practicalities, such as location and site elements. Striking the right balance between convenience, beauty and cost, isn’t a simple task, but you can help narrow the field by keeping a few simple criteria in mind.

Read on for our best suggestions for finding a piece of land that you’ll love (nearly) as much as your new, Marshall Homes cottage and get our list of preferred Kawartha realtors to help jump start your search.


Imagine your ideal escape and create your checklist

Before beginning (or continuing) your hunt for a property, take time to build a springboard of search criteria.

Location, location, location

That’s real estate’s number one rule, right? So let’s start here.

One of the reasons we’re so bullish about the Kawarthas is access. While none of us is spared the snarl of traffic, the Kawarthas offers more routes and less traffic to beloved cottage towns and lakes than heading up on Hwy 400 to Muskoka.

And in the next couple of years, we’ll be zipping all the way to Hwy 115 on the newly extended 407 (a four lane highway) in no time. And guess what? That’s going to make your cottage property a whole lot more desirable in the coming years.

So where in the Kawarthas should you focus on?

When selecting the right spot for your future Marshall Homes cottage in the Kawarthas, it’s essential to balance your dream of a remote getaway with the practicalities of everyday life.

You’ll want to think of favourite cottage villages and towns that offer the kind of amenities and fun you envision. Also consider how far you want to drive. Weigh the pros and cons of a more remote property with any time restrictions you may have. Remote may work if you plan to spend weeks at a time at the cottage. Something closer may be more practical if you’ll be a weekend warrior.

Do you want to be right in your favourite cottage town? Or out-of-town?

You’ll want to consider access to public utilities, as well as drive-time to shopping and emergency facilities, such as hospitals and fire stations.

Likewise, factor in how much privacy you crave. Do you want a property with acreage or would you prefer a close, community feel? Determine your preference, then evaluate each site accordingly.

Look to your interests. Take a moment to envision your ideal cottage vacation. Do you spend your time boating, swimming, hunting or hiking? Consider how conducive each site is to your desired activities. If you prefer boating, a property with a dock or access to a local marina may fit the bill. If you love swimming or have children, a beachy spot along the shore might be a better fit. If a watery locale isn’t imperative, an off-water site can result in significant savings.

What kind of landscape do you envision?

To help narrow down a location in the Kawarthas, decide on the physical landscape you want to be surrounded by during your cottage escapes. Do you want an agricultural feel, forested, or is it the wild, rocky terrain of the Canadian Shield that you crave?

After you’ve settled on a landscape, create a checklist of site essentials. Is water access a must? Do killer views top your wish list? Are you looking for a sloped property to accommodate a walkout basement?

And, lastly, to keep each property’s pros and cons clear in your mind, take physical notes on the plusses and minuses while walking the property. After your visit, compare the notes against your checklist.

Here’s where a good Realtor can help

When you’re narrowing down the perfect property, a good local Realtor can be your best ally.

They may be able to show you properties with old cottages ready for tear-down.

They’ll know about properties going on the market … before they’re on the market. And they’ll be able to answer questions about technical practicalities such as …

Road Access.

While undeveloped land has a raw beauty that may make it appealing, it may also come with its own set of extenuating factors. A remote location can be a challenge during construction, making it tough (and costly) to deliver materials. It can also make accessing your cottage problematic in the winter months. If you plan on using the property during the winter, find out if the roads are maintained year-round.

Asking your Realtor the following questions will help you avoid having to dole out some serious cash for unexpected bills:

  • Is access to public utilities readily available?
  • Where will your water come from? If it’s a well, is it reliable and potable (drinkable)?
  • Are there any easements or right-of-way considerations that could limit the amount of property you can build on or keep you from accessing it at certain times of the year?
  • What is the topography of the land where you hope to place the cottage? Look carefully into whether you’ll need to take any erosion-control measures. Or, if your site is particularly rocky factor in the cost of excavating and preparing the ground for the foundation.

Bonus round: Here’s where we come in

Once you’ve purchased your property, our team will come in and assess your property including everything from zoning to septic tanks (if needed) and building permits. Need local approval? We’ll handle that as part of our custom package and fixed price commitment. It’s all part of our pledge to make custom easier for you.

So go with your gut. After considering the pros and cons of each site (refer to your notes, as mentioned in Tip #1), go beyond your checklist and reflect on the distinct character of each property. Like every person, each piece of land has a unique look and feel. Close your eyes and revisit each property in your mind. Which one stands out—makes you feel at ease and at home? Ultimately, building on a property that speaks to your heart, not just checks the spaces on your criteria list, will help make your Marshall custom cottage an even more perfect place to get away.