Scott McGillivray is used to helping others achieve their vacation rental dreams with his hit HGTV Canada series, Scott’s Vacation House Rules.
Now, follow along as Scott and his wife Sabrina, with a little help from their daughters and designers Debra Salmoni and Giselle Bullin, transform their own Kawartha Lakes property into a family home with infinite income potential. It’s a big job: there are three cottages, a boathouse, a playhouse and a vacant lot to redo – all on a $600,000 budget! Check back in each week to see even more stunning photos as the renovations continue.
A New Event Space
Scott and Sabrina didn’t just want to improve upon the boathouse structure they inherited with their Kawartha cottage compound—they wanted to increase the value (and rental value) by as much money as possible. Creating this new boathouse deck was key to that. With a new waterproof membrane flooring and secure, sight-saving safety rails intact, they were able to create the ultimate entertainment zone for cottage and event renters alike.
A Boathouse Kitchen Space
Seriously, this space has everything you’d need to entertain anywhere from 50 to 70 people, including a decked-out kitchen. Scott repurposed what was there and updated with new paint where applicable, transforming this space into a warm and welcoming one that adds overall value to the rental cottages as well. (Not to mention convenience for those using the space during their vacay!)
A Convenient Bathroom
Yep, those conveniences also extend to the boathouse bathroom, which got a fresh coat of paint and a few key design details courtesy of Debra and Giselle. We particularly love how they roped the support beam to give it that nautical feel, while the dark black finishes on the wall are perfectly on-theme with the rest of the design. Scott and co. used more than 100 cans of black spray paint on this one!
Adding Those Extras
Yes, this boathouse is functional for those looking to park a boat or their jet skis on the new wet slips, but it also serves as the perfect storage spot for water sports and fishing. Here, Scott and Sabrina decked out the area with paddleboards and life jackets, helping to spark potential renters’ imaginations in terms of how much fun they’ll have at this all-inclusive rental spot.
Extending The Space
Let’s not forget the side of the boathouse, which was once a barren no-man’s land of wasted space. Thanks to the addition of a staircase and two folding doors that open directly to the boathouse itself, renters can now directly access the beach from this addition. Add in extra seating and an area to take in those gorgeous views, and it’s no wonder Scott and Sabrina can now charge renters $850 per night during a short-term stay.
A Luxe Stay at the Beach Cottage
Who says an Ontario cottage can’t have a beachy feel? Scott fans know he’s all about creating a theme with his vacation rentals, and his property is no exception. In this first cottage renovation, he and Sabrina decided to go for a full-on beach theme, beginning with this freshly updated exterior with full views and a sun-soaked balcony.
A Welcoming Stay
Before, the entrance to the beach cottage was a little dull. However, thanks to this new portico that Scott constructed, the entrance is clear and beautiful. It’s also meaningful: a white pine tree was leaning into the property and had to come down before it crushed the building during a storm. Scott then used that wood to create the portico, leaving the tree on the very land from which it came.
Space For the Whole Family
In this main living room redesign, Debra and Giselle went all-out with the blues and water vibes to truly make this space feel like a beach house. For his part, Scott created that beachy atmosphere with an updated floor and a fresh coat of white paint on the ceiling. He also painted the pre-existing cabinets and stone fireplace to give it a fresh and updated feel without dipping too deeply into his budget.
Scott always tells us that renters should be able to find anything they need in a kitchen quickly and easily, and he appears to have stuck to that cardinal rule here. There are open shelves and plenty of storage space, not to mention a long island for congregating and snacking at. Our favourite addition has to be the custom range hood, however, which Scott made himself.
Related: Keeping Up With Scott McGillivray
Given that families and friends will congregate for a good meal at the dining table, it made sense to give renters a gorgeous view of the water with all of those large windows. The beach theme continues on the decor level with the soft woods and coastal accents, like the chandelier. Last but not least, the covered porch features even more seating, making this an ideal entertaining space.
A Primary Retreat
In the newly finished primary bedroom, Scott and Sabrina created a resort-like vibe with the wainscoted walls and dreamy blue feature wall. Add in a chandelier for elegance, night tables for function and freshly painted walls and ceiling, and this is an image we’d totally conjure up when thinking about a pretty beach house bedroom.
Bonus Ensuite Space
Before the renovation, the primary bedroom had a small ensuite but it wasn’t exactly an Instagram-worthy space. By taking out an unnecessary closet and extending the space, however, Scott and Sabrina were able to expand the shower (complete with those beach-themed tiles) and install a dual vanity. Now this is vacationing in beach luxury!
Heads in Beds
Bunk beds are always a fun and practical addition to a vacation rental thanks to another one of Scott’s vacation house rules: you want to put as many heads in beds as possible to up your rental potential. Here he crafted a bunk bed that’s cool, space-saving and functional, resulting in a space that most kids would love to sleep in for a few nights.
A Double Take
Sure, Scott and Sabrina could have put in a queen bed in this third bedroom, but from a rental perspective, it makes more sense to have two smaller beds to accommodate more potential situations. As for the décor, we love the water-inspired feature wall and the nautical knot artwork, which ties in beautifully with the bedspreads and pillows below.
A Fully Realized Beach House Retreat
Last but not least in the beach house is this gorgeous bathroom transformation, which is the epitome of a spa-like vacation. The large soaker tub and calming blue finishes are perfectly on-theme with the beach vibe, while gold accents add that extra hit of luxury you probably don’t have at home. The result? A beautiful cottage rental that can go for $800 per night during the high season. It’s just the beginning of what’s to come as Scott and Sabrina continue their Own Vacation House transformation.
A Brand New Playhouse
The old playhouse was swell, but Scott and Sabrina wanted a space that was slightly larger. Not only is this new building full of fun potential for renters who are bringing kids along, but it’s also a space where the couple’s own children can hang out in. With the bright colours and a fun life-size chessboard addition, this is the stuff that dream family vacations are made of.
Serving Up a Dream Vacation
Inside, there’s a play kitchen complete with a coffee bar that’s full of fun personality. That’s probably because Sabrina—a teacher—took the lead on this design. The shelves are stocked with play food to spark tons of imaginative play, while the window coverings and awning add an extra fun design element that parents will love, too.
One of the reasons Scott and Sabrina decided to build a new playhouse was to incorporate a second-floor loft where kids can hang out. Not only is this lofty space well-lit thanks to the small window and A-frame ceiling, but it’s cozy, too. Here kids can play games, read books or enjoy a bit of downtime when the weather turns or they’ve had a long day.
Incorporating Those Daily Routines
In the powerhouse, Scott and Sabrina worked with an empty lot on their property to create this dual-function space. Here is the gym portion of the renovation, complete with a cardio machine, some free weights and a gym-friendly floor where guests can escape the bustle of their regular lives without having to forego some of their healthier routines.
Mixing Business and Pleasure
The other half of the powerhouse is dedicated to those who may have to check in with work or do a conference call or zoom meeting while they’re away. By adding a small office with a nice background for video calls, the McGillivrays are ensuring potential renters can stay for longer. Meanwhile, a hidden Murphy bed along the wall serves as that bonus bit of sleeping space for those times renters need an extra bed.
A Dramatic New Rental
The second cottage on the McGillivray’s new property gave off major lodge vibes, so Scott and Sabrina decided to go with it. That meant transforming this rental with dark, dramatic finishes from the inside out. You get a feeling for the property as soon as you come upon it, thanks to a few key landscaping details, like the snowshoes in the window or the bear and owl statues in the garden bed.
A Light-Filled Retreat
Inside, Scott and Sabrina opted for a space that’s bathed in natural light thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows and the A-Frame design. Above, they gave the ceiling a dark coat of paint that complements the new dark trim and installed faux beams for an extra dramatic look. But it’s about upcycling too—those armchairs? They were already on the property, but Debra and Giselle reupholstered them so they fit right in.
Playing With Colour in the Kitchen
This would be a luxurious kitchen in any home, never mind a cottage rental. But that’s kind of the point of a retreat, right? The dramatic island, sleek cupboards and large range add design appeal, while the black accents continue throughout on the window trim and beam board, above. There’s plenty of space to cook and entertain in, making this a kitchen you can definitely spend an extended period of time in.
Taking it Outdoors
Everyone knows the bugs can be a real nuisance in Ontario, plus sometimes you just want to take in a gorgeous view when it’s a little chilly outside. Those are some of the reasons Scott and the team created this practical but pretty Muskoka Room, where guests can dine and chat while staying warm and cozy. After all, if you’re going to break bread at a cottage, you may as well do it in an awesome, sunset-filled space.
A New Firepit
Out back, Scott transformed what used to be an unusable space by clearing it out and building this relaxing firepit, complete with Muskoka chairs and “side tables.” It’s just another polished finish on this luxe lodge, which the McGillivrays can now rent out for an impressive $850 per night during the high season.