Ah, vacation: a chance to get away from it all so you can rest, relax and recharge. With so many weary wanderers looking for a place to catch up on their R&R, a spacious cottage on a tranquil lake should be booked up with vacation renters – but that wasn’t the case for one family’s run-down Muskoka property. To help them turn their aging cottage into a sought-after rental, real estate expert and contractor Scott McGillivray put his vacation house rules to work – and the results were totally Zen.
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Beloved, But Beleaguered
Located on Horseshoe Lake in Muskoka, Karen and Cody’s cottage had been in the family for forty years. Recently, the cottage was beginning to show its age and maintenance expenses were piling up – making it hard for the mother and son to imagine how they and their family could keep the property.
A Higher Standard
While the cottage’s Muskoka location was perfect for vacationers, the family had only been renting it occasionally to friends and relatives at a super-low $100-per-night rate. By using his first vacation house rule, “Do Your Research,” Scott found that three-bedroom properties in the area were renting for closer to $400 per night – if they met the area’s high standards.
A Chic Retreat
In order to demand superior rental rates, the cottage needed to be revamped to showcase its appeal as a chic, serene family cottage. With the help of designer Debra Salmoni and Scott’s second vacation house rule, “Plan Your Design,” the team used the $65,000 renovation budget to create a peaceful retreat complete with engineered hardwood flooring and shiplap walls for cozy dimension. To enhance the spa-inspired theme, Debra used a soothing colour palette of soft greys, blues and pinks throughout.
Light, Bright and Inviting
The kitchen is the cottage’s first impression to renters, so it was important to give it a new look and more user-friendly design to wow guests from the start. Using a clean, bright design with lots of light and white, Debra made the kitchen more inviting, while Scott’s team rearranged the layout (and fixed the ramshackle plumbing situation). They also added a dishwasher for guests’ convenience.
Finishing the Job
Because it had already been partially renovated, Scott and Debra were able to pick up where the family had left off in the bathroom. Instead of demolishing, the team was able to maintain and add on to the family’s investment by replacing the vanity and mirror and using design to create a cohesive, light-filled look that would appeal to renters.
No matter how nice your vacation home may be, it won’t get rented if it doesn’t get seen – hence Scott’s third rule, “Get Noticed.” The biggest draw to get the family’s listing attention is its stunning lakeside location – so Debra and Scott designed an outdoor area to play it up. For the cottage’s upper deck, they sourced elegant dining furniture, while a mix of lounge furniture, a pergola and a unique hammock made the lower dock irresistible.
Another big get-noticed draw – and key to the cottage’s Zen-like charm – was the new yoga studio. By cleaning up and upgrading the existing gazebo, the team easily added value and function to the outdoor space – while enhancing the property’s relaxation-ready appeal and marketing possibilities.
In the master bedroom, Cody and Karen were able to put some sweat equity into the renovation with a budget-friendly project. The family used Scott’s fourth rule, “Roll Up Your Sleeves,” to repurpose the old closet doors- painting the trim and adding a barn-wood application to give the doors more character and make them more attractive.
Before you can complete any vacation home renovation, it’s important to consider Scott’s final rule, “Be Your Guest” – and think of details that can enhance the overall experience for renters. One example? Friends and family on holiday want a comfy place to gather, so Scott repurposed the cottage’s oversized dining table and wraparound bench.
Light the Way
By thinking about the renter’s experience, Scott found another opportunity to enhance future guests’ stay: Outdoors, the stairs leading down to the lower party deck offer an incredible, serene view – but they can be hard to see when the sun goes down. To help, Scott installed solar lights down the railing. Who can’t use a bit of light after a few sunset cocktails?