Cover Story: Waves Of Colour
Designer Anne Hepfer turns a grand, old Muskokan cottage into a fun, vibrant family retreat
Photography By Virginia MacDonald
Muskoka cottages conjure images of wood, classic colour schemes, Canadiana inspired accessories and, often, all-out luxury. Vibrant hues are rarely part of the picture. But for one Connecticut family that summers in Ontario each year, their cottage is whimsical and fun, making for a truly unique destination. “One of my first questions to the client was ‘what is your favourite colour?’ says interior designer Anne Hepfer. “She said lime green and raspberry.”
The Toronto designer was thrilled with that unexpected answer, excited to match her client’s enthusiasm for something bold and a little bit different. Hepfer herself is known to love colour, her projects have graced several magazine pages and won many hearts on Pinterest with their bold mix of colour and pattern. And, as luck would have it, Hepfer had just returned from a trip to India where bold colour combinations are de rigeur.
RICH HISTORY & GEOGRAPHY
The setting for the project is beyond reproach; a six-bedroom island cottage in a prime location. “It’s one of those truly special places,” says Hepfer. The cottage is the only one on the 10-acre island and has sweeping views of the lake from the wraparound porch. It’s also a heritage building, rife with history and character that the family was keen not to erase, and in fact, spent four years restoring it. “There’s so much incredible history in these old cottages. There are stories coming out of the walls.
You don’t want to mess with that,” says Hepfer. She rescued much of the 19th-century cottage’s original character including all the fretwork in the living and dining room. “We layered geometrics and florals for a casual, fun, and whimsical style. It fits in with the age and style of the home.”
THE JOY OF COLOUR
And while the past was preserved, the project was very much about the future and creating new memories for the owners, a lively family who arrives each summer, with cats and dogs in tow, for two blissful months on the water. Hepfer used the owner’s favourite lime green for mod, tree-inspired chairs on the veranda, and on full-height drapes in the sitting area. Mixed with hot-pink cushions and bold, juicy prints, the rooms exude joy. It’s hard not to feel happy surrounded by all the summery colours. Hepfer used it to revive old furniture, too. The cottage came with several old rattan and wicker pieces, which she painted in watermelon pinks and watery blues. She left some natural, too, but livened them up with fresh prints on the seat cushions.
“This was a family who really wanted something unique and curated and layered. They love pattern and colour, a real joie de vivre style,” says the designer. And, why not? It is a vacation home after all. The dining room is where this effect really takes hold. A vintage dining set in aquamarine blue anchors the space, while an eye-popping chevron print on the curtains adds a layer of interest to the wall of tall windows. A similar zigzag shape reappears on the custom light fixture designed by Hepfer that uses porcupine quills to achieve its two-tone look. A plain, light-toned rug anchors the room. “We have a lot of pattern on the walls and textiles, so we didn’t need it on the floor. It lightens it up and acts as a clean canvas and landscape.”
FUN & FUNCTIONAL FEATURES
The look is very decorated but it’s also practical, something Hepfer and her team thought a lot about in this busy, family cottage. Area rugs in the dining and living rooms, for example, are actually large rubber mats by Bolon, which can handle a whole glass of spilled wine that can easily be soaked up with a sponge. The seat cushions are covered in easy-to-clean ultrasuede, and with large, loud family dinners in mind, the round, dining table on the porch has a built-in lazy Susan—small things that are true game-changers.
It’s hard to deny the almost retro feel of some of the spaces where the original wood panelling and wicker mixes with vintage hues and floor-to-ceiling drapes. It conjures up those great spaces of years gone by where every detail was considered—a nod to the past but with its feet firmly planted in the here and now. A bold mix of prints lends a layered yet uncluttered look, and the mix of custom, vintage and new furnishings blends into the spaces, as if they’ve always been there.
Most people wouldn’t take such risks when decorating a Muskokan cottage, but the result is one of those effortlessly cool spaces that, hopefully, inspires us all to think outside the box in our own homes to make them truly special backdrops to the better things in life.
SOURCES MASTER BEDROOM HEADBOARD & BEDSKIRT FABRIC: Lulu DK; SCONCES: Restoration Hardware; EURO SHAMS: Pottery Barn; WICKER CHAIR: Vintage; SCREENED PORCH DINING TABLE: Anne Hepfer; DINING CHAIRS: Janus & Cie; CHANDELIER: Pieces Inc.; LIVING ROOM CURTAIN FABRIC: Robert Allen; AREA RUG, SOFA: Anne Hepfer Designs; SOFA FABRIC: Designer Fabric Outlet; WICKER CHAIR: Vintage; WICKER CHAIR FABRIC: Kravet Lee Jofa; PINK WICKER CHAIR: Vintage; COFFEE TABLE: Oomph; TABLE LAMP: Arteriors; Opposite end of LIVING ROOM CURTAIN FABRIC: Robert Allen; SECTIONAL: Anne Hepfer; SECTIONAL FABRIC: Designer Fabric Outlet; PINK PILLOW FABRIC: Ashley Hicks; DINING ROOM CURTAIN FABRIC: F. SCHUMACHER; AREA RUG: Bolon; DINING TABLE & CHAIRS: Vintage; CHANDELIER: Anne Hepfer Designs; ENTRY CONSOLE: Oly; TABLE LAMPS: Bungalow 5; CUBES: Anne Hepfer Designs; MIRROR: Currey & Co; RUG: Zara Home; VERANDA SOFA: Vintage; SOFA BACK PILLOWS: Quadrille; WICKER CHAIRS: Vintage; WICKER CHAIR FABRIC: Quadrille
Catherine Sweeney is a Toronto-based writer and editor who focuses on art, design and architecture. She has worked for numerous publications including House & Home, Designlines and Azure.