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Cottage Collaboration: The Log Home That Brought 3 Housing Experts Together

A custom home designer by trade, it’s no surprise Ian Robertson has a knack for seeing the potential in blank spaces. Creating floor plans for beautiful, functional homes from nothing more than an empty canvas and a collection of ideas is his thing.

But his honed sense of vision doesn’t just kick in at the drafting table. It works on pieces of overgrown land, too.

After searching for property on which to build a family cottage for about two years, Ian and his wife, Elaine, came across an neglected lot with a dilapidated shack on the shores of Haliburton Lake. Something clicked.

“After renting cottages for ten years, we were ready to build a place of our own,” he explains. “I could see beyond the overgrown trees and teardown of a building.”

His vision included a part rustic, part contemporary cottage that relied on logs for the main shell and transitional finishes and furnishings. “We liked the idea of the logs because we wanted that rustic, cottage feel,” Ian says. Though he had been in the building business for 15 years, Ian had never worked with logs before. So, he headed straight for the experts. (Pardon our humble brag, but that’s us.)

Ian first came across Confederation when he began his search for property two years prior. “I had made an initial inquiry with one of the sales reps and was really impressed. They spent a lot of time answering our questions,” Ian says. “They educated us on the product, and you could tell they actually wanted to be helpful. They weren’t just trying to make a sale.”

With his vision in mind, Ian drew up his plans and presented them to our design team. “There was a lot of communication back and forth,” explains Brad Stuart, one of our log and timber frame consultants. “We went through the same process with Ian that we go through with every customer. Our goal is always to understand what’s most important to the customer—what their wants and needs are—and to bring those concepts to completion.”

Our VP, Rich Kinsman adds: “Whether you come to us with a blueprint or something scribbled down on a napkin, the process is the same. We’re here to help you achieve the home of your dreams.”

The collaboration between Ian and the design team was seamless.

“They were able to tweak the plan here and there to make it work for us,” Ian says. Most of the changes hinged on keeping the project within budget. “Confederation was really good about making sure our ideas came to fruition while still sticking to a budget,” Ian says. “If we needed to knock off five or ten thousand dollars, Confederation found a way to do it without compromising design.”

For example, the design team helped Ian pare down the size of the cottage without losing usable space and suggested using conventional framing rather than roof trusses. In the end, the final design is a hybrid with a main log structure and a wood frame with siding above.

Throughout the home, open spaces reign—thanks to the easy-flowing floor plan and an abundance of vaulted ceilings. The logs give the home its rustic vibe while contemporary touches include beams wrapped with trim, drywall accents and black window trim, cabinetry, and light fixtures.

Equal parts rustic and refined, the cottage was the perfect retreat for the Robertsons. After moving in on Canada Day, the couple and their kids spent the rest of the summer reconnecting. Only in the early morning hours, before the sunshine rose over the trees and began to spread across the lake, was all quiet. Soon, the tunes of everything from The Tragically Hip to Taylor Swift filled the air — the sign the fun, and the bustle, was about to begin.

On a typical day, the family would gather for a relaxing breakfast then head outdoors to play frisbee on the lawn, swim from the dock, and explore the lake via paddle board or kayak. In the evening, everyone came together for dinner and a little friendly competition. “Cards and monopoly are favorites around here,” says Ian.

Enter the veteran realtor

At summer’s end, on a whim, Ian posted the home for sale online. “We just wanted to check the status of the market,” he says. Turns out, the person who came across the listing immediately, Peter Vandendeool, has the same knack as Ian Robertson for seeing the potential of a place. Peter could envision his family—grown children and grandchildren—spending days lounging in the sun and playing in the water.

The fact the home was Confederation built — “He was aware of Confederation’s reputation of quality,” says Ian — and the fact the cottage was turn-key sealed the deal for Peter. They closed the sale less than a year after the home was completed.

Despite only getting to spend a single summer in the home, Ian isn’t disappointed. “I already have a plan for another one in my head — something with more of a timber frame feel this time — and I will totally choose Confederation again.”