Get­ting back to cottage coun­try

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - By Karen Turner

TOMMY Smythe is no fan of cot­tages, wob­bly docks or blood­thirsty mos­qui­toes, but that didn’t stop the Toronto city slicker from fol­low­ing fel­low designer Sarah Richard­son to a re­mote is­land to do an­other HGTV makeover show. “I love the adventure of it,” says Smythe, who spent six weeks last sum­mer on an is­land on Ge­or­gian Bay, Ont., help­ing Richard­son and her hus­band, Alexander Younger, __­trans­form an out­dated 1950s bun­ga­low into an invit­ing retreat for Sarah’s Rental Cottage, a six-episode mini se­ries that started April 9. “We can turn any­thing into some­thing fun.” Smythe has been Richard­son’s quirky side­kick since her first TV show De­sign Inc. aired 13 years ago. But Sarah’s Rental Cottage is a re­u­nion of sorts. The duo haven’t been to­gether on cam­era for more than 2? years. “The weirder the chal­lenge, the more we want to do it,” says Richard­son, 43, who cred­its Younger for com­ing up with the idea of re­mod­elling a rental cottage. About seven years ago the cou­ple ren­o­vated their fam­ily sum­mer home on Ge­or­gian Bay for HGTV Canada’s Sarah’s Cottage. “He started this whole mess ... It was a last-minute idea in July that came to­gether quickly. We had to have it shot by Labour Day,” says the Gemini-win­ning TV host and mother of two dur­ing a re­cent phone in­ter­view from Toronto. In the end, tap­ing didn’t wrap up un­til the first week of Oc­to­ber, which was still a huge ac­com­plish­ment con­sid­er­ing ev­ery inch — in­side and out — of the three-bed­room cottage was given a fresh up­date and all the ma­te­ri­als had to be de­liv­ered by barge. “I still have all my fin­gers,” quips Smythe, who rolled up the sleeves of his trade­mark plaid shirt to help Richard­son paint, build and dec­o­rate ev­ery room in the rustic, off-the-grid cottage. With lit­tle time to spare, Richard­son says work was di­vided into two groups: the “Depart­ment of In­te­ri­ors,” which she and Smythe over­saw and the “Depart­ment of Ex­te­ri­ors” headed by handy Younger, who tack­led all of the out­door up­grades, in­clud­ing the con­struc­tion of a deck for watch­ing the sun­set, clear­ing trees to ex­pand the wa­ter views and re­plac­ing rot­ten beams and wood cladding. “It had to be all things to all peo­ple,” says Smythe of the re­mod­elled cottage, which fea­tures bright, open living spa­ces with white vaulted ceil­ings, a fully equipped kitchen ideal for en­ter­tain­ing and a screened porch for en­joy­ing the sur­round­ing na­ture with­out be­ing eaten by bugs. “In­vest­ing of your­self is ex­cep­tion­ally re­ward­ing,” says the HGTV star, who started her ca­reer as a prop stylist in 1994. She now hosts and pro­duces sev­eral HGTV shows, runs her own Toronto-based com­pany, Sarah Richard­son De­sign, and has cre­ated a sig­na­ture col­lec­tion for Kravet Fab­rics, sta­tionery for Hall­mark and a cus­tom up­hol­stered fur­ni­ture line. What makes Smythe and Richard­son so fun to watch is their shows are un­scripted and no mat­ter what ob­sta­cles — bad weather, de­sign dis­agree­ments or back-or­dered back­splash tiles — are thrown at them, they keep laugh­ing. “We love de­sign. We just roll with it,” Richard­son says. Sarah’s Rental Cottage airs Thurs­days on HGTV.

Tips for buy­ing/dec­o­rat­ing a rental cottage 1. Lo­ca­tion is key. Richard­son says you can change ev­ery­thing about the struc­ture, but you can’t change where the cottage is lo­cated. 2. Look for good bones. New win­dows, roof and wiring are all big-ticket up­grades. “You don’t need to spend money on things that peo­ple won’t no­tice,” she says. 3. Spend wisely. Smythe says that doesn’t mean buy­ing the cheap­est ma­te­ri­als or fin­ishes, but you also don’t have to splurge on 1,500-thread-count Egyptian cot­ton sheets. When it comes to a cottage rental re­mem­ber: “They’re here for a good time, not a long time,” he says. 4. Be prac­ti­cal. Choose durable fur­ni­ture and easy-to-clean fab­rics. “Noth­ing should be pre­cious,” says Richard­son. 5. Think like a renter. Richard­son says to ask your­self what you’d want in a rental. “For me, it’s comfy beds and nice sheets,” she says, adding, “and a fully equipped kitchen.”

6. Pray for good weather.


A new screened porch al­lows renters to en­joy the sur­round­ing na­ture with­out be­ing bit­ten by bugs.

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