Getting back to cottage country
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last summer on an island on Georgian Bay, Ont., helping Richardson and her husband, Alexander Younger, __transform an outdated 1950s bungalow into an inviting retreat for Sarah’s Rental Cottage, a six-episode mini series that started April 9.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.