A cottage on a Canadian isle is both home and homage to its collection-minded owners.
Like the well-loved books in its library, this house perched on an island just a five-minute boat ride from the Nova Scotia peninsula tells a story—of collections, of memories, of lives well-led. “The homeowners are huge collectors,” designer Philip Mitchell says. “They love original Canadian artworks, soapstone sculptures, Inuit weavings, antique decoys. They love craft.”
That affinity for beautiful works, fine detail, and handtouched artisanship flows through their new home on Gooseberry Island.
“Before they bought the property, it was almost like a summer camp: cottages and a turn-of-the-20th-century boathouse,” Mitchell says. “They were excited to move it forward while respecting its history.”
First, they protected the island’s 70-plus acres of Acadian forest by putting it into a land trust, and they restored existing
THE HOMEOWNERS ARE HUGE COLLECTORS. THEY LOVE CRAFT.”
—designer Philip Mitchell
structures. Then they worked with Mitchell to build a new home that they can enjoy year-round.
“We were inspired by the other cottages and used architectural details like beaded board and reclaimed plank flooring that speak to that,” Mitchell says. “But we also made the home live for today. Comfort was a key factor.”
From the first step inside, the home feels at once intimate and airy—thanks to one of Mitchell’s design tricks. He built the foyer up three steps from the rest of the house, giving it a cocooning scale and a bird’s-eye view. “You look over the living room furniture to the ocean,” he says. “It’s really lovely.”
In the living room, pretty fabrics play off classic stained wood, ceramics, and a fireplace surround crafted of beach stone reclaimed from the property. Blue, the homeowners’ favorite color, gently swells like the ocean waves against a backdrop of white and cream that embraces paintings ranging from traditional works to modern abstracts.
Both the blue hues and the wood tones intensify in the adjacent dining room, which also opens to the kitchen. “I wanted it to feel warm and intimate but still have the same flavor as the rest of the house,” Mitchell says.
Stained walnut accentuated by navy grass cloth creates a cozy vibe for dining. The grass cloth continues the home’s blue-and-white color story with a twist in saturation. “It’s a nice pop between the kitchen and living room,” Mitchell says. “With all the rooms open to each other, it was important that they feel cohesive but each have its own character.”
An envelope of white keeps the kitchen light and airy while bright blue paint on the island provides happy energy. An overhead rack keeps the homeowners’ collection of pots and pans in easy reach. “This is a home full of beautiful things, but nothing feels precious,” Mitchell says. “It’s always welcoming.”
Detail is everywhere, including on the hand-carved corbels on the range hood and in the ship-inspired beamed ceiling in the library. “We have an amazing ship-building history on Nova Scotia and amazing local craftsmen,” Mitchell says. “Almost everything in this house was made by hand on the island.