Photos by Steve Smith, VisionFire Studios
Imagine waking up each morning, walking down to the water with your cup of coffee in your hand. Your view, well, it’s of the prettiest water stretched out, still and calm before your bare feet. You hear the call of a loon, or maybe the call of your neighbour’s morning greeting. Or it’s the end of the day, the summer sun is setting, making the shadows lengthen out. The laughter rings out from somewhere across the lake, the rhythmic splash of paddles as a kayak almost silently glides by. Two lakes, two families, two different points in life, two houses with different stories to tell.
We’ll start on the quiet shores of Lochiel Lake, just a short drive from Antigonish, where you’ll find Rob Wolf puttering around his home perched at the end of the lake. On any given day, you might find Rob playing his guitar, writing a song, maybe out for a paddle on the lake or entertaining his sweet grandbabies. He’s been puttering around this land for the last 15 years but finally put a modular home on the property four years ago to replace the little cabin that has since been moved closer to the shore to become the ‘guest suite.’ Rob even lived on the edge of this lake prior to buying this land, so he knew the beauty of it before he purchased the perfect piece of land at the head of the lake.
After getting frustrated with trying to develop a design with architects and designers, he himself drew up a rough plan with the essentials elements he wanted and laid it out to suit the lay of the land. He ended up with his plan in hand at Stones Prestige Homes and he found them to be very accommodating in developing a home design that fit both him and lake living. And the best part? The custom plan they came up with was still less than going with a stick-built home. But going modular by no means is boring. In this case, Rob added some great features to make it a character-filled home.
The custom fireplace is topped with stunning reclaimed wood that Rob sourced for free long before he even had the house on the land. You never know just what an antiquing trip might unearth. The other stunning custom piece is the coral vanity in the bathroom made from an old dresser. And the mantle beam came out of an old schoolhouse. Rob said, “New stuff is nice but it doesn’t have the character that the old pieces have.” Rob’s time working with Pidgeon’s Auctions taught him an appreciation for the old stuff.
When a home is filled with bits and pieces that have meaning and good stories, it is then that it truly becomes home.
Even though Rob’s children have grown and moved around the globe, and his wife, Corrie, is still working in the city, this place, this lake draws them all back here. Each child has picked out their piece of land that they’ll build on when the time is right. Until then, there’s always the little cabin, which is usually everyone’s go-to place.
Now, we’re going to hop over to Shortt’s Lake, the hub of summer activity just outside of Truro. And we’re visiting with a busy household of four, the Lavers family.
This modern family home on the banks of Shortt’s Lake didn’t start out that way. The first structure, which was only one storey, belonged to Matt Lavers grandparents, so he grew up spending the hot summer weekends here. Way back then, it was red, like the business his grandfather ran, known as The Red Barn in North River, and it remains red to this day as a nod to that piece of family history.
Fast forward to 2003 when Matt and Amy moved here full-time. The cottage needed work, and as their family started growing, they needed room to expand. So before Noah was born, they did a major renovation to add the space they needed. Now this modern space is home to the four Lavers and is the perfect spot to just chill as a family or host a crowd.
Shortt’s Lake has the advantage of being close to the town of Truro, letting the Lavers family easily be involved in after-school activities and in the community, while still having the scenic, home-base to come to at the end of every day.
The summers are filled with memory-making activities on the lake. When asked what their favourite summer activity was, everyone had a few different answers. In fact, a family meeting was required to nail down all their favourites! Amy’s reply, “Morning coffees on the boat are my favourite, the water is usually calm and the lake is quiet.” The answers included swimming between friends’ rafts, kayaking, and the kids thought that waterskiing and knee boarding were way up there on the list. The most appealing sounds like night cruises where the kids bring sleeping bags and pillows on the boat to cozy up and watch the sunsets – this is lake living!
The house itself has a very modern feel to it. The long linear window that acts as a backsplash in the kitchen provides light while still masking the neighbours just beyond. As with any Maritime kitchen, it is the hub for the family. The kids grab a snack after a quick dip and catch up on the day’s news with Amy. A large pantry just off the kitchen allows them to have a fully functioning kitchen but keeps the clutter at bay.
Modern doesn’t mean uncomfortable or unwelcoming – all the seating areas have large, sink-into sofas that are perfect for a quiet catch-up for Matt and Amy over wine or full-on family snuggle fests. The mixture of classic antiques and modern pieces keeps the house from feeling sterile and cold, but offer forgiving surfaces for kids to play Lego, do homework or goof off together as siblings tend to do.
The outside areas are just as inviting. The Lavers have created lots of places to be together as a family whether they want to lounge in the sun, eat together in the shade or play on the skateboard-turned-swing under the tree. Amy’s green thumb keeps the yard looking amazing. The window boxes spill over along the front of the house to welcome guests and lots of flowerpots and flower beds keep the back of the house, which is seen from the lake, looking lively and colourful. There’s enough lawn for a quick game of catch between father and son, too. Not to mention the back yard that is the lake itself!
Since our North Shore summers are so short, we need to make the most of them and lake living on the banks of any Nova Scotia lake seems to be the perfect way to spend those lazy, fleeting days of summer.
What to look for in a lakehouse
With rapid climate change, purchasing waterfront property becomes more of a gamble for your investment. Shoreline erosion along our coastlines is increasing at an alarming rate. If you dream of owning that waterfront property but don’t want to see it vanish into the ocean inch-by-inch or foot-by-foot every season then maybe a lakefront property is for you.
There are still a few things to consider when building or purchasing an existing cottage or home at the lake. Here are a few tips from Truro Real Estate Broker and lake cottage owner Ken Warren.
Location Location Location – whether you are building or buying, make sure it’s the right place for you. Think about how much sun you will get during the day and what your view will be.
Deep Thoughts – many people love the lake because of boating. But what lies beneath that glistening veneer of still water can be surprising. Just as tides go in and out, water levels at the lake can go up and down during the season. You have to get to know your water and learn where the obstacles are that can wreak havoc on an outboard motor and cause a safety hazard for boat passengers.
Take the Test. Make sure that the water coming into the cottage or lake house is tested regularly. When the temperatures rise so does the risk of bacteria growth.
The Road to Relaxation. Make sure you know who is responsible for road maintenance. Is it a public road, is there a cottage association that shares the expense or are you solely responsible for the maintenance?
QUICK CHECK LIST
• A view of the lake
• Room for each family member to sleep comfortably
• A secure location to keep all the water toys
• Short-term accommodations for company to stay
• Comfortable spots to sit and lounge while taking in the view
• Room for kids to play safely
• Well-equipped kitchen for easy meal prep
• An outdoor dining area