BY LINDA MONDOUX
Cash is great. But winning a dream home is even better, especially if it’s in sought-after Muskoka, the heart of Ontario’s cottage country.
That’s what the folks at the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation have learned firsthand, which is why a million-dollar post-and-beam Muskoka cottage is among the top prizes in the fundraising giant’s Welcome Home Sweepstakes
for cancer research.
“A lot of people’s dream is a cottage,” says Christine Lasky, the foundation’s vice-president of strategic initiatives. “The Welcome Home Sweepstakes is all about brand-name locations. And Muskoka is definitely a brand name.”
This is the third year of Princess Margaret’s Welcome Home lottery — the foundation switched from a cash-and-cars giveaway — and there are more than $10 million in prizes to be won in the latest instalment, which is already more than 70-per-cent sold.
The “headliner” is a $3.6-million mansion in Oakville — it comes fully furnished and with $25,000 cash, which can help to pay moving costs, utility bills and taxes. “This breathtaking 6,500-square-foot home is as exquisite as its location,” Princess Margaret describes the house on its website. “Inspired by vacation homes in the Hamptons, no detail was overlooked by Lynda Reeves and the House & Home design team.”
However, it’s the fully furnished 1,931-square-foot Muskoka cottage on Bass Lake, valued at $1,135,000 — plus a $10,000 cash bonus — that is winning the hearts of ticket purchasers. The cottage, located at 1143 Kendon Road in the Township of Muskoka Lakes, is several hundred votes ahead of the Oakville mansion in the foundation’s “Vote for your favourite” online feature.
“This would be a dream come true for anyone,” writes Donna M., who cast her vote for the Muskoka cottage. “Bass Lake is just beautiful, and this is certainly a cause worth supporting.”
Others wrote about creating memories at the cottage, where family and friends play a starring role.
'Five generations would have a place to enjoy fun times and make memories'
“Winning and then taking possession of this home will be a life-changing event for me, “ writes Mini J. “Hosting family and friends at this beautiful and stunning cottage will help me to achieve one of my Life Goals ...”
“My favourite memories of youth were spent in Muskoka,” writes Beverly H. “A wonderful place to retreat to from hot, city weather. Friendships made have lasted a lifetime.”
“... This is a wonderful prize, it would be a special place to nurture family, restore mind and soul and to reflect on how fortunate we all are,” writes Deborah A. “Whoever wins this, congratulations! Enjoy. Indeed may this effort make a difference in fighting cancer.”
“Beautiful. Perfect style for a Muskoka home overlooking a lake,” writes Kaitlin T. “Would move in immediately, snow and all. I love all of our Canadian seasons, especially in such a wonderfully natural setting and home.”
And this from Marilyn S.: “Fell in love with Muskoka once and the people there. Would give anything to go back and live there, or at least enjoy as vacation spot. Five generations would have a place to enjoy fun times and make memories. Great purpose for a lottery.”
Craig McFarlane, vice-president of retail sales at Linwood Custom Homes, the company that has partnered with Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation on the cottage giveaway, agrees the Bass Lake home is pretty special. He should know: he designed it.
He recalls his first meeting on the Kendon Road property purchased by the foundation. “It was last November, and we’d had an early snow,” McFarlane tells MyNewWaterfrontHome.com. “I was standing there in three feet of snow and it was just beautiful, with the birch and fir trees all around. Each design is site specific, and that’s when I decided that a big, two-storey cottage with soaring ceilings and windows overlooking the lake would be the perfect fit.”
McFarlane says the property, which boasts 99 feet of private lakefront, was fun to design, though it did have its challenges, because the cottage is located on the edge of a ridge. It’s that hilltop location that will serve up beautiful vistas of trees and lake to the lucky sweepstakes winner.
The outside, accented with red cedar and featuring a wraparound porch with huge hanging baskets of colourful flowers, is maintenance-free, something McFarlane said will make it easy to just “go and relax” when escaping to the cottage.
Fantastic views from your private floating dock
A pathway down the side of the property will take you to a floating dock big enough to park an 18-foot boat. Or you can use it as a springboard into the lake for a swim. Or just pull up a Muskoka chair and relax and soak up those fantastic views.
Inside, 20-foot vaulted ceilings in the living room create a “big, open airy feel” that is carried through the entire cottage. “It’s great for entertaining,” McFarlane says of the space, whose decorating is reminiscent of Martha Stewart’s country chic style.
If you’re the lucky winner, you’ll soon meet neighbours David Rushby, his wife Enid and 13-year-old son Graeme. The couple, whose cottage is at the very end of the road, have an intimate knowledge of “every tree” on the sweepstakes property, because they recently sold it to a developer, who then sold it to the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation.
“It’s beautiful,” David Rushby says of the lottery cottage. “It looks a lot like our first plan for the property.”
Rushby and his wife, who had purchased the lot before she met him — her parents have owned a cottage down the road since 1973 — had been planning to build their own cottage on the sweepstakes property for about 20 years. Both teachers, they would go up on weekends from their home in Mississauga and plot out where they would put the furniture in their dream rooms. But first, they would have to save money for the build.
With David now retired at 60 and a younger Enid teaching for another eight years, the couple decided to buy an older cottage at the end of the road and refurbish it, instead of building from scratch in the future. They sold the lot in 2009 and have watched the dream cottage take shape almost overnight. “I had a hard time watching it being built,” Rushby tells MyNewWaterfrontHome.com while spending Thanksgiving at his cottage. “But I’m over that now.”
And yes, he has purchased a sweepstakes ticket.
Rushby says lots on Kendon Road were first released in 1968, so there’s a mix of new and old cottages along the paved municipal roadway on the west side of the lake. His own cottage is one of the early ones, and he recently put in a new septic system and docking.
“It’s a great lake,” he says when asked about Bass Lake, which is just south of Lake Joseph, which along with Muskoka and Rosseau make up cottage country’s Big Three lakes. “Bass Lake is the sixth biggest in Muskoka — it’s big enough for a big water ski, and small enough if you want to take the kayak around the whole lake.”
For big boats, there is no direct access to Lake Joseph, but McFarlane says a culvert allows passage for kayaks and canoes.
Year-round recreation on Bass Lake
Rushby says his son is “an amazing water skier” who has spent many happy hours of his summer vacation enjoying Bass Lake. And while the lake isn’t the top fishing hole in Muskoka, he says Graeme recently pulled in “a two- to three-pound bass right off the end of the dock.”
As for creating those happy family memories, Rushby says the winner of the Muskoka cottage won’t have any trouble getting started. “Here, we have far more company that we do at home,” he says.
Which may be part of the reason why some people make Kendon Road, which is maintained during the winter, their home year-round — they can spread out the entertaining and enjoy some quiet time, too.
While Rushby says he’s not sure yet if he and his wife will give up their city home and retire to Bass Lake, the couple do make a habit of enjoying the cottage throughout the seasons. In fact, Rushby prefers the crisp snow of winter to summer, and looks forward to March Break, when the ice is cleared off for a hockey tournament.
Newcomers are always welcome to the neighbourhood, he says, because few people on Bass Lake are “homegrowns,” which means you need not have lived there 50 years before being accepted as part of the community. “Most everyone is from away, so everyone is open to meeting new people,” Rushby says.
Located between Foot’s Bay in the north and Bala in the south, Bass Lake is the jumping off point to Muskoka’s Big Three lakes and dozens of smaller lakes and island hideaways where nature is at its finest. It’s about a 2.5-hour drive from Toronto, with shopping and restaurants within an easy drive of Port Carling, Bala, Foot’s Bay and MacTier (please see our community profile on Port Carling
The dream cottage’s location at the heart of Muskoka is what makes it so desirable. “It seems to be a trigger point,” says the foundation’s Lasky. “It’s very appealing — it sells tickets.”
For McFarlane, whose company also supplied the design, drawings, materials, decor, furnishings and appliances for the previous two Muskoka cottage prizes on Brandy Lake, teaming up with the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation on the giveaways has many rewards. While the publicity provides great exposure for Linwood Custom Homes, there’s also a more personal benefit. He says the designers and decorators have the freedom to create something unique to each property, all while knowing their work will help raise money for cancer research.
“You find yourself spending more time than you would because it’s being built for Princess Margaret and a great cause,” McFarlane says. “Everyone knows someone with cancer, and Princess Margaret Hospital is in the Top 5 in the world for research. It’s a great feeling working on the cottage, and an opportunity to showcase our product.”
Cottage open for weekend tours
Sweepstakes tickets, which can be purchased online or by phone, are $100 each or three for $250.
The early bird deadline is Nov. 4, and the final deadline is Nov. 25, unless tickets are sold out early, which is often the case.
The cottage is open for viewing weekends and holidays until Oct. 31, from noon to 5 p.m.
Getting there is easy. From the south, take Highway 400 north and exit at Highway 69 toward MacTier. At Foot’s Bay, turn right onto Muskoka Road 169, then right at Hallett Road, and right again onto Kendon. Follow Kendon around Bass Lake to near the end of the road and you’ll arrive at 1143 Kendon.
According to the foundation, “this lakefront cottage and Muskoka will have you under its spell the moment you reach the gateways.”
But don’t forget to buy your ticket — or three. And good luck!
MyNewWaterfrontHome.com — October 2010