How a hockey couple built their lakefront dream house with the help of Beaver Homes and Cottages. There’s no escaping it. All cottage owners—and even their guests—have entertained the same thought while gazing out over the water on a summer weekend: I could live here. But could it really be that simple to go from “cottage” to “home” and build a life at the lake? Rob and Heidi Wilson dreamed of rebuilding their cottage on Chemong Lake near Peterborough, Ont., into a year-round family home for their two daughters and son. And they discovered that building their dream home in cottage country was easier than they could have imagined.

While many cottagers have jobs that tether them to the big city during the week, Rob’s career as head coach of the OHL hockey team the Peterborough Petes put full-time lakefront living within grasp. “I bought a cottage up here about twenty-five years ago,” Rob says, “We had a lot of great years in it, and we always knew we wanted to build a home here. Heidi absolutely loved it on the lake and thought it was the most beautiful place.” For Heidi, the community was just as important as the cottage. “Every day, people are out on the lake doing yoga in boats, or they’re walking their dogs in big groups,” she says. “It’s like a mini village.”

But to make it work, they knew they’d need to rebuild—which can be a daunting task when you’re trying to combine the charms of a cottage with a functioning home for a busy family. Luckily, they started off on the right foot. “We were looking around at a lot of companies, and a friend mentioned that Chemong Home Hardware Building Centre is just up the road from us,” Rob says. “So we went in and saw some really nice designs in their design book.”

“The design book is the perfect starting point for the process,” says Wayne Sellars, the Beaver Homes & Cottages design consultant at Chemong Home Hardware Building Centre. “It gets the creative juices flowing, and from there you just have to ask the right questions. What’s your style and budget? What don’t you like? What is your land doing? You might love a bungalow look, but then you realize your land is sloped off and you have a natural walk-out.”

Once they had an idea of what they wanted in their new home, the couple began collaborating with Wayne on how to make the best use of their lakefront property. “When I first met Rob and Heidi, they already knew they wanted to tear down and rebuild,” Wayne says. “So I went over and sat with them on their deck one afternoon, and we started brainstorming. They had already gathered some pictures, so we started designing and pulling things together.”

Right away, Wayne suggested a Beaver Homes & Cottages design that combined everything they had in mind. “We had just introduced the Caribou model at that time,” Wayne says. “I showed it to them, and they fell in love with it, so we started working together to modify it and change a few things inside.”

The ability to customize is a key part of working with Beaver Homes & Cottages. “With a lot of other companies, it’s more cookie-cutter,” Wayne says. “They have a model and they can maybe move a couple of walls, but the footprint’s the footprint. But Beaver Homes & Cottages has a lot more options and can basically customize anything you want.”

For Rob and Heidi, who had specific ideas for the flow of their home, that process was surprisingly smooth. “When we first saw the design, we loved everything about it,” Heidi says. “But we also wanted to change the floorplan a little bit and make it our own. We had our own ideas for little things we wanted to do, like vaulted ceilings.”

“We loved the outside of it, especially from the lake when you first see it,” Rob adds. “It really stood out and had that wow factor. And then Heidi did some of the designs inside, like moving the fireplace and making it more of an open space.” Keeping bedroom choices civil between three kids was a crucial part of the design process. “The girls wanted their bedrooms facing the water, so we had to make their rooms exactly the same, not one centimetre difference,” he says.

The ease of adjusting the Caribou model’s floorplan wasn’t the only thing that impressed the couple—they were just as floored by how foolproof the building process was. “You hear a lot of stories from people who say it was one of the most difficult things they’ve ever done,” Rob says. “They had a builder who wasn’t great or a designer who didn’t work out. But we can honestly say that our process was very simple. We were pleasantly surprised with how smooth everything went.”

For Wayne, the only challenge was the distance between him and the Wilsons during the initial stage. “Rob was coaching hockey overseas for most of the design phase,” he says. “So most of our communication was through email.” But when it came time to finally build, Rob and Heidi couldn’t stay away. “We work close by,” Rob says, “so we were literally here every day. I’m sure we were annoying, but they accommodated us really well. It was fun because we’d get excited about every little thing, whether it was a new door or a finished closet. But the initial feeling when everything was done and we first walked in was—wow.”

One of the main reasons that building with Beaver Homes & Cottages is such a smooth operation is their management of the end-to-end process, which meant Rob and Heidi didn’t need to worry about juggling different contractors or buying materials. “The lumber and all the pieces are covered by your package, right down to your doors and trims and hardware,” says Wayne. “We have contractors who’ve changed their whole business model because of us, because we do the managing, we look after the

ordering, and we make sure everything’s on the job site on time. It’s a one-stop shop.”

Thanks to that organized approach, construction took six months. And were they happy with the final product? “It couldn’t have been any better,” Heidi says. “The people at Beaver Homes got everything that we wanted, and they made this perfect home for us that suited everything we asked for.”

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