Interiors Spring 2012 | Luxury Light House
Luxury Light House
Overlooking the pristine shores of Muskoka’s exclusive Lake Rosseau, the Hirsh family cottage takes outdoor living to luxurious new levels.By Marc Skulnick Photography by David Hirsh
- A hint of the granite-topped, 90-square-foot kitchen island, showcasing the hand-chiselled edge, with the dining room in the background.
- The stunning master ensuite bathroom features an 8,500 lb, hand-hollowed bathtub, filled by a nine-foot waterfall. The house was literally built around the bathtub.
- The opulent dining room comfortably seats 14 and features a naturally-shed elk antler chandelier. Note the modified Rumford fireplace in the background, and the 70-inch television encased in the rocks above.
- The bedroom for Simon and Tamara’s four-year-old daughter is a lesson in modern opulence and features stunning, seemingly neverending, vistas of the lake beyond.
For most of us, cottage living involves roughing it in a rustically ramshackle cottage nestled in the woods of some remote lake somewhere in Ontario. For Burlington’s Simon and Tamara Hirsh, their 6,500 sq foot, eight-bedroom lakefront cottage on Muskoka’s exclusive Lake Rosseau is anything but ramshackle and roughing it isn’t exactly an option.
Of course, when you’re one of the region’s foremost builders of luxury log homes, wild and whimsical (did we mention elegant and opulent?) kind of comes with the territory. Simon and Tamara are the husband and wife team behind Hirsh Log Homes. Simon designs and builds the homes and has been doing so for 18 years now; you could say he’s the brawn. Tamara owns Hirsh Interiors and is the brains behind the beauty that has become a hallmark of a Hirsh log home. Every aspect of the interior design, from the 100-year-old antique birch bark canoe and the elk antler chandelier in the dining room, to the handcarved corbel in the kitchen was sourced, imported, and, oftentimes, designed by Tamara.
“We’re a unique log home company because we’re completely vertically integrated,” says Simon. “People have said there’s no one out there doing it the way we do.”
Sitting on almost three acres of woodland, not to mention 325 feet of majestic lakefront, Lighthouse Lodge as it’s known, is the epitome of rustic luxury, but with a modern, and eclectic, twist. According to Simon , that was all part of the plan.
“The thing about Light House is that it’s so diverse, every room has a different feel,” says Simon. “A lot of times when people do a log home, they feel they have to stick to a completely rustic or lodge theme.”
“This house, more than any other houses I’ve worked on, was specifically designed around family,” he continues. “There’s such a feeling for family, a robustness, if you will.”
Arguably, the most impressive design feature of the home — handcrafted from Western Red Cedar using a style of log home construction known as Scandinavian Full-scribe — has to be the jaw-dropping Great Room (an apt description to be sure), complete with 36-foot soaring ceiling and cupola that greets you upon entry. “I was inspired by the fabulous log work that you used to see in Whistler,” says Simon. “Some of the guys that inspired me to do this type of log work are gone, so I wanted to bring a lot of that back in.” “The massive log work (of the Great Room) is quite Alpine, but at the same time, I wanted the feel of Muskoka,” explains Hirsh. “The Cupola, these are actually called Belvederes, that comes through the top of the house is reminiscent of a light house, so we had all these different themes we were trying to bring in.”
The stunning kitchen, in which 20 people can hang out with room to spare, boasts a 90-square-foot island featuring a threeinch- thick granite top with hand-chiselled edge. The kitchen cabinets — a distressed finish, hand-planned Poplar that you’d swear was Walnut — were designed by Hirsh himself and built by local cabinetmaker Dave Richard. Admittedly, the multiple fridges, dishwashers and ovens aren’t anything to sniff at either. No cottage, or master bedroom ensuite for that matter, is complete without an 8,500 lb boulder bathtub, hand-hollowed, of course. In fact, the house literally had to be built around it and required its own separate foundation to boot.
“The tub was so heavy that had to be craned in, before the logs were even there,” recounts Simon. “It’s so big (eight feet by five feet), that my four-year-old (daughter) stands at the edge and does swan dive belly flops, which scares the heck out of us!”
Adding to the opulence is the fact that the tub fills from a nine-foot waterfall from the ceiling and has matching ‘his and hers’ sinks also made from the same boulder.
As one would expect, the house is completely eco-friendly and features a veritable laundry list of green features, including an impressive 13-well capacity geothermal heating and cooling system.
“There’s absolutely no secondary heating or cooling system in the entire house,” explains Simon. “It’s full geothermal infloor radiant in the floors and complete air handling.”
The home is also fully automated, boasting a state-of-the-art Crestron system, which means the house can be controlled, and secured, from anywhere in the world via your iPhone.
Another sure-fire conversation starter is the basement, which features 13-foot ceilings built to accommodate — wait for it — a multi-level skateboard park. An avid skateboarder and a grizzled veteran of the Hamilton skateboard scene, Simon designed the subterranean skate park himself and commissioned a team of his finest carpenters to work on it. And future owners need not worry. The basement is designed to convert to a home IMAX theatre, complete with multi-level seating and memory foam floor.
Other highlights include the tree house room specifically designed, and built, for their two children. Amazingly, it features a real cedar tree that the kids can climb up and into, which Hirsh takes obvious delight in describing.
“It’s a real cedar tree that’s built in, and then we attached branches to it that grow through the ceiling,” explains Simon. “There’s a hole through the tree that leads to a ‘Little Rascals’ sort of tree house, with antique planks and there’s two levels of bunk beds with ladders that climb up to a catwalk around the ceiling.”
“It’s a really cool room.”
Between the professional-class skatepark in the basement, the treehouse in the bedroom and the boulder bathtub in the master ensuite, ‘cool’ just about sums up the house in general. Here’s to roughing it, Muskoka-style.