Living by the lake

I met Mike and Alice Ogden almost 25 years ago as cottagers with a summer place next to a little lake near my house.

Small

Small

I met Mike and Alice Ogden almost 25 years ago as cottagers with a summer place next to a little lake near my house.

Like more and more retirees, the Ogdens are now selling their urban home and moving full time to the lake they love.

Less common is the way their compact, cozy lakeside cabin exists in visual and environmental harmony with its surroundings.

The Ogden’s experience proves that it’s possible to build for full-time living, without overpowering the spirit of cottage country. Their example offers pivotal strategies that can help anyone interested in building elegantly and efficiently with minimal environmental and aesthetic impact.After fire destroyed Mike and Alice’s original cottage back in 2005, insurance rules required they rebuild on the same 20 foot x 26 foot footprint of the old, 1940s structure.

Nothing larger was allowed, and this proved to be a blessing. They may not have been able to go longer or wider with their floor plan, but that didn’t stop them from going upwards, following a design philosophy that resulted in almost twice as much usable floor area, without taking up any additional ground.

The key to making better use of the space involved increasing roof pitch to 45 degrees, from the previous 20-degree slope on the old place. This allowed the creation of a second-floor sleeping loft over the kitchen, with a staircase going up through an open, cathedral-ceiling area above the downstairs sitting and eating zone.

After looking at all the options, Mike and Alice opted for structural insulated panels (SIPs) for the entire project. SIPs are factory-made sandwiches of wooden sheet goods glued to an internal layer of foam. Although most commonly used for walls, SIPs also make terrific roofs, especially on narrow building designs, like this one.

The Ogden project is 20-feet wide, allowing 16-foot-long, 8 1/4-inch-thick panels to be used as structural roof members, with no need for rafters or trusses underneath. These panels are entirely self-supporting.

Everything underneath the roof is heatable and suitable for finished living space.

Accomplishing the same space efficiency with a conventional, rafter-framed roof is impossible.

With no basement space to accommodate the electrical panel, pump and water heater, the Ogdens opted for a mudroom at the back of their place.

It provides day-to-day entry, while also offering space for the 200-amp electrical panel, washer, dryer and water heater.

In order to echo the appearance of the main roof, the mudroom roof, though smaller, is also sloped at 45 degrees. And since it’s also created entirely with SIPs panels, there’s lots of open space up above for a mini loft that’s used for seasonal storage. Its got its own insulated exterior door, too, before you step into the kitchen, making it easy to keep washer and dryer noise out of the rest of the cabin.

Although a septic system was technically possible on the Ogden’s site, it would have meant cutting down a large patch of mature pine and poplar trees to create a weeping bed. Since Mike and Alice weren’t prepared to pay such a high aesthetic price for a flush toilet, they saved time, money, disruption and trees by installing a composting toilet instead.

It works perfectly. Water from sinks and the shower go into a grey water pit, leaving the site looking the same as it always has, with no concerns about harming lake quality.

If you’ve been watching cottage country for a while, you know that parts of it are in serious decline as they become more and more like suburbia.

Large buildings and lavish expectations are sapping the life from what was once a landscape of tranquility and refreshment.

Modest, affordable, carefully designed cottages like the Ogden’s show another way, and proves that small can, indeed, be very beautiful.

Steve Maxwell is Canada’s award-winning home improvement expert, and technical editor of Canadian Home Workshop magazine. Sign up for his free homeowner newsletter at www.stevemaxwell.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer now has 911 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 2,917 active cases

An anti-lockdown protest went ahead outside a café in central Alberta on Saturday, despite pouring rain and a pre-emptive court injunction. (Photo by The Canadian Press)
Anti-restriction protest underway in central Alberta despite injunction

A large crowd has gathered in the parking lot of the Whistle… Continue reading

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre's expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital ICU admissions stable, but rising, says surgeon

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s intensive care unit is in better… Continue reading

Alberta recorded a single-day record of over 57,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta hits daily record of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

Central zone has administered 111,735 doses of the COVID-19

FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, is setting off a social media reaction with his calls to stop non essential shopping, such as "buying sandals at Costco", with this photo of his worn sandals, which he published to social media on Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dr. Robert Strang, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Nova Scotia’s top doctor sparks meme with caution on non-essential shopping

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s top doctor has launched a social media meme… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Canada's chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Tam warns that full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Canada’s chief public health officer reminded Canadians on Saturday that even those… Continue reading

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour conducts drills during NHL hockey training camp in Morrisville, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
NHL relaxing virus protocols for vaccinated playoff teams

The NHL is relaxing virus protocols for teams that reach a threshold… Continue reading

Canada skip Kerri Einarson directs her teammates against Sweden in a qualification game at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada’s Einarson eliminated at curling worlds after 8-3 loss to Sweden’s Hasselborg

CALGARY — Canada’s Kerri Einarson was eliminated at the world women’s curling… Continue reading

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman didn’t expect to get hit with a double whammy at… Continue reading

A courtroom at the Edmonton Law Courts building, in Edmonton on Friday, June 28, 2019. The effect of the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on the Canadian justice system warn a number of legal experts. The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench announced Sunday it would adjourn all scheduled trials across the province for at least 10-weeks limiting hearings to only emergency or urgent matters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton mother found guilty of manslaughter in death of five-year-old girl

EDMONTON — An Edmonton woman was found guilty Friday of manslaughter in… Continue reading

A Statistics Canada 2016 Census mailer sits on the key board of a laptop after arriving in the mail at a residence in Ottawa, May 2, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Statistics Canada sees more demand to fill out census online during pandemic

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the response to the census is higher… Continue reading

Travellers, who are not affected by new quarantine rules, arrive at Terminal 3 at Pearson Airport in Toronto, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Ottawa will create a new digital platform to help in processing immigration applications more quickly and efficiently after COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for a faster shift to a digital immigration system, the immigration department said. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ottawa to create new system to tackle delays in processing immigration applications

Ottawa says it will create a new digital platform to help process… Continue reading

Most Read