Faced with an empty nest, most couples think about downsizing. Lynn and Randy Hiebert are not like most couples. After their two sons flew the coop and got married, the Hieberts decided they were going to need a bigger cottage.
“The dream was that we were going to have grandchildren. And where were we going to put the grandchildren?” Lynn says. Unlike many construction projects, this one came to fruition right on schedule.
The Hieberts welcomed their third granddaughter last year, which also marked the third summer in their all-season dream cottage at Flanders Lake. Two more additions will be celebrated this year, as daughters-in-law Carla and Debbie are expecting in July and September, respectively.
Thankfully, the 3,200-square-foot, pine-frame two-storey is double the size of the three-bedroom A-frame cottage that once stood on the site, about 60 kilometres northeast of Lac du Bonnet in Nopiming Provincial Park.
With five bedrooms and three bathrooms, there’s plenty of room for the growing family. The Hieberts’ eldest son, David, 31, and wife Carla have two daughters, four-year-old Sara and two-year-old Isabelle, along with a young bulldog named Roxie. Younger son Jordan, 29, and wife Debbie are parents to one-year-old Emily.
But space wasn’t the only consideration when they planned their new lakefront getaway. Built by Timber Ridge Homes, the cottage is made to last, with heritage features the Hieberts’ great grandchildren will appreciate one day.
There are no nails in the pine frame or in the imposing staircase that leads to the second floor. Instead, they were handcrafted with fitted dowels. Polished beams criss-cross the vaulted ceilings and walls, and one beam acts as a mantlepiece for the tall natural stone fireplace in the family room.
Most of the floors are Brazilian hardwood, valued for its beauty and durability. It darkens and takes on a reddish tint as it ages, and the fact that it’s hardy enough for carefree family living was a strong selling point.
“Especially when you’ve got little grandkids that are dropping toys and bricks and whatnot all over on it and you don’t get a chip or a dent or anything in it,” Lynn says.
Slate floors in the bathrooms and entrance hall are easy to maintain. And a rugged natural stone backsplash lends a rustic, cosy air to the spacious kitchen, which was designed for easy socializing while Lynn is cooking.
There’s seating at the kitchen island and it’s open to the dining and family rooms.
“We wanted the open-air concept where it’s inviting for everybody to come in and sit and there’s lots of room for me to work and still talk,” Lynn says. “It’s a nice place for people to sit and congregate.”
The kitchen boasts oak cabinets, and plenty of them, along with a small pantry. “This cabin is not lacking in storage space, that’s for sure,” Lynn says.
She designed the cupboards in the main bathroom, which houses Randy’s “spaceship” – an oval combination bath and shower. Some cabinets have windows so the kids can see sunscreen or any other toiletries they might need at glance. And there’s lots of open and closet storage for towels, since the cottage doesn’t have a laundry room. The master suite on the main floor has an ensuite bathroom and the third bathroom is convenient to the four bedrooms on the second floor.
Three sets of doors – off the master bedroom, the family room and a three-season room – open on to the deck, which has builtin seating, a gas fireplace and a hot tub. There are several nooks and crannies indoors and out to let everyone enjoy a bit of solitude when they want it.
“If it was just for Lynn and myself, we could have kept the other cottage, but the whole concept is to have it large enough so that everybody feels comfortable,” Randy says.
“They have enough of their own space that they’re not tripping over one another.” The detached garage is a showpiece in itself.
A former owner of Richards-Wilcox Canada, which produces garage and overhead doors, Randy still works with the company and its dealers in 42 countries so he knew what he wanted for the cottage. The side-by-side garage doors are wood with antique-style double doors that swing outward rather than roll up, and there’s a decorative gable window above each door.
“I wanted something that was rustic looking, something that fit more in the environment,” Randy says.
“There’s a little bit of maintenance to them. You have to stain them, but I don’t mind doing that. To me that’s relaxing actually – it’s part of my therapy.”
The house and garage take up much of the half-acre lot, and since the lake is in the Canadian Shield the land doesn’t lend itself to gardening, which is a bit ironic since David and Jordan run the family-owned Lacoste Garden Centre in Winnipeg.
But natural landscaping with low-maintenance, slow-growing fescue grass fits the character of the home. Containers on the deck will be planted with flowers to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
Landscaping projects started last fall with large stone steps laid from the deck to the dock and crushed black granite on the driveway.
While some cottagers like to head south in the winter, the Hieberts, again, bucked convention. “We’re probably the opposite,” Randy says. “I like ice-fishing, I like snowmobiling, I like working outside. And then you come in in the evening and you feel tired. You feel good.
And then you barbecue and you have some wine or something like that and to me there’s nothing more relaxing.”
Until the early ’90s, the family had a cottage on an island at Lake of the Woods, but winter access was too difficult. The last straw came one Friday night, when the Hieberts were driving to the cottage on a winter road for the weekend.
“All of a sudden we saw this snowmobile go whipping by us and we recognized he was one of our neighbours, and he turned around and his arms were waving at us,” Randy says.
“We tried to stop and kept sliding and sliding and skidded. He came up beside us and he said probably about half a mile up the road the ice road gave way. We would have driven right into the lake.”
After that experience, the Hieberts sold the cottage and took up camping, which led them to Flanders Lake about 19 years ago, when they discovered that A-frame during a trip to nearby Tulabi Falls.
Flanders Lake is about five kilometres long and just under one-kilometre wide at its broadest point. Boats are restricted to 9.9 horsepower engines, which meant the family’s cabin cruiser had to go. But they didn’t miss it.
“I like waking up in the morning to hear the birds singing and stuff like that instead of motor boats,” Lynn says.
They now have a pontoon boat, a 16-foot aluminum boat and a canoe. Popular fishing destinations Booster Lake and Davidson Lake are nearby. And they can tow a boat on a trailer behind their quad bikes to less well-known fishing spots.
“There’s a number of different lakes in the back that typically many people would consider fly-in lakes. We can put boats in some of these lakes that are accessible with quad trails,” Randy says.
When the Hieberts decided to expand, they considered renovating the old A-frame. But when contractors told them the roof and walls would have to come down, full demolition made more sense.
Of course, it would have been much easier and less expensive to sell the cottage and build elsewhere, but they didn’t want to leave close friends among the 44 cottagers on the lake.
“They’re like family almost,” Lynn says. “Their grandkids grew up with our kids, and my grandkids are growing up with their great grandkids.”
Besides, there’s no place like this home away from home. Randy’s work often took him away from the family while the boys were growing up, but the cottage was, and remains, a haven for one on- one bonding time.
“I’ve always found that the cottage, when we’re here together as a family, that’s basically what’s held us together,” Randy says. “To us the cottage is family – family and friends.”