The boathouse and cottage are on an island in Lake Joseph, one of the three lakes known as the Muskoka Lakes. This scenic area is situated north of the Canadian city of Toronto and is the ideal spot for a holiday or weekend home. Here cottage culture reigns supreme. David Beaton and his wife Heather have created their nautical eldorado here in a design and colours that engage perfectly with the natural surroundings. The boathouse, which also serves as guest accommodation, houses two classic sport boats plus a modern Chris-Craft. And Beaton has another three fast boats moored alongside the surrounding decks.
Muskoka Lakes are a two hours’ drive north of the Canadian city of Toronto. It is a vast area with over 1600 lakes, the jewels in the crown being Lake Muskoka, Lake Joseph and Lake Rosseau. At the beginning of the 20th century these three lakes were ‘discovered’ primarily by wealthy Americans who built their holiday cottages and boathouses there. Luxury hotels like the Royal Muskoka, the Windermere and Elgin House soon attracted the nobility and the wealthy from Europe and North America. A cottage of one’s own beside one of the three lakes was considered the norm for optimum enjoyment, and as you sail on these lakes it’s easy to understand why. In the second half of the last century the area was dubbed the Hollywood of the north, because film stars and directors like Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Martin Short, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks liked to visit or had their own cottages there. It’s an earthly paradise: the three lakes dotted with rocky islands that are adorned with wild vegetation comprising mainly of pine trees. In the centre of this eldorado is Port Carling. It has a number of boatyards where they build and restore classic boats. Here on Lake Joseph (or Lake Joe as it is called by those in the know) Heather and David Beaton built their cottage, the aim being to have it blend into the surroundings as much as possible. “In 1990 I came here and eventually found a cottage to let. In 2002 I was able to buy this bit of island in Lake Joe. It’s been the most desirable lake for a cottage for years. This was an undeveloped piece of land with mainly pine trees growing on it. There we were, with our dog”, David told us. He soon had an area levelled out and went on to build a wooden cottage on it. Each year he made improvements and in 2005 the time was ripe to build a boathouse, or at least the section at water level. Three years later they added a storey for use as guest accommodation. Everything is timber here. The form and the colour of both cottage and boathouse have been selected to blend into the natural surroundings.
In 2010 or thereabouts all the ‘wooden paddle stuff’ was thrown out and the boathouse was fitted out to accommodate accessories for the deluxe brands he represents in Canada. Below there are three boats bobbing around and on the upper level there is a living room, an al fresco dining area and a bedroom. All the spaces open onto a large deck running round the building. “We come out here as soon as we have some spare time. We entertain here and we often bring along clients. It’s become part of our showroom”, David explained. He’s a good talker and it’s hardly surprising he followed his friends’ advice and became a salesman. But no ordinary salesman – one with flair and style. Success didn’t just fall into his lap. Having worked in an aircraft factory and having partied for a year at college, he embarked on selling extremely cheap furniture from a van that he had to push start himself. When he came in contact with Sitag of Switzerland he soon realised he would do much better to import top interior brands. The Swiss work ethic also became his guiding light. Vitra was his first major brand – until then it was almost unknown in Canada. He saw opportunities where others hesitated and he was prepared to take risks. Business took off then and his company was to become a household name in North America. In 1997 he opened an office furniture showroom in Toronto: He discovered that a lot of the furniture was being sold for residential use, so in 1999 he opened studio b which is geared more to private clients. and combines such brands as Walter Knoll, Baker, Dedon, McGuire, Baccarat and Barbara Barry under that name. Successfully. With plan b he acquired leading brands like Vitra, Herman Miller, Fritz Hansen, Technogym, Lapalma, Meridiani, Anta Lights, Glatz and Roda. And his clientele includes W Hotels, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Hugo Boss, FMC Law, Goodmans and Gowlings. He comments in that respect: “A lot of willpower and a focus on luxury and quality were the deciding factors. There’s always a market for luxury. There’s only one right way to do things and that’s to focus on the luxury brands you work with. Be loyal to those brands and stand by them.”
Today all his activities are concentrated in new premises in King Street East. When traffic isn’t too heavy, it takes him just over two hours to reach Muskoka.