Today is intro day and I’m beyond excited to share a tour of the magical place we’re calling Steep Hill Cottage!

In case you missed the news, at the end of last year Dave and I bought a cottage in the Muskoka region of Ontario! It still feels a bit surreal but needless to say, we’re completely thrilled about all the projects, lake adventures and time we’ll be spending in nature for years to come.

Another really exciting part about becoming stewards of such a special spot is that we get to bring you all along for the ride!

Today’s intro post will cover:

  • A bit about the cottage
  • The exterior tour
  • A peek inside
  • Our list of projects

Let’s get to it!


Steep Hill Cottage is an old girl, built back in 1911, which means that this year marks 110 yrs standing. Not bad given the many harsh winters she’s faced throughout the years.

After years of summer camping in Algonquin Park, Dave and I starting thinking about how we could find a way to spend more time in our favourite part of the province. Towards the end of last year this cottage became available and we hopped in the truck to go see. We both fell head over heels immediately and the rest is history!

Steep Hill Cottage isn’t exactly a turn key type of place but luckily Dave and I are no strangers to quirky old dwellings. Our primary home in Guelph was built in 1890 and we’ve learned so much during the last 7 yrs of renovations. Dave is an engineer and contractor with a special interest in restoration (Ruhl Builds) and I manage the design side of things. So structurally speaking, old bones don’t deter us.

We’re planning to make changes but this won’t be a flip type of project where we gut the place and 6 months later it’s all shiny and new. That’s just not our style. So instead, this will be a longterm project, throughout which we’ll make thoughtful updates over time. Our plan is that Steep Hill Cottage will be part of our lives from this point on.

So that’s a bit of background on the place and our approach to this project. Now onto the tour!

Outdoor Tour

Honestly, I’m not sure if it was the character filled cottage or the unique topography that we fell in love with first. It’s so rare to find a lakeside spot that also has forested area, lawn space (for four legged folk who require daily fetching), and grounds that have been developed enough to entertain and access all parts of the property.

Here’s a look around!


Of course, the main reason we took the leap in buying a cottage was to be near the lake. This one in particular is special to us for lots of reasons but the view really says it all.

We got the keys towards the end of November and watched the lake quickly begin to freeze over this winter. I can’t wait to jump in for the first time this spring!

Note: I’m keeping the name of the lake off the blog for privacy reasons but may share at some point.


The cottage is a single storey building with 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and lots of common space, ringing in at about 1200 sq ft total. There are lots of windows for natural light and high ceilings, which make the spaces feel bright and open.

The Boathouse

The boathouse was built around the same time as the original cottage and has sleeping quarters upstairs. It’s my favourite spot of all, with the best lake view on the lot (shown below). It’s not insulated yet but once it is I expect we’ll be out there a lot! Catch a peek inside below as well!

No, those are not Dave’s footprints.

The Woods

Every morning so far, we’ve climbed the very steep hill behind the cottage to the top where you can see the sun gleaming through the trees. An activity that’s as good for the glutes as it is for the soul.


This little stone cellar was built into the hill. Back in the day folks would put a block of ice inside for summer refrigeration. It uses the relatively steady temperature of soil to keep things cool in the summer and above freezing in the winter.


This was where chickens lived for many years but is currently home to gardening tools and the like. The site is prime for a greenhouse, which I’d love to make happen eventually.

& That’s it for the exterior tour!


A Peek Inside

I’m saving lots of “before’s” for future posts so this is just a teaser.

The previous stewards of Steep Hill generously left the place entirely furnished for us. Apparently this is somewhat customary with cottage transfers. We had the pleasure of meeting them in person to learn about the place and get acquainted, which is a rarity in the real estate world. They cared deeply about the cottage and it was clear that they wanted to ensure it would be in good hands. I hope they felt so!


The Muskoka Room is the jewel of the cottage with it’s panoramic view of the lake and flagstone flooring. It’s not currently winterized but on sunny days it’s warm enough to enjoy a morning coffee or a snack overlooking the lake. Evie loves walking along the window ledge and watching birds fly by.


The living room is where we’ve spent most of our time so far as it’s home to a large and very effective fireplace (the primary heat source). It’s also home to a trio of owls and a 100 yr old deer named Herman.

Evie is completely obsessed with the fire and comes stomping in for a bake whenever she hears us adding logs.

The main room also came with a fascinating array of old fixtures, clocks, books and artifacts.


The bathroom has a darling claw foot tub (restoring that is on my list of spring projects), a comically low sink, toilet and some storage space. It’s a tight fit but functional.


The bedrooms are cozy, bright, and *thankfully* big enough for queen size beds! Another spring project involves new frames and mattresses.


The kitchen is quintessential cottage vibes with peeling wallpaper and sticky drawers to boot! We don’t mind for now but in the not so distant future we’ll be updating this area for better functionality.

Our Plans for Steep Hill Cottage

We started by addressing the most essential projects, which included:

  • Insulating the primary utility area in the basement. Dave immediately went to work on this job to get ahead of winter and it took a full week to complete.
  • Installing a UV water filtration system for potable (ie: drinkable) water. That said, we won’t be guzzling tap water until all the pipes have been replaced (a spring job) but for now it’s definitely cooking, tooth-brushing and pet drinking friendly.
  • Cleaning the chimney. Not exactly a glamorous job but necessary nonetheless.
  • Amassing a fire wood supply. Read: hauling sleds of wood downhill and stacking them all one by one. The photos below are just the tip of the stockpile.
  • Clearing out some furniture clutter that couldn’t be salvaged or sold.
  • Purchasing a generator to keep the essentials going in the (likely) event of a power outage.

With the utmost essentials covered, we’re planning some projects for when the weather and our budget permits. Just to name a few:

  • Painting the interior (excited to have some fun with colour!).
  • Painting the exterior. I have a bold idea but we’ll see if it sticks into spring.
  • New bed frames and mattresses in all rooms.
  • Restoring the clawfoot tub.
  • Installing a dishwasher, dryer and washing machine.
  • Insulating the boat house upper level to make it habitable in colder weather.
  • Installing a propane fireplace insert. We love the open fire too, but we’ll share more on that decision when we get to it!
  • Installing a wood stove in the Muskoka room.
  • A kitchen update.
  • Furniture updates.
  • & about 1000 other things so don’t expect to see this all happen next year lol.

& That’s Steep Hill Cottage so far!

Dave and I are looking forward to all these projects and I’ll be sharing lots more on the updates, renovations, and our time spent at Steep Hill Cottage throughout the year. My hope is to offer you a taste of the #cottagecore experience too!

Leave me a comment here!

  1. Mary Grogan says:

    How utterly delightful! You are blessed to have such a beautiful place to enjoy, especially with your and your husband’s talents. Looking forward to what you do to make it better.

    • Lee the Bee says:

      Thank you Mary! We are so grateful that we found our soulmate in cottage form 🙂 Excited to honour the history and breathe some new life into the space too! xo

  2. Chan Claire says:

    Hi Lee, I absolutely loved this post! The photos are stunning and I’m looking forward to seeing what your cottage looks like in the summer. 🙂

  3. Barb says:

    I recognise your bathroom wallpaper. I had the exact same paper in navy blue in my front hall of my 100-year-old Ontario Cottage. So circa 1984 in case you were wondering!
    The cottage looks amazing and perfect for you. Look forward to seeing your ideas come to life!

    • Lee the Bee says:

      Ah! Yes, there were definitely some interior reno’s done in the 80’s so that makes total sense. So funny how wallpaper trends come and go lol. Thanks for sharing that Barb! xo

  4. Vivianne Bielmann says:

    Love, love this! It is just gorgeous. Wondering if you have any info on the green (?) couch and chair in the boathouse (i believe).

    Thanks! All the best.


    • Lee the Bee says:

      Thanks Viv! I don’t have any intel on those at the moment, they came with the place, but I’ll look into it when I’m in there next. They’re such a fun shape aren’t they? Hope you’re doing well! xo

  5. Hanusia says:

    Congratulations Lee, what a lovely and special place! A lake cottage is a dream for sure and all the woods and the boathouse make it extra special. I love the quirky old wallpapers- can’t wait to see what you do to update it!

    • Lee the Bee says:

      Thanks so much Hanusia! We are so thrilled and can’t fully believe it’s real! We keep joking about being in a cottage simulation lol. So excited to work away on lots of projects! xo

  6. Nancy M says:

    This is so gorgeous, holy smokes. I am so jealous. We have renovated barns in my area of the northeast but THIS is so cool. Is this your fulltime home now? Summers and winters only? The other buildings on the property are the cutest. Perfect for guests down the road.

    • Lee the Bee says:

      Thanks so much Nancy! It’s not our full-time home at the moment but we’d love that. Needs some further tune ups to be fully winterized but we’re working on it! xo

  7. Lauren says:

    Congratulations! What a beautiful place! Evie sure is living her best life there 😺
    I look forward to seeing your updates. Enjoy the process and your new, second home.

  8. Michele Jukes says:

    Congratulations Lee. What a magical place. It’s beautiful, the views of the lake are stunning. I look forward to your updates. x

  9. chloe says:

    Congratulations ! It’s a beautiful place and I’m really looking forward the future posts about your cottage life and projects ! I love the vintage vibe of the interior decor, I’m sure you’ll come up with very interesting renovation and design ideas to make it your own, and keep some of those old school lake cottage vibes ^^.

    • Lee the Bee says:

      Thanks Chloe! So happy to hear that 🙂 I’m so excited to get creative with maintaining character but also making the spaces feel fresh. xo

  10. Chandana says:

    Such a beautiful place. I was just about to start my day. Thank you for such a great work. I’m from South India, so this view is something certainly heavenly for me…cause I haven’t seen any piece of snow yet. Thank you so much 💕

  11. Amy says:

    So beautiful! Love the lake and cottage. I volunteer at a raptor rehab group in the US. I have absolutely no clue about Canadian laws, but possession of taxidermy owls, parts or feathers in the US by private individuals is not legal. It is restricted to educational institutions and permitted organizations. Not sure what your plans were with them, but you might want to check with the appropriate authorities like department of fish and game/wildlife. Btw, looks like your owls are a barred, great horned and snowy. I have enjoyed reading your stories and I just don’t want you to have any issues. 💕

    • Lee the Bee says:

      That’s really good to know Amy! Thanks for sharing that. I know that it’s illegal to hunt them but I’ll have to explore more about that. A quick google doesn’t seem to say for sure. Appreciate the info!

    • Lee the Bee says:

      Okay, I just looked into this more and according to the Government of Ontario website under “Keep A Dead Wild Animal” (not the most eloquent title but to the point) it indicates that it is legal to keep a stuffed owl (of these species specifically, others may differ) but it needs to be registered, among a number of other variables. Planning to find out if these have existing paperwork or I’ll register until we can figure out a good place for them.

      Putting this info here in case anyone else is interested! Cottage life is already teaching me thhings 🙂

  12. Kirra says:

    Thanks for sharing your new cottage and the views of the lake and snow. Looks like a lovely spot and I look forward to seeing what you do to improve it. That’s some serious winter weather, but looks very peaceful!

  13. Annalise Vezina says:

    I’m so excited for you and Dave! The cottage is absolutely darling and, as someone who lives in Washington DC and is obsessed with snow, seeing the lake frozen made my heart sing!

  14. Sara says:

    Oh it’s lovely already and I’m sure you’ll make it even more so over the years! My northern Ontario soul always says there’s nothing like being by the lake.

  15. LEE RODDEN says:

    I don’t think anyone could dream up a more perfect place! Excited to see your journey.

  16. Kelly says:

    Oh my goodness, I can’t wait to see more! What a wonderful spot you have there.

  17. LEigh victoria johnston says:

    Hi Lee,
    How wonderful, what a special place. I love that you call yourselves “stewards”. I know that you will retain as much of the character as possible. I live in a SF Edwardian built in 1910, and have tried to update using the same philosophy. Congratulations!✨🥂💚

    • Lee the Bee says:

      Oh I bet your place is beautiful Leigh! I absolutely love SF and walking by all the amazing homes around the city. Thanks for the kind words and for tuning in! xo

  18. Betsy says:

    I’m so excited for you! And I’m fully onboard with Evie’s life philosophy.

  19. Rita says:

    This is lovely. I’m so excited for you guys and really appreciate you sharing your journey with this beautiful place. I really like how you chose the word “stewards”. Feels thoughtful and to me expresses an intention to look after the place, rather than exploit it. We so often think of things short term. It’s nice to be reminded it doesn’t have to be so.

    • Lee the Bee says:

      Thanks for this note Rita, I’m so glad that word resonated with you. “Owner” never feels right when speaking about a place that has had so much life before us and will have one long after as well. We’re just the very lucky caretakers of the place.

  20. Kristi says:

    Congratulations – what a lovely spot and cottage. And great plans. I think the cottage would look amazing in black (like the Swedes do) – and I will be so curious to see what you decide.

    Yup, speaking from long experience, propane is definitely the way to go for the insert – so much cleaner than wood stoves/fireplaces. And so many nice models available.

    As for the owls and deer – well, they’re quaint but yikes…..

    Enjoy every second – such a lovely place.

    • Lee the Bee says:

      Kristi, you and I are on the exact same wavelength 😉

      That’s great to hear about the propane insert. The maintenance of the fire alone is a big daily job and while it’s definitely a novelty at first, it gets to be a lot. Not to mention the heat loss up the chimney. Thanks for sharing your experience.

      LOL the taxidermy is intense for sure.

      Thank you, we sure will! xo

  21. Devon says:

    Oh my goodness, your cottage came with a bonus cottage! Congratulations! I’m definitely envious.

  22. Shannon says:

    Congratulations Lee! What a beautiful spot on the lake and I can’t wait to see how you put your own spin on the Steep Hill Cottage. Excited to follow along over the next months and years.

  23. Anni says:

    Congrats! It’s beautiful! So excited to follow along on your journey😊

  24. Karen says:

    Stunning! So excited for you. I can’t wait to watch you settle in and bloom there.

  25. Alisa says:

    Such a beautiful place! I can’t wait to see how you are going to make it even better! I moved to a country house a week ago and also planning the reno. You always have great tips and I love your taste so I know I will learn a lot from following your journey xx

  26. Julie Baribeau says:

    Oh Lee, it’s so beautiful! It’s a cottage dream come true, it’s absolutely perfect and exactly the kind of cottage that I would wish for 🤩 I’m so happy for you, Dave, and the family. Can’t wait to ride along on your project.
    Julie xo

    • Lee the Bee says:

      Thanks so much Julie! Definitely a dream come true. Still have to pinch myself when I’m wake up there 🙂 Hope to see you again soon when all the madness has calmed down. Hope you’re doing well! xo

  27. B says:

    I love it! It’s perfect! I can’t wait to follow along and see what you do here. Are you able to get out there easily/often? How long is the drive for you? We have a cottage that is about an hour away and the distance is perfect for us. We can get out there to check on things or just go for a day-trip if we don’t have time to stay.

    • Lee the Bee says:

      Thanks B! That’s amazing your cottage is so closer! It’s a solid 3 hr drive for us. Luckily Dave likes driving and our schedules offer lots of flexibility (and the pets are good travellers). 1 hr is amazing but we didn’t have any luck finding a spot that close. Hope you’re able to get out there again soon! xo

  28. Poonam says:

    What a gorgeous spot! So happy you two and the fur babes have a perfect spot to use as a getaway! Can’t wait to follow along on this journey as you and Dave make it your own, lady xx

  29. Elizabeth says:

    Lee, you are SO lucky to have gotten this amazing cottage in one of Ontario’s most sought after resort areas. I have many happy memories of spending time on Lake Muskoka during all 4 seasons.
    Advice you probably don’t need…
    Make installing the water purification system a priority
    An outside shower to clean off after a swim (while wearing your bathing suit)
    A screened-in veranda and/or gazebo because the mosquitoes get bad during the summer
    Treat yourself to a canoe for those early morning, quiet time, paddles

    • Lee the Bee says:

      Elizabeth you are reading my mind! 🙂 Purification system is in! Just need to replace some pipe and then we can insulate the whole crawlspace area. Muskoka is a very special place isn’t it! We’re on a more remote lake but I’ve spent a fair amount of time at a family friend’s cottage on Lake Rosseau. Those experiences have played a huge part in our motivation to take this step.

      LOVE the outdoor shower suggestion! Luckily the Muskoka room’s windows have screens so we’ll be able to escape bugs in there. Thanks for reading!! xo

  30. Linda says:

    Congratulations! It’s a beautiful location & I’m sure you will have some amazing shared memories with family & friends!
    Can’t wait to see what you do with your new home away from home!!👍👍❤️