Forum Magazine Vol 2
Tamarack’s Muskoka Playground
On our last visit to Port Carling, we were introduced to Chris Madden of Tamarack North. With a quiet confidence and his down to earth hospitable nature, Chris and his upstart company of crafts people were looking to make an indelible impression in this Muskoka Region of three lakes: Muskoka, Joseph and Rosseau. Catering to an elite clientele, Chris and his team were building cottages to satisfy whatever his clients fancied. From the simple pleasures of empty nesters whose cottage life idea was two Muskoka chairs and a good book, to the more fantasy fun-filled family adventure that had a gushing waterfall cascading over a fifty foot cliff of dotted pink and grey granite, and a gleeful waterslide that snaked all the way down to the foot of the lake. His motto may very well be … “no dreamer is ever too small, no dream is ever too big.”
It’s no surprise that on our return visit, Chris (who we should mention again majored in engineering) and his Tamarack North team, continue to shape the landscape up here while pushing the envelope, especially in the realm of what Chris terms as “family resorts” and or “business retreats ‘. Chris deems that some clients are becoming more inclined to mix business and pleasure and so both of these factors are being incorporated more and more to satisfy those desires. However those desires often come at the request of a very tight time frame. Most clients who come in to peak to Chris about building their dream cottages anticipate a move, in the early summer of the following year. Depending on the size of the project and the customer’s expectations “ill determine how soon Tamarack needs to begin work in order to have them checked in. Not exactly a mall task considering the inordinate check list of items that needs ending to before calling it a “fait accompli”.
And then what we thought might be the cottage, was in fact the boathouse; a sixty foot long by fifty foot wide dock that was finished in a South American Ipe hardwood that is known for its hard density and longevity, it boasted an outdoor kitchen done in beautiful teak cabinetry (to stave off the harsh seasonal conditions), granite counter-top for the bar with a polished stainless steel trim. There was a kitchenette with teak cupboards, a sink, stainless steel fridge, and a six burner barbecue. All would completely disappear in a “now you see it now you don’t, scroll down shutter reminiscent of a little beach cafe bar closing up shop for the night. Chris deadpans that this is a very unique set of circumstances in “pushing the envelope”. So unique that the municipality is now putting in an interim by-law for further preventing this kind of outdoor “beach bar” from happening to keep it in line with what its main purpose is in being an “accessory” to the main cottage.
Accessory or not, this 2500 square foot fully functional space houses three hobby boats and sleeps four very comfortably in the chalet loft space above it. The upper structure of the boathouse is supported with engineered steel piles and ice bubblers that protect it from the freezing and thawing that takes place over the winter months. With a tiered deck built off of the upper space, the owner tells us that the whole idea was to bring “the indoors outdoors”.
Cape Cod was the inspiration with a minimalist touch throughout. The consistency was mirrored in all the spaces we had encountered thus far. The owner looks to Chris and shakes his head in amazement at how Chris facilitated his vision, and did so, in the year’s time frame they had targeted for. “Chris truly outdid himself this time”, he goes on to say”, before he proudly cuts us loose to take in the cottage’s splendid glory.
Only 35 feet from the shore line this Cape Cod beauty looked like it was sculpted right inside the rock. Although there were variances here on the distance that stipulates it should be more at sixty-six feet in order to visualize the minimum impact from the shoreline, Chris’s argument was that by complying to the 66 feet distance, would in fact pit it higher up and pose like a beacon above the trees, however in setting it closer to the shore it would drop it lower and make it far more aesthetically pleasing and allow it to seamlessly blend into the landscape.
Chris won his proposal and proved his theory right. Because of some of the heavy legislation’s, this is one of the reasons that Chris highly encourages potential clients to come in and have a conversation in the early stages so Chris can brief them on how things work up here to better fit and design a plan. As we now ascended the stoned steps towards the cottage, the indoor / outdoor theme continued with a partly enclosed porch with a great room side by side with the grand outdoor square cut granite floor eating area that was very terrazzo like in its ambience. But what was evident in bringing the indoors outdoors, was also in bringing the outdoors indoors. With a property predominantly shaded by mature trees, creative ways to bring more natural light flourished here. The floor to ceiling Ross pocket doors and windows used throughout the cottage were beneficial in allowing light to radiate throughout the rooms, as well as the impressive skylight cupola that was customized in the cathedral ceiling of the grand foyer entrance.
With a beehive of workers putting on final detail touches to every nook and cranny, Chris takes a moment to give a play by play to some of the features used to construct the house; the entire space is done in geothermal heating and cooling with five separate pumps to monitor control. In doing so, Chris and his engineers had fifteen wells drilled down more than 200 feet, which pulls eco friendly gylcol to the house and through the heat exchanger that either attracts or rejects heat depending on the climate, the exterior roofing was cedar shingles with a durable siding called Gem Thane that is far more resilient to the beating sun and frigid winter winds.
The interior IS MDF paneling to prevent expanding and contracting when it’s humid or very dry, the standard cross beams of timber framing Douglas fir that is bought locally, and the dark rock elm wood flooring was a fabulous contrast to the cool white walls giving the space a nice and contemporary but yet still cottage cozy feel. And yet another great example of bringing the outdoors indoors was the master bathroom that was slated in grey Italian marble, with floor to ceiling wall to wall double frosted glass shower doors that once inside the shower, the giant windows exposed you to the fabulous backdrop of jutting granite stone. And although it would appear that you were totally exposed to the outside world, aside from the odd chipmunk, there was no access or shortcut and was part of the ingenuity of the design in satisfying the pleasures of being one with nature.
And certainly not to be overlooked is the landscaping which is really a fundamental element in enhancing the features of this marvellous complex. On the waterfront side of the cottage, the natural sloping landscaping had beautiful existing stone that mushroomed throughout the terrain. Boulders, that were blown out from the construction phase were placed in areas to act as a retaining wall or as decorative form in the beds. Cedar Mulch was spread in and around the entire property and there was symmetry m the types of plant and shrubbery used; plants that were zone hardy and low growing such as little princess spireas and mugo pines and then Shasta sprung up throughout and were in full bloom.
Needless to say, Chris found it completely beneficial for his company to work very closely with the landscape company Rockscape. Constructing several projects of this magnitude simultaneously, allows the team to leap frog much easier from one site to another creating a far more time efficient environment as a result.
Chris gives full credit to the stalwarts of his operation and some of his go-to-guys on these projects. James Sjaarda once again is here as the site supervisor who has been with Chris for many years and who he trusts implicitly, as well as Jake Morrice who is project manager on all of these complex endeavours.
Chris has a new silent partner in BG Capital, who also has a solid footing here in the Muskokas and who fully supports his unique vision. As our visit unwinds, the hospitable owners invite us to join them and their Hollywood guests for some cool refreshments out on the terrazzo, but unfortunately the sweltering city awaits us day trippers. As we bid adieu to Chris, who must also now leap frog to another site, we are curious to know what he envisions on our next visit in Tamarack’s Muskoka Playground … our response was conveyed with a smile and a small twinkle in his eye … to be continued.