Our Homes Magazine Fall Edition
Bigwin’s Big Steal
Aerospace expertise applied to galvanized metal with meticulous craftsmanship built Bigwin Island’s first steel cottage. It was a leap in technology for Tamarack North Ltd., a company that’s been designing, engineering and building luxury homes and waterfront estates for 25 years. “We think it’s leading-edge technology,” says Tamarack owner and president Chris Madden.
A professional Engineer with aerospace experience, Madden added steel construction to his company’s repertoire with BONE Structure, a building technology using recycled metal and high-tech energy conservation to create sturdy homes that offer wide-open living spaces and the versatility to suit a family’s changing needs. “We’re always looking for new and innovative ways to improve and grow our business, so we thought the BONE Structure would be a really good platform to offer our customers something different,” he says.
Using management experience acquired at aerospace manufacturer Bombardier, BONE Structure founder Marc Bovet assembled a company of engineers, architects and designers who developed this building system. BONE technology, used across North America, brings something revolutionary to the market, Madden says. “It’s made in Montreal and it’s completely steel walls and roof so there’s no wood in the walls or roof, which is kind of exciting for us because it all comes pre-cut to fit. You basically bolt it together like a big Meccano set.”
Tamarack built the contemporary four-bedroom cottage with 2,658 sq. ft. of living space on the northwest shore of the island. Professionally landscaped by Rockscape Design, the 1.24-acre property with just over 200 feet of shoreline also has a steel pile dock, decked with cedar, ready for a boathouse.
In the home’s large, open-concept great room, natural light spills in through two levels of windows and glass doors that frame views of the surrounding forest and waves rippling across Lake of Bays. Each bedroom faces the water with wide, sliding-glass doors that open to granite paths and flower gardens. Engineered oak planks (Darmaga Hardwood Flooring Ltd.) cloak floors in the bedrooms and living areas while ceilings in the great room and master bedroom are finished with tongue-and-groove, square-edge western red cedar. Tiny, square LED lights, recessed in the ceilings, sparkle from above. A stone fireplace ascends the great room’s west wall.
At the opposite end of the room, stainless steel appliances equip an efficient kitchen. A kitchen island with a dining bar, built-in dishwasher, double sink and microwave oven divides the cookery from a dining space furnished with comfy, upholstered, white chairs and a live-edge hardwood table from HillTop Interiors Inc. HillTop owner Lena Patten chose the home colours and wood finishes and planned fireplace details.
The entire cottage is designed and built to be maintenance-free. Aluminum windows, doors, soffit and fascia with granite, stone and Timberthane wood siding from Muskoka Timber Mills Ltd. clad the home’s exterior. “It really is built for zero maintenance, so the cottage owner can hit the golf course and not worry about painting his cottage on the weekends,” says Madden.
Golf is a big reason for living and playing on Bigwin. Its beautiful waterfront properties encircle the Bigwin Island Golf Club, a member-owned par 72 championship golf course designed by well-known golf course architect Doug Carrick. The links cover about 200 acres of interior land where spectacular vistas and mature hardwood surround every hole on undulating terrain that challenges players of every calibre. Excellent golfing and resort amenities such as an island shuttle, concierge services, catering and fine dining are credited for stirring a building boom on the 520-acre island. Seven cottages are currently under construction. “We are the closest thing to a waterfront gated community that Muskoka has to offer,” says David Smith, president of Eagle Landing Company, the island’s developer. “Plus, we have a world-class golf course that helps us provide a unique lifestyle opportunity.”
Smith is impressed with Tamarack’s steel cottage. “It was an extremely efficient construction process, with a high quality of workmanship. There is something about the finished structure that makes you feel like it will be standing forever,” he says. With its stone and natural-wood finishes there is no way of knowing the cottage has an extensive steel frame, he says. For a builder, the greatest advantage of a BONE Structure is that it is all cut to fit. A lot of the math, calculations and engineering is done at the Montreal plant. “From an engineering point of view, it’s quite a leap in technology,” says Madden. A conventional builder would typically take delivery of lumber and rafters, cut them to length and put them together, he explains. But BONE Structure steel is all cut to length. “You basically just bolt it together,” says Madden. “The erection is obviously quite a bit faster than using a conventional build. We’re finding the speed of construction is great.” That pre-engineering helps him, as a company owner, to build a crew of younger, skilled carpenters who haven’t had years of experience to develop all the expertise of a seasoned tradesman. “Skilled carpentry is something that takes a long time to learn,” Madden says.
With the galvanized steel construction, homeowners can rest assured there will never be any rot in the walls. The roof and walls are wrapped in an insulating, polyurethane blanket that reduces energy consumption. “You’re going to have lower heating bills and a warm home,” says the builder. The cottage is versatile and can be changed to suit the owners as the family grows. “You can move the interior walls whenever you want because all the interior walls are non-load-bearing. You can get increased spans of open space, so it’s a lot more creative,” says Madden.
Story by written by Walter Franczyk, Photography by Sandy Mackay and Daniel Weylie