Cottage Reno

Cottage Renovation 2016

August 31st, 2016

We were fortunate to have Remodelista feature our cottage renovation back in 2016. As a result, I realized we never posted it here!

In 2009 we did an extensive renovation so you may be wondering why we decided to tackle it again. We came to find that the initial kitchen configuration, that happened to be right at the entrance, wasn’t very conducive to a family of four. We had always dreamed of moving the kitchen to where the dining table was. This was our opportunity to really invest in making the space exactly how we wanted for enjoyment of use and longevity – no more renovations here!


On the exterior, the biggest things we did were remove the aluminum siding and metal storm windows. We thankfully discovered that the wood was in great shape so we repainted it white, with a new mint green colour for the windows (used to be dark brown), and we got new screens made for the windows.

In the front…or back, depending on who you talk to, we added a bunch of fresh sand and a little garden. The kids love playing back here now, and it’s great when it’s too windy on the water side.

Heading on inside, we used the space now vacated by the kitchen to incorporate some closed storage for linens, necessities and anything else that needs to be hidden away.

The living room is much like it was before, but we changed out the light fixtures on either side of the fire place to be AJ wall lights (repurposed from our bedrooms where their placements didn’t work). We added some Alvar Aalto shelving as well, and another sofa to increase seating.

Another major addition is the white painted bead board that we added throughout the cottage. We simply couldn’t stand the painted dry wall and find that the wood has added a lot of texture and character.

Fireplace is still the same.

New vintage Børge Mogensen bench as a coffee table.

Another new find is this vintage Bruno Mathsson lounge chair and stool.

The whole living room area. There is also an Alvar Aalto kids table and chair set (with Moomin characters) on the left side of the picture. It used to be at our home in Howell’s room but we moved it up for the summer and it never came back.

Looking toward the new kitchen and dining area.

We worked again with Studio Junction on the design of our cottage kitchen. They used reclaimed Carolina Pine on the three furniture like pieces. The unit to the left of the range is comprised of drawers, the unit to the right is one set of drawers and then an open shelf underneath. The third unit is a large soapstone sink with teak drying rack.

Dining table is the Studioilse Extending Together Table and there are two benches, Studioilse 443 bench and Studioilse 446 High Settle Bench.We kept the two blue chairs, and sold the rest of our old set to a couple who have since become our friends! Small world.

There is an additional shelf above using brass components.

We splurged on a small AGA electric stove.



Other splurge was the Smeg fridge.


Studio Junction created this amazing soapstone sink (similar to ours from home) with integrated drying rack. But then they kicked it up a notch by creating the hanging dish storage / drying rack. We are now absolutely spoiled. I think if you are designing a kitchen, an integrated drying rack is a number one must. I find that kitchen design so often concerns itself with mass storage, but we actually make do on comparably less storage. Save money on storage for unnecessary items and put it into something that you use all day long, every day.


Heading into the bedrooms, we were inspired by shaker practicality. We haven’t yet solved the clothing storage problem in our main bedroom because our bed is a queen sized StudioIlse Companions bed that takes up most of the room. In the meantime the shaker peg rail helps keep things off the floor.


In Elodie’s room, we got her an Ikea bed, Ikea gingham drapes, and an Alvar Aalto wall hung drawer as bedside table.

This kid is living large with this coveted MMF Swedish wall hanging.

We also lucked out and found this gorgeous vintage Swedish dresser and vintage Josef Frank for Svenskt Tenn brass table mirror.

Howell’s room is still not complete, because he’s still so little and we haven’t been able to find the right pieces to bring his space together.

Thanks for following along!


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Cottage Renovations 2015

May 27th, 2015


Yes, you didn’t read that title wrong. We are back picking up where we left off 6 years ago, when we first started renovating our clapboard cottage on Georgian Bay.
So much has happened in that time, the short of it being:

We opened Mjölk
Got Married
Had 2 kids

These are significant milestones and as you get older and your family begins to grow, your needs tend to change. When we started our first renovation we did all of the work ourselves, and of course we were limited by our abilities and had to use some ingenuity to get the job done. Hence the crafty plywood walls (I didn’t know how to drywall) and the relentless use of white paint on the floors, walls, doors and ceilings.

We’ve reached a point that some of our initial handy work is starting to get a little shabby looking, and this summer we decided to do some aesthetic and functional renovations.

Above: A photo of some work in progress: new sconces for the mantel, repurposed from two of the bedrooms.


One of the biggest changes we have made is we cladded the entire interior of the cottage with tongue and groove pine painted white. We also painted the blue doors out white.

It now looks incredibly Swedish and has given the space a whole new energy!


The sexiest change is definitely the kitchen, which has been a source of frustration for us during the past few summers. Our small work kitchen was perfect when it was just the two of us but now with two kids we are cooking in portions to feed four each meal, and when we have guests over this number can easily reach over 10 people. Our sweet deal of a find under counter fridge died THREE years ago (we’ve been running back and forth to the guest cottage) and no one would service it (too good to be true I guess). As a result, we had to get a regular sized fridge which completely compromises our counter space.

We took a look at the configuration of the cottage and ultimately decided to move the entire kitchen(!!!), and in the process come up with an entire new design.

A couple of teaser additions are in the photo above: I am not going to lie, I have always wanted a SMEG fridge. I can’t believe they are still made in Italy, and the design is just so endearing. The jewelry so to speak is the unlacquered brass faucet resting on top which will be wall-mounted. We got this faucet from Addision’s here in Toronto, which is a fascinating architectural and antique plumbing store. I think it is made from two different fixtures put together by the owner so we could achieve a super long faucet.

You may also be wondering what will replace the old kitchen – we have zero storage so we thought some large wardrobes would be perfect, making the space more of an entryway instead of a bottleneck.

We’re looking forward to sharing the results with you as we get the work done!

In the meantime, if you want to see some of this stuff live as it happens please follow our Instagrams:




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Mjolk guest cottage!

September 3rd, 2012

This is officially the last weekend of the summer, and we’re currently sitting on our deck after a large pancake breakfast sipping on some coffee. I’ve been asked a bunch of times how the cottage renovation has been, and when we were going to be posting some more photos.

We’ve been holding off sharing it because we let Remodelista have the exclusive to the story. Since there will inevitably be some readers who don’t follow Remodelista, or simply missed the article we wanted to do our own post about it as a nice farewell to the summer.

Of course, I have the feeling we are in store for some beautiful weather in September, we can already feel the cool breeze coming off of Georgian Bay.


I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but the whole inspiration for this cottage was the “Finnish summer home”. There is a large Finnish and Estonian community in Ontario, in fact we have the highest amount of Finns outside of Finland. We liked the idea of bringing back the cottage to it’s original state with natural pine floors, and simple practical furniture. We wanted the pieces we chose to furnish the cottage with to feel as if they had always been there.

Now taking a second to study this photo, you can begin to appreciate what adding a layer of plaster did for the white fireplace. When it was simply painted stone it just didn’t look right. We also added an iron hook and a Japanese palm broom and dustpan to break up all of the white.


The Swedish sconces look just like tree branches.


A pair of Aalto shelves with some Japanese iron sculptures, an old laminated wood architecture model, a milk bottle terrarium, a birch bark box to hold matches, and a brass Wirkkala-esque candle holder.


For the dining room, we settled on a table, bench, and chair set by Ilmari Tapiovaara.


We even picked up a stool for additional seating, or to be used next to the fireplace to stoke the fire.



I think it pairs really well next to the vintage Aalto bar cabinet.


Stacked rocks.


The stool in the foreground is an early 1930s/40s Aalto stool we found at Machine Age Modern in Leslieville. The sofa is a blue Hiroshima sofa by Naoto Fukasawa with beech wood legs.

The sofa choice was inspired by Aalto’s blue sofa we saw in his home in Helsinki.


Aalto also used these Zebra pillows on that blue sofa in his home, so we order a couple for ourselves directly from Artek.


All of the bedding is colourful striped sheets and pillowcases from Marimekko. In all of the bedrooms we have small Aalto luggage benches.



The second guest bedroom with wood blinds from Bamboo Bazaar.


Both of the wall lights are paper and wood lights by Miguel Mila. We’ve started to carry his lighting in our shop, I just haven’t had the time to update our website yet!


The final bedroom actually fits 2 twin beds, both with lime green striped bedding.


An Aalto bench as coffee table, and the beehive pendant light.


Finally the best room in the house. Furnished with two beautiful Alvar Aalto daybeds upholstered in Aalto’s Sienna pattern.


I can’t believe the summer is almost over, but we’re really looking forward to the fall. We’re getting a bit anxious to travel, so hopefully we can line up a trip or two before the end of the year.

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An exciting guest cottage post!

June 27th, 2012


We just got home from a very productive couple of days at the cottage. The weather was beautiful, the birds were singing, and we’re all grinning from all of the good work we did. The first thing you’ll notice is the new additions which I will get to in a minute. The big accomplishment this week was that my brother and I painted the entire cottage in one day. You can’t tell from the photographs but the before and after is staggering. We used Benjamin Moore’s cloud white, our staple white paint, and it enhanced all of the best qualities of the cottage. One thing we did learn about paint is that getting “Cloud White” at Home Depot is not the same as from Benjamin Moore. Definitely get Benjamin Moore. It’s a little thing but makes a huge impact.

Alright moving towards furniture…


One of the most exciting purchases is this 1940s cocktail cabinet by our favorite architect Alvar Aalto. We found this cabinet online at a wonderful vintage shop called Reside Inc.  The price was incredibly fair and the communication, packaging, and overall experience was top notch.

The cabinet is made from mahogany with Aalto’s signature bent birch legs. Everything is original including the shelves, a heart shaped key and the flawless patina.

***This cabinet is not for sale*** (Sorry, whenever we post anything like this we get a dozen inquiries)


I’m such a sucker for these old out of production Aalto pieces, they are so hard to find here in North America.


We found three of these framed Swedish lithographs from the inaugural Junction Flea a few weeks ago. We didn’t really get a chance to talk about it much but we will do a post about the many other items we scored soon! Next Junction Flea is July 8 and we highly recommend you come on out to the neighborhood for the day. It’s so worth it!

These are going to look great next to our future dining table.


On the other side of the living room we have a big Totone rug by Eero Koivisto for Asplund. It is actually a hangover from our first order from Asplund and we used it briefly on the floor before rolling it up and putting it in the basement so it wouldn’t be destroyed by snowy salty winter boots.

Hopefully it looks good with our sofa.


I fixed all of the cracks in the fireplace and gave everything another coat of paint. It’s a huge improvement.


In order to break up the fireplace a bit, I bought this cast iron rod to install underneath the wood ledge. I’ll put this palm sweeper and one of our persimmon dustpans by Oji Masanori on it to be used for sweeping ash.


The other piece to mimic the plastered fireplace is the RAW candleholder by Jens Fager. We have the traditional ceramic version of this at our main cottage so I think it’s a nice element to connect the two.


I’ve been saving this one, but thought I’d give you a sneak peak. We picked up a pair of these vintage Swedish sconce’s by Knut Hallgren. When the candle bulbs are in, it looks like a branch with three leaves. Can’t wait until they’re installed.


A hand broom for good measure.


A lazy but smart solution Juli came up with for the edges of the floor. The floor sander couldn’t go straight against the wall, so we were left with a dark strip of dirty flooring. I didn’t want to spend a day on my hands and knees with a hand sander so we simply painted the floor closest to the wall white. Since the bedrooms are already painted white it makes for an interesting transition.

It almost looks intentional.

We’re hoping to start filling the cottage with furniture soon, and then we’ll be able to finally put our feet up and relax. Never fear though, there will be plenty to tackle next summer…

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Lye and soaped floors at the guest cottage

June 23rd, 2012


Last week I went up north on my day off to paint the guest rooms and sun room floors white, and to lye and soap treat the rest of the unfinished pine floors. Having experimented with diluted milk paint on the floors in the store, I can confidently say this is the most natural looking white finish I have seen. It looks closer to an unfinished wood than something intentional.

You can see in this photo where the lye floor meets the white painted floor. The strip is from tape and shows the colour of the unfinished pine.



A shot of the floor after the first coat of soap flakes. The  soap creates a barrier to stop dirt and oil from penetrating the wood, to clean everything up again you simply have to mop the floor using the soap solution and the dirt and dust is removed and a new membrane of soap is added.


On top of that, it is the most matte finish you could ever ask for, and it also allows dents in floors to rise again.


I also got around to painting the bedroom floors a nice glossy white.



Also the sun room, which has never looked better. We have a really great idea for this room that I think you’re going to really enjoy!


Finally with the help of our plumber we installed the ceramic sink and white faucet which looks amazing against the birch counter.


I also managed to cut a new piece of wood to sit between the counter and the window. It’s starting to come together!

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Cottage Update: Kitchen counters and trim work

June 1st, 2012


Another day at the cottage and this time we removed the old blue MDF counter and replaced it with some nice birch counter tops. These are so easy to make because you don’t have to worry about laminating a bunch of solid wood pieces together, and since they aren’t very thick we can use a little electric hand saw to cut out the opening for the sink.


The old white cabinets with the black and white drawer pulls look great next to the pine floors and wood counters. The one thing we didn’t anticipate was the new thickness of the counter, and our nice wood edging was an inch too short. You can see on the the pieces underneath the window just shy of the trim and tiles. FYI Those windmill motif tiles will either be painted or replaced.


You might notice that I made a little plywood cabinet to sit flush with the window and cover up the electrical box. It’s still pretty noticeable, so I’m not sure if I should bleach the wood, or just paint over it.

The kitchen still needs a good paint job, but you can imagine what it will look like when it’s all finished.


The sink still waiting to be installed.


The first thing I did when we got up to the cottage was take off the tape and plastic from the mantel and brass fireplace. I needed it to look better than I left it because when I got back to the city and saw the photos I had a moment of regret painting the fireplace.


I think with the elements exposed it looks a bit more like a painted fireplace, than marshmallow village. What do you think?

At some point down the road we need to fix the cracks so maybe we’ll plaster the fireplace to smooth it out more.


elle decor winter 07

I found this image from Elle Decor’s winter 07 issue, I think it was on the cover. It reminded me of our fireplace at the cottage and looked so cool painted white. I can’t believe I found this photo, I remembered the home owners had a peace sign on their house so that’s what I searched to look it up.

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