Shobac Cottages is a farm by the sea built on historic village ruins on Canada’s Nova Scotia south shore, offering four unique cottages, several houses and an octagonal barn.
We honour simplicity, good company, sustainability, and all things hygge.
What is the story behind nortehaus, what was your inspiration to create it?
We both were living fast-paced lives in Toronto working in the tech industry. A few years ago, we began looking for a place to slow down and relax. A place that incorporated our values, which have a lot to do with nature and a slower lifestyle.
Randomly, we were looking on a website and found a plot of empty land in the middle of a forest beside a river. So we drove up to a place called Kawartha Lakes, just south of Algonquin National Park. As soon as we drove into the forest, we were like, this is magical. It was a crystal clear winter day and it had just snowed the day before. We could immediately envision building something that would allow us to take a break and be in touch with nature.
So we started designing a cottage from scratch that is vastly different from what is in the area. We wanted something that we could look at in 20/30 years but still regard as a modern build.
In the future, we want to do some more landscaping around the cottage, although it is a careful balance between leaving nature as it is and creating the space we want. We’re hoping to integrate a sauna into the forest behind the house and build a path down to the river, which flows all year, even when the surroundings are covered in snow.
How would you describe the atmosphere and interior design of nortehaus?
nortehaus’s architecture and design draw inspiration from nature’s perfect balance of sharp lines and curbed flows. Nestled above the ground, surrounded by a river and trees, it was designed as a getaway and grounding space, away, but not too far from the city. Drawing from Nordic and Japanese influences, nortehaus honours simplicity, good company, sustainability, and all things hygge.
I think that nortehaus is a place of comfort but also playful excitement. The interior design is an interesting mix of Japanese and Nordic styles. It combines our love of Asian cultures with that coziness or hygge you want with the long winters here.
My wife is Ecuadorian but has lived in Canada for 12 years and I’m German but have lived in the US, Canada, Ireland, the Philippines and Portugal. So there are a lot of cultural influences that we are trying to balance. From the things we’ve seen and the place we’ve been exposed to - you’ll find those tiny elements in the house.
Depending on the time of year you visit, the atmosphere is vastly different. In winter and spring, you can have the fireplace going and it’s very cozy. Then in the summer, you can sit out on the porch and enjoy the long days while watching the river flow by.
For most people, there is an immediate slowing down in pace as soon as you arrive. You hear the river and the birds in the trees. You can take a breath of air and a moment to chill. I get that feeling every time I’m there.
To you personally, what is so special about nortehaus?
It’s designed for us. The initial concept of Airbnb was to offer your house to someone else. But in recent years, places are being designed as rentals and there is often the potential to cut corners.
We wanted to make nortehaus for us and when Covid hit, we even thought about giving up our house in Toronto and living here. It’s a reflection of us. We wanted to make it exactly the way we wanted it to be and it’s this that makes it special.
I am a big kitchen person, so the kitchen needed to be in the centre of the house and designed as a place to bring people together. It is handcrafted and invites you to cook and experiment with the items that are there. It’s designed in a way that allows you to engage in conversation while cooking or just gaze out at nature while cutting the carrots.
When you walk into the cottage, the guest room is on the right and the master bedroom is on the left. They offer two very different experiences. The guest room is a cozy nook with an ensuite bathroom with a shower and has natural light coming into, making it an ideal place to tuck yourself away and read a book. The master bedroom has a freestanding bathtub and it’s special having a bath at night with a glass of wine or a cup of tea, then jumping directly into bed.
On arrival, you’ll receive a bottle of Canadian wine, as well as locally sourced bath salts to use in the freestanding tub. We have purposely chosen not to have a TV as the cottage is designed as a slow living space and not a consumption space. We do have Wi-Fi, although it’s not always fast as you are in the middle of nowhere.
Cleaning is provided at the end of each stay and is available during the stay on request.
You can go canoeing or kayaking on the river throughout the year. It’s fun to paddle down to the pub and have a beer, then paddle back to the cottage. When it snows, you can also go cross-country skiing on the paths behind the cottage.
Kawartha Lakes is a region located in central Ontario, Canada. It is known for its natural beauty, with many lakes and rivers, and is a popular destination for outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, swimming, and hiking. The area is also home to a number of small towns and villages, such as Bobcaygeon, Fenelon Falls, and Lindsay, which offer a variety of shops, restaurants, and other amenities.
We are exactly two hours from Toronto by freeway and highway. Nearby is the little village Norland which has one pub and an electric charging station, plus two small convenience stores where you can get basic ingredients. Around 20 minutes from the cottage is a bigger community with a grocery store and a gas station. If you drive 30 minutes to the north, you’ll arrive in Haliburton, which has a wider choice of restaurants and amenities.
We love this part of Ontario because two hours north of Toronto is where the tree line starts and the forest begins. Everything before that is mostly farmland and villages. Keeping in mind that most Canadians don’t want to travel more than two or three hours, that was our sweet spot. We love the fresh air here and the crisp skies, as well as the flowing river.
The winter and summer months are both great times to visit the Kawartha Lakes region.
Winter (December - March) is a great time to visit if you're interested in winter sports such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing. The region also has several ski clubs and ski hills, as well as snowmobiling trails. Additionally, the region has a number of festive events and activities such as New Year's Eve celebrations and Christmas markets.
Spring is for the tough-hearted as it can be very slushy and muddy — you need to know what you’re getting yourself into!
Summer (May - October) is a great time to visit if you're interested in water activities such as swimming, boating, and fishing. The region has many lakes and rivers, as well as beaches and parks where you can enjoy these activities. Summer is also a great time to explore the area's history and culture, as many of the region's historic sites and museums are open during this time.
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