Architectural ornamentation is a major part of what distinguishes one style from another. There are many ways in which your cottage can be made unique and visually delightful through the use of architectural features. Towers and Turrets (turrets are small towers)
Image: Unique lighthouse tower containing stairs and elevator
From the fairy tales we were read as children, to the lighthouses that have attracted people for generations, towers and turrets possess a powerful emotional force suggesting mystery and romance. Because Muskoka cottages are on the water, towers are a natural element to plan for cottages or boathouses, commensurate with the nautical environment.
First used as a way to search out enemy attacks, towers are now provide additional bedrooms, small studios or solitary retreats to read, snooze, enjoy the view, or watch the sun set.
In conjunction with the desire to make your cottage significantly different from your home, signalling that you are away and on holiday, the addition of a tower or turret could add charm and a unique appearance. Because the local bylaws are quite strict in the height limitations of cottages, it would be necessary for your architect to communicate carefully with the Building Department in order to plan a tower that meets the bylaws. Sometimes a tower is considered to be a cupola, rather than a living space, and therefore may be higher than the height specified for a roof.
Oriel – this is a projecting bay window that is cantilevered or corbelled out from a wall instead of having support extending down to the ground. Oriels can be an inexpensive way to increase the size of a room because they do not have footings and have only a small roof that is not attached to the main roof. They can be an effective nook into which a bed can be placed greatly increasing the size of a bedroom at a low cost.
Cupola – This word comes from the latin word for a “little dome”. In North America cupolas are little wooden squares, or domes which are most commonly used on “out”buildings like barns and sheds. They are often on public buildings to give them more architectural importance. They are rarely used on residences.
Cupolas are highly decorative but also perform the function of admitting light and allowing hot air to escape through the windows or louvers with which they are constructed.
Corner boards – These are decorative trim boards that are placed at the corners of some cottages so that the siding on adjoining walls does not touch, but instead butts into a vertical post. They were placed at the ends of exterior walls to protect the siding. When painted or stained a contrasting colour to the siding they add decoration.
Widow’s Walk – This is a small walled observation platform, most common to coastal towns, on the top of a cottage originally designed for wives to watch for their sea captain husbands to return home from the sea. They are sometimes made to be decorative only, rather than functional.
Shutters – These are articulating wooden panels that can be closed over a window to control light and ventilation, or to protect the glass. Sometimes they are made only to be decorative, and in this case are fastened to the siding and cannot swing closed over the window.
Side lights – These are tall narrow fixed or operating windows on either side of a door to light the entryway. Two sidelights provide symmetrical balance:, single sidelights are asymmetrical.
Transom – This is a fixed or operating window over a door or a window.
Finial – This is an ornamental projection on the top of a roof or gable or other high section of a roof.
Door hood – This is a small roof supported by brackets that is built over a door or a window, giving importance to the entrance and style to the structure, as well as providing protection to the door. These decorative additions usually sport exposed rafter tails.
Rafter tails – These are the tails of the rafters which extend beyond the edge of the roof and are exposed to view. Today faux rafters tails are sometimes created to give a traditional look on a new insulated building.
Image: a small Juliette balcony adds dimension to the upper floor
Recessed balcony – This is a balcony that does not protrude form the building, but instead comes in under the main roof of the structure.
Belt course – This is the horizontal course of wood brick stone aluminum or other material that separates two types of material on the exterior walls of a building, or is used to create a division on a large wall composed of all the same material.
Half timbered – This is when exposed timbers are used for decorative effect on the outside of a building
Porte Cochere(Portico) – This is a covered entrance over a driveway and is sometimes called a portico
Rubblework – This is masonry or stonework made with rough textured stone or rubble
Porches, Verandahs, Piazzas, Stoops and Decks
A porch is an outdoor living area that can be attached to the front, back, or side of the building. It can be totally open to the air and to view. However some porches are partially or fully enclosed by screen, latticework, windows, or curtains.
Porches are sometimes called verandahs, especially when they extend all the way across the front of the building and down the sides. They are raised off the ground, being on the same level as the interior cottage floor.
It was traditional in older times to call the porches along one side of a cottage a piazza.
Porches can be long and wide, making them spacious and gracious outdoor entertainment areas, or they can be very small designed really to merely visually impact the appearance of the building. The very small porches are often called a stoop.
Image: A small roof overhangs a doorway
When it is covered, a porch truly extends the living space of the building, bridging the transition from interior to exterior space. Chairs, tables, sofas, and other furniture make covered porches a beloved spot for summer relaxation, entertainment, and afternoon games.
Screened porches are especially effective in Muskoka as you are protected from mosquitoes, making it possible to enjoy the sounds of the outdoors in the evening all summer. Windermere House on Lake Rosseau has a wonderful covered verandah on which generations of families have enjoyed gathering for drinks, meals of just to read for the afternoon.
One issue in the design of a porch is that the rain and snow can come in under the edges of the roof and so the floor of the porch must be weatherproof and there must be a way for the water to get away. It is common to slant the floor away from the cottage and to have openings if the porch has a half wall enclosure for the water to run out.
Some porches have been designed with single pane windows that can be raised up and hung from the ceiling. This allows the porch to be fully open or enclosed.
Recently it has become more popular to use drop down windows in a porch so that the area can be totally open, screened or enclosed by windows as the need and weather permits. This allows the maximum enjoyment to come form the space, as a porch is not inexpensive to build.
Image: A “bump out” can be used as a bar
Porches can be enclosed in a variety of ways from spindles to half walls and columns. They are usually designed to integrate with the appearance of the cottage. If you have a Victorian design, your porch would likely be enclosed with turned spindles, whereas if your design is Arts and Crafts, half walls, flared piers and stout square balusters would be more suitable.
Decks are usually made out of plain wood, and are open to the air without a roof. Decks are generally not integrated with the design of the cottage. Decks can be supported with deck blocks or can have foundational piers to support it if it is large and on uneven ground.