When I read in Winnifred Gallagher’s Book called “House Thinking” that the existence of peril was one of five characteristics needed to create an inherently likable home, I was baffled. How could danger be a good thing? Surely having good lighting, safe walking paths, and well crafted staircases with handrails are necessary parts of providing a warm welcome for visitors, and a safe retreat for the family. Peril did not seem to be a necessary component of a delightful cottage or home.
However, after reading more, I came to the realization that we often seek out peril in our lives, and that, as long as we have some control over it, peril can be thrilling; not a true danger at all. In fact, peril is likely one of the factors that draw us to Muskoka.
In Muskoka, we get pulled around behind boats on skiis or boards. We leap off cliffs and boathouses into sparkling waters many feet below. We hook ourselves to kites towed behind boats. We catch the wind in sails to propel us faster than our competitors, tipping the boat right up on its side. All of these activities involve peril, and constitute some of our most marvelous cottage experiences.
Your life should not be dull, and neither should your home or cottage. Just as you can be bored by a spouse who is too safe and predicable, so can you be bored by too safe and predicable a cottage.
The peril in your cottage could be the view off a high cliff, floor-to-ceiling windows that provide a dizzying view, a narrow catwalk over the room below, a structural glass floor providing light to an area below, a balcony high above the ground, or myriad other alternatives.
Just being in the wilds of Muskoka provides some perilous stimulus at our cottages. A bear could come by, a lightning strike could make power go out, you could get trapped by a snowstorm or have to grapple with others challenges of nature.
Peril can also be much more benign. It can be as simple as stepping stones through a bed of crushed gravel which causes you to slow down as you walk. It can be a boardwalk over a section of the lake taking you out to the boathouse, or a little bridge over a rocky dry creek. An open fire in a fire pit is stimulating, as is a swinging seat hanging on a porch or from a tree.
Pictures that showing sailing, skiing, boarding, diving or other cottage activities can provide a vicarious thrill. Hanging old skiis, snowshoes or other sports paraphernalia on the walls represents the peril inherent in these activities, and creates a more stimulating experience in the cottage.
In our cottage, we have floor to ceiling windows in our Muskoka room which look out to a ten foot fall to the patio and garden below. Standing near these windows creates a feeling of mild peril, and arouses the senses, enhancing the experience in our cottage. Pictured, is the tempered glass floor at the top of our lighthouse. This creates a strong feeling of peril and walking on it is a thrilling experience that is very memorable to guests to our cottage.
When you visit appealing cottages, analyze the source of their appeal and see if some sources of peril factor into it. Look for opportunities to inject some peril into your own home or cottage.
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