Cabin tour: a woodsy, rustic, winter retreat

It’s winter, and retirement living is easy.

Gene and Bonnie Anstey play cards with a couple of friends as the snow falls outside their simple cabin by the lake. The stove is stocked with wood Gene cut last fall and hot mugs of cocoa keep the crowd extra warm.

The Ansteys bought the property along a sheltered cove in Sandy Lake six years ago, before they retired. “It’s been a work in progress ever since,” says Gene, who can hardly claim to be retired. “You’d be surprised at how much of it we did ourselves by hand with a wheelbarrow and a shovel.”

It was nothing but a mound of boulders when the couple began carrying out their plans to create a home away from home, where the sounds of loons and moose visits are the only interruption to the quiet.

“We hide away here all the time,” says Bonnie. “All our worries go away when we’re up here.”

In the summer, geese nest nearby and a family of ducks hang around the dock all morning. The gray jays wait for the Ansteys to come back to the cabin to feed them and Bonnie checks her plants each visit to see how much damage the moose and caribou have caused while the couple has been away.

It takes a mere half hour for the Ansteys to get from their front door in Deer Lake to their cabin, where they feel hundreds of miles away from day-to-day life. “That’s what we love about it,” says Gene. “We’re not that far from home.” And with two new grandchildren, being close to home while still having a vacation is key to this couple’s relaxed quality.

It’s also an inspirational place for the couple, who have had a crafty hand in most of what you see around the cabin. A set of ceramic canisters, holding all of the necessary baking ingredients for her delicious endeavours, were crafted by Bonnie, as were the collection of quilts, ready to keep her warm by the fire with her new knitting project. She’s also currently refinishing the cushions of the couches and chairs in a red and green plaid fabric to complement their cabin style.

And that’s not all. The art adorning each and every wall was painted with Gene’s detailed brush strokes. He just finished his second-floor, peaked art studio within the cabin with its own walk-out balcony. The scenic location and visits from wildlife are captured in oil on canvas in this dedicated space.

The lumber was purchased locally and combined to create the shell of the cabin within months. A heart attack and five bypasses slowed Gene down a bit, but he didn’t stay away for long. He knew finishing the cabin and relaxing in their new space was just what his heart needed.

The walls and ceiling hug the space with pine paneling, varying in shade and gorgeous wood grains. Oversized windows look out to the lake and flood the space with natural light, taken over in the evenings by firelight.

The craftsmanship is evident throughout the two-bedroom cabin. Gene even cut and peeled the posts that now act as the stair and deck railings, giving the whole ambience an even greater rustic vibe.

He crafted the kitchen cabinetry at home using pine framing with birch inserts. He accented his work with black hardware. The centre island countertop has been painted dark green to highlight the forest green touches throughout the space. The couple stores their groceries and a stock of wine in the island.

But not all of their work is visible. Gene has built five piers to dock boats and swim from in the past six years, all of which are now underwater because of the rise of the lake’s levels, creating a sort of pier graveyard. After investing in a pontoon boat this past summer, Gene is frustrated that, despite his best efforts, he has nowhere to dock it.

Antiques add character to this quiet cabin. Bonnie’s mother’s 60-year-old sewing machine sits in the main space, ready to be put into action. The wood box under the stairs is the old toy box of the couple’s first daughter, repurposed for the cabin.

Full of character and filling up with special memories each year, this wooden cabin by the lake is just the right kind of peace and quiet the Ansteys hoped it would be. And as they deal out another hand and stoke the fire, they know it can’t get any better than this.