As some of you may know, Kelowna, BC is our second home. My whole side of the family lives in the Okanagan and after years of flying back and forth from Ontario for quick visits and holidays, we longed to spend an extended period of time there. When the pandemic made remote work more mainstream, we seized the opportunity to purchase our own piece of paradise out there in a small lakeside community between Kelowna and Vernon, aptly named Lake Country. Ahead of our first summer as west coasters I was approached by a winery in the area, O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars, that was looking to reimagine an old vineyard cottage on their 300-acre property and turn it into a vacation rental for their wine club members, and other guests to the area. You know the saying “buy the ugliest house on the nicest street”?...well this wasn’t just the nicest street, this was one of the nicest properties I’d ever seen. With 180° lake views from the expansive deck, surrounded by lush vines cascading down the mountainside, and sunsets made better only with a perfectly chilled glass of their Goldie White in hand.
Starting the project from a distance definitely came with its challenges (and lots of zoom calls) given the scope of structural work required, both inside and out, but we were able to nail down an initial design plan and new layout so that the amazing trades team could get started. By the time that I arrived on-site 2 months later (Spring of 2021), most of the new bones were in place but we still had a lot of decisions to make before we could get to the finishes (aka the fun stuff). Since this was intended to be a vacation rental and not a home, we had to consider the types of people/groups that would be staying there (girls trips, families, reunions, weddings etc.), where guest traffic would be concentrated (living room, patio), the amenities needed, and not needed, for short-term rentals (needed: ensuite in each room, not needed: laundry room), and the unique touches that would leave a lasting impression.
One of the most impactful design choices we made was to replace all of the doors and windows, particularly the ones framing the stunning lake view and leading to the expansive patio because that’s one of the main reasons people visit the Okanagan. I talk a lot about designing around a view - and boy did this place have a killer one - so it was a no brainer to make it the focal point. The abundance of natural light was also what designer dreams are made of. While the original windows still flooded the space with tons of light, the dated shape and trim took away from the show-stopping view. It was also so, so hot. The old windows weren’t properly insulated so when that afternoon sun hit, we were toast(ed) inside. New energy-efficient windows allowed us to create a more modern look to frame the idyllic backdrop, while reclaimed wood beams from the property were used as trim to maintain the elevated cabin vibes the owners were looking for.
Another big design choice (and budget investment) we made was to add a gas fireplace to the main living space - both for functional and aesthetic reasons. With it being an older property, and surrounded by windows, we wanted to ensure there were sufficient heating sources for the winter months. There’s also nothing better than cozying up to a fire with a glass of wine, especially on vacation. The large, open living room had a stunning vaulted oak panel ceiling, but was lacking something to anchor the room and create a distinct guest space separate from the kitchen and front entry.
A space between two existing windows overlooking the vineyard was the perfect place to build a brand new floor-to-ceiling fireplace - that looked like it had been there for decades. The surround was clad in natural stone (from the property itself), to add depth, texture and a great story. With a new state-of-the-art winery underway on the north part of the acreage, years of blasting into the rock face (at only 3 feet per day!) to create 12,000 square feet of caves (that are the ideal temperature for storing and aging wines - how cool?!), gave the owners the incredible gift of tons upon tons of raw granite that is now being used throughout the new winery, and we were able to leverage for the fireplace and as part of the new siding on the exterior.
The kitchen had a small footprint but since this was a vacation rental, it didn’t need all of the amenities or storage space of an at-home kitchen, so we prioritized an extra-large, raised peninsula with seating for up to 8.
For the finishes, we opted for calming neutrals, so that the vast natural surroundings served as the pops of colour and contrast. The initial vision was actually to lay brick flooring in the entry and kitchen for an “under the tuscan sun” vibe, and whitewash the oak ceiling to create a light, bright, inviting space. But, when we couldn’t achieve the finish on the ceiling that we were going for due to some staining and grain variation, and realized that there there would likely be dirt, dust and gravel tracked into the cottage frequently given the location and surroundings, we did a quick pivot and decided to run the durable laminate flooring throughout and just gave the ceiling a quick sanding to remove the sheen for a more matte finish.
Two bedrooms and bathrooms on the main floor, a master suite on the second floor, and brand new landscaping, including a retaining wall done in the same natural stone from the property, completed this cottage revival just in time for the busy summer season.
For more information on booking the cottage for your next (or first) visit to Kelowna, visit their site.If you're thinking about setting up a vacation rental of your own, make sure you read our blog on the 10 things every successful vacation rental needs or get in touch for a free consultation.