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AZ Awards Winner 2023: Muskoka Lake House by Studio Paolo Ferrari

With this resplendent project, Toronto designer Paolo Ferrari ponders how we can best honour nature: “Maybe we should leave it alone — or intervene, if we must, with the lightest possible touch.” This less-is-more philosophy, inspired by American minimalist artist Carl Andre, guided the design of this stunning Muskoka, Ontario, lake house by Ferrari’s eponymous studio.

AZ Awards Winner 2023: Muskoka Lake House by Studio Paolo Ferrari

Like many iconic Canadian painters enamoured with Lake Rosseau’s rocky coastline, Ferrari deferred to the landscape, sensitively crafting a space that complements but does not overwhelm its context. Through its elegantly restrained plan and material palette, the cottage’s “warm minimalism” offers the ultimate respite from city life.

I love the connection they’ve made with the materials and the roughness of the landscape.
Alain Gilles, AZ Awards 2023 Juror

The living spaces, defined by their pitched roof, fill the upper level, while the sleeping quarters are located below. Throughout, the interior thoughtfully plays with contrast. The sun-bathed primary bedroom offsets a cavernous ensuite, and a wabi-sabi approach juxtaposes refined details against rougher surfaces. Case in point: The showpiece kitchen island — a massive unfinished block of granite — was chosen for its likeness to the rugged boulders of the Canadian Shield. It is balanced by bespoke whitewashed Douglas fir cabinetry, which imparts a sense of warmth and evokes the local vernacular. These materials were almost entirely extracted from the site itself.

AZ Awards Winner 2023: Muskoka Lake House by Studio Paolo Ferrari

The understated finishes ensure the focus remains on the spectacular views — both of the lake and the granite escarpment — that are curated through carefully placed windows, evoking a journey through an inlet in a rock face. Ferrari’s reverence to the landscape is evident down to the details: The bathroom mirrors easily pivot out of the way, allowing for unobstructed views of the rock. Mimicking a Japanese onsen or hot spring, an outdoor sauna and shower in the rock garden enable the residents to experience the landscape up close.

AZ Awards Winner 2023: Muskoka Lake House by Studio Paolo Ferrari

While the result is undoubtedly beautiful, the lake house’s design was not a fundamentally aesthetic exercise. “Stillness, space, connection to nature — these are the best and most rarified luxuries imaginable,” Ferrari explains.

Winner: Residential
Muskoka Lake House

In designing Muskoka Lake House, Paolo Ferrari deferred to the landscape, sensitively crafting a space that complements but does not overwhelm its context.

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