It was one of those truly spectacular summer days on the island when I shot this story for THE OUTSIDER guide. It was summer perfection, when the sun is high, the sky is clear blue and the breeze coming off the lake is enough to take all your troubles away. It is moments like this on Snake Island, that are not only cherished, but truly enhanced when you find yourself sitting on the deck of the cottage called Caprice. This sentiment is also shared by Michelle and David Bermann, the inhabitants of this idyllic summer home. They are an inspiring couple who for the past 17 years have made this wonderful island get away a place to be treasured.
The definition of the name Caprice can mean a sudden change, and that is what comes over you as you enter the doors to this cottage in the woods. You are simultaneously entranced and delighted, while a sense of welcoming fills your soul. The simplicity of the painted white wood walls sets a perfect showcase for the visual delights of collected treasures and furniture that makes the space feel so unique. As you walk through the wall to wall sliding doors that frame the manicured lake front view, you feel right at home. A sudden urge comes over you to slip into a white covered easy chair, sit back and try to capture in your memory all the special pieces that decorate this pallid cottage space. The timeless and inspirational collection of decor and found objects each tell a story, and hold a special memory for the couple, who have woven a beautiful life together for the past 42 years.
From the moment they met in the early ’70’s they were a true team. Owning and operating a chic little Toronto store in the early 70’s called “Onlyou”, where they designed and collected items that presented their unique aesthetic to Toronto shoppers. From there they both went on to individual careers. Michelle joined Club Monaco at its inception, as Vice President of Design. While David founded and developed one of the most sought after interior painting and wall paper companies for high-end spaces both in Toronto and farther a field.
Michelle and David are known and admired for their homes in Toronto, Miami and Snake island and like themselves their spaces are set apart for their individual style and unique point of view. To this day they continue to share their exceptional talents with us as interior spaces maintain their focus. David runs his painting company and Michelle now owns an interior design firm with her friend and partner Christine Ralphs, called Lloyd Ralphs Design. Together Christine and Michelle work on both residential and commercial spaces both in Toronto and the US.
It was through their interest in renovating spaces and making them all their own that the idea of Caprice came to David and Michelle. After many years being guests of their friends the Ralphs’ (who had a cottage on Snake Island), it was during one of their weekend visits that they discovered the cottage next door was for sale. They jumped at the chance to fulfill a dream they had always had, and as they say the rest is history. Through the years Caprice has gone through a few face-lifts, with renovation done to the main house, once it became theirs, and then a few years later to the original boathouse structure on the front of the property. They redesigned the boathouse so the top floor became a coveted master bedroom and then designed the space downstairs to house all of David’s windsurfing gear. Last year another renovation was developed and built as their family welcomed a new human addition. A new bedroom was added to the main cottage as their life now includes a wonderful grandson, who along with their daughter and son-in-law love coming from New York for vacations on the island.
With each space they have designed or expanded Michelle and David have an ideal method that creates a simplistic and authentic look to their cottage home. Utilizing the space to its full potential, they maintain a pared down yet eclectic style that is all their own. By keeping the design and function minimal they have allowed for the original feel of the 1940’s structure to come through. Touch ups and upgrades to certain areas have allowed for modern necessities, but the original aspects of slat walls and wood plank floors look fresh and updated with a simple coat of white paint. The boat house structure still has a feeling of its historical form, but by opening up the ceilings and adding modern sliding doors and round porthole windows they bring a timeless modernity to the 1940’s structure. When they purchased the cottage they both knew the big project that they had before them, but with time and effort together they have turned a little shack in the woods to a beautiful white lake house to love.
Whether its working on their garden, spending time relaxing, and for David wishing for a day with strong wind so he can sail. They both find numerous enjoyments out of their island getaway. Friends and family visit and neighbours come together for weekends and summer memories made. There isn’t a season that goes by that they don’t truly enjoy their island time and know what their home adds to their life together. I will let them tell you more in the Q+A below as true cottagers can only say in their own words what makes a place and time away so special, and what is essential to make the most of weekends together.
Q: WHAT MADE YOU BUY A COTTAGE?
A: It was a dream we both had to own a cottage one day. Our good friends Christine and Peter owned a cottage on Snake Island and when the cottage next door came up we jumped at the chance to own a getaway.
Q: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN ON THE ISLAND?
A: Fifteen amazing fun-filled years
Q: WHAT MAKES ISLAND LIFE DIFFERENT FROM BEING ON THE MAINLAND?
A: The experience of leaving the mainland and arriving by water taxi to your dock seems like a world away.
Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF YOUR ISLAND HOME?
A: The large expanse of the floor to ceiling glass facing the lake that is a window to the sun, rain, wind and all the extremes our lake has to offer. It is a Canadian summer home but we have created a very island look inspired by a trip to St. Barts.
Q; WHAT IS YOUR MOST CHERISHED COTTAGE POSSESSION?
A: Michelle: my raffia skirts, hats and indigo print fabrics that I mix with lots of white terry towel.
David : the boathouse where I keep all m wind surfing gear ready to go when the wind comes up.
Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TIME OF DAY ON THE ISLAND?
A: The early morning sunrise on the island, followed by glorious sunsets in the evening by the water’s edge.
Q; WHAT IS YOUR IDEA OF THE PERFECT DAY ON THE ISLAND?
A: Spending time with Ulysses, our beautiful grandson.
Q: DO YOU HAVE ANY WEEKEND RITUALS?
A: We love to spend time maintaining the cottage each weekend. Mowing the lawn, trimming the trees, painting and gardening. We bike the island path, enjoying nature but always end up drawn to the lake and its many faces.
Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE WEEKEND MEAL?
A: Roasted chicken with french lentils and Dijon mustard, followed by a salad of frisee, endive, blue chess and radishes.
Q: WHAT IS YOUR WEEKEND DRINK OF CHOICE?
A: Bombay Sapphire Gin, in a Moroccan tea glass with 2 ice cubes a teaspoon of lemon juice and a sprig of mint.
Q: IF YOU COULD INVITE A FAMOUS PERSON LIVING OR DEAD TO THE ISLAND, WHO WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
A: Michelle: Bridgette Bardot, Matisse and Pablo Picasso, for my long time love of French fashion and art.
David: Johnny Depp over a glass of wine to convince him to make a movie about his favourite book by Anthony Adverse.
Q: WHY DID YOU CALL YOU COTTAGE CAPRICE?
A: Our daughter named the cottage Caprice. She might have been trying to imply that her parents were always up for a sudden change of notion or whimsy in their lives.
Q: WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR MOST SPECIAL COTTAGE MEMORIES?
A: Taking down all the walls inside our original cottage and making it into one large room. This made sleeping in the upper part of out boathouse bedroom our night-time destination, where we are lulled to sleep by the lapping of the waves.
Q: WHAT IS YOUR WEEKEND MOTTO?
A: Never get sidetracked and always make it to Snake Island every summer weekend.
Q: WHAT MUSIC IS ON REPEAT EVERY WEEKEND IN THE COTTAGE?
A: Tania Maria, Stan Getz, George Benson, and Chet Baker
Q: WHAT IS ONE GREAT TIP YOUR CAN SHARE THAT YOU HAVE LEARNED IN YOUR YEARS OF COTTAGE LIVING?
A: Surround yourself with friends, family, fresh garden food, music and you will have the time of your life.
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 5 ESSENTIALS YOUR MUST HAVE FOR YOUR WEEKENDS?
A: Michelle: A big straw hat, sunglasses, swimsuit, the newest magazine and a raffia umbrella.
David: Fresh fruit for smoothies, morning coffee, biographies, iPhone, and gasoline for the boat.
Q: WHAT IS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE SOMEONE WHO IS THINKING OF STARTING A COTTAGE LIFESTYLE?
A: Having a cottage like ours has been a labour of love! It’s a commitment to both organization and maintenance but somehow nothing on the island seems very serious and can most likely wait for next weekend. Just jump in and test the water.