Residential Experiment #1: The lake-side cottage


Although not part of the original plan, one of the perks of living in various places for a few months at a time is zeroing in on what we do and don’t like when it comes to a home. Given that we eventually (though, not any time soon) want to own a home, these residential experiments help us understand what our ideal home might look like, and where it may be located. Thus, in an effort to keep track of what we’ve learned, this will be the first in a series of posts where we evaluate the places we temporarily resided in.

Name: The Cottage.

Location: Kingston, ON, Canada

Dates: November 2010–February 2011

Basics: 1 bedroom home in a forested area with a view of the lake and 5 minute drive from downtown.

The cottage

Although we had previously rented furnished places when travelling, generally preferring these to hotels, our stays here were rather short. This house in the woods, which quickly became known as The Cottage, was our first furnished residential (as opposed to vacation) home.

I had always dreamed living in a more remote environment, close to some body of water, surrounded by trees and animals. In this dream I would write at a desk in the silent home while taking breaks to look at the gentle waves of the water or the family of the deer just outside my window.

Views from our home-office window


Luckily, The Cottage provided exactly this experience. Marina and I both loved this place. Every morning we were greeted by a family of deer that would feed just outside our window, as we ate our breakfast. The same deer would walk back past our property near the end of the workday (~5pm); they were apparently on the same schedule as us. Countless birds, foxes, squirrels, and even coyotes provided hours of window-viewing entertainment.


Our driveway security

Due to the absolute silence and darkness at night, we also had some of the best sleep of our lives here. However, this took a night or two to adjust to; when you are accustomed to noise at night, the complete absence thereof can be initially unsettling.

Aside from our laptops, the house was rather void of electronics. For example, there was no television, and the space in the cozy living room occupied by a TV in most homes consisted of a book case. Given that we’d sworn off television some years ago (for both physical and mental health reasons), this suited us just fine.

Because we were rather isolated, and couldn’t walk to get takeout at our favorite downtown restaurants, we ended up cooking almost exclusively. This was not only better for our wallets, but most certainly for our waistlines.

Going for a walk on the frozen, snow-covered lake

But, of course living in the woods in the middle of Canadian winter has some drawbacks. The most acute issue for me, as someone who works remotely in my home office, was the sense of isolation. While having to shovel snow for over an hour on many successive days provided some great exercise, it was a bit of a nuisance at times. The same could be said regarding driving up and down the steep and winding snow-covered dirt road leading to our place (the tow truck was in our neck of the woods on a pretty regular basis, and had to tow out one of our friends who got stuck in a ditch).

Here is a detailed summary of items that either improved or tarnished our experience at The Cottage.

The good:

  • Large kitchen, with tons of counter space including a cutting board counter and an island, a knife magnet (loved this!), and a fridge with the freezer at floor level.
  • Tons of windows which got a lot of sun exposure at midday
  • Minimalist approach to decoration and furniture (comfortable, but not crowded; no TV)
  • View of the lake, trees, animals, etc.
  • Large walk-in shower
  • Multi-level outdoor deck
  • Quiet, peaceful, remote and still only 5 mins from civilization

The bad:

  • Lots of snow shoveling (I assume mowing grass takes over in the spring/summer)
  • Feeling of isolation
  • Can’t really walk anywhere (aside from walking through the woods or on the frozen lake)
  • Felt less safe than in an apartment/condo
  • No dishwasher
  • Terrible traffic at certain times to get into town (huge bottleneck)


While it was certainly nice and relaxing for a while, I can’t imagine living at The Cottage permanently without going a bit nutty. It would be much different if I went to work and came home to relax in the evenings, but working from home with little chance for (human) social interaction outside your door is another story. The Cottage could also be great once I get older and become more homebound. I am basing this assumption on the fact that 90% of the people that lived in this area were retired.


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