TORONTO – Rollicking interior design stars Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan are back with a new series they say has been their most “taxing” yet soul-fulfilling show yet.
Debuting Tuesday on Cottage Life (at 10 p.m. ET/PT), “Colin and Justin’s Cabin Pressure” sees the sassy Scottish pair — admittedly “very metropolitan city boys” — co-purchasing a log cabin in Ontario’s Muskoka region with another couple and fixing it up to their own tastes.
“We’ve learned how to cope with problems that are really butch, manly, Canadian northern problems, and we’ve had to deal with a lot of drama,” says Ryan, the blond counterpart to his brunette partner.
“It’s also fair to say, as much as this show is all about glamour and creating a beautiful house, it’s a scene-by-scene, perfect recreation of ‘Deliverance,'” he adds, mimicking the “Dueling Banjos” music from the 1972 thriller.
“We have to deal with a lot of people who didn’t particularly want us around and about. We’ve had to fight through a lot of kind of presumptions that people made about us. But we met really good people, and after we’d shown them who we really are — we’re not just two big, silly crazy boys with silly hair and mad flowers in our lapels. We’re also measured blokes who want to be part of the community.
“So we made a lot of friends, but I think we scared the living bejesus out of a lot of people. Because we arrived in fake-fur, floor-length coats and trailed around the lake in the middle of summer like the Kardashians on crack.
“But it has been brilliant. It’s made us better people. We’ve learned such a lot about ourselves.”
For those hoping to buy their own cottage and spruce it up, the design duo offer the following five tips:
1. Plan carefully, and “think twice, buy once.”
“Cliche but it’s true is: To fail to plan is to plan to fail,” says Ryan.
When it came to their own property, Ryan says they had “a really tight budget” and looked at hundreds of cottages before finding the right one.
And they still ran into “a huge amount of problems,” including dangerous wiring and a rotting deck.
“I would really say to anybody buying a cottage, think really, really carefully,” he says.
“Neither Colin or I realized just what a pig in lipstick we were buying.”
Viewers get to see those trials and tribulations on the series, in which they had 12 weeks to do the renovations.
“In one of the episodes, Justin and I have a, a, a discussion,” starts McAllister.
“You mean a heated debate, don’t you?” interjects Ryan with a laugh.
“And actually, it looks like our cottage dream is just going to grind to a really embarrassing halt,” adds McAllister.
2. Consider a cottage that has — or can be renovated to have — “a proper relationship with the outdoors.”
McAllister says they were surprised to discover that 95 per cent of the cottages they saw had “really small windows,” making a three-hour trip to a cottage “that felt very, very enclosed and actually quite suburban” seem silly.
“We bought a log cabin because we wanted to feel a bit like Grizzly Adams, but we are probably more like Grizzly Madams, to be honest,” he quips.
“But we wanted that whole kind of like North American escapist kind of idea.”
They suggest taking out a section of a wall to put up a bigger window and/or French doors to let the light flood in, if possible.
To showcase the natural wood of their log cabin indoors, they used floor uplights that cast a glow and shadows.
3. As with urban properties, do the big jobs first.
Problems with flooring, plumbing and wiring should be fixed before decor.
And consider owning the space for a few months to get a feel for it before starting renos, as McAllister and Ryan did.
“See how it changes in different seasons,” says McAllister. “We weren’t going to rush in and throw everything out. We wanted to see how the light would change, how the mood would change, when we would use it and then make design decisions about what we were going to do with it.”
4. Consider winterizing the property.
McAllister says winter is the most beautiful time of year on their lake.
“It’s brilliant blue skies, the temperature is minus-25, we are marching around in our fur coats like the Kardashians with my showshoes on,” he says.
“It’s amazing. So I would winterize and I would spend as much time up there as possible.”
5. When it comes to decor, aim for “sophisticated rustic.”
The two say they went to barn and garage sales for pieces they could refurbish and upcycle.
They also shopped locally when possible and used B.C. cedar to rebuild their deck.
As for colour palate, they don’t recommend going with whites, which will likely get dirty.
For their cottage, they chose a palate of monochrome, with greys and taupes and some black accented with yellow throughout.
McAllister and Ryan say viewers often mistakenly think their personal interior design style is bright and bold, based on what they’ve done for clients on previous series including “Colin & Justin’s Home Heist.”
“But our own style is very, very low-key,” says Ryan.
“Our own style isn’t ostentatious. It’s much more about a whisper rather than screaming.”
Cottage Life will run a national free preview from April 1 to May 31.
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