stats Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels


  This site         Tips

  The Web Google


  Where to Find It

Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business



Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store

Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business




  Arts & Entertainment



   Headline Index

 Other Sections

  Births & Deaths






  Facts & Arguments




  Real Estate









  Food & Dining




  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...


   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site



  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us



 Web Site

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


Remote Cape Breton cottage feels like home to island native
Toronto dentist comes 'from away' to rediscover his Acadian and Mi'kmaq roots
Special to The Globe and Mail

Email this article Print this article
Friday, August 10, 2018 – Page H4

Martin Bourgeois, a dentist and oral radiologist, has lived in Toronto for the past 30 years.

It's where he established his career after finishing dentistry school at Dalhousie University in Halifax. But every six weeks or so, year round, Dr. Bourgeois takes a short vacation - maybe a week - and heads back to where he was born and raised: Chéticamp, Cape Breton, N.S.

Getting to the East Coast takes time.

It's a two-hour flight from Toronto to Halifax, then a four-hour drive from there (never mind the time it takes to get to the airport and clear security). But Dr. Bourgeois finds the trip "so easy," he said, even compared to the relatively shorter two- to three-hour commute to his former weekend place in Haliburton, Ont.

"Being stuck in Friday-afternoon traffic on the highway was so stressful," he said. "I used to hate that drive ... With Chéticamp, it just feels like going home.

I am French Acadian with Mi'kmaq roots, so culturally feel very connected to that land. It's where I have my first memories - walking on the beach with my father in the 1960s. It's where I feel like I can be myself."

At the end of the journey, it helps that Dr. Bourgeois can rest and relax at his recently finished cottage. It's a modest structure - two bedrooms, one storey and less than 2,000 square feet, all clad in simple cedar shingles. But the humble scale of the architecture only emphasizes the capaciousness of the surroundings - the multi-acre site is near the edge of a bluff overlooking the Cabot Trail and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The thoughtful design, by Halifax architect Nicholas Fudge, creates the kind of connection to the surroundings that Dr. Bourgeois dreams of when he's in Toronto. "I book my next flights as soon as I get back to the city," he said.

The open-concept kitchen, dining area and living room, which all flow into one common space, are lined with wallto-wall windows that frame the waters and surrounding hills. A series of patio doors provide lots of opportunities to step outside onto a simple wooden deck.

The master bedroom is similarly enclosed in glass.

"It's a wonderful way to disconnect from my crazy, overly busy Toronto life," Dr. Bourgeois said. "In the summer, it's great for swimming, having family over, having my wine. October is beautiful with the leaves changing. Winter is just really quiet."

When Dr. Bourgeois isn't in Chéticamp, he puts his home on Airbnb for $500 a night.

As restful as the cottage is now, it was a hassle to build, at least at first. The nearest big town to Chéticamp is Sydney, which is two hours away. As with many remote sites, finding a contractor and trades to build anything, let alone something uniquely custom ("I'm very attached to minimalist, mid-century design," Dr. Bourgeois said), is not easy.

Dr. Bourgeois had initially hired a Cape Breton architect to envision a bespoke home. But after a design process that dragged out over several years only to end in a contracting estimate that was $300,000 over budget, he decided to look for another solution.

Then Dr. Bourgeois came across a Halifax-based company called East Coast Modern, which is co-run by Mr. Fudge and his business partner, Steve Chiasson, a former vice-president at Pepsi Canada.

"I've been reading Dwell magazine for years," Mr. Chiasson said. "I've always been drawn to modern architecture."

East Coast Modern builds homes in Atlantic Canada, often for owners who have family history in the Maritimes but are now "from away," Mr. Fudge said. "A lot of our clients are in Toronto or Calgary. They want a vacation property here, but they are very intimidated to build because they don't know any of the trades."

Mr. Fudge's company simplifies the process because it builds everything prefab with the same contracting company, Lloyoll Custom Building, in a factory on Nova Scotia's South Shore. Each design is tailored to the needs of the homeowner, but based on set modules and assembled from a kit of parts (Dr. Bourgeois's base model is called the ModHaus III).

The standardization means that East Coast Modern can accurately predict the price of the structure, even signing a guarantee that there will be no cost overruns. The average build runs between $225 to $300 per square foot; however, delivery and site preparation are not included. Those costs are harder to predict and can be expensive, especially for a remote site such as Chéticamp. "The foundation cost about twice what I thought it would," Dr. Bourgeois said.

The standardization also helps set a firm date of completion, when the house will be shipped on a truck and craned into location. "One of the main reasons I signed with Nicholas is because he said we could do this within a set time frame," Dr. Bourgeois said. "We started working together in 2016, and he said it would all be done in May, 2017."

His place was complete within three weeks of the originally expected due date - a minor delay compared with the sometimes endless construction of a custom home.

East Coast Modern also tries to be time conscious in other ways. Since the designs are somewhat preset, the company doesn't require as many meetings as fully custom architectural studios typically require.

"We try to prevent decision fatigue," Mr. Chiasson said, "by not asking people to pick every single detail, like the light switches or the colour of the door knobs."

Throughout the project, instead of inperson sit downs, Dr. Bourgeois and Mr. Fudge corresponded entirely by phone and e-mail. In fact, the two only met in person for the first time to tour through the finished home.

"Nicholas showed up with Champagne," said Dr. Bourgeois, who has been celebrating the ocean vistas of his hometown ever since.

Associated Graphic

Martin Bourgeois's cottage in Chéticamp was designed by Halifax architect Nicholas Fudge and invokes a kind of connection to its natural surroundings. 'It's a wonderful way to disconnect from my crazy, overly busy Toronto life,' Dr. Bourgeois says.


Restful as it is now, the cottage was a hassle to build - until Mr. Fudge's company, East Coast Modern, stepped in. The company simplifies the process by building everything prefab; each design is tailored to the needs of the homeowner, but based on set modules and assembled from a kit of parts.


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Andrew_Willis Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.


7-Day Site Search

Breaking News

Today's Weather


Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes

Where Manley is going with his first budget



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
Margaret Wente arrow
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game

Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
Mathew Ingram arrow
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
Andrew Willis arrow

Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
Eric Duhatschek arrow
Allan Maki arrow
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
 The Arts

John Doyle arrow
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
Johanna Schneller arrow

Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
Paul Knox arrow
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
William Thorsell arrow

Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page