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Digital Subscriptions > Cottage Life > SPRING 2018 > FOR US, SERENITY IS A MAGNET


Lynn and Philip often watch the sun go down from the chairs on the lawn in front; in early July, sunset is late enough that the kids are usually asleep by then.

We call it our cottage, but really it’s not ours at all. We’ve been renting it for five consecutive years now from the New England couple who built it. We know all its nooks and creaks and groans, its needs and its moods. Every year gives me the occasion to pull the toolbox from the storage area beneath the stairwell and fix a screen door or a dripping faucet. Those moments aren’t really work, but ministrations to what feels like a family legacy. Ownership is beside the point. We may be renters, but our family is as intimate with this place as we are with each other—and we are never more intimate than when we are here.

The cottage coffee table features a collection of well-chosen books: seashell guides, books about Canada, histories of P.E.I. But my favourite one is Second Home, a style guide published by Better Homes and Gardens. It is on display to honour its role as the inspiration and the founding document for the building itself. The book was a 2003 Christmas gift from a Connecticut woman named Michele Femc (said like “fence”) to her husband, Mallory Bagwell, the owners of the cottage. “Our dreams of a second home by the sea are upon us,” reads the inscription. “I delight in the thought of living on Prince Edward Island with you—sunrises…sunsets…the solitude of the beauty surrounding us.” Many of the pages still have pink Post-it Notes with plan sketches for the building or comments on design features they like. Each one of those features—an island countertop in a sunlit kitchen, a cubby wall for beach toys and fishing tackle—has inspired similar features in the final structure.

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