Christmas on the Lake
A couple’s hideaway brings together family, friends and the occasional moose for the holidays.
Photography by Curtis Comeau
Lindie and Gerd Fleissner were all set to relocate to the West Coast five years ago when they got a call that upended their plans for life by the ocean. A property up the road from their weekend cabin on Lac Sainte Anne had suddenly come on the market.
“We said 15 years ago that if that lot ever became available, we would have to live there,” says Lindie. So, the Edmonton property managers decided the nearby home was an even better choice than any they could find in the Pacific.
Now, surveying the view from their quiet country retreat on a recent snowy morning, it’s not hard to see why. The stillness of the lake was broken only by the sounds of the hundred Canada geese that had stopped over on their belated southern migration. The Fleissners also share the property with a family of foxes, numerous deer and the occasional moose. “I had three the other day – mom, pop and junior – and they annihilated my planted trees,” says Lindie. “But we let them … We’re huge animal lovers.”
While location is everything, it was not all that brought the couple here. Moving to the lake also gave them the opportunity to build their dream home: a 3,600 square-foot house that blends seamlessly with its wooded surroundings.
The Fleissners had long loved the look of timber-framed homes, which hearken back to the Old World, and are also common in barn design across Canada.
However, one year into the project, their lake cottage was starting to look a little too barn-like – they didn’t want to have a huge cavernous interior that would dwarf their furniture. That’s when Lindie, who designed the house, did a little research and discovered a new product in the United States – hollowed wooden timber beams, that allowed them to keep the look and feel of solid wood timbers while making it structurally possible to have a smaller, more intimate interior.
“The rooms were really designed for the furniture I love,” says Lindie. She designed most of their pieces, including the Shaker-style dining suite and the Arts & Crafts-style living room set, through UpperWoods Furniture on St. Albert Trail, which is owned by her sister, Debbie Crepeau.
And the manufactured timbers also allowed Lindie, who has a keen eye for detail, to compose the finish right down to the very grain and groove. “With a typical timber frame you get a planed texture with a smooth finish,” says Lindie. “I wanted something a little more rustic, with more character … to make the house look older.”
Lindie brought a sample of their floorboards, which they’d purchased from an old 1882 textile mill in Danville, Virginia, to the product’s designers. Inspired, the team hand carved the timber with a heavier grain and rough edges and the company even made the product available to the public, calling it “The Lake House.”
In the end, the Fleissners were so pleased with the timber that they started a second venture called The Woodbeam Company, which is the product’s sole Canadian distributor.
Despite the care that went into building their home, Christmas at the lake is only partly an indoor affair. More often the house serves as home base for outdoor activities for the Fleissners, their close friends and family. “At Christmas time, we have the group out, and we’ll get the sleighs behind the snowmobiles when the kids are here and we’ll have a big fire pit with roast marshmallows … and hot chocolate and smokies.”
Nearly every morning, Lindie straps on her skis and does a circuit through the 30 acres of woods that adjoin their property. And when the lake freezes, it adds several hundred more acres to their waterfront lot.
“We have the sparkle that you get from … the ice crystals that form on the lake … on a bright sunny day,” she says. “In the winter it really is quite magical out here.”
The magic of Christmas in the country is reflected in the couple’s holiday decor, which Lindie describes as “backwoods chic.” It’s a mix of birch bark and pine cones, ribbons and shimmer. “I love bringing the outdoors in where I can,” says Lindie. Although she has whole-heartedly embraced country life, she spent most of her own in the city, so she can’t resist adding a bit of “city-girl sparkle.” But don’t expect her decorations to be bought off the shelf. “We try to whip up what we can.”
After the holiday crowds leave, Lindie and Gerd unwind by sipping wine in front of their fireplace, made of natural glacier stone from Montana, or in their outdoor hot tub, watching the stars.
“We own a sign that says ‘if you’re lucky enough to live at the lake you’re lucky enough,'” says Lindie. “It’s really true.”
It may not be the Pacific but, in the end, it’s pretty peaceful.