Thursday, April 8, 2021 / by Earl Gaddi
With winter fading behind us, many cottagers are eye-balling warm weather projects to maintain, improve, or even grow their favourite summer retreats. In Canada’s thriving cottage market, ample sleeping space for family, friends, and guests has become increasingly important. One Muskoka-born concept is inspired by the larger bunkhouses used on some farms and ranches. These are known as a bunkie (AKA a cottage bunkie or bunkie cabin), and could be the perfect project to upgrade your cottage this summer.
What’s so special about a bunkie?
Originally designed to serve as extra sleep space for cottages, bunkies are traditionally small enough to be constructed without a building permit. They tend to be outfitted with a few bunks, minimal furnishings, and can comfortably sleep six people (or more!) when loft space is used.
What makes bunkies so popular is their compact footprint, which falls below 108 sq. ft. (approx. 10m2), meaning municipalities won’t issue building permits for their construction. Since bunkies aren’t intended to be inhabited but rather used as temporary sleeping accommodation, they do not fall under the same code requirements as larger structures.
Whether you install prefab (pre-fabricated), build from a kit, or venture into unknown territory with your own plans, there are many possibilities for cottage bunkie designs and features.
Are they easy to build?
Although this project is relatively simple to execute, it requires more than one able-bodied person to construct safely. With a dedicated group of helpers though, a basic bunkie kit can be done in as little as five hours!
If a bunkie is a must-have for your cottage or rural home, and building it yourself is out of the question, don’t worry! There are many prefab options out there that can be delivered and installed for you. Free detailed plans like this Cottage Life Bunkie from Timber Mart mean all you need to do is start your supply shopping list.
This video tour of a completed bunkie kit in Carleton Place, Ontario, gives a good overview of what’s possible when planning, accessorizing and furnishing.
Bunkie living with Mark and Bermalva
Pontiac, Quebec residents Mark and Bermalva recently designed and built their own bunkie to accommodate up to six guests, visiting colleagues, yoga clients, and also to provide a fun change of scenery for family staycations.
Their 10’ x 10’ build uses high-quality white pine, which turned out to be a money-saver that supported local suppliers. They positioned their bunkie to catch the breeze through its door and windows during summer months, which forces warmer air out through the Spanish-style vents near the roof’s apex.
Their design also includes a covered space with a private compost toilet, plus an outdoor kitchen with a sink which recycles the water by draining into an adjacent garden bed.
For cold weather use, Mark and Bermalva installed standard R12 insulation as well as a compact propane heater, which includes an effective air exchange system to reduce the risk of CO buildup.
To make best use of their space, the couple installed two sets of single bunks (above), along with a small loft-style primary bed (below) with ladder access. Gorgeous rustic décor elements add a splash of colour while providing handy reading materials to cozy up with.A well-placed window allows sufficient daylight in to brighten the comfy loft space.
Design and décor
Of course, you should never feel limited to any specific design or décor motif when it comes to cottage bunkie decorating ideas. From simple rustic, to modern chic, there are countless ways to dress both the exterior and interior of your bunkie.
The key is using mould resistant materials that’ll stand up against winter weather and extreme moisture and temperature fluctuations that are the norm in Canada. Second-hand shops or yard sales are amazing places to gather inexpensive home décor items.
If you’re itching for bunkie decorating ideas, check out these eye-catching small spaces on House and Home.
- Always check with your municipality’s planning office as some may require permits for structures as small as 100 sq. ft.
- When selecting a location for your bunkie, make sure to confirm the positioning respects setback requirements for your specific zoning.
- It’s important to note any plumbing installed changes the building category from accessory and your bunkie may then be viewed as a tiny home by your municipality’s planning office.
- Supply shortages and price fluctuations are possible and widespread, so plan ahead and seek out local options whenever possible.
- If you plan to build over an extended period, it’s advisable to protect your materials against unsavoury weather conditions.
There’s no denying how invitingly cute—and handy—these small spaces can be. Whatever your approach, be it design and build from the ground up or simply order a prefab bunkie cabin, not only will your sleep space issues be solved, you’re sure to have fun doing it too.