A new life for the Log Cabin

When Lena Patten came across Lady Eaton’s sofa, she knew it needed a home. A decade later, she found one.

by Glen Herbert

“I always wanted that building to be refurbished,” says Lena Patten, owner of Hilltop Interiors in Rosseau. The Log Cabin is one of the signature structures of the RLC campus and, if not one of the first things people see when they arrive on site, it’s a building that invariably captures their attention.

The cabin was first constructed to serve as Lady Eaton’s sewing room, this when the property was the grand Eaton estate. Lady Flora Eaton was born in Omeemee and, marrying into the Eaton family, went on to become a socialite and philanthropist, certainly very well known in her day. The cabin was her retreat from the bustle of the mansion that once stood roughly where Brock House is today.

For Lena, the building signals that history and then some, including the uniqueness of the school, of which she’s particularly proud. Over the years Lena’s been an RLC parent and a volunteer; she’s served on building committees, and fundraising committees, and has been an indefatigable champion of the school. Which is why she is delighted to see the cabin being restored to its past grandeur. This past summer and fall the hung ceiling was removed, revealing the beams: straight logs, bark removed, finished to bring out the character and the knots. The chimney, like the beams, had been obscured by the hung ceiling. The walls were uncovered, and the logs cleaned and refinished. It was like unwrapping an early Christmas gift.

And then there’s the sofa. “I would call it a parlour sofa,” says Lena. “To me it’s not your typical sofa that has, you know, tons of cushions and back cushions.” It really isn’t. Its heavy, with broad wood armrests. “It’s very beautiful,” she says, “but it’s not that comfortable.”

It’s unique in every way. Flora’s parents were Irish immigrants, and her father built cabinetry, though—as delightful as it would be—it’s probably too much to imagine that he had a hand in building the sofa. But it's just one of those pieces that is so singular that it makes the mind wander. Lena imagines Lady Eaton and her friends having tea, true to the style of that era: elbows in, backs straight, everyone hatching plans and sharing gossip.  

The fact that it’s here is a story unto itself. Some years ago, Lena was asked if she’d be interested in having it. The provenance was clear, and her answer was, yes, one hundred percent yes. “My thinking was that it could be refinished and given back to the school,” so she put it in storage, waiting for the right moment. “It was just something that I saved.”

Then, earlier this year, Dave noted to her that the building was going to be restored and wondered what kind of furniture she’d suggest. “I was tickled and happy that he’d asked me, because of course I had the perfect piece to go in front of the fireplace.”

She had it upholstered in blue, a signature RLC colour, and paired it with a small chair that, while not from the Eaton estate, is nevertheless from one of the historic cottages on Lake Rosseau.

And, a few weeks ago, the sofa and the chair were moved in. It just feels right. Thanks to Lena and Randy Patten of Hilltop Interiors for the donation of the couch, the armchair, and the chandelier in addition to guidance with the interior design. Another huge thank you to Carol and Peter Newall for their contributions of time and vision toward appointing this beautiful space.

Would Lady Eaton be proud? It’s hard to know. But we are.