What does a bar owner do when it’s too cold to open the patio, but not cold enough to turn that patio into an ice rink? Well, if you’re Patrick McMurray, oyster shucker extraordinaire and owner of Ceili Cottage, you build a yurt.
1. COTTON BAAA-TTING
Underneath the accordion panels and cotton muslin, there is a thin layer of sheep’s wool felt. It keeps the space insulated, and also makes it smell a bit like a barn (but that’s just part of the overall charm).
2. SIT ON IT
The high-back chairs are from the shuttered Little Italy restaurant Grappa—a Kijiji find. Between the benches and chairs, the yurt comfortably seats 40.
3. HOLD ON TO YOUR HORSES
There’s no metal in the yurt’s construction, save a few screws to keep the outer canvas from flapping. Everything in the structure is held together, or tied in place, with knotted sinew (sheep’s gut, to be precise), and hand-woven horsehair rope.
4. HEADS UP!
Unless you’re under five feet tall, entering the yurt will require ducking. The diminutive double doors push inward and, McMurray says, “open up to another world.” Bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside, it’s very Alice in Wonderland.
5. FREE PERKS
McMurray built the benches himself and upholstered them in burlap coffee bags from Reunion Island Coffee in Oakville, which posted them for free on Kijiji.
6. DROP THE NEEDLE
The record player came from what McMurray calls a “post–garage sale”—it was sitting on a curb. “I’m a bit of a dumpster diver,” he admits. The records, a mix of “weird ’70s stuff,” came from a shop down the street and from a customer who was paid in oysters for three milk crates of LPs. The Doors and Neil Young are popular, but David Bowie’s Let’s Dance gets the most play.
7. IT’S GETTING HOT IN HERE
There’s an electric heater, but body heat accounts for most of the warmth and on a busy night it can reach 24 degrees. Blankets strewn on the benches are rarely used because “it’s warmer in here than it is in [the main bar] on any given night,” says McMurray.
8. RAISE THE ROOF
The roof beams, or huns, were given a coat of blue (McMurray wanted to go with the official colour of Dublin), then hand-painted with an intricate design. Erecting the beams may have been the most challenging part, but as McMurray says, “If a shucker can do it, anyone can do it. We aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed; we just hold onto ’em.”
Fashioned out of antlers picked up on a New Brunswick elk farm, and candlelit mason jars, the horny chandelier was crafted by McMurray and conceived by his wife, who normally avoids kitsch but thought that in this case, it would be perfect.
10. DOMED FROM THE START
This is typically where the chimney would be, but Ceili’s yurt doesn’t have a fireplace in the middle, just two catering tables pushed together that act as a service station. The dome’s flap can still be opened up if things get particularly steamy inside.
Ceili Cottage, 1301 Queen St. E., 416-406-1301.