They’re from Scotland originally, but Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan—better known as celebrity interior designers Colin and Justin—are now honorary Cape Bretoners. This is partly because their new hotel, North Star* in the Nova Scotia community of Louisbourg, has become a great success and a welcome addition to its community. But it’s also because they’ve so warmly and willingly embraced the nature and culture of their newfound summer home.

The couple moved from the U.K. to Toronto in 2008 to begin filming the television series Home Heist. Their work in Canada has taken them through appearances on CityTV’s Breakfast Television and CityLine as well as several more TV series spotlighting cottage renovations. They also worked on a video for Tourism Nova Scotia, which made them familiar with the province.

Find 7 sensational reasons to visit Louisbourg here >

From an older Point of View, a new North Star* emerges

Colin and Justin were working on a book called Escapology when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It was released the following September with no book tour or appearances, and they weren’t sure how well it would be received.

“Canada has been so good to us,” Colin McAllister tells RoadTripper.ca. “For some fabulous, amazing, incredible Canadian reason, it made the Globe & Mail bestsellers list and it’s on its fourth reprint. It took on its own life. I think that then inspired us to practice what we preach and to indulge in a bit of escapology.”

Meanwhile, a property in Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, called the Point of View Suites had been sitting on the market for two years. Colin says Justin kept it in his bookmarks. He would pull it up occasionally and remark at how ridiculous it was that no one had bought it.

Two and two came together, and the pair decided to take a leap of faith. Point of View Suites became North Star*, and the property’s renovation was documented in all its messy glory on the series Colin and Justin’s Hotel Hell that aired on CBC Gem and Channel 5 in the U.K.

“We said, okay, let’s do something we don’t know the answers to, something we’ve never done before, something that makes us feel alive and challenged,” Colin says.

At times, he says, it became a case of being careful what you wish for. He recalls a moment where an entire shipment of place settings arrived broken in the box. As the couple frustratedly sifted through the remains, Colin openly expressed his doubts around whether they were doing the right thing.

Louisbourg’s only oceanfront hotel

They persevered through the challenges, and North Star* finally opened in 2022. The end result is a gem of an accommodation on Cape Breton’s east coast. The 22 rooms at North Star* are each designed with a relaxed, comfortable and beachy feel, and many have the only oceanfront views in Louisbourg.

Of the two restaurants, The Bothy is the centrepiece as home to the bar and evening restaurant. It’s set inside a semicircular metal Quonset hut, though you’d never know it from how homey it feels when you step inside.

“That shape reminded us of classic Victorian British railway stations,” Colin says. “We don’t have a ceiling, so everything we have to do is on the periphery. We have to create all the moods and then just bring pockets of light inside. But people love this room. They love that it’s a concert hall that takes them by surprise acoustically.  It’s like a speaker. It’s beautiful.”

Talking cars with Colin and Justin

Although they love their new summer home in Cape Breton, Colin says he and Justin do miss spending their summers in Toronto. They’re car enthusiasts who consider summer driving a highlight—so much so that their automotive treasures remain tucked away in the parking garage beneath their penthouse condominium in the city. Colin refers to their cars as “incredible summer toys,” and each has a unique story behind it.

Their 1968 Mercedes 280 SL began life as a Canadian car that originated in Quebec. Its lore traces it back to the Trudeau gang in the late 1960s. Somehow, it made its way to Arizona before Colin and Justin purchased and repatriated it with help from the president of the Mercedes-Benz Club of America.

“On Home Heist, Justin and I drove a silver classic Mercedes that was loaned to us by them. We said, okay, you need to get us one,” Colin says. “It has never been wet, so we don’t wash it. We cream clean it. It has no rust. It’s in pristine condition.”

Their other car is a grey 1977 Citroën 2CV6. Hermès Canada owned it and used as a promotional vehicle before Colin and Justin snapped it up.

“We have a little bit of German, and a little bit of French, and a little bit of British life in Toronto,” Colin says.

All hands on deck at North Star*

Today, Colin and Justin remain fully hands-on in North Star*’s day-to-day operations from May to October. On any given night, you can find them in The Bothy slinging drinks and chatting with the locals. Justin has even been known to jump on stage with local musicians and perform Cape Breton classics. During our visit, Working Man by legendary Cape Bretoner Rita MacNeil was the repertoire of choice.

And through it all, Louisbourg has become yet another home to Colin and Justin. This community of 700 people has thoroughly embraced them and makes them feel like family.

“This bar is our living room,” Colin says. “There’s some weird power that this rom has where people’s shoulders drop a little bit. They take their shoes off. And it always feels like we have friends for dinner.”

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2 Comments

  1. My husband and I stayed there shortly after it opened in June 2022. We had a fabulous time, well looked after by C and J along with their small but mighty team. A great base for exploring Cape Breton and the Louisburg fort

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