Posted on June 02 2019
Spring is finally here! It has been a long and frustrating wait. One of the ways that people around here mark the season, is by opening up their cottages and cabins by the lake.
We are guardians of a family cottage about 2 hours northwest of our city. It's on a hill, overlooking a beautiful lake. The original building was given to Husband's grandparents, as a wedding gift in the early 1930's. In 2000, my in-laws updated it and added on. It now has a large living/dining area, modernized kitchen, 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms and a utility room.
As I am a well-known city slicker, adapting to cottage life has not been very easy. Although equipped with all amenities, the only real annoyances are the bugs, no internet access and lack of TV channels. When we first started inhabiting it, the cottage was in VERY rough condition. Previous renters had become untidy and many of the woodland creatures had found their ways in and made themselves very comfortable.
The family who used it lost a son and patriarch, so up-keeping it was difficult for them. Mouse dirt was everywhere, in the crevices of furniture, in the kitchen cupboards and drawers, between mattresses, in the rugs. Job #1 was taking large loads to the local dump. Many of the soft items were not salvageable, nor did we really want to keep them!
We didn't really know where to start. There was so much to do and I wasn't sure how much energy I had for such a daunting ongoing task. One of the best ways I think is to seriously declutter. Leave no stone unturned. Evaluate everything. Very precious and sentimental pieces may be better off stored elsewhere. Make this step a priority so as not to have to carefully negotiate around them in frustration. In our case, we were taking over a family cottage with a lot of history and memories. Treading carefully had to become our mantra, whether we liked it or not.
Right from the start, it was our intention to be as budget conscious as possible with making it useable and aesthetically pleasing. The practicalities of maintaining a 3 season vacation property leaves little time and funds to indulge in any extravagant ideas. My biggest visual distraction was the wood paneling in the main living areas. With floor, walls and ceiling fully clad, it felt like being in a wooden crate! And with its original ceiling height a lot lower than standard, the rooms felt so claustrophobic.
As the cottage is not ours to make any major changes like painting the wood (some would gasp at the notion), we went the cheap and cheerful route. At our favourite Swedish home decor store, we picked up a large piece of thick, graphic fabric to use as a wall hanging above the sofa. Its white background nicely breaks up all that wood! It also allowed for accent colour cues for the spaces.
Another impactful change we made was to retire some of the more scary light fixtures. We weren't enamoured with the "pirate ship" aesthetic of the ceiling pendants! They were replaced with fresh, white, paper lantern hanging lights. They have a modern vibe and are very inexpensive. I was also really bothered by the large lamps which flanked the sofa. To use the word hideous would be an understatement!
This time we opted for a fun DIY project. I can't take credit for the design as I found it on Pinterest. The brackets were constructed with scrap pieces of firewood. Husband made quick work of it. The red chords and bulbs were also from the Swedish store. But you can easily find similar online. And voila, trendy wall fixtures which are pretty in any space.
The main living and dining area floors are the original wood with nothing underneath them but the great outdoors! On cooler days, it was really cold and damp underfoot. We addressed this issue by purchasing 2 identical indoor/outdoor rugs. They are hardwearing and easy to clean. This solution also covered up some more of that wood!
With a few cheery indoor/outdoor cushions, we are done for now. I can see why so many people with recreational properties find themselves furnishing them with cast-offs. It's really the path of least resistance and a good way to declutter your city homes. The main problem with this is that the places you want to relax in, looks like a hodge podge of disjointedness. If we fill a cottage with unloved things, how are we expected to love being there? Remember the Island of Misfit Toys was a sad place to be.
Of course it's necessary to recycle and reuse. But striking the right balance between old and new is important and worth the effort. And with a bit of DIY elbow grease, a bit of thought, research and clever shopping, it doesn't have to cost the earth.
Here is another little DIY project we did with a disk of wood and some sturdy rope. Having a nightstand in that location would have been impossible with the dresser so nearby.
We have some grandiose ideas - some purely aesthetic, some necessary changes. For now, we plod along the way we have been, still searching for that pot of gold and a magical spell for making a weekend seem longer.