Lake Cottage Before and After

LAST UPDATED: Feb 24, 2020 | PUBLISHED: Mar 24, 2019 | By: Julie Blanner

Home isn’t always before and afters, but even progress feels oh so good! Today I’m so excited to share before and “afters” of our little lake cottage which includes some really easy and budget friendly ideas. 

yellow house

A few years ago we purchased this home nestled on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri. (Click through to find a comprehensive post about Branson with kids!)

We enjoy spending our weekends and summers boating, hiking, relaxing and visiting nearby attractions. 

In fact, I’ve written about all the things to do at Table Rock Lake, as well as enjoying Christmas at Silver Dollar City.

You can follow along on Instagram with #calmwatercottage. I share a lot of behind the scenes progress on stories and a little of our lake life!

Before we get started, keep in mind that everyone has different taste and I’m sharing to show you how we’ve personalized the home to make it reflect our taste. I’m so grateful to the previous owners who allowed us the opportunity to live the lake dream! You can read the story behind the lake cottage here.

While this post shows a lot of before and afters, it doesn’t show some of the struggles we’ve been through along the way. A good reminder that it’s not all before and afters, glam and glory!

Our Lake Home 

Despite inspections, heavy rain offered the toughest inspection of all. We had leaks through the chimney, in the girls’ room, guest bedroom, lower living room and more. We even had a septic backup.

Far less stressful, we also struggled with stale smell of smoke, presumably from 20 years ago. Every time we returned home our bags and clothing were permeated with it.

You can learn how to get rid of smoke smell here, in fact, this trick works with musty smells and pet odors as well. It’s one of the biggest transformations in our home, though not visible!

Let’s kick it off the tour with the exterior!

roof before and after

I was never a fan of the orange roof, so when we had leaks in the kitchen and around the chimney, I wasn’t sad to see it go. We replaced it with griege colored roof, which toned down the yellow siding – a lot!

lake house

Given that the home is on a slope, we also had water during heavy storms entering the home, so we removed all of the overgrown bushes, added soil for proper drainage, a retaining wall to the left of the home to keep water away from the lower level and added new landscaping. We have kind neighbors to thank for this project as we couldn’t have done it ourselves!

A fresh coat of paint brought the pergola back to life.

A shutter blew off during a storm, so for now, we removed the other. Finally, we power washed everything and what a difference that makes!

The Exterior Plan:

  • I would absolutely love to get new siding – some is wood, some is vinyl and I have a couple ideas that I think would really transform this little cottage.
  • Shutters! They add so much charm.
  • I’m a tree hugger, but considering removing these two – what do you think?
  • We’re adding new rock this fall to keep landscaping a little more maintenance free.

We replaced the door with a dutch door to add character. We had it custom made with an aluminum exterior and wood interior. 

open dutch door

Now onto the entryway…

how to paint tile

Pardon our realtor who was in a hurry to leave and didn’t understand just how important before photos were to me and the planning process.

To update this space, we painted the tile floor, removed the wallpaper below the chair rail, painted it a soft cream, and added new sconces.

painted tile

While it looked so much better, we decided to remove the tile altogether in late August when replacing the carpet. We did the tear out ourselves and I’m excited to share that the paint didn’t chip or scratch when being hit with a hammer and removed with a crowbar if you decide to paint tile in your home!

easy to clean rug

The tile previously broke up the hall, entryway, stairwell and living room. Now it feels like one continuous room giving the illusion of more space. We use an indoor outdoor area rug that can be hosed down to protect the area.

the look for less - a Serena and Lily inspired bedroom

Through the first door on the left is a guest bedroom.

before and after home

We removed the border, painted it and added new blinds and a pendant light. You can read more about this small bedroom used for guests here and learn how to make the most of a small space.

inexpensive homemade art - framing photos

When we replaced the carpet, we were able to eliminate the area rug, making it easier to maintain, which is always the goal at the lake cottage.

patterned carpet


The hall bath was dark and lacked luster, so we added a grasscloth wallpaper with a little sheen to reflect light, new mirror, toilet, sink, light, modern faucet and fixtures, art and tassel shower curtain to make it feel fresh. You can read more about this modern bathroom here.

modern bathroom with pedestal sink

gold bathroom mirror

Our master is also a work in progress…below is the before.

bedroom before photo
bedroom before photo

It feels fresh with a new (and inexpensive) pendant lightheadboard, bedding, and rug. Re-positioning the bed to embrace the lake view made all the difference for the master bedroom.

update wallpaper without removing it

update a room with wallpaper

I can’t decide; should the wallpaper stay or go? I’d also really love new wood blinds, but I need one large blind and have been unsuccessful locating a company that can do it. If you have any recommendations, pleeeeeease share!

modernize wallpaper

rattan furniture

A cottage bedroom with white bedding, floral wallpaper, and a big window with a blackout roller shade as window decor.

The master bedroom also benefited from new carpet. We eliminated the rug we previously used to disguise the old carpet.

dated living room

The living room is really coming together. If you’ve been following along for a while, you know I take a less is more approach, so we removed curtains, blinds, the wine fixture, etc. However, given we use the home to entertain, we needed to have plenty of seating, so to make it feel intimate, we created a seating area in the center of the room.

lake decorating ideas

We’re waiting on one more chair, but in all, we will have a sofa, 4 chairs, 2 folding stools and a wooden stool that doubles as a side table.

light and bright living room with white furniture

We’ve added a chandelier in lieu of the ceiling fan that will be repositioned later this year, painted the entire room, including the chimney a soft cream paint color.

beach living room

Still, the carpet felt out of place. Replacing it made the space feel so fresh! You can see more in the video below.

90's kitchen

The kitchen is the perfect example that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make a big difference. Removing blinds, curtains, wallpaper, and accessories allowed the light to pour into this room. You can read more about this kitchen before and after here, but the iPhone photos below say it all.

wood kitchen cabinets


The eat in kitchen is small, but functional. We can seat up to 8. Hidden behind the doors is our utility closet with a stacking washer and dryer.

teak dining table in eat in kitchen with flowers and white chairs

The second, larger guest bedroom is another great example that you don’t have to make big changes to make a significant difference. This space was simply updated by embracing the lake view, faking a headboard with pillows, adding art and beautiful classic bedding to tie in the wallpaper.

bedroom before

choosing and arranging bed pillows

bedroom before and after

Now it’s light and bright…

lake bedroom

classic bedroom

Floral wallpapered bedroom, a little girl lies on the bed with a remote for a motorized roller shade.

The hall between the guest room and the girls’ room didn’t need much, but this little brass light sure brightens the space and adds nautical charm. It’s been recovered {rewired and cleaned} from a sunken ship. Sadly the before photo doesn’t share the original light, but still offers a little perspective.


brass light from sunken ship

square patterned carpet

Onto the girls’ bunk bed room! It’s my absolutely favorite, I love hearing the giggles that come from it each morning and nightfall. You can read about it here and find sources here.

bedroom before

How to decorate a bunk bed room

everything you need to know about patterned carpet

Nestled between the two bedrooms is the now, Nautical Bathroom. What was once plaid…

dark plaid bathroom


Is now bright white and blue!

blue vanity in white bathroom with nautical bathroom decorwhite bathroom with nautical blue nods and brass shower curtain rod

On the other side of the stairwell is a second, lower living room.

stairs with open space beneath

Originally, there was a single step beneath the stairs. We found that it was a collector of “stuff”. We redefined the Open Staircase as a Kids Reading Nook. This not only gives the girls a fun place to hang out, but sleeps an additional guest when we have a full house.

art ideas

Believe it or not – it’s actually the same length as a twin bed, yet wider. Perfect for a kiddo to rest after a long day of boating.

The lower living room was dark, so we implemented 7 Ways to Add Light to a Room.

lower level lake living room before

modern living room ideas

We added budget friendly seating along with options that easily fold to stow away or roll out of the way to accommodate an air mattress or two in a pinch.

This budget friendly modern living room easily seats 12, not including the nook! 

modern living room

how to design a modern living room

Last, but not least, the deck. Replacement is overdue and we look forward to replacing it this year with something a little more maintenance free and with glass panels to offer better views both from the deck, kitchen and living room. We spend a lot of time on the deck enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner when we’re not on the water, but I love stargazing with Chris on Friday nights on the chaise lounges the most! You can read more about the deck here.


entertaining al fresco for fall

lake view patio

pizza night outside under bulb lights

Thanks for following along on our journey. Soon I’ll be sharing so much more on YouTube. Subscribe for room by room video tours and so much more!

outdoor chairs

Of course my favorite place at the lake is on the water!

sling chair on dock by lake

champagne bucket on table on back of boat

PS, you can shop most of our lake cottage here. (Originally shared June 2017, updated March 2019) 

You can see our more of our living room and guest bedroom on YouTube – don’t forget to click subscribe so you don’t miss a video!

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