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.
A few years ago we purchased a small home we have dubbed the lake cottage, 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.
It was built in the 90’s by a (now) friend of ours. It was filled to the brim with potential. He included charming features and decorated each home he built as if he would live there himself. It was just the right size for our family without feeling too overwhelming to maintain.
Thoughtful design has allowed us to maximize space and light so we can comfortably entertain family and friends. In fact, I even host blogger retreats at the cottage.
Before we get started, keep in mind that everyone has different tastes and I’m sharing to show you how we’ve personalized the home to make it reflect ous. 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 purchase of 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!
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!
As I mentioned, nothing is perfect! 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 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. Though not visible, it has been one of the biggest transformations in our home!
Lake Cottage Exterior
I was never a fan of the orange roof, so when we had leaks in the kitchen and around the chimney, I was more than happy to replace with. To embrace the cottage feel, I really wanted to incorporate a metal roof, but as we began researching, we feared leaks and fading.
Time was of the essence so we ultimately decided to replace it with greige colored roof (weathered roof), which toned down the yellow siding – a lot! Wood shingles would have been charming, but they’re no longer insurable with most agencies in Missouri and don’t stand up as well to the extreme weather we sometimes receive.
The new roof instantly transformed the exterior!
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 a drain that went around it and another where water gathered near the porch in addition to 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 helping with this project!
We removed the tree and incorporated river stone. We added hydrangea topiaries to give it some height and prevent deer from eating the blooms. A layer of boxwood adds some green throughout the year and then we softened it with lavender to line the edges.
A fresh coat of paint brought the pergola back to life, but we are looking to replace it this year.
Finally, we power washed everything and what a difference that makes! We were fortunate to have beautiful exterior lighting already in place.
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.
Lake Cottage Interior
Pardon our realtor (who we love) as we were in a hurry to leave. It’s the only before photo I snapped of this area. Lake house hunting is time consuming in our area as many are more than 30 minutes apart and while we had a feeling this was the one, we had a number still to see that day.
While it looked so much better, we decided to remove the tile altogether in late August when we with patterned 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!
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.
Just beyond the front door is the smaller guest room. It was yellow with a border and fitted with two twin beds.
We thought about who / how we typically entertain and opted for a single queen bed to maximize the space and allow for another couple to stay or a couple with a small child who could sleep in a portable crib or sleeping bag.
We removed the border, painted the walls Farrow and Ball White Tie to brighten the space and make it appear larger. We added new bamboo blinds for a little texture and an inexpensive pendant light using a drum shade and light kit.
You can read more about this small bedroom used for guests here and learn how to make the most of a small space.
I framed an iPhone photo I took off our dock at the lake cottage for inexpensive art that personalizes the space.
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!
To blend function and design, I added stools that double as a luggage rack for out of town guests. They’re an indoor outdoor fabric which makes them easy to wipe clean with water. The bedside table (only $80) hosts a carafe for water, local reading materials and towels for guest convenience.
The hall bath is seen from the entryway as well as the living room and kitchen, so it was especially rewarding to update this little space.
The hall bath was dark and honestly a little lackluster, style-wise. We added a grasscloth wallpaper with a little sheen to reflect light, new mirror, toilet, pedestal sink, light, modern faucet and fixtures, art and tassel shower curtain to make it feel fresh.
Unfortunately the wallpaper install was a CHOP JOB. A reminder that nothing is easy – or perfect, so don’t let pretty photos make you or your home feel less than what they are!
I decided I may as well try a little something different, so I had a patterned wallpaper installed and paired it with a navy sconce to make a dramatic statement.
A Modern Primary
When we purchased the lake cottage, I was drawn to the vaulted ceilings and incredible lake view from the primary bedroom.
I decided to embrace the wallpaper by simply refreshing the decor surrounding it. A rattan headboard and inexpensive pendant light instantly made it feel fresh. We added modern satin brass door knobs and levers as well.
At first, we retained the chest of drawers the previous owners kindly left us…but later replaced it with an inexpensive white chest of drawers. I replaced the clunky stainless hardware with beautiful brass dresser pulls (set of 5 for just $18!)
You can see the difference patterened carpet made in here as well.
We repositioned the bed to embrace the view and framed them with minimal blackout shades! They don’t obstruct the view and can be controlled by remote or phone. It took me nearly 4 years to find the right product because the window is 107″ and we wanted a single shade.
The Living Room
We were drawn to the open living space so we could maintain a smaller home without it feeling small. If you’ve been following along for a while, you know I take a less is more approach!
We started by removing the curtains, blinds, the wine storage fixture, etc. Eliminating the excess made the home feel brighter and larger.
We painted the entire room (including the chimney) a soft cream, and replaced the carpet as well.
However, given we use the home to entertain, we needed to have plenty of seating. In order to make it feel intimate, we created a seating area in the center of the room.
I added an Ikea Ektorp sofa and chairs (soon to be replaced because we only have 3 and need 4), and two folding stools positioned around an oversized coffee table. The flexible seating allows us to accommodate nine people at once.
A large gilded chandelier provides additional light and makes the space feel more intimate.
There’s a little nook that extends the space in the small yet open living room. It makes the perfect location for a bar cart stocked and ready to entertain guests.
I had initially thought the cabinetry was original to the home, but recently learned it was actually white! Previous owners replaced with oak cabinetry.
The kitchen is the perfect example that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make a significant difference. PS you can find Paint colors that go with oak cabinets here if you want to avoid painting cabinets.
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 photo below says it all.
We have since painted the full overlay cabinets in Farrow & Ball White Tie (the same color as the walls), in a higher sheen. Doing so allows the eye to continue across the room from the entryway giving the illusion of more space.
We updated with bright brass hardware and added a quartz counter. Soon it will receive a new backsplash and appliances!
The new brass faucet of course is my favorite feature.
We removed the tile and had white oak floors installed which made the kitchen feel so much larger and warmer.
Eat In Kitchen
The eat in kitchen is small, but functional. We can seat up to eight.
We removed the wallpaper and replaced the original light with a small gilded chandelier. I paired the teak table with inexpensive white windsor chairs. We can seat up to eight at the table and remaining guests outdoors.
Hidden behind the doors is our laundry closet with a stacking washer and dryer. We maximized space and function integrating a full size stackable washer and dryer and a bookcase for storage.
Peel and stick wallpaper adds an unexpected dose of fun. The pull chain light was replaced with one of my favorite Amazon Gadgets that allows you to use your favorite light fixture and a remote control that doubles as a wall switch. The wireless fix takes just 3 minutes to install – and anyone can do it!
Stepping downstairs we replaced a classic banister with a beautiful oar in the same tone.
The Guest Suite
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.
Now it’s light and bright…
Nestled between the two bedrooms is what now we refer to as the Nautical Bathroom. The jack and jill bathroom was once plaid…
Is now bright white and hale navy! After removing the wallpaper, we painted the space a crisp white and the builder’s grade vanity blue. We added new hardware, a mirror, faucet and double sconce to transform the space.
To add to the lake cottage vibe, I had a bath mat embroidered with “No Diving”. PS it was SO inexpensive! The floor received a Tile Grout Refresh making it bright white and modern, without having to replace the floor!
The hall between the guest room and the girls’ room didn’t need much…
A 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.
Bunk Bed Room
Onto the girls’ bunk bed room! It’s my absolutel favorite, I love hearing the giggles that come from this room each morning and nightfall.
We removed the border and painted it a soft pink girly hue. It plays well with the natural bunk beds (from IKEA). A blue chest of drawers doubles as a side table. I try to keep furnishings to a minimum to maximize space and prevent clutter from building up at the lake cottage.
I had an artist create a beautiful map of a portion of Table Rock Lake and framed it to coordinate with the bunk beds.
Lower Living Room
On the other side of the stairwell is a second, lower living room.
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. 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.
I had a custom mattress and cover made and filled with it pillows (available in my shop) so the girls could kick back, relax and read. If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m addicted to stools! They’re just so versatile and provide extra seating in a pinch. The waves print is a fun nod to the lake that lies just outside.
The lower living room was dark, so we implemented 7 Ways to Add Light to a Room.
We added budget friendly seating including these rattan chairs, cozy blue chairs and an Ektorp Sofa 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.
You can get all my details on how to get the Look for Less here!
This budget friendly modern living room easily seats 12 – not including the nook!
With flexible furniture (the blue chairs are on rollers and the woven fold and stow away) It’s a great place to play games on a rainy day!
Last, but not least, the deck. It was rotting out and we’ve been strategically placing rocks where boards have given way. It was also causing water damage to the lower living room and guest suite.
Glass panels 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!
At the bottom of these stairs we added a little bistro set to take in the lake view and enjoy a cup of coffee.
Overhead string lights add ambience!
We also added under decking to create another outdoor living space beneath the deck, while preventing water from entering the home.
I have exciting design plans this where the current sectional sofa is. I can’t wait to share the finished space with you!
Of course my favorite place at the lake is on the water!
We are so grateful for our friend and builder, the previous owners who made the dream of lake life come true, all of our lake neighbors and the friends and family we get to share our home with!
Do you have a lake cottage or love lake life? I’d love to hear!
PS, you can shop most of our lake cottage here.
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!