Lake Cottage Renovation | See the Before + After

LAST UPDATED: Jul 08, 2021 | PUBLISHED: Apr 17, 2021 | By:

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. 

lake cottage with pergola

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. 

roof before and after

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!

white ranch 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 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. 

white porch with dutch door and pergola

We replaced the door with a dutch door and Brass Door Knobs to add character along with fresh brass hardware. We had it custom made with an aluminum exterior and wood interior. 

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


green dated tile
entryway before photo

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.

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.

entryway with white painted tile

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!

A blue herringbone entryway rug near a dutch door.

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. 

dated bedroom with border

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.

peeking into a bedroom

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.

white and navy bedroom with pendant light

Hall Bath

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.

A bathroom before being remodeled; brown accents.

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.

modern bathroom with pedestal sink

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 bathroom with gold and blue accents.

You can read more about this modern bathroom here, including all the reasons we love this Serena and Lily Wallpaper.

A Modern Master

When we purchased the lake cottage, I was drawn to the vaulted ceilings and incredible lake view from the master bedroom. 

bedroom before photo
bedroom before photo

I decided to embrace the wallpaper by updating the surroundings. A rattan headboard and inexpensive pendant light makes it feel fresh. We repositioned the bed to embrace the view. At first, we retained the chest of drawers the previous owners kindly left us…

update wallpaper without removing it
update a room with wallpaper

but later replaced it with an inexpensive white chest of drawers. I plan to update the hardware on it to give it a little facelift.

modernize wallpaper

You can see the difference fresh carpet made in here as well.

rattan furniture

My favorite feature of the lake cottage master has to be our new 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.

A white bedroom with a floral wallpaper accent wall.

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.

dated living room

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.

We’re waiting on one more chair, but in all, we will have an Ikea Ektorp sofa, four chairs, and two folding stools positioned around an oversized coffee table. This allows us to accommodate nine people at once!

coastal style living room with white slipcovered sofas and dutch door

We’ve added a chandelier in lieu of the ceiling fan to provide additional light and make the space feel more intimate.

coastal modern living room with raffia coffee table and gold chandelier

The Kitchen

I had initially thought the cabinetry was original to the home, but recently learned it was actually white! Previous owners replaced with oak cabinetry.

90's kitchen

The kitchen is the perfect example that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make a significant 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 photo below says it all.

wood kitchen cabinets

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!

We removed the tile and had white oak floors installed which made the kitchen feel so much larger and warmer.

Here’s  a sneak peek of progress…

cream kitchen with rattan light

The new brass faucet of course is my favorite feature.

kitchen with brass faucet and flowers

Eat In Kitchen

The eat in kitchen is small, but functional. We can seat up to eight.

Main living room before renovation; yellow walls with red and brown accents.

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.

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

Hidden behind the doors is our utility closet with a stacking washer and dryer.

I’m still looking for a before photo…but our laundry room in progress is so much more cheerful! More details to come!

laundry closet with storage shelves


Stepping downstairs we replaced a classic banister with a beautiful oar in the same tone.

oar banister

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.

bedroom before

Now it’s light and bright…

Detailed Shams | Matelasse Shams | Vintage Blanket similar

This room is all about cheerful pattern and texture! A rattan pendant and stools that double as luggage racks warm the space. This room received remote shades to embrace the lake view as well!

A white bedroom with floral wallpaper accents, a little girl sitting on the bed.

After faking a headboard for over years, we finally added one. The slipcovered headboard really finished the room.

wallpapered bedroom with white slipcovered headboard, white bedding and rattan stools


The hall between the guest room and the girls’ room didn’t need much…

Hallway before being remodeled. Brown carpet and cream walls.

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.

brass light from sunken ship
square patterned carpet

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. 

bedroom before

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.

How to decorate a bunk bed room

I had an artist create a beautiful map of a portion of Table Rock Lake and framed it to coordinate with the bunk beds.

You can read about it here and find sources here.

everything you need to know about patterned carpet

Nautical Bathroom

Nestled between the two bedrooms is what now we refer to as the Nautical Bathroom. What was once plaid…

dark plaid bathroom

Is now bright white and blue!

blue vanity in white bathroom with nautical bathroom decor

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 light fixture to transform the space.

Crazy enough, this light fixture was a temporary fix because the custom fixture I ordered was delayed. We have since replaced it, but gosh, I love the original, too.

A modern, white bathroom with gold and blue accents.

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!

A modern, white bathroom with gold and blue accents.

The tassel shower curtain hangs from a bright brass shower curtain rod to break up the white. Of course no lake cottage would be complete without boat cleats!

girl hanging white towel on brass boat cleat

Did you know you can Shop our home?

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”.

stairs with open space beneath

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.

art ideas

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.

lower level lake living room before
modern living room with navy chairs and rattan chairs

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!

white and blue living room with lake flair

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

glass coffee table navy chairs and stair nook behind

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!

nautical corn hole


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.

A back porch before being remodeled; yellow, brown, and gray accents.
pizza night outside under bulb lights

The deck was removed and replaced with vinyl decking which is virtually maintenance free and a Glass Deck Railing! The white decking reflects light indoors and helps mitigate the yellow siding.

pvc decking with glass rail rattan lanterns
Two wooden lounge chairs placed on white vinyl decking at a lake house.

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! 

White deck steps decorated with minimalist fall decor, peach pumpkins and white mums.

At the bottom of these stairs we added a little bistro set to take in the lake view and enjoy a cup of coffee.

bistro set for two

Overhead string lights add ambience!

bistro set under string lights

We also added under decking to create another outdoor living space beneath the deck, while preventing water from entering the home.

rattan swing and outdoor sectional  sofa in patio under deck

I have exciting design plans for the concrete pad where the current sectional sofa is. I can’t wait to share the finished space with you!

outdoor sectional sofa

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 facing lake

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!

sling chair and folding stool on a dock over a lake

Do you have a lake cottage or love lake life? I’d love to hear!

champagne bucket on table on back of boat

PS, you can shop most of our lake cottage here.

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