Lake Cottage Renovation | See the Before + After

LAST UPDATED: Sep 03, 2020 | PUBLISHED: Mar 07, 2020 | 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. 

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!

yellow and white house with pergola

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!

This spring we will have removed this tree, and we are incorporating river stone and additional landscaping to further aid drainage and add curb appeal.

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. 

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

open dutch door with three girls peeking over

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.
  • We’re adding new rock to keep landscaping a little more maintenance free.
  • Adding low maintenance plants.

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!

entryway with white door blue rug and sailboat painting

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.

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!

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.

patterned carpet in lake house bedroom decorated with white and blue and bamboo furniture

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.


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
gold bathroom mirror

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 a navy light fixture and navy and white patterned bathroom wallpaper.

You can read more about this modern bathroom here.

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

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 a sofa, four chairs, and two folding stools positioned around an oversized coffee table. This allows us to accomodate nine people at once!

light and bright living room with white furniture

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

beach living room

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 cabinetry 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 will soon replace the counter, backsplash and possibly appliances.

Photos coming soon, but here’s  a sneak peek showing progress…

cream kitchen

Eat In Kitchen

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


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


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…

lake bedroom

Detailed Shams | Matelasse Shams | Vintage Blanket similar

classic bedroom

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!

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

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…


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.

white bathroom with nautical blue nods and brass shower curtain rod

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 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.

pizza night outside under bulb lights

The deck was removed and replaced with vinyl decking which is virtually maintenance free! 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! 

We also added under decking to create another outdoor living space beneath the deck, while preventing water from entering the home. I can’t wait to show you more!

You can see my plans on YouTube! The new deck starts this week…stay tuned! For now, photos of how it looked – until yesterday!

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.


mini loaves of bread gift wrapped