Canada Day

Cottage Make-Over Tips



From the West coast to the East Coast, I think most Canadian’s would agree the ultimate summer past-time is cottaging! That being true, one might say the second favourite past-time is searching for that ultimate summer cottage to call your own, but often the reality of what’s available or affordable can look more daunting than dreamy.   In honour of Canada Day I’ve compiled my top 10 favourite ways to update and transform a dated, dysfunctional drab cottage interior into your dream retreat, without the need to take a sledgehammer to it.


1.  Tame the Wood:  Wood on wood on wood, topped with more wood,,,is simply too much wood. Everything in wood looks like a sea of brown (or orange).  If you love wood,,,,,then paint some of it out,  this will in turn highlight the natural unpainted wood so it can be appreciated for all its beauty, not drowned out.

2.  Clean Sweep:  Remove wall to wall broadloom and replace it with a light to medium coloured character grade wood plank or natural stone tile like slate. These will be durable, forgiving, easy to clean and age well.  Layer natural fibre area carpets and flat weave kilims for added comfort and coziness.

3.  Unobstruct the Views:  Strip the windows of fussy ruffled fabric or boxy valances and heavy dark coloured blinds.  Replace with retractable rollup blinds, shades or swing open shutters.  Alternately or additionally add simple cotton or linen drapery panels on a dark metal or wood rod  that fully open to reveal the outdoors.

4.  Counter Points:   Many old cottages have plastic laminate, tile or plywood counters that are chipped and stained.  A new wood counter will add instant quality and substance.  Custom made ones can vary greatly in price point depending on species, joinery and edge details but you can also find ready made and easy to install basic solid wood countertop material at most building supply stores. Perfectly suitable and charming for Kitchens and bathrooms. 

5.  Sinks:  a simple swap out can add more function and style, replacing a small kitchen sink with a larger size can make clean up a breeze (or hide the mess til later), or swapping to a smaller size can net you more precious counter space.  Adding a second sink makes the kitchen doubly functional for two cooks or family gatherings.  In bathrooms, replacing a stained or retro coloured sink with a new vessel or drop in style is an affordable, easy install even onto an existing counter.  

6.  Faucets & Hardware:  
A new faucet and cabinet knobs are an instant update to a kitchens or bathrooms.  Look for styles that will enhance your cottage character and evoke vintage or rustic charm.  Large goosneck spouts, industrial pulldown sprays, classic bridge style or convenient single lever high arcs. Spluge on solid brass cartridges and you won’t be replacing these anytime soon. 

7.  Appliances:  Replacing older mis-matched appliances is not only an aesthetic upgrade but the newer models are more multi-functional, energy efficient and space saving.

8.   Light it:  replace generic looking lighting with simple vintage or rustic style fixtures to enhance your cottage character.   Evok rustic or coastal charm by selecting fixtures with aged or painted metals.  You can add wall sconces, pendants and swing arm task lights without hiring an electrician - just use plug-in style fixtures that can be mounted to walls or ceilings, all you need is an outlet nearby.  

9.  Shelf it:   The easiest and most affordable solution for adding storage without the cost of built-ins.  Install wall mounted shelving and brackets or ready to assemble shelves to not only organize but add purpose and function to any unused area.  

10.  Neutralize it:   If you want a relaxing, calming, serene space that lets the outdoors be the main attraction,,,then paint over any loud, bold, intense hues on the walls in lieu of a light neutral palette that will compliment your view of the great outdoors and not detract from it.

11.  Panel it:  I couldn’t stop at 10 without including my final and favourite way to add instant character and durability to walls and or ceilings - add v-groove panels, shiplap or beadboard panelling.  When painted with an enamel paint its also a great inexpensive alternative to tile around a bathroom or kitchen sink and provides a sturdy backing for installing hooks and shelves (see tip no.9!).  

To see how I applied all of these strategies in this family cottage make-over check out the links below for individual before & afters:




Photos By:  Carol Reed

Boathouse Bathroom: Before & After





Happy Canada Day! Its a perfect day to share a before and after of a clients red & white cottage bathroom.  This boathouse bathroom evokes a classic canadian cottage style and what's even more dreamy about it is the sound of the waves lapping against the docks below you.

Last year I completed a whole Cottage renovation for a client that involved updating the main cottage and boathouse to incorporate all new finishes and fixtures but without doing extensive construction. I find these type of projects incredibly enjoyable because its so exciting to explore the potential of the existing space and see the dramatic improvements that can result by making a series of simple but thoughtful changes.  By simple I don’t mean the modifications didn’t still require a lot of time, effort, and co-ordination but they were simple in that they didn’t require new construction or complicated modifications.  I made a visit to the cottage a few weeks ago to check on the status before this season got underway.

Boathouse Bathroom Before

The entire interior of the boathouse (which is only used seasonally) was knotty pine, with exception of the floor which was carpeted in the living areas and tiled in the bathroom.  The biggest change I made was that every bit of exposed natural wood on the interior was painted white, and then we added new but reclaimed wide plank engineered pine on the floor.  Essentially I took all the wood away from the walls and ceilings and put it on the floor.  This effectively doubled the brightness of the interior, emphasized its dramatic vaulted ceilings and painting the wood panelling created interesting tone on tone texture.  The best part was the lake view and exterior landscape became the focal point. The white paint transformed the boathouse interior to a fresh, bright, summery oasis.

The boathouse bathroom is a good size with interesting ceiling lines but was dated with respect to its fixtures and accessories and the ceramic floor a bit too suburban looking.  Everything about the vanity was perfect though, it was excellent quality and was hand built from solid wood with lots of storage and was in perfect condition, that and the mirror were definitely keepers.  I even loved the natural pine countertop and wanted to preserve it because i think its an excellent choice for this application it’s not the place for expensive marble or quartz.  I saw loads of potential for this space merely with paint and new fixtures.  A main criteria for selecting new items was we had a very short timeline to complete all the changes so everything needed to be readily available and/or deliverable to cottage country.  Below is a rough concept I put together for the owners and they quickly agreed with all the proposed changes...

New proposed finishes, Carol Reed Interior Design.


The vanity and the existing mirror would simply be updated with a red paint and some new striped ceramic knobs.  New engineered plank fooring replaced the tile and was in the same tones as the existing wood countertop.  The key to retaining the wood countertop was replacing the old drop-in sink with a vessel style sink that would fit over the old sink cutout.  I decided to mix in some more contemporary fixtures with the otherwise very traditional space but keeping the metal finishes in a dark bronze gives them a more relaxed nostalgic look.  A gooseneck barn light fixture with filament style bulb gives the bathroom a modern rustic vibe.

Boathouse Bathroom - After

In the end we opted for a countertop mounted faucet in lieu of the wall mounted (from the same series) for an easier install.  A simple hook for a hand towel (I’m obsessed with turkish towels ones and stock up on them whenever I find them!) its rope fringe and blue stripes evoke a nautical vibe, an oversize seagrass basket and more wall hooks on the opposite wall (not yet installed) store large beach towels.


Boathouse Bathroom Vanity - After.


My visit to the cottage last month was my first since all the major installations were completed in the boathouse last summer so its was a thrill to see the progress.  I took note of some final details that still need to be addressed, one of them includes installing new knobs on the vanity, I'm in love with the white ones I found with a stripe around the rim which i think will be the perfect finishing touch.  Lastly I think the floor needs a fun colourful indoor/outdoor rug for in front of the vanity.  But so far the transformation of this lakeside loo as been a dramatic improvement - I think its now bursting with character and style!


Happy Canada Day!


All Photos and Room Design by:  Carol Reed