renovating

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

Portfolio Archives - Master Ensuite Before & After



Photo by Donna Griffith, room design by Carol Reed Interior Design

Looking back at portfolio images its hard to believe I designed this bathroom 7 years ago and I just realized its never been posted on the blog before.  So to elaborate on a little throw-back-Thursday instagram post, I thought it was a good opportunity to share more photos about it here.  This Master Ensuite was part of a top to bottom renovation of a 3 storey condo in mid-town Toronto.  Although it wasn't a complete gut reno like the main hall bathroom, the master ensuite modifications were designed to work with a couple of existing elements.  There were three things that remained untouched; the cararra marble tile floor, a walk-in shower (not visible but is located to the left of the tub in this photo) which was tiled floor to ceiling in the same marble tile, and a small mirror medicine cabinet.  Since so many years (and computers) have passed I've lost track of most of the before photos but I think you can see from the one before image below the extent of upgrades that were implemented.

Master Ensuite vanity before.

Master Ensuite After, room design and photo by Carol Reed.

I designed a new double sink custom vanity, mirror and tub skirt in macassar ebony. The vanity and tub were finished with a cararra marble top and a pair of rectangular undermount sinks.   A feature wall above the tub was designed to create a beautiful sightline as you approach the bathroom thru a hallway from the bedroom.  The back painted glass panel reflected a lot of natural light from the skylight and glowed a beautiful and serene watery blue at night.   This room photo was taken by me a year or so before the top photo of this post (professionally shot).  


Preliminary Concept Sketch of the tub feature wall.


Master ensuite after - room design and photo by Carol Reed

This last image is another shot taken by me, on the same day as the professional shoot and illustrates the difference in how much better the professional images are.   I hope you've enjoyed the peek at one of my past projects which has never been seen on the blog before.  Despite how many years ago this was designed I still love it as much today and know that it can continue to stay fresh and modern looking thru the simple change-up of accessories.