If you’ve driven the waterfront of Lake Michigan, you’ve probably seen a few of those lakehouse manors that conjure images of marble floors, exquisite, delicate ornamentation, and fine furnishings. They seem, in a word, untouchable. But if your memories of lakeside living are of romps in the water, fishing, a quick lunch wrapped in your towel while you watch geese settle in the cove, you’re in luck because the Great Lake trend in lake home design is cottage style.
We’re not talking necessarily about the rustic. Cottage style can encompass elements of the country home but just as easily lean toward modern chic. What sets cottage style apart is the idea of use. Kelly Konoske, president of Harbor Springs-based Cottage Company Interiors explains, “Cottages are about the view and access to the outside. Windows, windows, windows. Doors that open wide. Fabulous transitional outdoor rooms.” She goes on to add, “Families now want everyone relaxing together, they don’t want to create a place where sandy feet and wet bathing suits are forbidden.”
Designing for a Relaxed Lake Life
Forget the Frills: One basic trend in lake home design is to maximize light, views, and the seamless transition between indoors and out by doing away with or minimizing window coverage. Heavy curtains, shutters, and valances only obscure views and block natural light. To block hot afternoon sun, consider using roll-up shades or recessed electric blinds. If you feel the need for curtains, stick with light, airy materials that let light through.
Transitional Themes and Space: Part of designing for cottage style is to create an aesthetic that unites indoors with outdoors. One way to easily create that sense is in the color palettes you choose. Blues suggest lake and sky while greens create a sense of the lush vegetation that usually surrounds bodies of water. Shades of brown can act as accents that build earthtones into your design.
Another way to create a sense of transition is in the materials you choose. Ken Richmond, an architect from Traverse City, explains “there’s a lot of stone and wood, definitely a move to bringing outside materials in.” Stone fireplaces and countertops act as mirrors to rocky shores where waters lap. And wood floors not only suggest the wooded lakefront, but are much easier to clean when wet feet tromp across a room. Stone and marble floors can also add a sense of elegance but can create hazards when slippery.
Finally, one of the most elegant ways to create transition is to build fabulous and surprising outdoor spaces. Outdoor showers and changing spaces have become quite popular, or to literally create a transitional room try building in hidden or removable screens or window inserts on a covered porch so that in the worst of weather that space can be transformed into a cozy interior room. To add to the ambiance, install a stylish outdoor kitchen complete with stone fireplace.
Make It Usable: The final element of the cottage style is to make choices that encourage use. Converting a mudroom into a changing area with individual stalls for clothing, wet towels, shoes, and outdoor accessories says to family and guests that you welcome movement in and out of the house and that the space is made to have fun.
Furnishings that are durable and fabrics that can withstand moisture are another way of not only promoting your lake space as a fun zone, but also save you the hassle of time-consuming clean-ups. Woods, wicker, and ginghams lean toward the rustic feel, while sturdy leathers, denim, chrome, and glass speak a more modern sensibility.
We all need a little more zen in our lives these days, so why make your life harder with complicated, fussy decor? Lake homes were made for communion with nature, for fun in the sun and waves. Why not create a design strategy that invites enjoyment and saves you cleaning time? Does that sound like the good life to you? Then give the cottage style a try.