Bring the cottage look home with you with this bright and breezy living-room face-lift
More often than not, a cottage isn't so much decorated as it is a dumping ground for haggard hand-me-down furniture. That was just one of the challenges designer Jo Alcorn faced when refreshing the living room at her clients' summer getaway on Stony Lake in Ontario. "It's a family cottage, so it needed to be kid-friendly, great for entertaining and stylish at the same time," says Alcorn. To tick each of these boxes, she mapped out a cost-conscious makeover to play up the living room's best features—abundant natural light and gorgeous views—and invested in upgrades that would last for years to come. The once-slapdash space is now brimming with inspiring ideas for your own living-room face-lift—even if you're nowhere near cottage country.
Keep the conversation going
New streamlined sofas replaced the old overstuffed models, but otherwise, the living-room layout remains the same. "The homeowners entertain all summer, so they wanted a conversation area," says Alcorn. "Having the sofas face-to-face is the perfect arrangement for that—and a better use of the space because they provide more seating than chairs would."
Don't throw it out
"You never want to dispose of furniture that's still in good shape," says Alcorn, who suggests subsidizing a living-room refresh by selling previously loved pieces at a yard sale or online through Kijiji. If you can't wait for a potential buyer, consider donating to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, a local furniture bank or a thrift store.
Amortize the investments
It was important to select big-ticket items that, in 10 years, would still look as good as they did on the showroom floor. The sofas' textured oatmeal-colour upholstery not only helps camouflage the beach sand that inevitably ends up in the living room but also serves as a blank canvas. "It's an all-season cottage, so I chose a colour that would work in the summer but still have a cozy feel for the winter months," says Alcorn. "The homeowners can change the look seasonally with budget-friendly pillows."
Frame the view
The contrast between the unpainted window frames and the white walls draws the eye to the spectacular scenery outside. "It turns the windows into more of a focal point than they were before," says Alcorn. "The view becomes the art piece within the room."
Design, whitewashco.ca; Sofas, floor lamps, coffee table, side tables and chair, mirens.com; Pillows, homesense.ca.
Banish the brick
The brick-faced corner behind the fireplace was gloomy, despite being surrounded by windows. This eyesore all but disappeared when Alcorn painted on a few coats of conventional white latex paint. "You've got to give brick a good brushing-down before you start, but after that, painting it is business as usual," she says. While Alcorn used a bristle paintbrush to reach all of the cracks and crevices, that's not your only option. "If you want a more rustic look, you can go over the brick with a paint roller," says Alcorn.
If you have mature trees and shrubs in your backyard, you'll always have stems for indoor arrangements. Leafy branches and twigs clipped from the oak trees that surround the cottage bring glorious shots of green indoors and serve as a wallet-friendly alternative to freshly cut flowers.
Lose the layers
Though usually a key ingredient in formal spaces, an area rug would have cramped the living room's relaxed style. "Everyone's always walking in with their shoes and sandals on anyway," says Alcorn. "It's one less thing to worry about keeping clean."