How to Decorate A Lake Home

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Living on the water has lots of advantages, not the least of which is offering many rustic, vintage and totally charming ways to decorate. If you've ever seen a reflection off the water sparkling on your walls and ceiling, you know firsthand how water can create wonderful ambience in a home.

Form Follows Function

Living by the lake may be a seasonal or year round affair for you. Either way, your space probably makes allowances for some of the realities of lakeside living. You may have a mudroom, and probably have a special spot where you put wet clothes, shoes and water related toys and tools. Oars, flotation devices and other essential items can become part of your decor or store efficiently for seasonal use. To make either of these options work requires some planning, though:

Today, storage options come in all shapes and sizes. Many are even modular to make them customizable. If you're a seasonal visitor, you know that luggage and boxes of essentials can ruin the look of your rooms unless you get them put away. Whether you have a garage, attic or shed for storage, making use of creative storage solutions like ceiling and wire wall shelving will get clutter out of the living areas of your lake house and into some semblance of order. Modular solutions are inexpensive and make for an easy DIY project, too.

If storage space is at a premium, another option is to store your belongings in plain sight. In the last five years or so, open shelving has become very popular -- and there's a good reason for it. Large door fronted cabinets make rooms look smaller, darker and more cramped. When you use open shelving solutions where you can, you create storage space while keeping your rooms airy and inviting.

Open shelving in your kitchen and open, wall mounted shelving in your bedrooms and common areas provide storage and decor options in one. Put those colorful dishes on display where everyone can admire them. For items like silverware that you may not want to display en mass, keep them in decorative wood, bamboo or wicker boxes and baskets. Your walls will look organized as well as colorful, textural and unique.

how to decorate a lake house how to decorate a lake house

Decor Styles with Year Round Flair

Many lakefront homes sport lots of wood, which can be a good structural option. All that stained woodwork can make for dark interiors, though. Why not lighten up those walls and make the most of the sun coming in through your windows. We love the idea of whitewashing walls and wood floors to bring out the natural wood grain and give them an overdue update. When combined with a starched fabric treatment on a focus wall, it can transform a room but still be much easier to change later than a coat of paint or a layer of wallpaper.

You can add another very nice design element by bringing the outdoors inside with the color palette you use. Those deep blues, rusty reds and vivid greens from nature can add dimension and drama, and when they're combined with neutral tans in plaids, checks and stripes, they help create energy, too. If blue and green are too tame to suit your vision of a perfect room, try using the colors from the lakeside sunset in your little part of the world. Those pinks, oranges and deep hued lavenders can be reflected in accessory touches. Try using them in curtains, pillows, area rugs, wall prints and linens.

Water and Nature at Your Back Door

When you use nature's colors in your decor, you make use of natural themes that resonate with visitors by reflecting the view outside your window. It's one of the most foolproof ways to decorate. Using water and nature themes in your accessories may seem like a cliché, but it's popular because it works -- and it works well. Decorating with driftwood, botanical prints, animal carvings and textural elements like wooden or woven baskets creates interest and shows your fun and lighthearted side. When your home is on a lake, thoughts of boat rides and other water focused activities are inevitable. When you play to that, your decor will benefit from the power of expectation. Here are some themes you might consider:

  • Brass lanterns
  • Buoys
  • Dinghies
  • Docks
  • Driftwood
  • Life preservers
  • The mariner's compass
  • Oars
  • Rope and knots
  • Water birds
  • Sextants
  • Ships
  • Treasure maps
  • Wheels (ship steering)
  • Wooden barrels

Putting It All Together

As you develop the style of your lake home, keep these things in mind:

  • It's easier to choose one color scheme for your entire home. That way you can mix and match items from different rooms for a change without disturbing the overall design. Try choosing one neutral and two complimentary colors.
  • Don't forget the way light will act in the space. Water is very reflective, which means that your rooms will sparkle. You can use this to advantage by decorating using mirrors, crystal and glass. Make sure to audition pieces, though. That wonderful natural light can be blinding, especially when it's shining directly into your room and onto a crystal candy dish.
  • Pay attention to your window treatments. You'll want to maximize the view from your windows but still provide a barrier to those cold winds blowing off the lake. Try a combination of blinds and drapes. Prefer drapes lined with thermal insulating material, and position your curtain rods to allow the drapes to open all the way to the edges of the window frames. That way you'll stay cozy in cold weather and still have a great view when the sun shines.
  • Choose space saving accessories. When you select furnishings that can do double duty, you maximize the available space in your home. Lakefront properties are often petite by nature. To keep things spacious consider investing in:
  • Bunk beds
  • Drop leaf tables
  • Hassocks with onboard storage
  • Nesting tables
  • Pedestal beds with drawer bases
  • Track lighting solutions
Last Updated: May 16, 2012
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About Sara Elliot Sara Elliott is a freelance copywriter and dedicated blogger. Her popular gardening, cooking and crafting blog, The Herb Gardener, was cited by The Wall Street Journal for its fun and frugal tips. Sara has a degree in English, and you can find her health, crafting, and lifestyle pieces on sites like,, and

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