Photo Gallery: Create the Perfect Summer Vacation Cabin

Michelle Hopkins
June 11, 2015

British Columbia is blessed with a bounty of endless natural beauty, but not nearly enough summer! What is more Canadiana than heading to the cabin, chalet or cottage – whatever you call your weekend getaway – for some R&R?

Time spent at summer getaways is cherished for those who are fortunate enough to own one or for family and friends lucky enough to know someone who owns one. This year make your retreat – or your home – the most inviting, warm and charming that it can be.

With the popularity of television series such as: HGTV’s Sarah’s Cottage, Sarah’s Rental Cottage, Log Cabin Living and season two of House of Bryan, in which the affable Bryan Baeumler builds a dream cottage for his family, it’s easier than ever to create a stunning hideaway that won’t cost the moon and one you will never want to leave. reached out to Tommy Smythe, co-host on HGTV’s Sarah’s Rental Cottage series. The interior designer and frequent TV guest and host, along with Sarah Richardson, recently transformed an Ontario cottage country’s 1950s cabin into the gorgeous showstopper you see in the above photo gallery.

Smythe says it’s possible to duplicate many of the furnishings and renovations affordably while still being stylish.

“In every case, there is lots of pre-planning and patience,” says the award-winning designer. “Create a plan while realizing the space’s needs. Instead of laying out lots of money right away, decorate or renovate your cottage over time.”

One of Smythe’s signature design tips is to look right outside the door of your mountain or waterfront cabin and take your colour palette cues from there. 

“Look out the window; perhaps it’s the smokey blue or lake green of the water, or the morel mushroom brown, the greys in the rocks or the colours of the trees and flowers on your property,” he adds. “Mother Nature gives you all you need.”

Smythe’s Top Style Tips for Cottages and Cabins

  • Remember that your retreat is about relaxed living. Washable slipcovers, painted finishes and simple shapes allow people to live with style and ease.
  • Combine vintage and new; this is all about pulling together what you love. Source out secondhand stores, country auctions and flea markets for some one-of-a-kind treasures.
  • Add sweat equity to add interesting personality to your cottage. “We took a tree stump from the property to create a side table and birch branches to make the legs on the gorgeous dining room table,” he adds. “We also made a lamp out of a birch log. You can buy an inexpensive lamp wiring kit from any hardware store and in minutes you have a unique lamp.”
  • If you have an older cabin with many of its original elements, such as worn woodwork, wood floors, high ceilings and wrap-around decks, these are what keep the character alive. Perhaps all they need is a little tender loving care or a fresh coat of paint.
  • Use lots of natural elements. “If I’m at a seaside cottage, I want to see driftwood and shells in the home. At the lake I want to see fishing rods, duck decoys, braided rugs and twig furniture. If I’m in the woods, I want to see antlers, headboards made out of indigenous wood and birch bark. Similarly, if I’m at a ski getaway, I want to see layers of blankets, plaid fabrics, snow shoes on the wall and log items … I want the visual cues to tell me exactly where I am.”
  • Salvage pieces add nostalgia to the bathroom. Head out for a day to explore salvage yards, antique stores or church flea markets and try to locate pedestal sinks, claw-foot tubs and vintage light fixtures.
  • Decorate your walls with an antique map or commission a local artist to paint one. That way your guests have an idea of the general area if they want to go out to explore. A vintage rug and other personal mementoes also give your walls life and individuality.
  • Use an old ladder or antique towel rack to display blankets or towels. “In guest bedrooms, these offer your guests extra layers of warmth,” Smythe says.
  • Rethink how you use things you already have … Smythe can’t stress that enough.
  • The weekend retreat is where you can be whimsical, so go for the crazy loud mugs or the out-there wild dishes. “It’s where you can indulge in a little eccentric fun.”
  • Baskets are a MUST! These are a cabin staple, used to store dried goods, towels or anything else that is cluttering your haven.
  • Finally, don’t forget your outdoor space. This is where we often spends most of our time lulling away the day. Think about putting in a fire pit with lots of seating or a hot tub.

“Every getaway should have a destination,” Smythe adds. “It could be the dock where you’ve placed a table set with hand painted dishes you found at the local flea market, candles and comfy chairs for a special dinner … imagine dining with the waves lapping at the shoreline – priceless memories are made.”

Michelle Hopkins
Michelle Hopkins is a Vancouver-based freelance writer with extensive magazine, newspaper and online writing experience in home décor, new home developments, culinary adventures, wine, travel and more. Michelle writes for many notable publications including Real Estate Weekly and other Glacier Media Group publications, Western Living Magazine, Vancouver Magazine, Home Décor & Renovations, to name just a few. Michelle is passionate about anything to do with real estate.