Cottage Country – Easy updates for more modern décor.

Ah, the cottage. Weekend refuge and summer escape. After that (often) long commute to your place of anticipated tranquility, the last thing you’ll want to do is a bunch of DIY projects. But with a few simple updates, you can easily change the atmosphere from an overly retro retreat to a designer destination.


Lori Borsellino of Pure Boutique in Burlington says paint is a great way to update old or antique furniture. “Beautiful blues and greys create a relaxing atmosphere,” she says. Many cottages from the 60s and 70s were designed with all-wood interiors and Borsellino suggests creating more balance with paint – both inside and outside the cottage. “Paint some of it out. It can be a quick update to older kitchen cabinetry or those wood paneled walls and ceilings. Again, use light and airy colours,” she says, adding that grey is one of her favourite colours right now even for the exterior. “It’s definitely on trend and instantly creates a more modern look.”


Too much original wood paneling on the walls? Kate Davidson of Kate Davidson Design in Oakville suggests painting it in a crisp white. “Repaint the cabinets, update them with new hardware and swap out old faucets for new ones,” she adds. Redress your windows, too. “Add sheers and cotton draperies to your windows,” she says. “They’ll reflect light and add a light, beachy feel.” For pops of colour, with little effort required, use toss cushions and kilim rugs.


For décor pieces, consider heading to the beach instead of a store. “I like walking along the beach and collecting driftwood or unique rocks,” says Borsellino. “Display them on tables inside, or outside in the garden. It brings a little piece of the beach back to your cottage and makes for a conversation piece.”

Make the most of nearby antique or salvage stores. “Part of going to the cottage means antique picking for me,” states Borsellino, who frequents her favourite places to find unique treasures. “I’m most attracted to architectural pieces, such as old corbels, old tin tiles, old windows or doors. The old doors can make an interesting piece in the garden, or you can put them on a slider to create a sliding door. The corbels would make a great accent to a shelf. Old windows can be hung as is or you can put family photos where the window panes are.” Old wooden paddles also make great wall décor.

If you’ve been to Borsellino’s store then you’re familiar with how she can transform old furniture. She says if a salvaged piece is functional and works well in the space, use it. “Any style of furniture looks great painted,” says Borsellino. “Not everything needs to be painted though.  If you have a beautiful piece of wood furniture, maybe a nice polish will bring it back to life. Balance it out with painted pieces. I might have 75% of my furniture painted in a room and 25% unpainted. Same goes with furniture style. I might have 75% modern traditional to 25% shabby chic or vice versa. This has always been a nice balance for me.” Davidson agrees. “I love to combine an eclectic mix of antiques and modern accents in cottage spaces. It’s essential for a carefree country home to select pieces that are durable, low maintenance and comfortable.”

For the bedroom, both Davidson and Borsellino agree that swapping out dated sheets for “newer” ones is an easy update. Borsellino personally loves antique chenille blankets. “There are so many beautiful patterns, colours, and textures to choose from,” she says. “They are a bit difficult to find, but are well worth the hunt.”

Whether you choose to tackle this project over one weekend or space it out over the whole summer, we hope you will have some fun doing it, and still have plenty of time to enjoy those long relaxing weekends at the cottage.

Local Links:

Pure Boutique, Burlington

Kate Davidson Design, Oakville

The Rustic Rose, Hamilton

by Becky Dumais

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