Design & DIY

How to decorate a new cottage

Henry's Lake cabin

So you bought a new cottage? Congratulations! Of course, once the excitement of acquiring your new investment wears off, you might be perplexed about how you’re going to decorate and furnish it. As you probably know, cottages are often sold with their contents. And while that can occasionally be gross, it’s often a treasure trove of great pieces.

But historically, cottages have been the graveyard for the stuff no longer needed in the city. This explains why many of us have such uncomfortable beds at the cottage. I personally sleep on the mattress that my grandparents bought for their first house—yes, I know mattresses have a lifespan and this one has passed its due date. I try not to think of it too much. Instead, I focus on the great duvet cover I found for it.

Regardless of how you acquired your new cottage’s furnishings, they are very likely pieces you like but don’t love. So how do you turn your new favourite place into the dream space you imagined before taking possession? And how do you do it on a budget? Here are the words to live by: paint, hooks, and tchotchkes. These things will save you money, fill empty wall space, and transform the vibe of any room almost instantly.  And I bet when you finally have the money, you’ll have a hard time getting rid of the “quick fixes.”

foxglove spires interior 0048
Photo courtesy of

Can’t afford to replace the flooring just yet? Well, paint the old stuff. We did that at my cottage. But we (I use the term “we” loosely; I really mean my husband and brother-in-law) learned something the hard way. Don’t soak the floors in paint thinner first because you can’t get the carpet glue off!

painted floors
Photo courtesy of In My House

Don’t like the dining table that came with your new cottage? Paint it white, with turquoise stripes across the top. Trust me!

Let’s say you have a large wall in the living room and you don’t want to splurge on artwork or a family history wall just yet. In that case, go with every hangable knickknack and paint-by-numbers piece of artwork you can find at garage sales. All of a sudden, you have a charming, eclectic, and creative focal point.

tchotchke art
Photo courtesy of Decor Pad

What if you have a great bedroom with a whole wall of windows but no closet? Screw in some hooks and call it a day. Only at the cottage can you hang up random clothes, a beach bag, and pajamas and it looks great.  Luckily, cottages often come with wood panelling, so wall plugs aren’t always necessary. And if you don’t like the panelling colour, refer to the first tip: paint it!

bedroom hooks
Photo courtesy of House to Home

And for those who are still worrying about the disgusting mattress I sleep on for a few weeks each summer, please take comfort in the fact that I’m replacing it this spring. And rest assured that I’m not passing it down to my daughters—it will be going to the dump, one of my favourite places to cottage “shop.” But that’s another article!

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