Samantha Pynn at the Spring Cottage Life Show

As I’ve previously admitted, I’m a total junkie when it comes to home makeover shows. I love HGTV and have been known to surrender hours of my life to it. So of course I was delighted when the network sent over a few sneak-peek episodes of their cottage-themed program, Summer Home, featuring designer Samantha Pynn, now entering its second season.

I was delighted by the show—it really seemed that Samantha “got it.” She understood that while cottagers want a beautiful space where they can relax, they typically don’t want a lot of fuss or muss, or to spend a fortune decorating. I called her up to find out more about her experience shooting the show and to get a few tips to share with all of you.

MK: What’s your cottage background?

SP: I am a city girl through and through. I never really understood when people would say they would relax the moment they started driving up the 400. To me, that’s not relaxing! But within the first week of shooting [Summer Home] I really got it. I’m a city girl converted. Working on this show was the experience of a lifetime.

MK: What’s the difference between designing for a city home and designing for the cottage?

SP: Things are more relaxed in the country. You want it to look good, but it can’t be as precious or refined as in the city. You wouldn’t do a glass coffee table or marble bookends, for instance. Or you might have two similar chairs and you just paint them the same colour and it looks great. Things can also be a bit beaten up; you can use salvaged furniture more easily. I also like that you can leave quirky things out in a way that you wouldn’t at home.

MK: Ah, yes, knick knacks. Yay or Nay?

SP: Yes to knick knacks, but they still have to be well edited. I encourage people to clear the clutter a bit. All that stuff will get so dusty, do you really want to spend your weekends cleaning it? I know that people have lots of nostalgic pieces and memories attached to them so I don’t think that you should get rid of them completely, you just need to display them well.

MK: That’s great advice, because I know people tend to get really attached to the strangest things at the cottage and it can become too much. What’s another mistake that people make when decorating their cottage?

SP: I’d say that the biggest mistake that people make when decorating the cottage is that they use furniture that is too sleek. For example, they will bring their old, leather sofa up to the lake. You need to change it up—slipcover that sofa! You want it to look and feel relaxed, not like you’re sitting in a condo downtown. You have to ask yourself if it really works at the cottage. If it doesn’t, change it.

MK: Often people will bring their old basement furniture to the cottage because they’ve replaced it at home with what used to be in their living room after getting something new for that space. Then you end up with a third-hand couch at the cottage.

SP: That’s fine, but you have to make sure it’s still comfortable, at the very least. You go to the cottage for vacation, don’t you want to be comfortable? This is your place to relax and summers are short. It’s worth it to get that old couch reupholstered and refilled.

MK: What’s your best piece of advice for people who are looking to re-imagine their cottage space?

SP: Paint it. Paint the walls or the furniture…it will bring about the biggest change.

MK: People always say that, but I find picking paint colours to be the hardest decision if you don’t know what you’re doing!

SP: I always tell people to walk outside the cottage and you will find the colour palate. All the colours in the environment around the cottage are the perfect inspiration, just extend the outdoors in. I also advise people to pay attention to the tonality of colours more than the colours themselves. So, if you’re picking blue, maybe go for something closer to the colour of the lake than a bright turquoise. But also use the colours you love: If you really like orange, cover a few throw pillows with it. Do what makes you happy.

MK: Okay, so a city girl converted. Now that you “get” what cottaging is all about, what would you say is your ideal retreat?

SP: Small for sure, and cozy. Something with land, and space, definitely on a lake. And with a few apple trees. I also like the idea of it being a little bit off the beaten path. Some place where you just want to stay and not come back!

Summer Home premieres on HGTV on Monday, April 2 at 8 pm. To meet Samantha in person and to hear her tips on cottage decorating, come to next weekend’s Spring Cottage Life Show at the International Centre in Toronto. She’ll be on the main stage in Hall 4 on Sunday, April 1 at noon.