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If you’re a fan of Sarah’s Cottage (HGTV Canada) or Sarah’s Summer House, (as it’s known in the US),  you either have a summer retreat or you want one.  I enjoyed watching interior designer Sarah Richardson transform her water access cottage into a dream space for her young family. I truly wish Vito and his crew would magically appear on my dock to take care of all those pesky jobs that are piling up. That’s what the series is all about – cottage dreams. It’s hard to resist a good makeover. The reality is, it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. You can take an older cottage and slowly reinvent it – enjoying it while you put your own stamp on it. That’s what we’re doing.

I didn’t grow up as a cottager, but my husband Rob and I started renting cottages when our kids were young. We soon discovered that despite all the work involved – and there is a lot of work – we loved how it felt to escape the big city. Our kids learned to water ski and we managed to teach a few of their friends a bit about life on the lake. The truth is, we’re still learning ourselves. There’s something about cottages that brings out the best in people.

Five years ago, we bought our own retreat. It was built in 1950, and like many buildings of its age, it’s quirky. What sold us was the lovely piece of land, a large original stone fireplace and a good-sized bunkie for the kids. It needs new windows, updated bathrooms and a lot of cosmetic fix-ups, but it’s found a place in our hearts.

One of the first areas we started working on was the kitchen. A longtime former owner favoured a German Bavarian style, which we didn’t exactly love. Here’s a look at the kitchen when we first bought the cottage:

The brickwork was the first thing to go. A local contractor ripped it out for us and did some reframing. He also took down the faux beam and stucco ceiling and replaced it with simple tongue and groove pine. We took it from there – painting the cabinetry, ceiling and walls. We didn’t change the appliances (yet) and though we did put in a new counter, it’s laminate and was quite inexpensive.

I love the shape of this vintage table. I had a piece of glass cut to fit its wavy lines.

An old wicker plant stand is perfect for storing drinks. It looks chic lined with Perrier bottles, but it’s usually home to a mix of wine, pop, beer.

In the coming months, I hope to share more stories about our cottage and the simple ways we make it our own.

(We painted the kitchen walls Farrow and Ball Pavillion Gray, the niche over the stove F & B Blue Ground, the chairs F & B Plummet and the cabinetry Benjamin Moore Cloud White. The vintage table and drink stand are painted F & B Manor House Gray).

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