The Highs and Lows of a Designer’s Cottage Renovation (yes, it’s me)


cottage renovation Pamela Lynn Interiors


A cottage renovation is tough because summer is short and we want to enjoy our time relaxing. If you think a designer doesn’t understand how stressful your renovation is look no further than right here:)  I do understand because not only have I designed and built our current family home in the last few years but I just put the finishing touches on my cottage renovation. 

For me, this has been a dream come true. I’ve always known the cottage because she, as we lovingly refer to her, has been in my family since 1949. If you’re not into math, that’s 73-years. She’s actually 75-years old but my family bought her when she was 2 years old. She has held up well for her years but was in need of a bit of updating and it was my honour to provide that for her.


Cottage Life – Back in the Day


cottage renovation original photos


If you’ve met me you know this is my happy place! I have such fond lifelong memories of being up here on the lake with friends and family.

It’s a legacy my father’s family have passed along and I hold it dearly in my heart. I’m beyond grateful that my children are the fifth generation to enjoy this special place.

So let’s understand exactly how far we have come! When my great grandparents bought the cottage in 1949, there was only an outhouse.  It wasn’t long after that a bathroom was added. The cottage has seen many facelifts over the years and its last one was in 2003. If you’re a home or cottage owner you know that you’re lucky to get 20-years from a renovation. I knew it was time.


Happy 75th-Birthday to You!


This beautiful old lady turns 75 this year. My family has owned her for 73 of those years. It’s going to be a big party where we’ll celebrate her 75-year anniversary as well as how amazing she looks after her new updates.


Here’s a photo of the original fireplace in the living room of the cottage.


And here’s the updated living room. I’d say she’s looking quite fine for an old dame, wouldn’t you?




Making Room for Everyone

cottage renovation


If you have the impression that I’m an extrovert you wouldn’t be wrong. I love to entertain so when I can combine my love for this cottage along with my love for family and friends, it’s extroverted perfection.

As my kids got older and my family grew, we started running out of space. I knew we needed to change the layout to accommodate what’s usually a full house.

We really needed a second bathroom as well as a proper fourth bedroom. And hey, while we are at it let’s throw in a mudroom. 


Cottage Renovation Timelines That Run Astray

cottage renovation updated kitchen


This cottage renovation began in March of 2020. Yes, just in time for what was the busiest build and renovation period in history. 

From start to finish, the reno took about 1.5 years to complete. The contractor completed construction in 6-8 months. It took me the rest of the time to furnish and decorate. Did I mention this was the craziest time in history for the interior design industry?!


Tapping Into the Local Industry


One of the things I would caution you about a cottage renovation is try to avoid using only trades you bring from out of town. Things get done faster when you embrace the local talent. Locals have a network of help at their fingertips and you will always have an ally should you need it. For instance, running into bylaw issues might be easier to resolve if your contractor is a friend of the city clerk.

We were lucky enough to have a neighbour who is also a contractor. He did all the work and he selected all of the trades. We felt so fortunate to have him on site every day.  It was during a lot of shut downs so there was a lot of facetime and picture sharing going on.

When it was absolutely necessary we brought people from the city. In the end, we found some of the best trades in the business right on our cottage doorstep. 

It wasn’t quite as simple when it came to sourcing materials. The combination of covid and limited supply in a remote location made sourcing more challenging.  Sometimes, our contractor would visit multiple local stores just to find a single item.


How The Cottage Has Been Transformed


Originally the cottage was just a three season cottage where we drew water from the lake and had baseboard heat. I love the winter and being able to hop on a snowmobile so I wanted a place that was all seasons. We previously took the first step by insulating and making it a four seasons’ space.  


This time around we really just tweaked the layout. We wanted to maximize space and accommodate all our friends and family. In 2003 we had taken down some walls and made it an open concept so we had a head start..  

The kitchen from 2003 was really showing its age so we replaced that. I also incorporated lots of storage! It’s a four season space and there are always lots of people but yet we never had enough storage.

I added a banquette in the dining room with storage below. This gives me somewhere to store all those holiday dishes and rarely used serving pieces. A new built-in for the dining room doubles as a bar. If you’re looking for me, you might just find me here!

A sun porch that we had used as a makeshift bedroom became our master bedroom including adding the world’s smallest powder room.  

 Lastly, we added a small mudroom for winter gear and all our board games. 


My Favourite Space

cottage renovation


While I am obsessed with the entire renovation, I love my master bedroom with the world’s smallest powder room. When you have 15-20 people in an 1100 sq ft cottage, having a second washroom is a luxury. I’ll take a tiny space to sharing with a houseful of people any day!



My Best Advice on Undergoing a Cottage Renovation


Plan plan plan.  A cottage renovation is no different than a residential project in this respect. I always preach to clients that you need to start with a plan and it might be even more important with a cottage. If you try to wing it and figure things out on the fly things get missed or forgotten. Another common drawback to no plan is that the whole project is lacking in cohesiveness. 

You’ll always be happier with the end result when you spend the time upfront planning.

Do you need help renovating your cottage? View my services to see how I can help you.



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