Summer Cottage – Pick My Presto

Hey there- and welcome to another installment of Pick My Presto!

I got an email from a fella by the name of Ryan Parent asking for some design help with his newly purchased summer cottage in Canada.

His email read:

Hi Layla,

I would just like to say that you and your husband have done a really good job transforming your house. I love your style as well as your ability to do the work yourself and within a very reasonable budget. I have been searching for inspiration and ideas for my new cottage for a few months now and now I am drawn mainly to your site. My name is Ryan Parent and I am a professional hockey player currently living in Chicago. I have recently bought a summer cottage in Northern Ontario where I am from. Although the place itself is a little dated and almost solely a flashback to the 80’s, there is alot of potential. I was looking to do some of the work this summer in the hope to create a cottage with the personality of yours. One of my largest obstacles is a two story, double-sided, old brick fireplace separating the dining and living room. It could be the dramatic defining character of the cottage and is why I was thinking of tackling it first. Any ideas, inspiration, or help would be tremendous and greatly appreciated. 

Thanks for your time,

Here’s a photo of the cottage…

And here’s one of the view…*sigh*…

The inside of the cottage has tons of two of my favorite things: natural light and potential! Check out the kitchen…

Those look like nice solid wood cabinets to me!

And I looooove the barstools and back door in this next photo…

Here’s a photo of the bottom half of the two story fireplace Ryan mentioned in his letter…

…and here’s a shot of the top half…

So, let’s see…what would I do to (inexpensively) make that sucker feel a little more summer cottage-y?


Well, I love the planked parts, so I’d try to work with those…maybe just lighten them up (or even white wash them) with some off-white paint. The bottom square (the one with the octagon on it, right above the mantel) actually reminds me of a “barn quilt”…

If Ryan’s not feelin’ the octagon, maybe there’s a way to alter that area a little by replacing those planks with some that are laid like the ones I drew onto the photo below. (?) Then maybe someone could hand paint a great big barn quilt design right onto them. (?) The sky’s the limit as far as the actual design of it goes, and it could be painted in any color, but it might be a really neat way to create a one-of-a-kind piece of art that really sets the tone for the whole living room area. Move your cursor on and off of the inspiration photo I created below to see it in presto change-o action! (PS- Google Readers will have to click over to our blog to see it switch back and forth.)

(Note: My presto change-o pics are for inspirational purposes only, and the ideas shown in them are just that. Spontaneous, totally flexible, just-for-fun, ideas that may or may not actually work in the room. Boom.)

Here’s a still image in case you weren’t able to view the interactive one above…

…and here’s a gray-blue one, just for fun…

(PS- I popped some different rugs and a different wall color in there just for fun, too!)

You can see in my presto change-o photo I also added some stone (adhered right on top of the existing brick) to the area right around the firebox, and I beefed up the mantel a bit, too. And because the style/color of the bricks don’t necessarily scream “summer lake cottage”, I also suggested covering the sides of the fireplace up as well.

Anywho- as with all my presto change-o’s, these are just the first ideas that popped in my noggin and I sure had fun putting it together!

What do you think, Ryan? Too artsy-fartsy? I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and I appreciate the opportunity to dream up this initial idea for you!

(Note: In case anyone is interested, I snagged the Farah Diamond Recycled Yarn rug image from

Would you like to submit a photo for our Pick My Presto series?

Send an email to PickMyPresto [at] aol [dot] com titled, Living Room. (Replace the words Living Room with whatever type of room you’re actually submitting.) In the body of the email, include your name, your blog name (if you have one) your design likes & dislikes, and one photo of the space in question. (No links please.) It should be clear, and measure at least 400 pixels high x 600 pixels wide. (In other words: at least 4″high x 6″ wide) The bigger the better though! Make sure it’s a photo you’re comfortable with me showing and writing about on our blog. Oh, and since I love surprises, I probably won’t email you to let you know I’ve “picked your presto” unless I have a specific question for you about your space.

Wood Ceiling Installation
Popcorn Ceiling To Plank Ceiling

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  1. says

    What a beautiful house!!! Wowza! Love how you beefed up the mantel, covered the brick and added the stone. Wide pine planks I love!! :) The quilt design is a great idea. Although, I wouldn’t want to be the one on the ladder or staging creating it :) hehe.

  2. says

    Those windows are to die for!

    I really like the barn quilt idea for the fireplace. Can’t imagine myself on a scaffold or ladder high enough to paint it. :)

    I’ve convinced my husband that we need a planked wood ceiling in the living room. Did you have any difficulty cutting out for electrical and HVAC vents?

  3. kathy boyce says

    looks great w/the stone on fp…i would replace the sliding glass doors w/ french doors…& paint the railing spindles white…leaving some wood, of course…endless potential!

  4. kathy boyce says

    i picture blue/aqua (sea glass colors) of fireglass (gas) in the fireplace, & open to both rooms…(without any divider- i’m not sure how to say what i mean),….open fireplace~ i guess

  5. bdaiss says

    Looks great as usual! But I really wanted to comment I’m most impressed you have a Canuk puck reading your site looking for inspiration. Awesome! Even better, a relocated one living in my hometown – Go Wolves! I’m also tres jealous of the Northern Ontario “cabin” (in quotes because I think that baby is bigger than my house). Gorgeous!

  6. says

    LAYLA! I NEVER would have thought to incorporate the quilt design!!!! I guess that’s why you’re THE lady, right? :) that place/view is stunning. and i think he should let you stay there for a week {or more!} for coming up with such a fabulous idea! 😉

  7. says

    Yowza!!! He’s cute! And his “cottage” is stunning. The aqua quilt design is genius! Go help him. Now!

  8. says

    Wow, you have one of our hockey players reading you! Can you tell I’m Canadian? That medallion also looks like a crocono board, which could be kind of fun with the ‘board games at the cottage’ thing. ~ Maureen

    • Cheryl F says

      Crocono board was my first thought too when I saw the picture. I actually dug our board out of the basement last night and had a game with my daughter.

  9. birdsandsoap says

    Wow. Beautiful Place! I only have one objection: Can you really call it a “cottage?” That place looks like a mini resort. Not only are all of those windows awesome for the natural light, but the view is amazing! All of the wood paneling is just screaming for white paint, good idea!

    • Layla says

      I thought about that, but I wasn’t 100% about the shape of the octagon so I went in a different direction. That’s totally a great option though! :-)

  10. Melissa says

    Way to go! A pro hockey player folllowing you guys? And even better–from Canada. ;). These comments made me laugh. If you were familiar with Canadian cottage country, this cottage is humble compared to the rest! I hope he’ll share his updates when they’re complete! Layla, your ideas are spot on with the vibe there!

  11. says

    What a wonderful house, first of all. I love what you did with the fireplace. I also love that you focus on exactly what the homeowner asks for. Some designers seem to delight in creating their own vision regardless of the wishes of the client. (I saw the first episode of Design Star yesterday and I must say much of what they did looked horrible to me!)

    • Layla says

      Thank you, Shari! Your comment made my morning and I’m so happy you stopped by today! :-)

  12. says

    Margitta’s comment made me think. I can see a stylized sunburst in the octagon as well. Sunny yellow color for a “summer” cottage. You spark our creativity Layla!

  13. Liz says

    Layla, it was exciting to see you use the barn quilt painting in one of your designs. I have wanted to paint a barn quilt on my new garden shed doors. When I tell people they think I’m crazy but I really don’t think they understand what I’m talking about. We saw them all through Iowa on the barns & also in Kentucky last year. This is the 1st time I’ve seen it used for an indoor decoration. Great job & I love the color palette chosen.

    Liz VanKirk

    • Layla says

      Hi Liz!
      My Mom and I saw several in Iowa last Fall, too. I’ve been thinking about them ever since! 😀

  14. Kim says

    I live in Iowa and we love our barn quilts! Makes the drives across the countryside so interesting! So glad you enjoyed them as you traveled through. Love the idea of incorporating that into the design in this house (SOOO not a cottage, right? Ha!) Despite the terminology, it’s a beautiful place and that fireplace would be to die for!

  15. Paulina J! says

    I think Ryan should invite you and Kevin up to the cottage to see it in person and help him out 😉

    Awesome presto!

  16. says

    I love the idea of the quilt design – I’m partial to quilts myself, so I would totally go for that!

    I also love that you added in the stone work around the firebox – I think it definitely softens the area.

    I hope he incorporates your suggestions into his cottage!

  17. Taryn Smith says

    The fireplace and quilt design are BEAUTIFUL! Not a shabby “cottage” either!

  18. Sallie Ferguson says

    Hi Layla, What a wonderful quilt idea! I have a cottage just like this one–except that it is not on a lake, is tiny, has no fireplace,and my husband just watches TV hockey. But I can still have that quilt! Love it.

  19. says

    My heart skipped a beat when I saw your picture of Ryan’s cottage. I knew in a minute it had to be in Northern Ontario…because OUR cottage is in Northern Ontario, about 25 North of Parry Sound on the Georgian Bay. That rocky shoreline was a dead give away. Ahhhh, counting the days till we go up. I’m sure that Ryan will love that inspiration for his fireplace. It was perfect! My love for the feel and look of cottage decorating at home was born from our cottage in Canada and the NEED to have that feeling and contentment when I’m not there.

  20. says

    love the quilt idea and whitewashing the wood. I would also suggest using an old diseased or fallen tree from his property and create a bit more substantial and rustic mantel. Cant wait to see what he does and, Ryan, I have a beautiful 24 year old daughter who is single….sorry but that seems to be the only way I can have access to this wonderful property!!

  21. says

    Love your suggestion to lighten up that beautiful fireplace. Ryan could also paint his beloved Canadian emblem/flag {the red maple leaf} in the bottom square. Whatever he decides to do with it, I hope he sends you photos!
    Your Friend,

  22. Carol says

    Lovin’ this idea, but is that a plug in for a tv I see in that area? Not that a tv has to go there, just asking.

  23. Jerri C. says

    So what do you think Ryan? …………………………………. I love it!!

  24. says

    I love hockey players. I love Chicago part of the year and could learn to love Canada the rest of the year…………………especially with that kind of a cabin. Yep, I could do that.

  25. Janet says

    I love this and while I have a much smaller brick fireplacethey our design just went to the top of my idea list (and we have barn quilts in Kansas too)! Thank you so much for sharing your creativity and talent with us all!! (and please let us know what Ryan thinks, if you hear back!)

  26. Denise Z says

    Love the quilt design idea. My first thought using that idea was a Canadian maple leaf–white-washed background with a solid pop of red.

  27. Kaye Chastain says

    It’s a bit of a stretch to call this house a “cottage”, I think! WOW! What a gorgeous place! And I too am impressed that a pro hockey player reads your blog and finds inspiration! Just goes to show how popular both you and your style are! I love your idea about the fireplace. Someone else may have suggested this–I haven’t read all the comments–but an alternative to painting something permanent above the mantle might be to display beautiful quilts, changed out seasonally, perhaps. I know it would be a bit of trouble to climb on a ladder each time you wanted to change it, but for those of us who like to freshen things up now and them, it would be worth it!

  28. Heather says

    Wow! Maybe I’m off here, but I really LOVE the retro mid century look the “cottage” already has. The bright light and the natural wood work is so calming and airy. Just different tastes I guess. (And please don’t think I’m a hater Layla…I really love your blog and your style I promise!)

    • Tina says

      Thanks for this, Heather. Mid-century is not my thing- esp with those rocks and trees outside, I’d want something more nature-inspired, relaxed, and old fashioned, but when I first saw the pics I thought some people would just love to rejuvenate the retro look! There seems to be a lot of attention and care in the original design, and someone who is into it could really make it shine again. (I happen to love “dated” old bathroom tiles and fixtures from the 30’s-60’s, but I totally get that a pepto or burgundy bathtub isn’t everyone’s idea of chic :)) I love being in creative and loved spaces that are different from my own preferences.

    • Layla says

      It is a beauty, isn’t it? And not to fret, my presto change-o was based on the happy homeowners requests, but I totally understand that it may not be for everyone. :-)

  29. Sally B says

    Love the white on white look with the stone at the lower part of the fireplace. His home is gorgeous and in a beautiful setting…are you going to paint the kitchen cabinets white? I have some old cabinets and just removing the trim over the sink updated them tremendously (old scalloped trim) I just tapped it and it fell down (hammers are wonderful things;) A pale greyed white would be interesting too…(very pale) Great ideas for the fireplace!

  30. Kate D says

    I like your ideas for his fireplace. Yep…that mantle has to be enlarged and the brick covered and the hearth changed. Love your suggestion of gently whitewashing all of the wood work. Also someone suggested replacing the sliders with french doors. I have to agree with that one. Seems as if that “plug” in the middle of the octagon were meant for a T.V. it would be awfully high up to view. Looks that way from the photo. Hhmmm……if it is necessary to plug something in there….maybe whatever it is could be camouflaged behind some old salvaged doors above a bigger mantle. And a quilt design or family crest could be painted (distressed of course) on the doors. It’s a thought. And hopefully those white kitchen appliances will eventually be replaced with stainless steel when its time to do some sprucing up in that room. What a beautiful home and setting. Can we all come and visit? Ryan…nice purchase. Enjoy.

  31. Tina says

    Would love to see follow up on this. Such great ideas as always, Miss Layla- the barn quilt is genius! The colors and textures you sketched connect the space to that gorgeous natural setting and to the feeling I’d want at a special summer cottage.
    The kitchen is really intriguing…took me a while to notice the backsplash tiles. Simple paint could transform the look if he wants to inexpensively get away from the honey tones. A classic kitchen table or a butcherblock/work island would be fab! Love that dutch door, too.
    Maybe you and Kevin can take a business trip up to Northern Ontario and do a personal consultation. I think seeing a sunset or sunrise at the lake would give essential design inspiration :)

  32. MiMi says

    Love this “cottage”, the natural wood, just paint some white like you did the fireplace, but I would love to see a HUGE driftwood starburst in that octagon shape… I am really partial to gray, white and natural wood. What a beautiful place and love all the natural light.

  33. Kim says

    Great design, as usual :) but let’s talk about Ryan… What a hottie! I’m sure he will love your ideas!

  34. says

    I’m also in Northern Ontario and there are many, many beautiful cottages like that. If Ryan likes the white look, then the fireplace area would look great as you have suggested, but for me I’d leave the kitchen cupboards wood and paint the extra areas above the cupboards white. Since I’m closer than you, Layla… I’m available to help with renovations!

  35. Andrea says

    Oh my goodness! I’m freaking out here! I live in Sioux Lookout, ON, where Ryan is from!! His dad is my husband’s boss and he was here at my house tonight! What a small world! His name was the last one I expected to see on your blog tonight!! Wow, just wow!! Love your blog and all the gorgeous creative ideas you have!!