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. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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 :)

  4. 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.

  5. Kim says

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

  6. 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!

  7. 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!!

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