Avoid stress at the cottage (or on your summer break at home)

As much as we all look forward to summer holidays and those lazy days without morning alarm clocks and rushing to get out the door, summer breaks can be overwhelming. Kids are in full-power mode because the excitement of a break in routine. Meals and snacks need to be prepared. Inevitably you'll forget your flip flops or sunscreen and need to buy them last minute on the way to the cottage or beach. Not to mention the many things that need to be done once you get to the cottage. Phew! 

Take a breath. We've all been there, yet we look back on our summer break memories later with fondness. Remember those, and try to be present and enjoy the moment you're in while you create new memories. You can set yourself up to achieve this and avoid all of this summer stress by surrounding yourself in a calming, serene environment. And this one simpole thing will help you create that oasis:  use white. 

how to use white at the cottage to slow down

Using white at the cottage or your home will help you experience the essential essence of summer: sunshine, space, airiness, purity and joy. You might not think white is practical at the cottage given all of the sand and popsicle stains that come with it. But white is actually easier to live with than you think, and more beneficial than it is a hassle. Here are some ways to add white in a practical way. Choose just one or two, or go for them all. 

  1. White walls in a satin or eggshell finish are easily wiped down and have been shown to generate a sense of balance and harmony, exactly what you're looking for at the cottage. They'll also let you focus on what's outside the windows, not on the chaos inside. 
  2. White tables, cabinetry and even bed frames can be protected with a water-based polyurethane and easily wiped down. They'll brighten your home and reflect the light coming in from outdoors. 
  3. White slipcovers in cotton or other natural material that can be thrown in the washing machine are perfect for sofas and comfy chairs, creating an inviting come-sit-on-me-and-read vibe. 
  4. Washable and breezy white sheers or linen curtains create a casual look and draw your eye to the view, helping you connect with nature and the bigger things in life. If you don't have curtains framing your windows, consider adding simple sheers that blow in the wind. It instantly makes a room feel softer and more calming, and they're very inexpensive.
  5. Simple white hanging pendant lights and table lamps keep rooms feeling big and airy, and also don't show the dust like bulky dark light fixtures do. The last thing you want to do is clean as soon as you arrive. 
  6. White plastic dining chairs like these stand up to heavy bum traffic and are easy to clean up. 
  7. White deck floors can keep you cool while sitting out in the sun, and require less maintenance than dark colours that can fade. 
  8. White throws and pillows beckon you for mid-day naps and bare toes, thereby encouraging a slower day. 
  9. White blends perfectly with natural materials like sea grass rugs, wood stump stools and woven baskets for a warm and mellow experience that's easy on your eyes. 

Ready to try it? Add some white to the cottage and slow down a bit this summer break. Here are some beautiful white cottage spaces to inspire you. 

The simple guide to cleaning and installing wood plank walls

I'm loving wood plank walls right now, and by the look of Pinterest, so are lots of others. Wood accent walls can look modern or rustic, but what's best about this trend is that it introduces a natural element in the home that immediately grounds us and connects us with nature.

The trick to wood plank walls is to keep it simple. If you have boards that are 8-9ft in length, try installing them vertically to create the illusion of higher ceilings and to achieve a simple, uninterrupted expanse.  If you have shorter boards, prefer a patchwork look, or are installing around a feature like a fireplace, place them horizontally and just go with the flow. Either way looks dynamite. 

The reclaimed barn board look is popular, and one that I use a lot. However, lots of people are nervous about bringing old barn boards into the house because of a fear of bugs. I've never had a problem with this, as long as they are cleaned and thoroughly dried before installing. Barn boards add such character with their unique grain and imperfections, plus they add a sense of history. And they're super easy to install, because the more imperfect they are, the better they look. 

Don't stress over or delay installing barn boards or shiplap or any other kind of wood plank wall. It's a beautiful way to reap the benefits of a warm and organic feel for your home. Below are some tips for cleaning and installing plank boards on a wall in your home. 

the simple guide to cleaning and install wood plank walls

1. Choose your wood, then clean and prep it. 

Barn boards give a rustic look, maple or oak a more modern feel, and MDF or tongue and groove boards painted white used as shiplap are great for farmhouse style. You'll want to choose a board that's as light as possible, so thin is good, but not too thin that it will bow over time or in a dry winter home. Barn boards are very dry so they're light to begin with. Tongue and groove floor boards are quite light and work well. 

Prepare the boards for the look you are going for - shiplap is often painted white (use a small roller and a no-VOC latex paint).  I don't usually put a top coat sealant on, unless they'll be in a high traffic or damp zone, like a bathroom or kitchen. In that case brush a water-based polyurethane on top to keep them from chipping or getting water logged.  Maple or oak or pine boards may need to be stained to the tone you want, or simply just use a paintbrush or small roller to coat them with a water-based sealer like polyurethane in a matte or semi-gloss finish. 

If using barn boards clean them with a steel brush to remove dirt and grime, then give them a good scrubbing with borax and water. Let them dry completely - outdoors in the sun and then inside sometimes even for a few weeks if they were damp to begin with. I lightly sand them with a palm sander as a final step, which takes out any splinters and brings out the knots and grain. I don't typically treat them unless they are going in a wet zone like a bathroom.  For these spots I'll coat them with a water-based poly sealer in a matte finish so it doesn't affect the look I want. 

2. Prep the walls.

If using barn boards, you may want to paint the wall black or brown so that you can't see a white wall poking through the cracks. Of course, paint your walls white if using white shiplap. And if you're installing your boards vertically you'll need to install strapping for them to be nailed to - every 12 inches or so horizontally across the wall. Use a stud finder and an air nailer or an old fashioned hammer and nails to secure the strapping to the studs behind the walls. 

3. Cut your boards.

First, square off your board, then measure the length you'll need and use a speed square and pencil to mark off where you need to cut. Cut your pieces with a chop saw or hand saw. If installing vertically, all of your boards will be the same length (but double check this in different spots along your wall in case the floor or ceiling isn't level). If installing horizontally, use scraps of various lengths. 

4. Lay them out.

Starting in the middle, line up your boards to ensure a level and tight fit. You may need to play around here a bit to see which boards fit best next to each other. Don't worry about a few gaps- it will add to the unique look. and just make a random pattern. If installing horizontally, it typically it looks best with the shortest pieces closest to the ends and the longest in the middle of the feature wall, but again, don't fret over it. Just go with the flow. Secure the boards to the wall studs (if laying horizontally) or your strapping boards (if laying vertically) with a nail gun (if you don't own one, rent one for the day - totally worth the small investment). 

5. Finish off, but don't try for perfection. 

If your floors or ceilings are very unlevel, you may need to add a piece of trim at the top or bottom of a vertical plank wall to hide major gaps (just cut a narrow piece of board the length you need and secure with a nail gun).  This is rarely necessary though, and I think that some gaps make the wall more interesting anyway. Imperfection is beautiful! Touch up with paint if needed ( if you're working with painted shiplap). I find that barn boards are very forgiving so you really don't need to do anything more with them. 

Now you have a unique accent wall that brings warmth, character and natural beauty to your home. Enjoy! Here are some lovely plank walls to get you inspired. 

Recent guest room project - click for details

Recent guest room project - click for details

My living room barn board accent wall. 

My living room barn board accent wall. 

How to create an inviting guest bedroom at the cottage

If you're lucky enough to have a cottage you most likely also have an unlimited number of guests as well - invited or not! Want to create a guest experience that will make them feel comfortable and relaxed? Refresh a bedroom with just a few tweaks and you'll be the most popular host in your circle. Unless perhaps you'd like your guests to make their stays short ones! 

How to Create an Inviting Guest Bedroom

These simple preparations work at the guest room in your cottage or your home. Even if you don't have a spare room to use for guests, you can carve out a dedicated area to make them feel welcome - perhaps a corner of the living room or the kid's room while the littles sleep with you?  Regardless, these principles will help you create a memorable guest experience.

First, keep it clean and simple, with no personal things or family photos. Paint the walls a light neutral and add colour with a few accessories - a neutral room is calming and welcoming, no matter what your personal preference. Think about your guests and their needs. How many will need to stay in the room at one time? Are there kids? How long do they typically stay? Will they have much clothing to unpack and put away?

Essentials:

1. A comfy bed (or two if kids are part of the equation) with crisp white sheets, a lightweight blanket, and a duvet or quilt. Have extra blankets and pillows nearby. If you don't have an extra bedroom or bed in the house, invest in a good air mattress or cot and dress it just like you would a bed. 

2. Some sort of night stand (could be a thrifted side table, a stack of books or even a chair) that houses a lamp for reading and a glass for water.  Have a few books or magazines here as well.  

3. A power bar for recharging phones and tablets, and your wifi password written on a welcome note in the room. 

4. A fan if the room is hot. 

5. A bench or chair to lay clothes on. You might also install some hooks to casually sling up towels or jeans, as well as some empty hangers in the closet if there is one.  

6. A dresser or table surface with a pretty tray or bowl to hold jewellery. Hang a mirror above to make prepping for the day easy. 

7. A basket filled with necessities such as towels and facecloths, a new soap bar, a toothbrush, slippers, sunscreen, insect repellant, and tissues.

8. A mat beside the bed. It doesn't have to be an expensive rug, just something so that your guests' tootsies don't touch a cold floor in the morning. 

9. Fresh flowers are always a nice touch. Even better, flowers or branches or something natural from your own property. 

Here are some beautiful and simple cottage guest bedrooms for inspiration.