New Cottage Style: Making a Getaway

It has inspired countless books and magazines, yet can be difficult to pin down. Part of today’s Cottage Style perennial appeal is that it embraces a wide variety of influences, with few rules.
Orlans livingroom
Fresh color cues from Lake Michigan infuse the living room.

Pull together a look you’ll love by mixing classic and contemporary, lowly and expensive, simple and serious: Trendy or traditional, it’s up to you. Life at the lake has never been so easy. 

Orlans bedroom
Designer Vee Mossburg lends depth through white in subtle ways: While this master retreat’s trim paint is semi-gloss and the ceiling hue is flat, ship lap walls offer an eggshell sheen. Glazed and distressed, the white wood bed is enhanced by a diamond-patterned floor, crisp white percale and glossy porcelain lamp.
Design Trend 1:
Colors Timeless and Trendy

While white holds true as a classic cottage hue, plenty of patterns and bold, bright colors were among top design trends at High Point for 2013. That’s also a trend in cottage décor, says Grosse Pointe Park interior designer Gail Urso, who recently incorporated both elements in a cottage in Saugatuck Dunes State Park (see page 49).

Taking cues from the surrounding water, sky and forest, Urso enlivened the six-year-old getaway with saturated shades of periwinkle blue and whimsical fabrics. “The house needed an influx of color and personality to make it sing,” she said. “We also refinished the floor to look like driftwood, which really helped the color to pop.”

Interior designer Kathleen McGovern, also of Grosse Pointe Park, notes a cottage “lets us check our cowardliness at the door and try colors we have only dreamed about,” but that cottage owners should also consider the bigger picture. 

Kitchen West
“People want the best of both worlds,” notes designer Marilyn Nagelkirk of Kitchen West in Douglas, whose clients are more often requesting durable products like quartzite countertops that resemble higher-end options. In this space, pendants and appliances pair modernity with the warmth of wood and wicker and a chandelier’s charm.

“The challenge is developing a color palette that is bright and happy during the busy summer months, but that can translate to warm and cozy when the lake freezes over,” she says. 

A recently completed project (see page 46) is a great case-in-point. “Because the cottage was on a wooded crest overlooking Torch Lake, the inspiration was right outside the window: earthy greens, deep blues, vibrant reds and golds,” McGovern explains. “The colors were lively in the summer, warm and welcoming in the winter.” 

Of course, white is always right, shares Vee Mossburg, owner of Cottage Company Interiors in Harbor Springs. Used in trims, ceilings, floors, furniture, bedding and accessories, white complements other hues and is “the classic cottage color,” she says, one that never looks dated or goes out of style. 

“White evokes the emotions of summer; it’s clean, crisp, fresh and simple. It makes rooms feel more spacious and highlights things around it, such as the view or special pieces such as art,” Mossburg says. “The trick to using white is to layer several shades, sheens, materials and textures for a fresh, relaxing environment.” 

Design partners at Harbor Town Interiors in St. Joseph enlivened a Harbor Shores vacation haven with a whimsically placed vintage bike, a rudder-based cocktail table and other creatively picked and placed pieces, both salvaged and new.
Design Trend 2:
Pieces with Personality

The key to making your cottage your own is filling it with art, antiques and accessories that truly reflect your personality, says Stephanie Grill, co-owner of HarborTown Interiors in St. Joseph. A recently completed project in Benton Harbor’s Harbor Shores featured a cocktail table fashioned from a recycled five-foot freighter rudder. 

“We also included a vintage bicycle and other things the homeowners collected, and redid the floor using reclaimed barn wood,” she says. “We mixed salvage with newer things for the kind of relaxed look we specialize in.”  

Salvaged pieces add both charm and a sense of history, agrees CJ VanDaff-Zondervan of True North Interior Design and Antiques, which can be found at Then & Now Antique Consignment House in Petoskey and Blue Door Home Design in Grand Rapids. Interior designer and antique dealer Vandaff-Zondervan — who also teaches a class on cottage design at Grand Rapids’ Kendall College of Art and Design — says top sellers are harvest tables and kitchen islands made from beadboard and reclaimed wood (

Kitchen Island West“We can’t build those fast enough,” she says. “Both are just flying out the door.” 

Amy Nolfo-Bingley of Butter Beans Antiques (who exhibits at Ann Arbor Antiques) sees trends toward repurposed furniture reupholstered with new retro-inspired fabrics and bringing garden pieces in. “I can’t tell you how many old white urns we’ve sold to use for wood by the fireplace or in the center of the harvest table,” she says. 

While ironstone, yellow ware and chintz are perennially popular, cottage style is definitely evolving, Nolfo-Bingley adds. “Shabby chic is still around, but people are mixing that palette with natural and weathered woods, metal and light industrial items for a whole new look that’s very exciting.”

New Ravenna Jordan WaveDesign Trend 3:
High Style, Low-Maintenance

Few people want to spend their limited time at their cottage maintaining that cottage, say designers. That’s especially true in high-traffic kitchens and baths. 

New Ravenna octopus garden bottleKitchen designer Marilyn Nagelkirk of Kitchen West in Douglas has seen more requests for and more options in durable materials such as quartzite countertops that look like high-end marble or soapstone. “People want the best of both worlds,” she says. 

They also want kitchens that mix the classic looks of the past with more modern amenities. The best cottage kitchens incorporate punches of color (“We have some great new range colors,” Nagelkirk illustrates) and vintage elements such as banquettes, bin pulls, subway tile and farm sinks.


“We won an award recently for a kitchen that had a wood countertop around the prep area,” the designer notes. “Wood elements such as a countertop, an island or banquette warm up the room and can be really inviting.” 

Virginia Tile oasis orange

Natural materials and looks inspired by nature are also popular in tile according to Lynne Moran, Michigan showroom manager of Virginia Tile in Troy. Popular choices include porcelain tiles that look like wood, marble, even linen. Low maintenance, they’re sturdy, durable and don’t scratch, which makes them ideal for cottages, she says. “You can even walk on them with sand or stones on your shoes.”

Cottage owners rightly take their cues from surrounding landscape when choosing materials. “We see a lot of stones and pebbles used in bathroom floors and even frosted glass that looks like beach glass,” Moran says. “We see trends toward lighter, brighter tones and less serious choices than in main residences.

Featured here in an Oasis Mosaic in Peacock Topaz and Aqua-marine Jewel Glass; Jordan Wave and Stripe Custom Mosaic with Charlemagne Field in Thassos, Celeste and Ming Green; Octopus Garden Backsplash in Glass Moonstone. – Photography courtesy Virginia Tile

“Cottage owners want to feel relaxed the minute they get there.” 

It’s what getting away is all about.

For more design inspiration, visit:;;;; and

Find Butter Beans Antiques and True North Interior Design and Antiques on Facebook. Khristi Sigurdson Zimmeth is a Grosse Pointe Park-based editor and writer.

Photography courtesy Jeff Garland; Virginia Tile; The Cottage Company; Kitchen West LLC; and Harbor Town Interiors.

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