I’m not going to lie to you. I’m kind of a “glamour girl.” I like my Starbucks, Paris is always my favourite place to be and stylish clothing is a must. That said I’m happy to browse the sale racks, use points for travel and have been known to drink a coffee other than that famous Seattle brand. Why do I mention all of this? I felt the need to be upfront about any design/style suggestions for this cottage and camper life blog. That is, while you can make both of these areas outstanding, the fact is you are still sometimes left out, standing, in the outdoors, with bugs and you know……that kind of thing. Mind you, these days, the cottage and camper life can be waaay more glamorous than in the past and is sometimes nicer than how many others live on a day to day basis! Have you seen some of these trailers now? They have granite counter tops and satellite TV! Today I plan to share some tips and tools for the design savvy cottager and glam camping reader.
I firmly believe that even a stroll through your local Chapters these days will net you a plethora of really cool “cottage life” type stuff but that this is not always what you want (or need!) They have sumptuous pillows with cute, Canadian and/or inspiring messages, drinks trays with paddles on them and fabulous china mugs that take their inspiration from old lumberjack tin mugs found in days of yore. The problem is, and I believe this to be a problem for cottage and camper owners in general, sometimes there is just too much of a “good thing.” Those china mugs for example. They look pretty cool but they are china, aka breakable. They aren’t particularly safe down on the dock and having to wash them by hand is a pain. The tin mugs of yore would have been far more functional and kind of a kitschy conversation piece to boot.
The point is, a cottage needs to be a place of comfort, everything has to be useful and while style is important, it is equal in this case to functionality. This is even truer in a camper. Here are some things to consider when considering decorating for your “home away from home:”
- White is beautiful. White is a dirt magnet. When you see those classic blues and whites in the magazine photos, try to picture how your family will actually live in the space. Wet bathing suits, sand, coffee, even just everyday living will take a toll on white very quickly. It’s just not practical. If you’re looking to use white to soften the edges or help bring clean lines into your space, consider doing so where the foot traffic is lighter and sand isn’t an issue. Picture frames, accessories, dishes, even cabinetry in the kitchen are all areas where white can be used to brighten without the very real possibility of damaging stains.
- Kitschy is cool but in moderation. We’ve seen cottages with oars, paddles and canoe themed bookshelves. Cottages with deer antlers and everything deer or moose themed and plenty of campers and cottages with wood accessories everywhere (and by wood I mean even tables and candleholders made from tree stumps.) We’ve even seen skis and snowshoes hung up on the walls. The secret to cottage décor is “less is more.” Stick with a theme and ONE theme only. Cottages might be meant to be eclectic but that doesn’t have to translate into junky and jumbled.
- Make sure furniture is functional and plentiful. After all you probably do a lot of entertaining. Both indoors and outdoors arrange your space around conversation areas, places where people will gather to sit and talk or play a board game. A sunroom, if you have one, is an ideal place for a card table and enough seating for a variety of folks to rotate through. The dining area should include tables with extra inserts so it can be expanded or reduced as your guests come and go.
- Keep things simple and uncluttered. Candles are great because they serve two functions; both lovely to look at and great during the inevitable power outages. Wall art can be as simple as groupings of photographs, all framed similarly, of your friends and family enjoying the cottage life. Footstools and ottomans that double as storage units are a must. Invest in a few extra throws. They make the space look great when draped over a couch and sure come in handy when the nights are a little cooler.
- When it comes to campers many of these same rules apply although you obviously have less room to move around and/or to move furniture. But take your cues from the designers of campers who have made it an art form in terms of designing multi-purpose furniture. With both storage and space at a premium think of things that can serve more than one purpose and think practical like plastic glassware instead of real. Accessorizing might come at the expense of space in a camper so use things like napkins, colourful acrylic wine glasses and plates to add pops of colour to your dining table. I have a friend who camps regularly and she purposefully purchased all bright turquoise dishtowels, plates and placemats to help brighten the mood. She also invested in several small pieces of décor art using those peel and stick wall mountable hooks and she simply removes the items while travelling and hangs them up upon arrival. This same gal has even found a lovely hanging “candelabra” that she hangs from her dining tent outside and lights each night to provide ambience. As she tells me, “Just because I am eating outside there’s no reason to be uncivilized!”
Overall, the message is to keep things simple. I guess I actually took a long time to say it but it’s easy to get carried away when talking about our special places. If cottaging and camping are your thing you know what I’m talking about. It’s your home away from home so it has to reflect who you are while also accommodating how you live in it. I suppose the final piece of advice should be, regardless of what we have said here today – if you love it or it has sentimental value – it’s a keeper no matter how it fits into the space. Here’s to being a happy camper!