Before and After: Lake Retreat
Gather inspiration from the simple white palette and timeless details of this renovated modern lake cottage in Arkansas.
Dining Area: Before
A dreary 1969 rancher in Hot Springs, Arkansas, caught the attention of Kevin Walsh and Brett Pitts. They had been searching for a weekend home, and with a little work, this 900-square-foot lake cottage would become the perfect place to relax and entertain friends. Because it had a vaulted ceiling and a wall of windows overlooking Lake Hamilton, Kevin knew they could transform the tired house into an airy, sunny space.
The combined living and dining spaces open into the kitchen in the small home. “The whole house is really just one open room,” says Kevin. “The challenge was in the space planning.”
Dining Area: After
Kevin moved the dining area to capture the view, and softened the space with simple curtains. To take advantage of the outdoor views, Kevin centered the dining table in front of the large back wall of windows. “After that, it just made sense to put the seating areas in the middle of the room,” he says.
Table: Parsons Dining Table from West Elm; westelm.com.
Chairs: vintage; for a similar look, try Ballard Designs; ballarddesigns.com.
Curtain fabric: Kravet 24584 Color 101 (kravet.com), available through Decorative Center Services; 713/961-9292.
The first priority on the redo list was the dark and dingy surfaces. They replaced the wall-to-wall carpet with glossy hardwood floors and painted all the other background surfaces, including the brick fireplace, a clean shade of white: Pure White (SW7005) by Sherwin-Williams. “We didn’t want anything overly stimulating,” says Kevin. “When we invite our friends to the lake, they add all the color.”
In the living room, a vintage advertisement and an Arkansas license plate hang on the wall. The casual furniture is covered in washable slipcovers (Boomer white coveralls by Lee Industries, leeindustries.com) for easy cleanup when inevitable spills happen. “We filled this place with sturdy basics that will last forever,” he says.
Reading lamp: Adjustable Old Pharmacy Lamp from Circa Lighting; circalighting.com.
Mantel Area: Before
The area around the dark red brick fireplace originally served as a larger living area directly off the kitchen.
Mantel Area: After
For additional seating by the mantel, Kevin faced a pair of simple white occasional chairs around a hide-covered ottoman in front of the fireplace. Above the mantel, he displays an ever-changing arrangement of artwork and accessories. “I’m constantly shopping at antiques shops and flea markets,” says Kevin. “As I find new collectibles, I like to bring them in as a quick way to change up the look.”
Chairs: by Oly; olystudio.com or 775/336-2100 for retailers.
Ottoman/stool: from Bear-Hill Interiors; bearhillinteriors.com.
Moroccan side table: Vintage, from Central Station Marketplace; 501/623-4484.
Accessories/artwork atop mantel: also from Bear-Hill Interiors.
Lamp: Vincent Floor Lamp, also by Oly.
Fresh, Open Kitchen
One of the most dramatic changes made to the house was in the kitchen. To avoid the expense of relocating the plumbing, Kevin kept the room’s original footprint but updated the cabinetry, appliances, and fixtures. He replaced the dated wood cabinets, which hung near the ceiling and were difficult to reach, with easy-to-access open shelving and Shaker-style lower cabinets—all painted the same crisp white that coats the rest of the house. A ceramic subway-tile backsplash and sleek marble countertops complete the monochromatic look. Open shelving holds everyday basics; lower cabinets store pots and pans.
Instead of a bulky full-size refrigerator, Kevin installed a small two-drawer version in the wet bar area, just across from the U-shaped kitchen. “We opted for an ice-maker over a freezer because we don’t eat much ice cream but do mix lots of cocktails,” he says with a smile.
To make more room for weekend parties, Kevin and Brett added 500 square feet of deck space across the back of the house. “When people come over, we set up everything outside to encourage everyone to hang out there,” Kevin says.
The deck also includes steps down to their private dock, where they keep their pontoon boat. Kevin designed the dramatic Chippendale railing that stretches across the deck and down the steps. “Before we came along, there was just an old rope to hold onto as you descended a treacherous flagstone path to get to the dock,” says Kevin. “We needed a safer stairway. Plus, I wanted to inject a little funkiness into the back of the house, since that’s what people see from the lake.”
Correlating Deck Furniture
A comfortable seating area anchors the large deck. The clean lines of the furniture and the crisp brown-and-white color scheme coordinate with the house’s indoor style and palette. “Since you see right out to the deck from virtually anywhere in the house, the inside and outside styles really needed to work together,” explains Kevin. Chippendale fretwork on both the outdoor railing and the indoor dining chairs is also a special unifying element.
Patio furniture: West Elm; westelm.com.
The Perfect Escape
Kevin makes the trek to the boat dock. When they’re not throwing parties or coming up with their next house project, Kevin and Brett just like to chill at the lake with their dogs. “When it comes down to it, this place is just our casual, comfortable retreat from the real world,” says Kevin, whose day-to-day life as a designer includes lots of color and pattern. “The simple white palette is the perfect escape for us.”