Everyone loves a vacation house. Whether it’s a high end condo in a resort area or a weather-worn shack at the beach, vacation houses are an escape. They are the relaxed, comfortable, stress-free zones that we dream about the other 50 weeks a year when we’re not vacationing in them.
Since leaving my job a few months ago, I’ve been thinking about ways I could update my own house to make it more like those laid back vacation houses I love to rent. Who doesn’t want to feel like they’re always on vacation? It’s my latest mission; the thing that has been nagging at the back of my mind in the dark hours of the night and at other, more inconvenient times, like when I’m fixing dinner or trying to figure the square root of pi.
But how does one go about transforming a house into a vacation-like abode? What are the attributes that make a house feel like a getaway place? And is it even possible to get that relaxed vacation feeling in a house that has to serve so many other purposes at the same time?
If you want to give your home a vacation makeover and turn it into your version of paradise, your ideas about what makes paradise had better be reasonable and attainable. Fortunately, I’m not looking to recreate a multi-million dollar luxury apartment. The vacation houses I usually enjoy are bungalows a block from the beach or log cabins with a fire pit in the back yard. They’re lazy places that don’t take themselves too seriously. The furniture is often mismatched but comfortable enough for an afternoon nap. Kitschy wall signs and pink flamingo patio lights would look right at home there. The dishes in the kitchen cupboards are more fun than sophisticated. Wall colors run the gamut from white wash to bright berry purple and lime green. There’s always a grill, a good supply of paperback novels, and a few classic DVD’s to while away an evening.
Oh-and before I go any further, I should also mention my “recycle, reuse, make do with what you already have” philosophy. While I like to redecorate and am not opposed to spending money on paint or new furniture pieces and accessories now and then, my first choice is always to work with things I buy second hand or things I remake or move from other parts of my house.
And so, with practicality in mind and an unwillingness to spend much money (or rather, a challenge to myself not to) I start my project, still unsure as to whether or not its even possible to create a vacation retreat feeling in the middle of a busy household.
I begin in the kitchen.
It took me about an hour to “vacation-ize” my breakfast nook. Instead of burying the gourmet coffee beans and exotic teas in a kitchen cupboard where they tend to be “out of sight, out of mind” vacation homes often have a coffee bar or counter. The coffee bar in my breakfast nook is nothing more than an antique side table with a single wall cabinet hung over top of it. As an avid recycler, both pieces came out of storage in our barn. The cabinet was pretty beat up, but still usable once I cleaned it up, gave it a coat of white paint, and added some new knobs.
With my own coffee bar already in place, today’s project amounted to replenishing supplies. I stocked drawers with tea bags and Keurig coffee pods. I also found a pretty handpainted box, another upcycled item, and gathered the little extras together in one place – sugar and Splenda packets, hot cider and cocoa, and a variety of tea bags. I added creamer, sweet honey drops and stirrer sticks. From another kitchen cabinet I pulled out the blender and some mismatched but fun coffee mugs and I arranged them conveniently where any “vacationing guest” could easily find them.
With the coffee bar now set to invite me for a relaxing cup any time of day, I turned my attention to the rest of the room. It was already an inviting spot with a comfortable hand-me-down table and chairs next to a large window overlooking our western woods. I swapped out old art work and replaced it with some of my own paintings – a couple of fun and casual pieces. I added a bright sunflower tablecloth and I cleaned out the corner cabinet, packing excess and seldom used glassware into a box to be donated to the Goodwill next week.
I brewed a cup of tea and enjoyed the updated space. Maybe I should change the wallpaper or buy a new tablecloth that is a better match. A new cabinet from Ikea or Home Depot might look less tacky… But no, that would go against my “make the best of what you have” philosophy. Simple changes. They were all that was needed to give one tiny room an inviting Bed ‘n’ Breakfast feel.
One room down. Now, on to the next…