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Decorating a Lake House

Decorating a Lake House on a Budget: Inexpensive Ideas

There’s something about a lake house that says “relax.” The lake is a special place to unwind, enjoy nature and spend time with family and friends. It’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

If you’re lucky enough to have a place near water, you probably want its decor to capture that special “lake vibe.” You want to incorporate nature into your decorating, while still keeping it simple, welcoming and easy to maintain.

And you also want it to be affordable. Acquiring lake property can be spendy! Which means you may be decorating a lake house on a budget. Not to worry.

Whether you’re decorating a brand-new lake home or giving an old one a fresh look, these eight simple tips will help you create an affordable and inviting lake home that you can enjoy all year long.

Read on!

Interior Design Tips for Your Lake House Decor 

1. Choose your design style

One of the first things to consider is your lake house ambiance. How do you want your home to “feel?” This will affect every decorating decision that comes after. Because when it comes to different types of lake decor, the overall aesthetic varies greatly.

You want the final result to be cohesive and reflect one consistent experience. Even if your design style is eclectic, it should still reflect different aspects of You. Revealing your personal touch will go a long way to bring the look together.

It helps to have an inspiration photo. Browse sites like Pinterest, or type “lake home inspiration” into your web browser. It’ll return hundreds of great ideas. You’re sure to find a beautiful lake house or beach house as inspiration for your own home.

Different design styles to decorate your lake house

Tropical Beach:  For example, one aesthetic is the tropical look, with its white sand beaches, palm trees and starfish. The colors are bright, bold and intense – like a tropical paradise. The decor pulls in elements found in tropical waters and vacation islands. Think steel drums, sandals, startling aqua and citrus orange. It’s a bright, fresh, happy summer vibe – a perfect “emotional getaway” without breaking the bank on an actual tropical vacation.

My friend Melanie is a beach baby all the way, and she lives for her tropical vacations. One of her guest bedrooms is done in a tropical theme. It’s so fun and inviting, it feels like I should be wearing sandals just to walk through its door.

I had a hard time finding just the right image for a tropical interior, so I designed this one using Canva AI. Pretty cool, huh?

AI generated tropical beach interior style

Coastal Theme:  Then there’s the coastal look. Still ocean related, but more cool, grayed blues, with white paint and light sandy beiges. This is more of a quiet, nautical theme. Coastal homes bring to mind ocean breezes, sheer linens, maybe some old anchors and ship’s wheels, with a light airy feel. Picture wide awning stripes, big open living space, tall ceilings and large glass doors overlooking an ocean view. The feeling is cool, elegant and sometimes more upscale (but doesn’t have to be).

coastal design home decor

Beach Bungalow:  Somewhere in the middle of these – but completely its own vibe – is the beach bungalow aesthetic. (I think Erin Napier from HGTV’s “Home Town” absolutely nails this look!) This is a cottage house look that’s perfect for homes on the smaller side. It’s comfortable and cozy, with light, neutral hues and fresh pops of bright, rich color. It’s a friendly, relaxed decor style with a beachy home feel. A perfect place for families and casual entertaining.

beach bungalow decor style

Rustic Lodge/Log Cabin:  And finally, there’s the more rustic “lodge” or log cabin look. It has strong architectural features like wood beams, stone fireplaces and chunky furniture. The colors are cozy, rich and incorporate deep pine greens, red plaids and rustic browns. The old cabin look pulls not only from the lake environment, but reflects a strong woodland feel: bears, deer, pine cones and other woodsy nature décor. Consider leather furniture, a vintage wool rug, wooden floors and log cabin beds for this rustic oasis.

lake cabin design idea

2. Choose a lake-themed interior color palette

Wall color is the fastest and least expensive way to create major design impact. When decorating with a lake-themed color palette, it’s important to use colors that will create a water-inspired atmosphere.

These palettes can range from cool blues and greens to warm oranges and yellows. They can be used in various combinations to create different effects.

For example, using light blues and greens together will give a room a cool, calming feeling. Darker shades of blue and green can be used to create a more masculine or formal look. By mixing and matching different shades and tints, you can create an endless variety of looks for your lake home.

Some colors that could be used in a lake-themed color palette are:

  • Blues: navy, sky blue, aqua blue
  • Greens: olive green, turquoise, seafoam green
  • Browns: taupe, beige, camel
  • Oranges: sunset, apricot, burnt orange
  • Yellows: golden yellow, lemon

My favorite place to play with palettes is at Coolors.co (affiliate link). You can use it free as long as you want, and I did for years! I finally subscribed to the pro version for $5/month to get all the extras (and because I kinda felt indebted by that time, lol).

The pretty lake palettes below were made with Coolors. You can use them for inspiration or hop over to Coolors.co and create your own. The numbers you see are the HEX color formats. If you like a particular color, you can enter the HEX number in Coolors and “lock” it by clicking on the little lock icon. Then hit the space bar, and matching colors will automatically pop up each time – until you find the palette you like. Lock each favorite color as it appears, and even slide their positions back and forth to see how colors look together. (All of that is free, so go have fun!)

If you like a particular color, you can enter the HEX number in Coolors and “lock” it. Then hit the space bar, and matching colors will automatically pop up until you find the palette you like.

Obviously, you wouldn’t use all the palette colors in one room. Choose one for your main color. Then pick a secondary color for accents and a third for pops of color here and there. Here are some ideas:

lake palette 3 1
lake palette 4
lake palette 5 1
lake palette 7 1
lake palette 8
lake palette 10 1

3. Balance your color scheme with solids, patterns and natural textures

If you’re using many different colors in your room, you’ll want to balance them out with some complementary blocks of color. For example, if you have a colorful patterned rug, use a solid-colored duvet or bedspread. Or if you have an awning-striped couch, go with color-block pillows on the back of it.

This will keep your room from feeling too busy and overwhelming. It’ll also make your room feel cohesive. It’s like when you put together an outfit that has multiple colors in it, but the solid pieces pull everything together and make it work. Same idea here!

Another important design aspect is textures and the rich interest they provide. Consider a nubby chenille throw blanket, a lamp shade of woven natural fibers or beautiful carved wooden bowls. Each of these adds emotional warmth to the home.

Bloomingville Set of 2 Beige Seagrass Baskets, Natural & Grey
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Bloomingville Set of 2 Beige Seagrass Baskets, Natural & Grey
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A great source for these home decor items is Pottery Barn and Birch Lane. Their design aesthetic is right in line with lake house decor  – especially the coastal and beach bungalow looks. If their prices are more than your decorating budget allows, shop their clearance and sales. You’ll find some great buys that will last you for years.

4. Decorate your lake house with nature in mind

One of the great things about lake living is the ability to enjoy nature right outside your door. Decorating a lake house on a budget is easy when you can use simple, natural items.

Here are some tips for using decorative elements with nature in mind:

  1. Use natural materials. Stone, wood, and plants are all great choices for materials because they are all found in nature.
  2. Add neutral colors. You’ve already chosen a gorgeous color palette, right? (See #2 above.) Now add earth tones and wood tones like green, brown, and beige to help your home reflect its surroundings. Neutral colors create a calming and relaxing environment.
  3. Use plants and flowers to add color and life to the space. Plants not only add beauty, but they can also help to purify the air. Not a green thumb? Even faux plants will help create the nature-themed ambiance.
  4. Use water features like fountains and ponds to create a sense of tranquility.
  5. Carefully plan lighting. If you don’t have much natural light in your home, consider using light, airy colors like whites, pale blues, and greens. These colors will help to reflect any natural light and make the space feel brighter. If your home is has more natural light, you can use richer colors like browns and deep reds to make the space feel more cozy.
  6. Consider the furniture. Furniture with lighter colors will reflect light and help brighten up a room. Darker furniture can help to create a cozy, intimate atmosphere. And make sure the style and function matches your chosen lake vibe: beach, coastal, bungalow or lodge/cabin.

5. Make the most of your lake view

open windows to the lake

When decorating a lake house, be sure to make the most of your great views. Consider adding large windows that look out onto the water and choosing furniture and colors that complement the landscape.

Avoid obstructing the view you have. Limb up tall trees and remove unnecessary plantings. Keep window treatments out of the viewing area, on either side of window frames. Valances are a great way to highlight your windows without blocking the view.

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6. Keep it simple

Regardless of the style you’ve chosen, it’s way too easy to overdo all the fun decor that’s available. Yes – you want the “Welcome to the Lake” sign, the anchor couch pillows, the lighthouse lamp, the starfish dish and the other thousand accessories you found at Hobby Lobby. Of course you do. It’s fun!

But for the love of all mermaids, STOP YOURSELF.

There’s a fine line between interesting accessories and seaweed overwhelm.

You’re going for a calm and relaxed lake vibe, so you don’t need to go overboard (pun intended!) on decor stuff. This is great news if you’re decorating a lake house on a budger.

Choose a few statement pieces and then add accessories that reflect your personal style and complement the room’s overall design.

Most homes don’t have a bearskin rug, cozy plaid throw blankets and a moose mount. If yours does, guests will feel your cabin/lodge vibe just fine.

7. Decorate with some lake art

If you’re looking for a way to add a touch of nature to your home, then you should consider lake art. By using prints or photographs as a focal point for your room, you can create a look that’s both calming and stylish.

Lake prints are perfect for anyone who loves spending time outdoors but wants to bring that beauty inside. You can find pieces with everything from gentle ripples to crashing waves. Plus, there are plenty of sizes and styles to choose from, so you can find the perfect addition for your space.

Creating your own natural art is another way to go. If you’re a DIY person, there are endless ways to get creative. Bring the outside indoors by using driftwood, rocks, and leaves.

For example, here’s a gorgeous driftwood centerpiece created by Kim over at MadeInADay.com. Check out her awesome website, where she gives step-by-step instructions for creating this beautiful piece of art.

DIY Driftwood Decorative Orb madeinaday.com

There are endless ways to make lake art using driftwood. Here’s a simple idea, using just an interesting piece of driftwood, a board and some screws. Simply screw the driftwood to a piece of wood that’s the same size or bigger, and then hang it on your wall for a gorgeous statement piece.

8. Decorate your lake home with relaxing games and activities

When you have a lake home, there are endless possibilities for fun and relaxation. You can swim, boat, fish, paddle and more.

But you also want to add a little extra fun and relaxation to your home. One way is to decorate it with games and activities.

Games and activities are a fun way to spend time with your family and friends, and they can also help to create a relaxing atmosphere. Here are a few ideas for games and activities that you can use to decorate your lake home:

  • Musical Instruments – Do you own a guitar, piano keyboard or other musical instrument? Keep them tuned and available to play at a moment’s notice. Not only are they interesting decor items, it’s fun to share hidden talents of friends and family. Who knew Uncle Larry had those mad guitar skills?
  • Karaoke Machine – Seriously! We keep our Singtrix karaoke machine set up all the time, for endless impromptu concerts. The Singtrix has an auto-tune feature that gives confidence to even the shyest of singers.
Singtrix Portable Karaoke Machine with AutoTune - Uses Free YouTube Songs
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Singtrix Portable Karaoke Machine with AutoTune – Uses Free YouTube Songs
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Ping Pong Table – A ping pong table is another great option for guests. It’s perfect for rainy days or warm summer evenings. If you have the extra space or room in your porch, a ping pong table can provide hours of fun.

Board Games – A ready-to-play board game is so inviting to visitors. It’s an unspoken invitation to relax and stay awhile. And isn’t that what lake life is all about? Consider Checkers, Chess, Cribbage or the Horse Racing Board Game. Also, a deck of cards is perfect in any space.

Books – Offer a handful of books that are easy to browse and enjoy: coffee table photography books, puzzle magazines, comic books, short stories, etc.

Where to Buy Inexpensive Lake House Decor

So now that you know your design style, your paint colors and decor ideas, where are the best places to buy them at a decent price?

The answer? Everywhere. Now that you know what you need, you’ll always be on the lookout for the right buy.

  • Your local thrift store is an ideal place to find that coffee table for your coastal living room. Don’t worry about the color; you can paint it white.
  • Watch garage sales and estate sales for furniture, shelving, art and decor. Sometimes you just need a little soap, water and elbow grease. Worn but sturdy sofas can be renewed with slipcovers, and shelves can be sanded and stained or painted.
  • Decorate with old fishing guides, handmade lure, fishing poles, boat paddles and old wooden signs for a rustic, boathouse appeal.
  • Flea markets are loaded with hidden treasures. A fresh coat of paint can make a huge difference to a bunk room bed or an old dining table. 
  • Curate your interior space with a few higher-end pieces sprinkled among your bargain decorative items; it will give them a sophisticated update and add to their appeal.

Final Thoughts: Decorating a Lake House on a Budget

Decorating a lake home on a budget Pinterest Pin

Decorating your lake home doesn’t have to be expensive. By choosing your design style first (tropical, coastal, bungalow or cabin), you’ll know the right design elements to pull your look together.

Use a lake-inspired color palette, incorporate lots of natural elements, and use a variety of interesting textures and natural fibers. Find a focal point using either lake art or a custom designed DIY piece. And don’t forget to add some relaxing games and activities to your lake space – both indoor and outdoor.

Curate your lake home decor from bargain shopping, garage sales, thrift stores and flea markets. Repurpose your existing items, and don’t be afraid to paint or re-cover to update an old piece. Follow fun DIY sites like MadeInADay.com for clever ideas.

With a little patience and treasure hunting, your lake house will soon be the unique oasis you envisioned.

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