Lake house decor is trending, and it's the perfect design style for summer – here's how to get the look

Create a tranquil lakeside retreat no matter your location with these clever styling tips from interior designers

(Image credit: Black & Milk; Mike Chajecki / Hibou Design & Co.; Kristen Rivoli Interior Design)

The lake house look is back in style – and it isn't limited to those lucky enough to live by a body of water. With the right color palette and frame of mind, anyone can create a relaxing lakeside retreat right at home. Characterized by comfort-forward design choices and loads of natural light, these spaces are perfectly fit for a summer stay (yet still last the whole year round).

To hear a bit more about this interior design trend, we spoke with designers who love the look – and they shared seven straightforward tips for getting the style down in any home. From adopting a nature-inspired approach to dialing down the kitsch, this is how to channel the tranquil lake, no matter your normal design style.

How to get the lake house look at home

'A lake house is often where a family goes to get away from their everyday life, relax, and have fun. So, styling one is a little different than a primary residence,' says Kristen Rivoli, founder and principal designer of Massachusetts-based Kristen Rivoli Interior Design.

Whether you're designing your second residence – a charming getaway on the lake, perhaps – or simply want to give your home a summer decor spruce, the lake house look puts fun and comfort first. Drawing from the natural beauty of the great outdoors and providing plenty of room for relaxation, lake houses exude charm, character, and sun-soaked days of memories in the making.

'Lake house-inspired decor is natural, calming and helps create a serene environment. It gives some sense of nostalgia, days that didn’t revolve around computers, phones, and TVs and is more about spending time outdoors and playing board games by the fire at night. Really everything you want to feel and see when you’re visiting or living by the lake,' says Rebecca Breslin, senior design manager at Wayfair.

1. Use natural materials and textures

A lake house-style living room, with wooden raftered ceilings, a red, white and blue color scheme and bright red flowers

(Image credit: Kristen Rivoli)

'Lake house-inspired decor embodies a serene and natural aesthetic, incorporating elements that reflect the tranquility and beauty of lakeside living. In this style, natural materials take center stage, with an emphasis on wood, textured linens, and the welcoming presence of natural plants. The design embraces a connection to the outdoors and seeks to bring the peaceful ambiance of the lake environment into the interior space,' says Olga Alexeeva, creative director at Black & Milk.

Because lake houses are often located on the coast, their design schemes draw heavily from natural materials and motifs. Wooden, vaulted ceilings and classic hardwood flooring often provide a base for the look, with rustic decor made of jute, rattan, and wicker making tasteful appearances. Cody Brown, co-founder and principal of Dallas-based Bridges Brown Interiors, says that 'neutral colors, cozy textures, and a few nautical touches without being kitschy' complete the design style.

'I enjoy implementing elements such as wood and stone, vintage textiles, cashmere throws, hand-woven rugs, rope-style textures, and nature-inspired artwork to achieve the comfortable yet luxe feel every lake house should exude,' he says.

With a spotlight on natural texture and rustic character, the lake house look is reminiscent of cottage style, says Eugenia Triandos, principal designer of Montreal-based Hibou Design & Co. With an added 'touch of nautical charm,' the natural elements make up a cozy, homey retreat that's fit for the whole family.

'We incorporate patterns and materials that evoke a cozy, cottage aesthetic, often incorporating elements like shiplap and farmhouse sinks. Wicker furnishings add to the indoor-outdoor living vibe we aim for, and we prefer to keep windows bare to maximize the beautiful views that these lake houses tend to have, by that we avoid any heavy window coverings,' says Eugenia.

2. Create a relaxing retreat

A lake house with high raftered ceilings, a green velvet sofa and natural light

(Image credit: Black & Milk)

'A good lake house design invites you to relax as you walk in the door. And as your shoulders go down, the design guides the eye to the view and frames it while you take in all the cozy spots to sit for a chat or read a book,' says Elizabeth Drake, principal designer of her eponymous design firm based in Chicago.

'A game table is my favorite element included in the design – well-situated with upholstered chairs, it can invite gatherings over a puzzle or coffee,' she continues.

When designing a lake house-style home, it's vital to include spaces designated solely for relaxation and family gatherings. These living room seating areas don't need to be elaborate or over the top – they merely need to put your mind at ease. With your 'foundational elements like jute rugs and shiplap walls' already set in stone, you'll be able to layer cozy, welcoming elements to your heart's content, says Eugenia.

'Focus on comfortable, livable furnishings to maintain a casual and inviting atmosphere. Deep, comfortable upholstery is key to creating a space that feels cozy without being stuffy,' she says.

A wooden lake house with a full-wall window, a dining table and built-in shelving on the walls

(Image credit: Black & Milk)

'Overall, lake house-inspired decor aims to create a retreat that embraces the calming influence of nature, bringing together elements of comfort, warmth, and timeless elegance to reflect the tranquil allure of lakeside living,' says Olga.

In this garden house project, pictured above, Black & Milk integrated a sauna building, wooden plunge pool and expansive outdoor deck to further exemplify the indoor-outdoor connection paramount to successful lake house design. And though not every lake house needs these luxurious design elements to thrive, plenty of natural lighting and gorgeous outdoor views never hurt.

'The abundant use of oversized windows and a large skylight allows for an uninterrupted view into the woods, integrating the natural beauty of the surroundings into the living space. The wood burner becomes a focal point, imparting warmth and coziness to the interior during darker hours, enriching the atmosphere and inviting a sense of comfort,' Olga adds.

3. Stick to an earthy color scheme

A wooden desk with a large landscape painting and a gray chair in front

(Image credit: Hibou & Co.)

Choosing a color scheme for your whole home is an easy way to ensure you've got the lake house look down, and the key to finding the perfect shades starts with a quick glance out the window. Rebecca suggests starting with 'blue and green colorways' layered 'on top of a neutral palette' so the overall look 'blends into the natural outdoors instead of competing.'

'Think large plank wooden floors, white or cream walls, and potentially some shiplap accents along the stairway and bedrooms. You bring in color through the curtains, pillows and throws, and you can layer in woven rugs or even lamps with rope bases for added texture,' she says.

Though traditional lake houses often take on red, white, and blue hues, a neutral base with natural accents will never lead you wrong. Mix your interior design style with calming color combinations for a soothing, retreat-like look you'll never want to leave.

'It's important to capture a sense of muted tranquility and embrace a slightly melancholic vibe that resonates with the peaceful and contemplative nature of the lake setting. Starting with a color scheme that includes muted earthy tones, deep greens, and autumnal hues can evoke the serene mood of a lakeside retreat,' says Olga.

4. Keep it simple, and stay away from kitsch

A white and blue living room with a large window view of a lake

(Image credit: Hibou & Co.)

When exploring any variation of coastal decor, including the lake house look, it's easy to stray quickly into kitsch. Visions of anchors, seashells and wooden oars hanging from the walls might scream lake house, but it's often best to leave these accessories behind.

'Lake house living is all about simplicity and having fun. There are plenty of ways to decorate without resorting to obvious color palettes and kitschy decor (you can have just ONE sign that says “Lake Thattaway”, and save it for the mudroom!)' says Gaia Guidi Filippi, principal and creative director of Dallas-based Gaia G Interiors.

Instead of the over-the-top accents, Gaia suggests sticking with 'comfortable and durable fabrics' and 'keeping the focus on the view at that indoor-outdoor feeling.' Integrate white shades and 'casual motifs' to keep the design scheme pared-back and pretty.

Kristen agrees that overly obvious ocean motifs don't always land: 'My firm has designed a few lake houses and our first rule is to try to avoid anything "kitschy" that screams "lake" (no oars on the walls or "gone fishing" signs),' she says.

'Instead, start slowly and layer in more found local pieces, like pottery, picture frames, and natural wood elements, and see how you can build on that cozy, inviting feeling versus trying to make it too obvious through wording,' Rebecca adds.

5. Plan for guests

A lake house-style living room with a large dining table and an outdoor view

(Image credit: Kristen Rivoli)

One of the best parts of lakeside living is the company that comes with it, so you'll want to plan for family and friends to visit from the very beginning of the design process. Gaia says this involves considered spatial planning, carving out space for guest bedrooms, and extra seating in the living and dining room.

'Make it as entertainment-friendly as possible, with spots both indoors and out that offer each family member or guest a moment of relaxation and quiet luxury. If there is an opportunity to do so, I love a lake property with connected areas, like a breezeway to a guest room, a screened-in front porch or a dining area. It just adds so much character and charm,' she says.

Cody adds that the details matter, even down to the bedding: 'We recommend investing in quality bedding for each bedroom, as often, a lake house will have many family and friends visiting. Making the beds feel like a luxury hotel will add to the overall enjoyment of a lake house stay.'

An easy (and often overlooked) way to make the lake house cozy and comforting for each and every guest is by lighting the space with intention. Cody adds that a well-thought-out lampscaping scheme provides a welcoming environment for all.

'Adding layered lighting with a mix of ambient, task, and accent lighting will create an ambiance that works well in the evenings when you cannot see the lake from inside the house and will allow you to create intimate areas to read a book or cozy up with a glass of wine,' he says.

6. Embrace family memories (and make new ones)

A lake house dining nook with watermelon on the counter and an outdoor view

(Image credit: Kristen Rivoli)

Instead of leaning into kitschy or predictable design motifs, Kristen suggests placing focus on 'family history, as well as the town or area where the house is located.' This will give your lake house-style home a unique, personalized spin that won't be replicated in the houses all along the coast.

'These places usually have a "lake history" where families have come for generations and embrace the culture of the place that weaves into the client's family history. The memories that are built there become timeless bookmarks. Our first request is getting family pictures and heirloom pieces that they want included. We'll then weave in wonderful new or vintage pieces that could be layered in to finish the look,' says Kristen.

Decorating with family heirlooms is often the best approach, but decorating with vintage is another fast track to a storied, characterful space you'll love. 'Incorporating antique or vintage pieces adds character and history to the space, enhancing the sense of charm and timelessness,' says Olga.

A lake house living room with a white sofa, blue area rug and floor to ceiling windows with a view

(Image credit: Cody Brown)

Aside from the history and meaning attached to vintage and antique pieces, Gaia adds that their slightly rustic look melds well with the hallmarks of lake house design and the surrounding natural environment. These furniture pieces and accessories contribute to the nostalgic feel brought on by the lakeside environment, and welcome guests in with ease.

'To find these unique pieces, we suggest planning a fun buying trip to local antique shops to find things that speak to your specific taste and correctly fit the scale of your home – our favorite place to do this is Round Top, Texas. As designers, we always start with a good space plan, then furnishings, rugs, and window coverings, making styling the last step of the process to pull the room together,' says Cody.

7. Don't be afraid to bend the rules

A living room with a blue armchair, wooden table and outdoor lake view

(Image credit: Petra Ford / Elizabeth Drake)

Though these expert-provided tips will send you on your lake house way, designing a lakeside home is no exact science. Creating an oasis for your family and friends should be, above all, personalized and heartfelt. That's why taking a few 'wrong turns' won't shatter your lake house look – they'll only contribute to the characterful, eclectic home you'll be happy to live in over the summer or all year round.

'Adding a few elegantly mismatched vintage furnishings or accessories can add that relaxed lake home vibe. Color palettes can be all lake colors or add a contrasting color to accentuate the view,' says Elizabeth.

Use these tips to give your summer home a spruce-up or take them home for a seasonal refresh. Regardless of design style or hometown, we all deserve a bit of lakeside relaxation.

Abby Wilson
Interior Design News Editor

I am an Interior Design News Editor at Homes & Gardens. Most recently, I worked with Better Homes & Gardens, where I wrote and edited content about home decor, gardening tips, food news, and more. Before that, I studied Journalism and English Literature at New York University. I’ve moved around quite a bit in the last several years, most recently making the trip to London, and love transforming each new space into a comfortable retreat that feels like home. When it comes to decor, I’m most drawn to unique vintage finds and calming colors.