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A lesson on listening to your (lake) house

December 7, 2020  —  Written by Julia 

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We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 

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Our whole team lives in different types of homes and home circumstances so I thought it would be fun to occasionally peek in on their homes. My sister, Victoria, is our brand manager and a renter, living in Washington. When the pandemic hit, she and her partner moved out of their Seattle apartment and into a lake house, with more access to nature. Her design story is about “listening to your house” even if (especially when?) you’re renting.

When the stay-at-home orders came down in Washington, Helen and I started to feel like we were living in a fishbowl. Seattle is such a vibrant, cultural, delicious city — but without access to all of the restaurants, comedy clubs, concerts, and stores we had grown to love, it started to feel like our tiny 526-square-foot apartment could be anywhere. “This apartment could be in The Netherlands,” I’d say. “Or Nebraska.” It didn’t matter. We only saw the inside of our four walls.

When our building’s rooftop deck was closed along with Seattle’s public parks, we knew we needed to move somewhere with access to nature. Even with just a yard! We had taken for granted what it was like to walk out your front door and NOT be in a major metropolitan area, masked.

We put all of our feelers out, downloaded all of the renting apps, and *manifested* the lake house. It. Was. Perfect. Just 20 minutes outside of the city, in a quaint Seattle suburb, our house is on a quiet lake that is large enough to be a happy habitat for ducks and geese and eagles (!!!), but not so large that motorized boats are even allowed.

The house is older, built in 1937, with a lot of vacation house charm: wood-paneled walls, chipping paint, a closet-sized bathroom, and an outdated kitchen. An outdated everything actually. We were in love.

Following Julia’s advice, we “listened to the house.” The furnishings from our city apartment would stick out like a sore thumb in our little cottage on the water. “Let your house tell you what it needs… and even where to put things,” she said. This can be tough for renters! We don’t want to start from scratch every time we move. But we’re going to be here for a year, at least, and that’s enough time to invest in making this space something we love.

It was Julia who recommended the Elias sofa from SixPenny. Overstuffed with feather down and slip-covered in classic linen (“Warm Oatmeal” is color we chose), it feels as fresh as the breezes coming in through the back door screen and as timeless as the house itself. The couch feels so cozy and lived-in and right, we’d swear it has always been here, as if it came with the house.

It’s skirted, which feels casual and cool, and comes with two lumbar pillows that we tuck under our arms or behind our backs — depending on whether we’re working from the couch or lounging on movie night. It’s the softest sofa I’ve ever sat in in my life.

The couch was begging for a side table and a substantial lamp, but I was scratching my head over how to plug it in without creating a tripping hazard. Julia introduced me to this hack, and gave me permission to snip a small hole in our jute rug and feed the plug under the couch to an outlet entirely out of the traffic zones.

The cobblestone fireplace needs a proper inspection before we light a real wood-burning fire, but for now — we’re loving the glow of pillar candles. We bought two sturdy armchairs and positioned them close enough to a handsome leather ottoman (a Facebook Marketplace find) that we can kick our feet up.

The Frame TV deserves to be mounted on the wall, but for now, we’re enjoying a rotating gallery of seascapes while it’s perched on the mantel.

The ultimate listen-to-your-house tip: Keep garden sheers by the back door and clip branches as often as the mood strikes. Our house feels in total harmony with its setting when we bring the outdoors in.

There are two small rooms in addition to our bedroom. As soon as I walked into this one (above), I knew it was an office/studio. The old wooden windows push out to a view of thick forest. It’s the most inspiring place to sit down to make a painting — or a great backdrop to staying zen during a Zoom call :)

There’s no formal dining room in this house, but Helen and I sit down together for three meals every day. The house let us know that the corner with the most windows would be the best place to tuck in a table. There’s not even a light fixture above this little dining nook — and, as renters, we’re not authorized to install one. But the spot is flooded with natural light — more than enough to snap photos of our veggie enchiladas, should the mood strike.

Ours is an art-filled home, and just like a house can whisper about the furnishings that feel like they’ve been there forever, we feel lots of inspiration about “what this wall needs.” I hear from a lot of fellow renters, who are not allowed near a hammer and nails. To them I say — Command Hooks!

We bought this little hutch at a consignment store when we first moved to Washington. It fit perfectly in the entry of our Seattle apartment, and I was sure we’d have to sell it when we moved to the lake house. But it lined up perfectly and even color-matched the wood paneling, and I knew the house “wanted to keep it.” It’s a lovely catch-all for mail and batteries and phone cords.

Out bedroom is currently begging for window treatments, and we’re on the hunt for something heavy and homey.

I snapped the photo below on my phone on a recent morning that was especially moody. This view inspires different furnishings and finishes than any house we’ve ever lived in. But listening closely and making decisions that are in harmony with the house means that we get to be a part of THIS. Soon, like the sofa, it’ll seem like we’ve always been here.

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What do you think?

  1. Krysta Anderson says:

    This is such a magical piece, the way it’s written, the message, the HOME. I love every single thing you guys have done with that dream land and the authentic story behind it. This reminds me so much that my house doesn’t need to be perfect or trendy, just listen to the home.

  2. Sally says:

    Gorgeous house and commentary, thanks!

  3. Julie S says:

    The photography is amazing and the house & styling look WOW, all like something I might find on Remodelista. I’m in love, guys! I’d really like a quick peek at the ugly kitchen and bathroom for a non-aspirational touch lol.

  4. Lydia says:

    This was so lovely. So much soul and personality comes from working with old, imperfect things.

  5. Stephanie says:

    I loved reading this post! We have a lake house and it’s been only 6 months since we inherited it, and I truly want to listen to it before we design anything. I was so inspired by this post.

    Stephanie | SPV Living

  6. Jean says:

    Loved this post. That house looks so cozy and dreamy. Thank you for sharing.
    Enjoy your peace and calm during this crazy time ????

  7. Samantha says:

    Absolutely cozy and moody… drool worthy. We live on the other side of the sound, wanna come make our home moody, cost, hygge-ish ?! Hahahaha. Btw, love that rug, but the link is broken. Would you mind sharing? We have hardwoods that were here when we bought the house and on the lookout for a rug as our toddler and pup are tearing up our floors ????. Have a wonderful holiday season!!

  8. Phoebe K says:

    I love the setting of your charming home! That gallery wall above the sofa is fantastic, and your words are also lovely.

  9. Alissa says:

    Do you have source for the throw blanket with red crosses. Thank you!

  10. Whitney says:

    Dreamy!! What a talented bunch of sisters!
    I think you should do a post dedicated to your gallery wall. I want yours ☺️

  11. AmandaKB says:

    Gosh, I love this! We live in a small house in the woods in a rural part of the country. In my opinion, there’s nothing better than an outdoor environment that makes the view from your windows look like art. :) Thanks for sharing. That lake house has so much genuine charm.

  12. Leslie says:

    What a lovely home you have made. Proof that rentals can and should be loved just as much as a home that is owned. I love this style and I makes me want to find a lake or mountain house ASAP!

  13. Mariana says:

    Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing ????

  14. Julie Dawson says:

    Just lovely

  15. Jess says:

    I loved this post. Beautiful, harmonious home.

  16. Lee says:

    Great space! Is the blanket on the sofa the same as the one in Chris loves Julia’s living space? Is it possible to share the source?

  17. Jillian says:

    WHAT A DREAM!!!! Wow. Thanks for sharing, Victoria!

  18. Abby P says:

    Stunning! I always love seeing how people make a rental their own. I loved this post!

  19. Caitlin Rose Low says:

    The house is lovely, but I really just want to squish and cuddle that kitty!!!!

  20. Cori says:

    HUGE believer in letting your house and environment lead you! Also, bravo on styling the house. Doesn’t look dated…. like at all.

  21. Emma says:

    What a lovely, inspiring home. I am so encouraged by this post!

  22. Claire says:

    Loved this post!

  23. Jan says:

    This home I feel is the epitome of hygge and a warm, cozy hug!! Thank you for sharing!!

  24. Promona says:

    This is just lovely. Can you tell me where the beautiful throw/blanket with the red crosses is from? Thank you!

  25. DD says:

    We live on a big pond that some folks call a lake. Big enough for a canoe but not a motorized boat. It has been our soothing oasis during the pandemic—meals by the firepit, the inspiring presence of graceful herons and geese that do not fret about the virus, the ever-shifting shimmer of light off the water. Gah. Counting my blessings here.

  26. Patricia says:

    I’m sure the kitchen and bathroom are less than enchanting but the setting more than makes up for it. I’m in Seattle (near Northgate mall) and we have a small wilderness area to walk when the walls are closing in. I so appreciate it. I do love how you’ve leaned into the house’s gifts and love it for what it is, not what it could be.

    That’s the best lesson of all.

  27. Kristin says:

    So beautiful! And what a great collection of art.

  28. l.s. says:

    Love the lighting hack, I’m going to use that.

    Do you have the source for the dining table & bench?? It is exactly what I’ve been looking for.

  29. Kristen says:

    Beautiful home and beautiful writing. I have always wanted to live near a lake. What a smart choice in this crazy year. Also, total bonus of being a renter and not a homeowner!

    I love this blog and love all of the tips and beauty and found myself refreshed also by a new living space.

  30. Norah says:

    such a beautiful home and description. seems like 2020 gave you a little gift with an excuse to take a break from city life and enjoy this gem of a home and lifestyle for a bit.

  31. What a beautiful oasis you’ve created. Sink in and enjoy.

  32. Ev says:

    what a beautiful home, thank you for sharing with us!

  33. SG says:

    This is so gorgeous! I’m really loving getting a peek into the homes of the whole CLJ team, especially hearing the little tips that everyone gets from Julia (that we all need to hear!) that help them really make it theirs.

  34. Kristen says:

    This is my favorite post I’ve read in a long while. So inspired by this home and Victoria’s wise words!

  35. monica says:

    What a lovely spot! You can also use another hack for lighting – a battery operated puck light – they often come with a remote – would be perfect to use instead of a light bulb and it would avoid having to snip a hole in a rug. Would also work if you wanted to install a light over the dining table without having electrical wiring in that spot!

  36. Yaz says:

    So gorgeous and right for the vibe of that house.

    Also, love the spotlight on your sister! #pride #representationmatters

  37. Meg Malley says:

    Such a beautiful home. It’s cozy, warm and inviting and looks like you have always lived there!

  38. Lauren H says:

    Wow. LOVE LOVE LOVE! You have a great eye. The artwork behind the sofa is perfection. I love how the flag mimics the blanket of the sofa. I could stare at these pictures all day.

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We believe we should all love where we live.

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