Lake house decor – stylish decorating ideas from the best waterfront homes

Take lake house decor inspiration from these beautiful properties, plus get expert tips for designing a waterfront home from the interior designers behind them

a living room in a modern lake house
(Image credit: Ellen McDermott. Design: OAD Interiors)

To take an interest in lake house decor, you'd assume you'd need to have a lake house, right? Well, not necessarily. Lake house decor is all about two things – giving priority to beautiful views from your windows and creating an interior scheme that complements this vista. 

This can be applied to houses of all modern interior design styles where there's something great about the outdoors you have beyond the four walls of your home. That might be the wonders of Mother Nature, or just be a beautiful garden you've worked hard on. 

There's also a specific vernacular that comes to mind when people imagine lake house living, and it's completely possible to recreate this style at home to create that wild weekend getaway vibe, without leaving the city. 

Here are some of our favorite examples of lake house decorating to inspire you, whatever the reason you want to create a lake house style for yourself. 

Lake house decor inspiraton from real spaces 

Before we begin to look at lake house decor, it's impossible to overlook the role that architecture plays in defining a good lake house design. 

'The modern waterfront home includes floor to ceiling windows,' says Cathy Purple Cherry, principal and founder of Maryland-based Purple Cherry Architects (opens in new tab). 'while the trick to creating a modern home yet maintaining the language or vernacular of a lake home is to vault the living room ceiling.' 

'When given the opportunity to work on a larger, more private piece of land, or a property with incredible views – whether water or mountain or field – then a strong trend is to create a clear view through the home upon approach, allowing for the magnificent view to be seen immediately upon entry,' she continues. 'Front doors in a modern waterfront home are no longer solid and are no longer designed to provide privacy to the interior living spaces. Today, these doors are either all glass or are glass-paneled pivot doors, which highlight and frame the stunning view just beyond.'

There's no doubt that this architecture does a lot of the heavy lifting for lake houses, but how can your decor complement this sort of design? Here are 7 ideas from some of our favorite lake house spaces. 

1. Let the views demand attention 

Modern rustic home designed by Lisa Staton

(Image credit: Aaron Leitz)

For the quintessential lake house decor look, it's about choosing furniture and accessories that highlight, not fight, the landscape. 'When it comes to waterfront properties, it's all about framing the view,' says Cathy Purple Cherry. 'Utilize the glass within the door or window to frame the view beyond, whether that view leads to a pastoral placid lake, or seven mountain ranges in the distance. it's the most powerful visual.'

This Scandi decor style inspired lake house in Washington state by Lisa Staton Design (opens in new tab) is the perfect example. The living room features low-slung furniture, with strong linear forms that mimic the straight lines of both the windows and the horizon line. The trees beyond the panes become the dominant feature of the space, and deservedly so. 

Remember, you also need to create interest indoors too, for when you're facing away from the views and at nighttime. This space is a textural treat, with timber, textured textiles and even a tactile concrete fireplace adding to the mix. 

2. Bring the outdoors in

a lake house living room with large windows

(Image credit: Virginia Macdonald. Design: Anne Hepfer)

Bringing the outdoors in is easier in a space with vast windows overlooking the landscape, but you can add to this too through your interior design. 'I love when lake houses have a deep relationship to nature and there’s a seamless feel between indoors and out,' says interior designer and author, Anne Hepfer (opens in new tab). 'When designing these spaces, I'm influenced by the colors at different times of the day and season, light and texture, and organic materials,' she explains. 

'A current trend is to utilize reclaimed beams – either faux or real – throughout the great room area of a modern waterfront home, and to select rustic floors with tremendous character,' suggests Cathy Purple Cherry. 'These elements all collectively help bring the outdoor elements in.'

3. Mix rustic and modern 

a modern lake house design

(Image credit: Ellen McDermott. Design: OAD Interiors)

Lake houses have a certain rustic charm to them, but that shouldn't limit your design choices. Mixing styles can result in a striking, exciting design, such as from this modern New York lake house created by OAD Interiors (opens in new tab)

'Our goal was to blend the old with the new and preserve many of the original details,' explains interior designer and founder of OAD Interiors, Melissa Anderson. 'The fireplace wall of natural stone mined from the Shawangunk Ridge and the dining floors salvaged from an old French Cathedral for instance, were preserved and the original entry door refinished.' 

As modern as you decide to go, it pays to acknowledge a home's surroundings. This vignette captures the living room idea perfectly, with contemporary interiors and a modern bubble sofa grounded by a rustic, raw wood coffee table referencing the lake house's location. 

4. Create a contrast

Colorful modern lake house with interiors by Sabrina Albanese

(Image credit: Alex Lukey)

If simple, neutral and understated isn't your style, it doesn't have to be the style of your lake house decor too. Take this colorful lake house design by Sabrina Albanese (opens in new tab) on Lake Simcoe in southern Ontario as inspiration for how to create a bolder look that still feels at home in a waterfront home. 

Shades of blue and natural materials like wicker and jute have been used through the home, creating a throughline that ties the scheme to the lake that sits just beyond the windows. 

All in all, it's a space with a relatively natural palette, but that's just turned up a few notches in places, introducing extra colors, textures and finishes that give this design a modern, luxurious feel too. 

5. Avoid lake house cliches

a industrial style living room in a lake house

(Image credit: Sam Hartnett. Design: AW Architects)

Swerving a waterfront theme for a lake house will avoid it becoming a cliche – after all, lake house decor doesn't just mean decorating with boating ephemera. Plus, there are other references you can draw from that can help pull a scheme together that doesn't feel tired. 

This design by AW Architects (opens in new tab) in New Zealand draws on design influences from the clusters of farm buildings that can be found throughout the local area. This idea informs both the exterior materials of the home, and the internal design. 

Here, industrial living room influences, from the slab floor and patinated steel built-ins to the pallet coffee table made this a lake house design that's far from the expected. 

6. Go for an outdoor-indoor vibe 

an indoor outdoor sunroom at a lake house

(Image credit: Durston Saylor. Design: Purple Cherry Architects)

Spaces that overlook water suit an indoor-outdoor style perfectly. This sunroom idea from Purple Cherry Architects, for example, feels like it could as easily be an outdoor space as a three-season room thanks to its mix of garden-style furniture, which is practical for such a sun-drenched space, and its soft furnishings and fireplace. 

With festoon lights hung overhead, you can just imagine what a magical space this is to inhabit in the evenings, once the sun has gone down too. 

8. Create texture with wood planked walls 

When it comes to creating texture and character, you're not going to do better than by employing the right wall paneling ideas

'Wood planked walls are a spend but they make a space feel authentic, rather than drywall,' says interior designer Anne Hepfer. Horizontal, painted paneling can give your lake house the New England style look, while exposed, characterful timber is more suited to the wilder, log cabin look. 

What colors suit lake house decor?

If you're looking to curate a color palette for your home that enhances your views of the waterfront, look to colors inspired by nature. Soft blues and greens are easy choices, but can play out a little too safe. Consider adding an unexpected contrasting color that goes with blue or green to add some dimension. 

Neutrals, such as grey and taupe, along with off-whites, will always tie in well and not distract from the view outside too much. However, don't be scared of a strong black shade either, especially for windows. 'I still love black windows,' says Anne Hepfer, 'as they frame a view and provide contrast.' 

Hugh Metcalf
Hugh Metcalf

Hugh is the Deputy Editor of Livingetc.com. From working on a number of home, design and property publications and websites, including Grand Designs, ICON and specialist kitchen and bathroom magazines, Hugh has developed a passion for modern architecture, impactful interiors and green homes. Whether moonlighting as an interior decorator for private clients or renovating the Victorian terrace in Essex where he lives (DIYing as much of the work as possible), you’ll find that Hugh has an overarching fondness for luxurious minimalism, abstract shapes and all things beige. He’s just finished a kitchen and garden renovation, and has eyes set on a bathroom makeover for 2022.