Interior ideas for building empty nest lake home

Hi-We close on our lake lot this week, have a builder and reworked a plan from their website and now trying to figure out interior choices. We have not been to the builder design studio (which I’m thinking is rather small) because we are a few hours away from the builder. Originally, I thought I like what we have in our current (14 yo) home…medium wood trim/cabinets,doors, black granite in kitchen, marble sinks in bathrooms, brown/gray/earth tone tile/backsplash etc., but now I’m wondering if I should try to switch things up. I really like what we currently have…kind of cozy for a north woods lake home. We will be surrounded by a lot of trees with lakeshore and view of lake in backyard. White trim…cabinets and quartz seem to be what I see in newer homes locally and when I Google. I like how that lightens up the home but I also see how the medium colored wood with black granite gives a cozy feel for winters. H leans toward wood trim. If anyone has photos they would like to suggest, I’d appreciate it. I thought starting in the kitchen would help set the tone for the rest of the house. The main living area will be a vaulted open floor plan with lots of windows facing the lake.


Would you feel comfortable sharing a pic of your current decor? And maybe a pic of the alternative style you are considering? Could you do a lighter kitchen but keep the darker wood trim you like throughout, elsewhere…?

1 Like

Unless you are really more comfortable in “same” I would want a second home to be a little different from my main home. Not extreme like traditional to full on beachy, but maybe changing up more of a fresh lighter tone if my main home was more mid-tones/more wood, etc.

I think a lake home can have some lighter, fresh tones but still be cozy in the winter if you have things like a fireplace and change out some basics like throws/pillows in the living room.


Thank you, this will not be a second home. We will live there and sell our current home.


We just moved. I had Ubatuba granite in the old house, and even though it still looked brand new, I was tired of it and ready to change it up. Do you feel tired of the black granite? As you have noticed, it is no longer on-trend, if you care about those things (and I am not sure I do, other than my eye is tired of the things it has looked at for 20 years).

We have to reno the new house kitchen, and I am just scrolling through IG photos etc and saving any ones that have a vibe that appeals to me. Then I’ll see what the common denominators are.

Bottom line, you should pick what you love, I think anything can go in a lake house. You can even “winterize” white cabinets and counters with accessories (just look for holiday decor in kitchens and you’ll see a bunch of ideas)

1 Like

Thank you for responding. The first picture is not my home but looks just like it. The other 2 photos are what I feel is “the look” I see a lot with new home builds in our area. I’m the type who would rather have a look that will stand the test of time and not have to remodel in 10 years. Originally I thought the wood trim seemed more appropriate in a wooded, lake area, but now wondering if more white would make it more fresh and light.

Thank you. These are exactly the things I’m considering. I do like my current home. It feels comfortable and I could visualize transferring it all to the new home and then all the decor would fit right in too, which would be a cost saver. I also wonder if I’m missing an opportunity to change things up, but don’t want to change just for the sake of doing so.

Here’s a cozy white kitchen. Maybe have wood on an island or portion of the counters?

Your current kitchen look is what I have/had. It was very much in style in 2000 or so. Again, if you love it, go for it, but know that it is now considered a dated look.


That is what I am looking for too-honesty about whether what I have seems dated and/or tired…

Love the combination of the white with the wood beams for a lake house.


Have you looked on Houzz for inspiration?

I found this one that has the mid tone wood but in an updated way: Indigo Lake House - Rustic - Kitchen - Other - by Stillwater Architecture L.L.C. | Houzz


That house is stunning Thanks for posting it.

Thank you. I have been randomly googling sites and not sure if I’ve been on Houzz but will check it out.

Everyone-please keep sending ideas!! Once I find things I like I still have to make sure H likes it too. We agreed on a plan but still have to figure out exterior finishes. The HOA has some restrictions and we are leaning toward a hardi shake which neither of us has experience with. It needs to fit the north woods/lake look which works for us…just not sure what that means for color on shakes. I’m thinking a mix of stone/hardi shake exterior…not too dark.

1 Like


This is the look of the gathering room/ kitchen area. The vaulted ceilings with angular point was important to H.


We’re using Hardie shakes on the gables of our new house and I chose the prefinished ones in Cobblestone. If you’d prefer something a little darker, Monterey Taupe might appeal. If you do a band of stone on the bottom, I think it looks best if it’s carried all around the house and not just applied to the front.

I prefer stained cabinets to painted ones, not just for appearance but also for durability. You could consider a different, lighter natural wood such as maple or pecan if you want a change without giving up the natural wood. I still miss the natural maple kitchen I designed years ago, but H wanted walnut this time.

Quartz was on my initial list of counter materials until I read about how its fabrication can cause severe silicosis. I decided to go with a light honed quartzite in the kitchen with the natural walnut cabinets and a leathered black granite in the pantry/prep space. The latter was installed over natural pecan cabinets and it’s gotten a lot of positive comments. (Just checked - it’s Via Lactea from Brazil - mainly black with some white veins.)

I’ve tried to avoid anything trendy, but have focused on what will make us happy whether or not it’s currently in style. Function takes priority over form for us, too, although I’ve tried to combine both. For example, see an earlier discussion here about grab bars.

A word of caution, if you choose to post on Houzz be prepared to be asked for pictures of your house plan and to be told that you’re doing it all wrong starting with not hiring an independent architect to design a custom home. There’s a lot of good information available but it’s often accompanied by some rude or poorly thought out comments by a few “pros.”


Thank you-I think I’ll just use houzz for photo ideas and not post pics or ask for advice on that site. I need the visual. The hardi shake tips and cabinet color/counter choice tips are helpful too. I think I am not great with having so much choice. I’m afraid of creating an interior that looks like Frankenstein…everything I think I like might not work well together. I’m not sure how much the builder design room will help or just expect us to know what we want.

1 Like

Consider checking out design pros on sites like Upwork. You can find some really good ones there that can do affordable renderings of your home. Tell them the general style you want and let them come back with ideas.
Many will ask for an idea board or some general pics.
It is a few hundred bucks really well spent IMO.


Love these ideas. Looking to update our lake cabin soon. However, at about 700 sq ft, it does limit a lot.

While I do like current trends, Im a sucker for color. So often Im “outdated” but at least I like it.


We just had our golden oak cabinets painted. I love the lighter feel of the kitchen now. We do have oak floors, and our trim is a very light brown custom trim. But having grey lower and white upper cabinets really has made a difference.

Also, as our painter told us…once painted…if you decide to change colors, you can paint over.

I like the idea above of having a wooden island. That could bridge the trendy white and your love of wood.


Don’t do a white kitchen unless you really like and want the look. The warm wood hues of the Indigo House linked above are gorgeous and totally fit the “lake serenity” vibe IMO. Our house is not a “lake house” but is surrounded by a wooded area, and the lightly stained wood trim fits its cabin-ish vibe very well. I already posted here that we refaced the horribly painted kitchen with natural cherry. Everyone who has seen it before and after loves the “after” look.