Sarah Richardson Guides Us Through a Cheap and Cheerful Cottage Makeover

Sarah’s Rental Cottage
You Can Live in Sarah’s Cottage!

The first of six episodes premieres April 9, 10pm and 10:30pm ET/PT on HGTV Canada

Sarah Richardson takes on a new project in her latest HGTV series Sarah’s Rental Cottage and achieves stunning results. Richardson and her husband Alexander bought a decades-old summer cottage on a remote island in Georgina Bay and transformed it into a beautiful space, with just an idea, a tiny budget and big vision. Wouldn’t it be fun to live in a Sarah Richardson designed home even for a few weeks in the summer? That’s what Alexander thought. Richardson managed to combine the best of the cabin’s vintage elements with shots of modernity via projects she says any of us could do. We spoke with Richardson to find out if good design is as easily achieved as she makes it look.


Sarah, your fans know you love cottaging and especially decorating cottages!
We are always inspired by where we live and the combination of architecture and personality and when you have architecture in a unique environment that for a designer is invigorating. It can be vintage or old fashioned or retro but there is something that feels like now. It’s the kind of place people will want to visit. It’s a place to dream with walls of windows, and on a terrible rainy day like today there is nothing better than lighting a fire and getting under a blanket and listening to the rain on a metal roof and reading. But having said that, as soon as we were done at the cottage we packed up and left and someone else is there now.

You have respect for historical and vintage décor, but you always set it in the present. What tips can you give us to happily blend the two worlds?

I think it’s always a mix. In the beginning of my book that I have a recipe for design based on one to one ratios. One part masculine, one part feminine, one part vintage one part new, one part dark , one light, and one part contemporary and one part traditional. People say it sounds complicated but it’s not if you have it all in context and equal amounts. It creates a liveable and harmonious result. It is the balance of these ingredients that make a space that appeals to everyone and alienates no one. I love old buildings but I want to take the best from the past and update it for how we live today.

Sarah's Rental Cottage - Before

Sarah’s Rental Cottage – Before

Let’s talk about painting the interior wood walls. The cottage was really dark and then presto! You painted the walls white and the floor a homey green.
At the time the cottage was built the wood made sense but how you take the quickest and easiest way to update any space, especially a vintage cottage is with paint. Without a doubt, paint was the single most important factor in updating it, even the floor. It was about what Tommy says was creating that signature nostalgic, sentimental cottage experience so that when you walk in the door you know where you are. We didn’t want to make it like a downtown condo. It is in the woods and by the lake with those sights, sounds and smells. That feeling in terms of the painted floor was the feeling underfoot you only get in a cottage. It reminds me of my grandparents cottage when I was growing up.

What can you say to encourage people to go past their usual boundaries in décor?
I like living within comfort zone for big ticket items and elements that are difficult to change so when it comes to kitchens and tile and countertops, those six elements that are tough to change play it safe. Paint is a weekend afternoon and you can have fun with colour and experiment in an easy decorating mood. Do the pieces that allow it.

You’re a real inspiration; I feel I’ve learned so much even just chatting now.
I like to help people and think of myself as a coach inspire people with ideas and educate them with information and empower them so they feel like they can take any space and make it their own.

You are suddenly a landlord. What’s that like?
I haven’t had too much experience but we shall see! I have my husband and partner and he can help with all of that. It’s the type of place that attracts a certain type of person. Its 35 minutes by boat to get there so it’s an adventure. They would believe that getting there is more than half the fun.

Is the cottage fully booked this summer? How can people rent your spot?
Get in touch through the website. It’s on Georgian Bay on open water and has an unobstructed western view on an 8 acre island.

What does this show offer that’s uniquely differently from other shows?
It’s fun, authentic, authentic and we did it on a whim quickly on a tight budget all senses of the word, production, construction, décor. Viewers will like it because it’s true to life authentic portrayal of how I work. I blame my husband’s idea! It was Alexander’s idea and I was just along for the ride. I was happy to do it.