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Design Ideas
Vintage Decor in a Charming Historic Lake Cottage
As it approaches its centennial year, this recently restored cottage stands as a beacon of hope for its historic community.
The charm, character and construction of old cottages are all qualities their owners cherish. But there’s another quality that makes them even more special: They each have a story to tell, and though it was built nearly a century ago, this cottage’s story continues to unfold. Take a look inside this beautiful lake house cottage... Keep Scrolling
Written by MERYL SCHOENBAUM
Photography by BRET GUM
Styling by SHANNON GGEM AND JICKIE TORRES


The charm, character and construction of old cottages are all qualities their owners cherish. But there’s another quality that makes them even more special: They each have a story to tell, and though it was built nearly a century ago, this cottage’s story continues to unfold. Take a look inside this beautiful lake house cottage filled with a treasure trove of vintage decor.

Vintage sign that reads "lake house" placed above a bright red front door on a porch covered in lake house decor.
SURF’S UP. A life-long surfer, Andy propped a 1980s board next to the front door to greet guests. The Lake House sign, found floating in the lake, was gifted to the homeowners by the neighborhood historian.

“I call it our ‘sophisti-cottage’ because the look is [based on] the fact that we love each thing, and the color palette is immense—as a designer, I love all colors!”

Teak lounge chairs with black and white cushions on a wooden outdoor deck overlooking a lake.
SPOT ON. Teak lounges were outfitted with fun polka-dot patterned cushions that complement the blackand- white striped chairs nearby. The brass Platner dining chair with mohair seat in the corner is one of Shannon’s favorite pieces.

OLD HOLLYWOOD DIGS

The house is situated on Malibou Lake in a close-knit community established in 1922 as an enclave inhabited by Old Hollywood film stars. Rustic cottages dot the landscape surrounding the tranquil water, and it’s not unusual to see neighbors paddle by in their kayaks on a lazy afternoon. The cottage has been owned and loved for the past decade by Shannon Ggem, a veteran interior designer, and her husband, Andy, a contractor in the luxury real-estate sector, who share the home with their cat and two dogs.

Floor to ceiling stone fireplace with a distressed wooden mantle and a gold-trimmed mirror above it.
ADDING WARMTH. A fireplace made with local stones graces the living room and can easily heat the entire home. The wood-block prints are by local artist Nan Kane. A walnut game table adds another level of height and dimension to the space. The embossed-leather fireplace screen is early 19th century. The fabulous cement head is architectural salvage from an Art Nouveau theater in India.
Handmade wooden dining table surrounded by intricate dining chairs, looking out a large wall of windows next to a fold down bar.
NATURAL DINING. Andy built the family dining table from salvage beam splits with the rough side cut off. Its rustic quality makes the table appear to have “grown” inside the house, bringing its natural surroundings indoors. An homage to the home’s historic roots, the Art Deco fold-down bar cabinet on the right features Russel Wright Eclipse Polka Dot and other vintage glassware. The impressive Great Dane portrait was a vintage find at the Rose Bowl Flea Market.

PAST AND PRESENT COEXIST

The home’s current incarnation artfully combines many respectful nods to its history with vintage decor and some modern-lifestyle sensibilities. “I call it our ‘sophisti-cottage’ because the look is [based on] the fact that we love each thing, and the color palette is immense—as a designer, I love all colors!” Shannon says. A bright-red Dutch door welcomes guests as a portal to the old-cottage charm filled with lake house decor that awaits them inside. “Red is finally on the way back, but it was missing from the trends for years. I love my red rug and door so much; I had to have red in our home.”

The home’s current incarnation artfully combines many respectful nods to its history with some modern-lifestyle sensibilities.

Living space with a wall of windows behind the sectional with a unique chandelier, lake house decor and a collection of portraits above the windows.
LIGHT HOUSE. The western exposure sunlight in the living room is intense, so the floor-to-ceiling windows have automatic solar shades. Built as a weekend cabin prior to 1924, the home maximizes lake and Santa Monica Mountain views. Among the perks of living in Los Angeles are the estate sales in the grand mansions of Hollywood, where Shannon shops for vintage items and antiques. Over the years, she has built her own collection of portraits.

AN INTENTIONAL DOWNSIZE

Vintage decor treasures are strategically placed throughout the rooms. “We scaled way back to fit our lives into a one-bedroom house, so we kept only our absolute treasures,” Shannon says. “The fold-out bar is a favorite; it honors the fact that there was a huge built-in bar in that spot when we moved in. It made sense for a vacation cottage, but for full-time living it took up too much precious square footage. I also love my vintage military globe, which I found at a yard sale.”

Rattan styled dining sofa with a 1940s satin cushion in butterscotch.
UNCOMMON SEATING. Shannon’s creative side is evident in her seating selection for the dining table. Rather than rely only on chairs, she placed a stylish rattan dining sofa with a 1940s satin cushion in butterscotch from The Ranch Uncommon on one side of the table. A custom cube pillow is by The Drapery Guy, Westlake Village.
Master bedroom with 1940s vintage millwork around the walls and ceiling, light blue bedding and snake andirons turned lamps on the bedside tables.
COZY COMFORT. This bedroom was added in the 1940s, and the carpentry details are the same as in many cottages in the area. Snake andirons from Arteriors have been converted to bedside lamps. Scalamandre and Thibaut throw pillows add stylish comfort and color.

SMALL COTTAGE WITH BIG VINTAGE DECOR STYLE

The house may be small in size, but it is big on style, thanks to the creative couple’s design visions and execution. The cottage has 882 square feet, with one bedroom, one bathroom and 1,000 square feet of decks that wrap around to a waterfront dock. “The house was built sometime between 1922 and 1924. It appears in early photos, but there were no records back then,” Shannon explains. “It has been updated through the years through remodeling, painting, adjusting and maintaining constantly.”

Lake house deck with wire railings in white and decorated with gray outdoor chairs and matching poufs as foot rests.
PATIO PERSPECTIVE. This western-exposure area is a three-season view deck looking out on the serene lake. Ipe decking is Class A fire-rated and requires no sealing or staining. Powder-coated aluminum stays the coolest of outdoor materials and was chosen for that reason. Shannon replaces the World Market pillows and poufs every year.
Outdoor teak bistro set with black and white striped cushions and set with a snack prepared in the table with white faux animal wall mounts on the wall.
FUNCTIONAL AND FABULOUS. Shannon added sophisticated whimsy to this outdoor lake house space with a teak high-top table and papier-mâché animal heads.

Shannon carefully considered the way new finds would relate to the historic architecture and lake house décor as well as its natural surroundings.

Hanging brass chained vintage light over an outdoor sectional with a vintage wooden coffee table and stone made walls with wooden steps in the background.
STEP INTO PEACE These wooden stairs lead to a cozy and quiet retreat, perfect for entertaining guests or taking a moment to enjoy the sights and sounds of the lake.
Bright blue vintage metal cabinets made by Kraft Maid placed on the lake house deck with a wooden top and a hanging vintage window above it.
CHARMING CABINET. The cottage’s original kitchen cabinets were metal and made by Kraft Maid. Shannon reused the piece here on the dock by adding a wooden top.

Want more simply beautiful ideas? Check out this post on a Home Tour: Lakeside Charm & Industrial Inspiration. 

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