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The Lake House Look—When You Don’t Live Near Water

Evoke that laid-back, free-flowing waterside vibe—no vacation required

A lazy summer day reclining on the back deck of your mountain home might look a little something like this: snow-capped peaks in the distance, rolling green hills lined with trees waving in the breeze, your dog playing in the yard, and a fire pit getting started for evening s’mores with friends or family. The peace and calm of the surrounding landscape is a top reason why people choose to build or buy a home in the American West.

One thing not often readily available in these idyllic mountain settings, however, is water. Unless your home is situated over a body of the blue stuff—say, California’s Lake Tahoe, Montana’s Whitefish Lake, or Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille, for example—getting the lake house look can be difficult in the mountains.

There’s something nostalgic and timeless about a lake house. Perhaps you grew up fishing and swimming at a lakeside cottage, or it reminds you of Fourth of July celebrations and summertime barbecues. An absence of a nearby lake doesn’t mean your mountain home can’t feel like a mountain home near water. It just takes a little finagling.

So how can you mimic the feeling of living near water—without booking a flight to the beach? With these tips, you can evoke that laid-back, free-flowing waterside vibe—no vacation required.


Large windows are already a must with all those mountain views to drink in, but they’re doubly important when crafting that by-the-water atmosphere. Floor-to-ceiling vantage points bring pools of natural light and wildlife sightings into your living room, a design feature common in lakeside retreats, too.


One of the most soothing aspects of the lake is the sound it makes. You can easily recreate this sensory experience with an indoor or outdoor water feature—perhaps a water fountain or water-wall that runs continuously, or an in-ground pool.

There's another option… you could go even bigger. Let’s face it: If you love your gorgeous mountain property and the only thing missing is a lake to reflect the peaks above, you can always look into building a manmade pond. The trick is to make it look like Mother Nature did it, says Larry Berlin, founder and principal of Jackson, Wyoming-based Berlin Architects. “Incorporate a small island and wetland plants that would naturally grow right up to the water.”

An indoor connector link that spans over the water feature—like an indoor, glassed-in bridge—can kick the lake house luxury factor up a few notches.


Carefully incorporate decor pieces crafted of natural materials—stone, driftwood, glass, and grasses—around the home that pay homage to lake life. Be careful not to go into identity-crisis mode; avoid blatant beach-house items like seashells and jars of sand. Also, keep in mind that a lake house is often exposed to the elements, so say yes to weathered, distressed, and antique furniture and finishes.


Waterside homes tend to incorporate color palettes that complement the whites, blues, and greens found in the view. Consider painting walls and ceilings in these subtle shades—even brick fireplaces and built-in shelves. Trickle in wave-inspired designs and furnishings—perhaps a chair-back that resembles boating rope, or a bronze powder room sink shaped like a clamshell.


When the outdoors can’t offer your home a view of the lake, there are many talented artists who can. Invest in lake- and water-inspired art as focal points—whether it’s a gorgeous photograph of your favorite body of water or an abstract painting or sculpture in water-reminiscent themes.  

For more ideas about designing a home with the lake house look, contact Larry Berlin at 307-733-5697.

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