"We are what we believe we are."
C.S. Lewis

Friday, March 18, 2016

Decorating a Seasonal Rental

Wool cushion from Pottery Barn, wool throw vintage.
 We've been busy these last few months travelling back and forth to a ski chalet near Georgian Bay.  We didn't buy a vacation home, we rented it for the winter season.  Why would we do this?  Well, to ski at a club we're trying out for one, but we wanted to try to holiday differently this year: rather than one or two vacations we've been able to get away every weekend if we chose.
If you are thinking of investing in a vacation property (and judging from the activity in this category in the area we rented this is a very popular purchase these days) I would highly recommend renting for at least a couple of seasons- or maybe for always.  An additional property is very expensive to maintain, is a constant worry (is it being broken into while you're not there etc, mechanical things breaking down etc) and if you ever need/want to sell it you'll be paying capital gains tax on the selling price: what a commotion.
We were excited about our rental (especially considering we weren't very familiar with the area) and we spent the first weekend in December moving in our own linens and kitchen things.  If you're going to be using a place for just inside of four months it can be much more pleasant to fluff it up with your own items, your own style.  Rentals are typically a bit utilitarian when it comes to bedding and kitchen items, you'll feel more at home with your own little "extras".

I have a love of old wool blankets and I've collected them over the years, typically from Etsy.  They came in handy at the chalet in the living area, I threw them over the existing furniture which warmed up the room but also protected the furniture from spills and mess.

This black and white wool blanket from Iceland covered a chair.
This one is my favourite, it's from the 1970's.
 I brought in plenty of pillows to throw around, these linen pillow covers from Pottery Barn with the ruffled edges are my favourite.  I have five of them so we ended up using them all over the chalet:
Linen pillow cover Pottery Barn.
 We really enjoyed the fact that the chalet was quite different from our house, very open-concept with a wood-burning fireplace and plenty of space for large gatherings.  High ceilings and huge windows made it feel really spacious and we loved the views of the water and the forest.
Large windows looking out over a forest.
 I was very focussed on fluffing up the beds in the chalet.  I have several quilts from LLBean that are cozy and evocative of the 1970's-1980's.  I put one in each of the four bedrooms.
Rentals rarely have mattress pads on the mattresses, and I'll tell you, as far as I'm concerned mattress pads are KEY.  I buy them from Lands' End typically, and I go for the ones with the highest cotton content.
I then layered the beds with flannel sheets and vintage wool blankets, all topped off with one of the quilts.
 They definitely do not make wool blankets like they used to.  I have a couple from northern Europe that I found on Etsy, they are literally nearly an inch thick.  They also have wonderful patterns and colours:
Thick wool blankets.

 Most of the flannel I own is from Lands' End, and some of it I had embroidered with cute chalet-style monograms:
Cute trees on bedsheets.
Snowshoe-themed flannel sheets from a discount store.
 I brought lots of baskets to warm things up with their texture but also to help keep us organized.  We typically had friends and family with us which meant that we had plenty of recycling to do (wine and beer bottles hehe) as well as lots of supplies coming in to feed the crowd.
Basket for recycling.
 There was a large square table in the open living area that was perfect for meals, I warmed it up with a tablecloth that had belonged to my in-laws.  They used it at their ski chalet so the cloth itself holds many happy memories.  I also love the colours and 1970's-feel of the loomed texture:
The tablecloth warming up the dining area.
 The kitchen was quite small and somewhat primitive: no dishwasher and limited cupboard space.
 I brought our own dishes in a white, yellow and blue colour scheme as well as a good coffee maker, electric milk frother for the coffee (that was a popular item) and an electric slow-cooker.
 We typically had plenty of snacks and late dinners, usually out of the slow-cooker.
Snacks.  Yup chips and dip.
 Even though I am a big fan of cloth napkins this was not the place for it, I bought colourful paper napkins:
More snacks, and paper napkins.

A typical dinner, chicken from the slow cooker with vegetables.
 I really enjoyed cooking at the chalet, I just did lots of easy meals like minestrone, here ready to go in the slow cooker with a wedge of reggiano thrown in for flavour:
 Lemon garlic chicken was another favourite dish:
The slow cooker insert with chicken ready to start cooking.
I liked this one because the insert was stove-top safe.
This allowed me to braise things before the slow cook process began.
 In the early winter we went for plenty of walks in the area:
 Scout loved the chalet (it was dog-friendly, that was key for us).  She especially loves the snow, she was in heaven on those chalet weekends.
Scout living the life.
 Our rascal kids did lots of skiing with MrBP:
Ole Rascal and MrBP ready to head down the black diamond slope.
 The evenings were cozy by the fire and felt especially good after the fresh air and exercise of the day.
Scout loved lying around by the fire:
Scout holding hands with Rascal G.
 It was a busy winter going back and forth, this is one of the reasons I haven't had much time for the Mop Philosophy blog.  I have our chalet extras back home and stored away in a trunk for the next time we rent for the season, probably not next year but maybe sometime in the future.

Have you ever rented a vacation home for a season, be it winter or summer?
Do you have a dream of owning a cottage or a chalet in the woods?


  1. I rent the same house in South Carolina every year and I love it. It's mine when I'm there and I'm king of the castle and its someone else's when I'm not or there's a hurricane, fire, bizarre ice storm, flood, rotten deck, leaking dishwasher...
    Much like you, I bring a ton of my own stuff and rearrange the furniture. My first day is spent cleaning it from top to bottom so I know it's clean and not just rental house wipe downed.
    I'd love to do this in the winter too and be all snowbound and chalet-y. But wherever I go must have a dishwasher. I use 50 spoons making coffee. Though I could see how the right house in the right place is worth foregoing a dishwasher. I love to cook and plan meals for vacation. It's amazing how much longer a trip feels when there isn't two hours wasted every day sitting around talking/arguing about where to eat.
    Glad this was such a success for you!

    1. Stephen Andrew if you wrote a post about your seasonal rental that would be so interesting, take lots of pictures of the process and your own extras. Also add in your commentary and we'd all be rolling laughing. I miss your posts can you tell!
      ugh I have to say not having a dishwasher was not optimal. Especially with lots of people there because it just seemed like there was ALWAYS a mess, because there was. And we constantly ran out of wineglasses of course.
      So true about the meals thing! I love cozying in and going exactly nowhere in the evening, well except for an after-dinner walk. Much easier to have dinner in and sit around by the fire.
      It was a success but I don't think we'll do it next year. We found it a bit tiring and we don't have the kind of time these days to take full advantage. XO

    2. Isn't cosying in the best thing? I'm always little bit sad to see the light nights come in at first - no more cosy.

    3. Tabs I know I miss the dark in the evenings this time of year.

  2. Hi Dani, nice to see a new post! That was a very smart choice, renting for the season. We have never done it before. It sounds like you all had a marvellous winter.

    I was interested in your blanket from Iceland - we are just now planning our trip to the UK in September and we are going to add on 4 nights in Reykjavik on the way back. Very exciting - I see a new wool jumper in my future! :0)
    P.S. My Brora Fair Isle cardigan and tweed skirt are lovely.

    1. Patricia it was a fun winter if a bit busy! My in-laws haven't been well so we've had lots of back and forth and spent a few weekends at home so we could help them. Not sure the every-weekend thing is for us.
      Oh gosh that Iceland blanket is gorgeous, and you're going for 4 nights I'm jealous! A few years ago I tried to convince our friends to go as a group but no luck there, well not yet anyway.
      Very happy you love your Brora things! XO

    2. Love that blanky so much! Did you buy it in Iceland - or on the net? Since it's from the 70s they probably don't make that design any more. Sigh.
      Have long wanted to visit Iceland but somehow have never got around. One of the teachers from my school spent a year there - sent us back fascinating letters on Icelandic life. Also used to have an Icelandic friend at international conferences - so interesting and a lovely dry sense of humour. He spoke at least six languages fluently. Then the books "Independent People" by Nobel prizewinner Halldor Laxness and the more recent "Burial Rites" sparked further interest.
      Hopefully we'll get there one day - it's just so far from routes we normally travel. While we can continue to stay in the apartment in Paris, we'll probably keep going back. It is kind of like a second home - we know all local shops and markets (some of them even remember us) and I have a regular hairdresser I always go back to. Like you we once experienced a problem - the hot water heater blew some kind of gasket and flooded parts of the apartment, fusing the power. We just picked up the phone to our friend and he had guys around within hours to fix it all. Meanwhile he took us out to breakfast at the Flore to make-up for the problem. So lovely not to have had the worry or expense and to be treated to breakfast. Pammie

  3. Renting for an entire season sounds like a great way to get to know the area. You are wise to add your personal touches too as they make it feel so much more like a home and less like a rental. We have our boat so summers are spent bobbing on the ocean with no thoughts of renting a cabin. I do love how you cook....I am always inspired by your food pictures. How about a few recipes? Unless they are trade secrets!!

    1. Thanks Hostess I'll try to get some recipes on the blog I've been very lazy with it these last few months. Boating is such a wonderful activity. I grew up on the water and often went out on the boat with my grandparents. You must be looking forward to boating season this year.
      We did get to know the area really well: Thornbury and Collingwood, right on Georgian Bay. It's really beautiful up there and less than a two hour drive from our house, through the country too no traffic. XO

  4. We had a beach house when I was a kid - nowadays we just stay in hotels. Frankly, it's nice to have a gym and someone else cooking for a real vacation;). With kids, of course, it's a different story. I love your blanket collection.

    1. Lisa I have to say I love a hotel holiday, but yes not with kids. Taking our rascals to restaurants for meals is financially ruinous in itself! The chalet was great for tucking in the evenings, we didn't ever eat out, just lunches on the ski hill.
      A beach house, that's childhood perfection! XO

  5. Dani, not only do you bring your own plates & table linens along with those charming quilts and blankys...you are one of the precious few qualified to upgrade cozy with the z. That 's' cosy crowd don't get it.
    I can just see your eyes light up as that vermouth tanker stages to offload at your receiving dock.

  6. Dani, not only do you bring your own plates & table linens along with those charming quilts and blankys...you are one of the precious few qualified to upgrade cozy with the z. That 's' cosy crowd don't get it.
    I can just see your eyes light up as that vermouth tanker stages to offload at your receiving dock.

    1. G how did you know about the vermouth tanker? XO

  7. What a lovely thing to do, I don't think it would have crossed my mind to make it my own aside from fresh flowers and a candle. I think a long rental like that is such great idea, so much less stress than trying to manage two homes. Oh and what's a mattress pad?

    1. Tabs I thin it would find it a big stress to try the two homes thing cost being the first stress. The day we left the chalet last week the water system exploded in the basement, and during the thaw the roof had been leaking, very nice to just phone the owner explain the problem and leave the key for the repairman.
      Mattress pads are thick layers of cotton that fit over the mattress protecting it but also making the bed softer, the sheets go over them. They can be washed which keeps the whole bed clean, I love them XO

  8. An old friend has picked up a central European saying "To have milk, you don't need to buy a cow!" So agree! Couldn't cope with the extra work/responsibility of having a holiday house/apartment.

    We spend a month in the same apartment in Paris every year (belongs to a friend). It's too far from Oz to take goodies long haul to cozy it up. I just buy lots of fruit for the bowls, heaps of flowers and there are pink geraniums in the window box as well. It's set up like a real Paris (in other words, shoebox) home - there are books as well as travel guides, plenty of CDs, shopping baskets, interesting pictures and photographs, lots of kitchen equipment (but no dishwasher) - and it's in a perfect location in central Paris, in the 1st. We're out almost all the time anyway. It's simple and tiny but we sometimes entertain a few friends if they're in town. Despite the kitchen we don't cook much - just arrange salads and cheeses etc. Great food shops nearby.
    Love your Icelandic blanket!!! Your cozied-up apartment looks wonderful. Best wishes, Pammmie

    1. Pammie love that like Stephen Andrew you go to the same place every year which gives you all of the connection and benefit to owning a holiday house without any of the stress. I think your Paris apartment sounds really perfect, my husband and I have talked of doing something exactly the same once our youngest is off to Uni.
      Honestly we'd want to stay in the 1st too, oh it sounds so lovely.

  9. We sold the family cottage last year as two homes proved to be a lot. I think renting is perfect. I love how you personalized the space. Very cozy!

  10. We're going in the opposite direction. After years of renting, we're building a cabin. We're lucky to have high elevation pines only 45 minutes from our home. We can escape the summer heat anytime we like. It's also a great location for a winter getaway with skiing a few more miles up the mountain.

    I so appreciate you for giving me wonderful ideas! I'll be stealing these once we start decorating the cabin. Now if only you could teach me to cook :)

  11. Dani, This is a super idea as vacation homes are so expensive. Great way to see if you want to do it forever! Even a season would be fun. I love the idea of bringing your own things and making it cozy. Brilliant! I'd relax so much more that way. Sounds like a fun winter! Beautiful photos! xo Kim

  12. Just saw this new post! YAY! I love your rental; some families here did that when the kids were highschool age. We did short term rents at the slopes. Skiing is so tiring, I am impressed you had the energy to cook! Those blankets look divine for after ski relaxing. I'm afraid I've gone warm for the winter now; we have an owner's closet to keep things we prefer not to share. I feel a bit guilty as I love winter, too, but we both feel sooo good, less achy at our advanced age.