This Cozy Georgia Lake Cabin Is Full of Colorful Vintage Finds

screened in porch, porch swing, wicker furniture painted in night watch by glidden lakeside cabin, houston lake, georgia walter gray, kelly gray

Brie Williams, styling by Elizabeth Demos

Walter Gray must have missed the memo on retired lake living. After 37 years of work as an engineer, building two homes, and raising three children, he and his wife, Kelly (@talkofthehouse) were poised in the spring of 2018 to downshift and downsize in middle Georgia. The lakeside cabin the couple had long coveted had finally come up for sale, setting the scene for a new era of hiking, boating, and entertaining friends, kids, and grandkids. But the 1949 structure needed work, and Walter’s background and go-getter personality made it impossible to relax before the chores were complete. “Walter is a skilled woodworker who can handle any home-improvement project but prefers building canoes,” says Kelly, a retired teacher. “I have the vision and handle all the painting, but prefer a comfortable bed, good shops, desserts, and boats with motors.”

The next four years on Houston Lake were a furious blur of fix-its and new additions—at least 25 projects in total. Kelly alternated between paint and heat guns as she freshened wicker furniture and attempted to remove gummy tar paper from the house’s original pine-paneled walls. The project would prove too tricky to pull off, so the Grays resorted to exposing only small sections of paneling in each room and painting the rest white. A new front porch, expansive deck, and screened-in porch were the only significant changes to the footprint. Next up: a new dock and home office. Then—and only then—might Walter feel free to kick back and live the leisurely lake life. “We will slow down some,” he says. “But there’s always something to be done at a lake house.”

Keep reading to take a tour the beautiful results of all those projects.

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The exposed roof rafter-tails were what first endeared Kelly to their 1949 lake cabin decades ago.

Kelly counts old camp movies like On Golden Pond as major style inspirations for her choices, such as the living room’s rattan chairs that have drink and magazine holders. The primitive wood desk was her first-ever antique, purchased from the antiques shop “next to the Dairy Queen” with $10 of her babysitting money when she was 16 years old.

A Tavern Table for Game Night

A late-1800s English tavern table sets the relaxed tone for the sunroom, where vintage lodge-style games like Bingo and Monopoly make for functional collections. Black-and-white family photos and artwork mingle with vintage rackets and paddles for a personal wall display. Walter’s vintage National Geographic magazines from the 1960s and 70s provide a yellow punch to the room’s built-in shelves.

What is it? What is it Worth?

Kelly’s mom ignited her vintage camera collection 15 years ago with a $25 yard sale haul. Displayed on the shelf and en masse in glass jars, the collection includes at least one early-1900s Kodak Brownie Bullseye (which in mint condition can fetch several hundred dollars) but Kelly prefers the under-$20 disposable flash-cube models from the 1970s and 80s.

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Though this space existed as a dining room when the Grays purchased the cabin, a hole in the ceiling (presumably for a wood stove) hinted at its kitchen origin. They promptly returned it to that purpose by adding custom-built cabinets and restoring the floors and ceilings. Stair-tread-grade pine for the countertops lends a thicker, more substantial look.

How Clever is That? Kelly saves a ton on textiles by sewing all her curtains out of plaid and striped tablecloths purchased from HomeGoods, Amazon, and eBay. The plaid ones on the right window are lined with sheets from Walmart.

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An arrangement of plaid 1950s and ’60s King-Seeley Thermos Co. thermoses serves as a casual centerpiece on the dining room’s cross-legged wood table. Hanging above the table is a restored 1942 Peterborough canoe the couple found on Facebook Marketplace, and—as with the thermoses, coolers, oars, and other camp accessories throughout the house, they use it regularly.

What is it? What is it Worth? Peterborough Canoe Company made wood canoes in its Ontario, Canada, factory from 1892 to 1961. The handcrafted canoes were known for their cedar-strip forms, cedar ribs, and canvas coverings and can be collected today for prices ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 depending on conditions.

What is it? What is it Worth?

Kelly is drawn to 1950s and ’60s King-Seeley Thermos Co. thermoses for their signature red-plaid wrap. “I care much more about the integrity of their color than I do a few dings or dents,” she says. Most thermoses can be found for $15-$40 on online auctions sites such as eBay and Etsy.

All members of their extended family flock to the dreamy screened-in porch, one of the only new additions Kelly and Walter made to the cabin’s original footprint. For the porch swing, and all the wicker throughout the house, Kelly leaned on an old trick of painting indoor and outdoor furnishings such as the porch’s wicker, the same shade as the house’s exterior (Night Watch by Glidden). The result is a through-line that unites the indoors with the out.

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Cool & Casual Sleeping Quarters

The main bedroom’s four-poster mahogany bed was trimmed down and capped with bun feet. “I thought the tall posts were too formal here,” Kelly says. Board-and-batten walls visually connect the this bedroom and the guest room.

The primary bath accounted for the cabin’s only real gut renovation; its new acrylic claw-foot tub pairs well with the antique postmaster’s stool beside it.

With a few clever tweaks—and new plaid linens—beds from the Grays’ former home fit right in with their new cabin quarters. The guest room’s bunk beds got a fresh coat of navy paint.

Get the Look:
Bed Paint:
Indigo Streamer by Valspar

In lieu of a mudroom, a narrow bench and row of hooks installed on the white board-and-batten walls provide a space-saving drop spot for lake gear.

The north-facing rear deck is dinner party central for two reasons: It provides the best views of Houston Lake and all its boating and fishing inhabitants, and its long dimensions can easily accommodate a crowd. “I can scoot together three picnic tables out there if needed,” says Kelly. Walter constructed the deck in addition to clearing the landscape of a forest’s worth of obstructing trees and brush.

S’more, the Merrier Seating

A large stone fireplace is the centerpiece of the home’s new lower deck, which encourages long conversations with its collection of Adirondack chairs—painted by Kelly in her signature dark green color. The vintage Coleman cooler is one of several on the property—all originally purchased for practical purposes. “We didn’t buy these as collectibles,” Walter says. “They’re just antiques now!”

Get the Look:
Adirondack Chairs:
Country Living Adirondack chairs by Polywood

Kelly and Walter Gray with their yellow lab, Gabbie, on their new motorboat. The vintage-style, cedar-strip craft was made by Giesler, a Canadian company whose boats were known for ferrying kids to lake-laced summer camps.

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