Photography by Naomi Lynn Vacaro

Peek inside this Florida lakefront cottage and hear how a growing family had a vision to create a beautifully well-designed yet functional family space.

Creating a space that’s cozy yet functional can be an intimidating task to conquer. We can all dream of the spacious floor plans that allow for the endless possibilities for design and functionality. But, more often than not, this is not the space we land for our first home.

One of the most challenging parts to designing a home is finding the balance between what is aesthetically appealing while still capturing the essence of who you are. Our homes are to not only reflect the latest design trends, but the homeowner’s personality, too. This is where having vision for your home is essential.

First-time homeowners Geoff and Nicole Roe tapped into the potential of their fixer-upper to create a space that was vibrant yet practical for their family; a space that served their growing family well but still reflected their overall personality. However, as their family continued to grow, they came to terms with their need for more space and knew it was time to move on from their first home at this lakefront cottage. But they also knew they couldn’t simply sell this house — they wanted other families to share this space and experience similar memories as those made by the Roe family.

In this Shelter feature, Nicole recounts the renovation process and how they made this lakefront cottage a functional and beautiful home for other families to enjoy.

WH: What’s the story behind the lakefront cottage? What inspired you to take on this renovation process?

Nicole Roe: Our lakefront cottage will forever hold so much joy in our hearts. The years of hard work and family memories made will never be forgotten, but once we realized that our family of five needed more space, we knew it was time to move on.

At this point we decided that, instead of selling, we wanted to share this cheerful space with as many families as possible. A furnished, fully decorated short-term rental that is lakefront in Central Florida checks off so many boxes for so many families. I love the idea of a family spending the morning at LEGOLAND, then coming home to take paddle boards out onto Lake McLeod for the afternoon, and later enjoying dinner on the fully renovated screened-in porch. The location of our home is the perfect starting point for so many family activities, and we look forward to helping our guests make the most out of their visit to Winter Haven.

WH: How would you describe your personal home style?

NR: When we first started to decorate our home, I quickly made the assumption that because I was married to a farmer our style had to be modern farmhouse. As the years have gone on, I am now drawn to cleaner lines and brighter whites. This home will always have nods to our farmhouse roots, but, as all homes should, it has evolved alongside us.

“So many memories were made in this space, and I can’t wait to share it with others.”

WH: What do you consider important aspects to a home?

NR: As an interior designer, I strongly feel that one’s home should not only fill them with pride, but also streamline their lives. A home needs to function efficiently and be beautiful, but most importantly it must allow your family to be themselves. As much as I love upholstered furniture and light-colored rugs, I know at this stage of our lives that isn’t a practical option and will add to the daily battles of spilled chocolate milk and dirty hands. In our home, function has to win, but finding beautiful solutions is extremely important.


WH: Tell us a bit about the renovation process.

NR: From day one of our renovation journey, we knew we had to make the best use of every single square foot of this home. Walls, doorways, and windows were removed, while a screened-in porch was built into a dream laundry room and pantry. The kitchen and bathroom were both brought down to studs and rebuilt for maximum efficiency. We brought in experts to help us refinish and patch the original hardwood floors and install tile. Over the years, we have upgraded the exterior with insulation, new windows, and concrete-board siding. The new screened-in porch was one of our last projects and by far one of the most loved. We enclosed one wall for additional privacy, and this allowed us to add a wood-burning fireplace. Even in Florida, this is such a treat! Once we moved out, it was then time to tackle the remaining projects on our to-do list. My husband built beautiful cedar stairs, added Florida-friendly landscaping, and repainted every room while filling the home with both new and vintage furniture. We want our guests to be able to enjoy all the charm of a lakefront cottage while also enjoying all the modern conveniences that one desires on vacation.

WH: Where did you draw inspiration for this home?

NR: Geoff and I are major homebodies and always have been. We wanted to create a home that checked off so many of the boxes of a great vacation. This home provided us with the view, and we were able to slowly add to the list of amenities. A screened-in porch with enough room for rocking chairs and dining with a fireplace was a huge dream of ours, and we still can’t believe we made it happen. As soon as the evening temperatures dip below 70 degrees, you better believe that there is a fire burning and a glass of red wine in our hands! A gourmet kitchen with a gas stove and marble countertops gave us the chef’s kitchen, and a super-deep soaker tub in the bathroom provides the ultimate of relaxation and served us pretty great bathing three boys.

WH: How would you best describe this space to a guest?

NR: It is a joyful home. The sun shines bright, and it is an easy space to enjoy friends and family. Because of the smaller footprint, the open floor plan is still cozy but provides ample space for watching movies, playing games, or reading a good book.

WH: What do you consider important elements to designing a space that’s functional for families?

NR: Functional design simplifies daily life for each member of the family. This could be as small as keeping a basket full of shoes by the front door, or it can consist of the entire design of a room. Our dining room is a perfect example of my strategy of designing a functional but still beautiful space. The table is a solid, farmhouse-style wood table from The Barn Antiques and can easily be sanded and resealed. We opted out of having a rug, and the chairs are painted wood which are both super easy to clean. The curtains are hung with clips and can quickly be thrown into the wash when spaghetti noodles get thrown across the room. The buffet and the closet both provide storage for all breakables. These tactics were used in all of the rooms throughout the process. We even have metal lockers in the living room to hold jackets, purses, sunscreen, and any other essentials one may need.

“From day one of our renovation journey, we knew we had to make the best use of every single square foot of this home.”

WH: What are your favorite rooms in the home?

NR: The obvious answer is our screened-in porch. It was designed during the tail end of renovation processes and meets all of our needs. We renovated the kitchen in the beginning, but so many of our choices are still my favorite. The layout is wonderful, and splurging on higher-end appliances made cooking such a joy. The marble countertops are beautiful, but never again will I make that decision. There is nothing functional about marble, and when your husband’s a citrus grower, it is going to get destroyed. The room that isn’t quite a room that has provided me with sanity and my children with so much joy is our Rock Pit. Right off of the laundry room, my husband built a 15-foot-by-15-foot enclosure and filled it with eight inches of pea gravel. The boys would go out there and dig for hours. So many memories were made in this space, and I can’t wait to share it with others. I hope we will able to replicate something similar in our new home.

WH: Tell us a bit about the exterior of the home.

NR: It’s impossible to walk up to our home and not comment on the color. Peacock blue was a bold choice, but if you can’t have a peacock-blue color on a lakefront home in Central Florida, where can you? The color is so fun, but since it is blue it remains calm and peaceful. Pair the blue with the white trim, dark-stained wood decking, and greenery, and you have a lakefront cottage that I hope brings a smile to everyone’s face. The home is elevated above the lake and sits on a couple acres of land that is full of various varieties of avocado, citrus, pomegranate, fig, and other tropical fruits. There are also dozens of pineapple plants that line the back of the property.

Designed toward the end of their renovation process, the Roes’ favorite room in their home is the screened-in porch that overlooks Lake McLeod and includes a wood-burning fireplace.

WH: Any other details on the home you’d like readers to know about?

NR: Never would I have thought I would have had the opportunity to renovate, live in, and then share a lakefront home. The abundance of lakefront property in Winter Haven is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. We know it is such a blessing, and we look forward to our next lakefront renovation just a few doors away.