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Midsize cities and tree-dotted suburban streets were on the minds of home buyers this summer, but come fall, those craving a change of pace will be looking elsewhere. Lake houses are beginning to get scooped up, according to a new report from Realtor.com, which points out sales have increased more than 40 percent from last year. Watching the leaves turn to shades of amber and scarlet from the comfort of your own waterfront escape sounds idyllic. The big question is: Will it cost you? 

The site identified the top affordable lake towns in the U.S. based on its own listing data from this past spring, taking into account factors like median home price, the number of hotel and lodging establishments, and the percentage of vacation rentals. These four destinations stood out as the best places with even better bargains: 

  1. Chestertown, New York (median lake home price: $493,900)
  2. Branson, Missouri (median lake home price: $444,900)
  3. Glen Arbor, Michigan (median lake home price: $390,000)
  4. Chelan, Washington (median lake home price: $549,500)

Whether you choose to settle down in a 500-something-person village like Chestertown or head somewhere with bustling beaches such as Glen Arbor, one thing is for sure: Lake living is so much more than kayaks and Adirondack chairs. Here are three ideas for your modern retreat.

Go Retro

For her Big Bear Lake, California, cabin, designer and baker Claire Thomas leaned into retro details (her vision for the space was inspired by the idea of a 1960s ski party). A groovy palette of avocado green, marigold, and sorbet hues, seen here in the form of backsplash tiles, channels nostalgia.

Make It All About the Views

Let natural light guide the layout for every space—especially the bathroom. Both the shower and the tub are situated in front of a giant floor-to-ceiling window in this Studio McGee–designed room, so whomever is taking a soak can still admire the landscape. (Psst: Roller shades add privacy when needed.)

Clean Up the Palette

A lick of white paint will give a dated cottage a crisp look without involving a major renovation on your part. Drab gray stone and brown brick are never off-limits. 

Introducing Domino’s new podcast, Design Timewhere we explore spaces with meaning. Each week, join editor-in-chief Jessica Romm Perez along with talented creatives and designers from our community to explore how to create a home that tells your story. Listen now and subscribe for new episodes every Thursday.