We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

I spent the first month of quarantine rediscovering the joy of puzzles and failing at repeated attempts of sourdough starter. I took long walks, cooked multiple times a day, and binge-watched Tiger King. But by month two, boredom crept in. As people started busying themselves by painting a wall here, starting a vegetable garden there, my boyfriend and I were holed up at my parents’ place with no home improvement diversions to sink our teeth into. It was a privileged lockdown scenario, for sure, but one with little opportunity for tackling creative projects.

So I turned my attention to real estate, the meandering country house type with multiple acres, spring-fed ponds, and century-old floorboards. Between saving upwards of 80 homes on Zillow, I found another pastime: mood boarding this idyllic weekend house, wherever it may be, on the curation app Urstyle, which is like a beginner-friendly Photoshop. I had countless inspiration photos, paint chips, fabric swatches, and vintage table listings filed away in a “one-day” drawer, but now was the time to bring it all together. It felt like playing Animal Crossings or The Sims, but with real furniture.

Jamshedpur Rug, Chairish; Stretch Vase, Morgan Peck; Nadine Gray Lacquer Side Table, Dear Keaton; Shattered Pearl Zellige Tile, Clé Tile; Barley Twist Stool, Soane BritainGraphics by Madeline Montoya

It started pretty innocently with a Farrow & Ball swatch, a Secret Garden–esque Morris & Co. wallpaper, and my all-time favorite chair: Vico Magistretti’s Carimate design in a hunter green hue—an almost identical copy of the kitchen seating at my family’s cottage in Canada (only theirs is fire-truck red). Soon enough this imaginary room was filled with citrus-hued pleated lampshades in dainty floral patterns, blackened elm coffee tables with chunky cylindrical legs, and mirrors made from collected seashells. It didn’t have to make sense—there were no room proportions to pay attention to. It didn’t matter that the space didn’t have a sofa (yet). It was all about the vision: a wood-paneled room with a big fireplace and sweeping views of a fictional lake.

Cherry Oh and Schwarzwald Fabrics, Dedar; Bouquet Sconce, Ruby Lux; Shaker Chair, ZZ Driggs; Abacus Table Lamp, Soane Britain; Graphics by Madeline Montoya

I moved on to a bedroom that didn’t have a bed but did include the coziest vanity-meets-workspace area complete with an oak desk, a red scalloped mirror, and a rust-colored velvet pouf. What else would be in the room? Perhaps an armchair upholstered in striped camel mohair, a framed Cocteau print, and a Love Handles vase by Anissa Kermiche. I pictured shades of dusty rose, caramel, and cherry red, along with more sweeping water vistas and crackling hearths.

Chicago Trestle Table, ZZ Driggs; Strøm Medium Ceramic Bowl, Raawii; Pillow Chair, ASH NYC; Large Marble Effect Glazed Pot, Ceraudo; Potted Olive Tree, Frontgate; Graphics by Madeline Montoya

My latest creation is a window-lined dining room with a jazzy banquette in Christopher Farr’s fuchsia Chubby Check fabric, inspired by a Los Angeles kitchen by designer Frances Merrill. There would be forest-hued leather-wrapped chairs from BDDW, terracotta lamps, plaster chandeliers topped with tiny wicker shades, a tall olive tree in a corner, a quirky Beata Heuman frilly pillow casually thrown on a chair, and blush rattan sconces. The hot pink and forest green palette would be the perfect punchy counterpart to the imaginary antique herringbone brick floor. 

The best part: This make-believe house had no budget constraints whatsoever. While the real deal may still be months (or even years) away—and would probably be a whole lot more modest—the pure joy of putting together this fictional weekend retreat was just what I needed to tide me over into the third month of lockdown. A mini escape, without ever leaving home. 

It’s hammer time: Follow @reno_notebook for easy rental updates, clever DIYs, and tips to nail your next project.