Let’s face it: you don’t need sailboat motifs and tiny anchors to remind you that you’re by the beach. So why are so many vacation homes still tainted by these tired, cornball clichés? According to , founder and principal of Cortney Bishop Design, your vacation house should be no different than your full-time home—at least when it comes to design. Bishop—who made a name for herself through her carefree, cozy interiors inspired by travel, relaxation, and family—designs vacation spots that feel just like home. Only better.
Each of her projects—with quirky names like “Island Bohemian," “Beach Break,” and "Ebony and Ivory"—is marked by a distinct vibe inspired by the client’s style and goals. Bishop has found a way to account for the differences in lifestyle and climate that typify vacation, without letting them limit her imagination. She takes the relaxed charm of each environment and translates it into a looser iteration—one that captures the essence of beach house living without drowning it in superficialties. Her seamless blend of materials and finishes—like weathered woods, ocean blues, and mood lighting—are comfortable like home, yet at the same time, you know you're on vacation. From minimalist escapes to bohemian sanctuaries, Bishop’s portfolio is as expansive as it is impressive. Now, she gives us the scoop on how she conceives these sumptuous getaways.
Siweb: What is your design approach with vacations homes? Does it differ from that of a full-time family home?
CORTNEY BISHOP: It really is no different than designing for a client’s full time home. We encourage clients to invest in good bones, like flooring, tile, lighting...all things that will last over time and remain timeless. But with vacation homes, we take a few more risks and find our clients are usually on board as well. The reward always pays off.
ED: Though all of your designs do have a signature "look," how do you go about deciding on a distinguished aesthetic for each home? Does the location or style of the home help inform your decision?
CB: I listen to my clients' needs and wants for the home and design for them, not for myself. The goal is to fit their lifestyle. I believe that is why all of our projects have their own distinct vibe. And yes, the views and natural landscape are definitely determining factors for the interior color palette, finishes, and overall style.
ED: With a vacation home, are there certain stylistic risks you can take, being that it's not a full-time space?
CB: Absolutely! Vacation evokes happiness and that means something different to each of our clients—playfulness, relaxation, party time! So yes, we can approach many different aesthetics with that understanding. When clients escape the daily hustle and get away, my hope is a certain mood turns on the moment they walk through the door.
ED: How do you find a balance between designing a space that is both kid-friendly and mature, designed for vacation living while also being functional?
CB: Great question, because so many of our clients have young families. Our clients want to invest in quality pieces that they will not have to replace in a few years—both on the interior and exterior. We steer them towards more durable, woven textiles that are not just one note when it comes to color. We prefer fabrics with at least two to three colors woven into them. It hides dirt and wear. We also recommend family-friendly fabric treatments that prevent permanent stains.
We prefer organic shapes and rounded, softer corners versus more rigid, sharp points when developing a furniture plan. Steering that flow while easing the traffic for busy families is always a priority.
ED: Do you have any tips for people who have just purchased a vacation home, regarding both design and decor?
CB: Capture the view and maximize windows whenever possible. And definitely invest in quality, well-made outdoor furniture!