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When Beauty’s a Cottage Industry

A singer-turned-model-turned designer cuts her teeth on a darling Lake Placid, NY cottage remodel with stunning results.

Sharon Middendorf - Front Cottage
When a singer-cum-model decides to try her hand at a new creative project, one needs to pay attention. After all, talents and interests often overlap, often to startling effect.

Such was the case when Sharon Middendorf decided she could make a business out of gutting cottages in the Adirondaks, where she and her hubby Todd Carter had been making frequent trips. It was seeing potential in two dilapidated bungalows, nearly a century old, that proved to be kismet.

Genesis of a business

When the couple spotted the cottages in the former Olympic Village a few years ago, that was the genesis of what would become the darling business, GO-Cottage.

Even though she had no formal design background, let alone in gutting properties, Middendorf had found her niche. She dove into restoring the new properties – a 2BR 1200 sq. ft. and a 400 sq. ft. studio bungalow – at Adirondack Park, site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Games.

“I’m self-taught. I’ve been doing design for 12 years, but have only been getting into it for other people for the last couple of years,” she says. 
Cottage Bedroom - Sharon Middendorf

Middendorf and her tech entrepreneur hubby now split their time between their apartment in Manhattan near Union Square and the larger cottage, which she also lets out to customers via an online portal.

“I started with this property and loved it so much I decided this is where I want to go, (to be a designer),” she says. By becoming an interior designer, she says she “stayed true to the creative me”.

She adds that the hallmarks of her design philosophy are keeping it “clean, open, airy clean and fresh. I love to work with natural light and furniture that’s modern and bright.”

For GO-Cottage, she gave the flapper-era bungalows a modern twist. “I took the idea of the time and gave it some modern touches.” 
2 Bedroom Bathroom - Sharon Middendorf

Gutting down to business

"We had about nine weeks to get the [larger] cottage up to speed so we could live in it,” Middendorf says. “The challenge was the time and the amount of work that had to be done. Plus, our budget was pretty tight.”

She says that the biggest challenges were the plumbing and the bathroom, which was “just atrocious”, from the walls to the ceiling.

“The toilet was falling through the floor. It was just unbelievable,” she says. “So getting the bathroom done was huge, one of the biggest challenges. And we decided to go with slate flooring and white wainscoting, and very light green walls, a lime and sheet rock for ceilings and walls.”

They added a Kohler toilet and then she applied silverleaf to the tub, finding “amazing fixtures” at
Vintage Tub. The bathroom was now a showstopper.
Cottage Nook - Sharon Middendorf

But then, all of the rooms in her cottages are glamorous and beautifully styled, in part because of her natural flair for illuminating simply, whether with light or color.

“[I love] what you can do with white and beige and green. Those are my three colors.”

Small is the new big

“Real estate is the gift that keeps giving,” she enthuses. “I am very much into the tiny house movement. My motto is 'small is the new big'. I love to find small cottage type properties, gut them and take them down to their frames and turn them into viable properties you can either rent, flip or buy.”
Sharon Middendorf - Dining Room

She says they live in the bigger cottage at least half the year. After all, she and her husband are addicted to cross-country skiing so it’s hard to stay away whenever there’s snow.

“The reason we bought in Lake Placid is because we are cross country skiers – [and there you’ll find] Mt. Van Hoevenberg at the Sports Horizon complex. Lake Placid is amazing,” she says. The couple not only ski but love to hike, bike and partake of many other outdoor sports.
Sharon Middendorf
Lucky for their guests, the couple’s enthusiasm is contagious.

Middendorf, an artist at heart, is always eager to welcome folks into her beautiful enclave. She even capped off this interview with a welcoming, ‘Come visit us any time!”

Sharon Middendorf’s “GO-Cottage” has been featured in Country Living and other publications. She’s also appeared on HGTV's “Small Space, Big Style”. 

For more info, visit:
To book a stay at GO-Cottage, visit: Find them on Twitter and on Facebook.

Cottage Photography: Martin Fuchs 
Portrait photo: Sophie Munro