Nostalgic Decor – Vintage Summer Camp

For a short time, I lived in northern Idaho.  Green mountains and amazing blue lakes, it was spectacularly beautiful.  Especially the summers.  When it gets into the hundreds here in Fahrenheit, my mind often wanders away from southern Arizona and back to Idaho.  Anyway, one summer there, I went to camp.

Camp Neewahlu was across Lake Coeur d’Alene.  Me and my Camp Fire Girl-friends took a ferry over.  It looked like a camp where Jason Voorhees would be hiding in the bushes.  THAT is just how camp-perfect it was.

I loved my time there.  I made a lot of great friends.  Although campers stuck to a strict schedule, the multitude of activities were engaging and fun – there was always something to do.  Swimming, hiking, canoeing, archery, crafts, singing…I remember the nights in the cabins.  Writing letters home by flashlight.  Despite the busyness of it all, it was relaxing.  It was peaceful.  And nary a psychopathic serial killer in sight…

I’d love to go back and visit.  Every time I see vintage camp gear or paraphernalia, I smile. One day, I would like to have a small-ish cabin by a lake.  And when I do, I’m going to deck out with the thought of my beloved Camp Neewahlu in mind…

Where to begin?  In terms of design theme, I’m thinking of things like heavy materials (like wool, canvas or sailcloth), lots of wood, the outdoors-in, and emphasis on bold color and stripes…colorful stripes.  Let’s start with the camp arrival.  Kids showed up with rucksacks, backpacks, suitcases, and even some trunks….

Assorted vintage luggage via FCLO Music Theatre

Stacked vintage suitcases make great bedside tables, and most trunks are big enough to serve as coffee tables.  Stack or bundle gorgeous wool camp blankets at the foot of the bed.  Decorate with enlarged vintage camp photos or advertisements.  Secure old canoe oars or archery arrows to the wall, or frame an archery target and place it over a headboard.  Outfit game room walls with old badminton or tennis rackets.  Throw old shuttlecocks in a large jar and put it on a shelf.  Combine vintage with purpose – have vintage electric fans (be sure to re-wire them as necessary and keep them away from small children) in each room, and keep old lanterns on hand.  There’s always the four B’s – buckets, bins, baskets, and boxes – corral shoes or boots in vintage wood crates, or keep umbrellas handy in a minnow bucket.  Use fishing baskets to display old archery arrows, or keep crafting materials in vintage locker baskets.

Wool camp blankets via alamodeus
Vintage archery photo via TimeSpent
Framed archery flag – via
Vintage badminton rackets via Poetry of Objects
Vintage electric fan via
Vintage minnow bucket via Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage

Collect, collect, collect!  I love displaying collections, and a cabin or lake house would be a great place for so many vintage collections.  Display trophy collections, vintage cameras, or flashlights.  For color, arrange displays of fishing lures, scout patches, or compasses in shadow boxes, or buoys and old fishing reels out on a boat house wall.  And books!!  Well, I’d have books in just about every room.  Vintage scout guides and handbooks, camping cookbooks, and worn classic novels.

Vintage trophy collection via The Lazy Peacock
Vintage cameras via
Fishing reels via
Compass collection via
Vintage recipe book via Beca Runs

If you really want to get into it, repurpose vintage items!  Turn an old tennis racket or life preserver into a mirror.  Group vintage flashlights into a chandelier.  Make an old suitcase become a medicine cabinet.  Create throw pillows from camp blankets.  Give new and different lives to old things.

via Dee Puddy
Created by Dolan Geiman via
via IndianvsIndian on Etsy via

Lastly, consider durable granite ware or enamelware in the kitchen, and large and small mason jars for glasses.  Maybe faux-horn knives or silverware.  Vintage or retro Camp Fire Girl mugs are another great addition.  Keep the togetherness of mealtime, but skip the formality!  Keep silverware organized cafeteria style with a twist.  Keep forks, knives, and spoons in their own oversized vintage tomato cans and display wildflower arrangements on the tables in vintage tea cans or fruit canning jars. 

via Accent on Vintage
via Mercy, Maude!

More idea photos available at my Pinterest board, Vintspiration: Summer Camp.

Need more inspiration?  Learn from Tereasa Surratt.  Together with her family, this woman bought and renovated her husband’s childhood summer camp, Camp Wandawega, in Wisconsin.  Their work and the discoveries they made along the way are truly amazing…I recommend her book: Found, Free & Flea: Creating Collections from Vintage Treasures.

On Pinterest:
Her website (where you’ll also find links to a multitude of her other social media outlets) :

I shared this post on the following linky parties:  Time Travel Thursday @ Brambleberry Cottage

3 thoughts on “Nostalgic Decor – Vintage Summer Camp

  1. This post brought back memories of the best summer job I ever had. I was the gopher at Camp Neewahlu the summer of 1982. Best job ever. I went by the nickname Flash.

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