What You Call Your Summer House Says a LOT
Home & Gardening

What You Call Your Summer House Says a LOT

Where are you off to this summer? Are you dreaming of a restful weekend at your family’s camp? Maybe you’re preparing to make a trip down the shore, or you’re busy packing up the car to drive out to your lake house.

Depending on where you live in the U.S., what you call your de facto summer destination likely varies. We polled designers across the country on the words they use to describe their getaways—you may just hear a few phrases you haven’t come across before!

Shore House


Karyn R Millet

If you live in New Jersey, you probably plan to spend some time this summer going down the shore to your shore house. “It doesn’t matter if your house is on the water, on the beach, on a dock, on the bay, or inland in a beach town; it’s ‘on the shore,’” says Christina Kim, the founder of Christina Kim Interior Design in Manasquan, New Jersey. Shore houses tend to be quite sizable and are generally multigenerational, says Meghan Gorelick. “Usually the grandparents purchase the house, and their adult children and young grandchildren come stay during the summer,” the Wilmington, Delaware–based founder of Meghan Gorelick Interiors says. “It’s kind of the ‘if you build it they will come’ mentality, which fosters such a strong family community.”


As far north as Maine and as far south as Louisiana, people use the word camp to refer to their summer home. “In the South, everyone calls their summer home a camp,” Bridget Tiek, the founder of Tiek Byday in Baton Rouge, says. “It doesn’t matter if it looks like the Ritz or where it’s located—they still call it a camp!” Adds Rachel Cannon, the founder of Rachel Cannon Limited, “I think the name ‘camp’ is a derivative of the culture in the south of outdoorsmanship.”

Summer House

lauren wills home tour, exterior, pool, cream house with white trim

Wills Design Associates

A Quogue, New York, summer house designed by Lauren Wills.

New Yorkers are also a fan of this simple phrase. “We generally refer to a summer vacation rental near the beach, whether it’s a house or bungalow in the Hamptons, Montauk, Fire Island, or Long Island, as a summer house,” says Molly Torres Portnof, the founder of DATE Interiors on Long Island. “Bravo did, in fact, get that right!”

Weekend Home

This is a phrase that many of designer Jessica Alex’s New York-based clients use to describe their secondary houses outside of the city. “Let’s face it, they leave the city most weekends to enjoy the few things New York City cannot offer: green backyards, open space, and quietude,” the founder of Jessica Alex Interiors says.

Upstate Home

lawn care tips

William Waldron for Mise en Scéne Design

The pool at designer Hadas Dembo’s upstate home

New Yorkers also like to say that they’re headed upstate. “For us, upstate encapsulates quintessential summer bliss: the earthy aromas, the lushness of the forest, and the delightful presence of critters and birds flitting about,” says Becky Shea, the founder of Becky Shea Design in New York.


Kevin Isbell Nantucket cottage exterior

Don Freeman

A Nantucket cottage designed by Kevin Isbell.

Sometimes, Christine Carney says, this isn’t the most straightforward term—people will use the phrase “summer cottage” to describe a sprawling retreat in the Hamptons. “I suppose this echoes the bygone Gilded Age when massive estates on the coast of Rhode Island were referred to as cottages,” reflects the director of design at Blackberry Farm Design in Eastern Tennessee. In Carney’s view, though, actual cottages refer to “little one or two-room houses, often at the ocean” and are made of stone.

The Farm

No, this word doesn’t have to refer to a working farm with pigs and cows. Rather, Megan Molten says, “The farm is simply an escape outside of town.” The Charleston, South Carolina–based interior designer adds that in her home state, “It’s likely a plot of land that is upwards of 100 or more acres and can have access to the local waterways for fishing and boating.” At the farm, a cabin on site offers plenty of room to accommodate the whole family and more.

Lake House

anne hepfer lake house

Don Freeman

Designer Anne Hepfer’s lake house in the Muskoka Lakes region north of Toronto

The term “lake house” isn’t always the most direct either, says designer Elizabeth Drake, who operates an eponymous firm out of Winnetka, Illinois. “In the midwest, a second home is referred to as ‘at the lake’ no matter if it’s in the woods, near a lake, or on a lake,” she explains. “It’s probably due to the fact there are so many enjoyable little lakes; there’s sure to be one near the house!” In Michigan specifically, people go “up north” to their second home—as Drake puts it, “Where else would it be?”

Beach House

exterior of house

Emily Followill

Designer Ashley Gilbreath’s beach house in Rosemary Beach, Florida

You can’t forget this classic! Florida isn’t the only place where this term flies. In coastal Delaware, everyone looks forward to opening up their beach house for the season. “Obviously, they refer to the proximity of the home to the ocean, but that very much references a lifestyle of beach life and everything that goes along with coastal living,” says Katie Wittington, the principal designer and creative director of C&E Furniture in Fenwick Island, Delaware. People use this term to describe Nantucket homes of any size, too, says Kristina Phillips, the founder of Kristina Phillips Interior Design in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

Other Summer House Names

Out in California, things are done a bit differently, says Nureed Saeed, the founder of Nu Interiors, who finds that many people refer to their second home by its location. “The house in the wine country is their Napa house,” the Bay Area resident says. “The house on the lake is their Tahoe house.”

But don’t bother specifying the area you reside in on Cape Cod—that’s right, Jeanne Barber says, the Cape is always prefaced by on, not in. The West Hartford, Connecticut–based founder of Camden Grace Interiors explains, “If you rent or own a house, it’s called the ‘Cape House,’ not the ‘Chatham house’ or ‘Falmouth house,’” she says. “If you specify the town, people will give you the side eye.”

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