Cottage Life rejuvenates old resorts with culinary and design INN-vasion

Rebecca Wise is a wedding, event and party planner and stylist with over 10 years of experience under her belt. That background serves her well in Dining INNvasion, Cottage Life’s newest series that aims to update 14 stodgy inns and resorts in Canada.

While Splendido head chef Victor Barry heads to the kitchen to help chefs update their dusty menus, Wise is tasked with freshening dining rooms with a serious case of the drabs. Cottage country has become a hot television genre thanks to series like Colin & Justin’s Cabin Pressure and My Retreat, and Wise knows why.

“In terms of a market, I think it’s just being discovered,” Wise says. “People, whether they own a cottage or not, love to watch programs about cottages.” Friday’s first episode–at Pow Wow Point Lodge in Huntsville, Ont.–spotlights the challenges faced by Wise, who is presented with a large dining room devoid of any eye-catching items or style that embraces the beauty of the area. She takes care of that in a hurry by heading outside to gather rocks and driftwood she uses as table centrepieces accented with candles to bring warmth and intimacy to the dining hall. The update took minimal effort and next to no cash, but the payoff was huge.

“My challenge is to make sure that whatever I did to the resort not only spoke to the resort–I didn’t want to go in and paint walls purple because that doesn’t make sense–but so that the clientele would like it and the resort owners would like it too,” she says. Wise is quick to add that Dining INNvasion isn’t like other programs that go in and change things to what the designer and chef want; too much change could affect the resort owner’s bottom line because of lost customers.

“One of my favourite episodes is one where I go and pick up a vintage bicycle from an antique place and I paint it bright yellow and we’re redoing the dining room in this yellow palette because we’re doing a brunch,” Wise recalls. “It’s not really about the budget and money. It’s about the people and the stories and why they need our help.”

Dining INNvasion airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Cottage Life.