Fab At 50: Celebrate Smith Mountain Lake’s 50th Anniversary With Our Favorite Ideas For The Lake Home And Garden

A fun-filled year of celebration is underway to mark the 50th anniversary of Smith Mountain Lake in 2016.

From a special performance by the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra to a 50-kilometer ultramarathon to a 60s-themed musical weekend, the lake will be buzzing all year with exciting events and activities to mark the lake’s golden anniversary. You can find a link to the full calendar of events on our website, smlhomemagazine.com.

Here at HOME Magazine, we wanted to be part of the anniversary fun by sharing some of our most favorite ideas for home and garden—50 of them, to be exact.

1. Plant a variety of heat-tolerant annuals in lightweight pots to add a punch of color to your dock. Keep a watering can or small bucket in the boathouse so you can easily scoop out lake water to keep them hydrated.

2. Create a “Down on the Dock” sign to place at the front door so your guests will know to bypass the house and head straight to the party!

3. Show your spirit on the dock with a 50th-themed T-shirt from Bridgewater Sportswear. The Smith Mountain Lake Association (smlassociation.org) also is selling T-shirts, hats, life vests and bags bearing the 50th logo.

4. Add a garden seat or bench to your landscape to provide a spot to rest, relax and enjoy the view.

5. Commemorate SML’s 50th anniversary with items for your home or dock. Local retailers are selling 50th-themed koozies (Bridgewater Marina), stickers (Gifts Ahoy), pottery (Emerson Creek Pottery) and wine glasses (The Little Gallery, Brooks Mill Winery, Hickory Hill Winery). Stop by the SML Visitor Center at Bridgewater Plaza for more ideas.

6. Consider installing a water feature. Small ponds, fountains and bird baths can add a touch of whimsy and calm to your garden.

7. Install low-voltage lighting around your home for beauty and safety. Lighting the path from home to dock is particularly helpful.

8. Add a firepit in the backyard to use for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows in the summer and to use for warmth when the weather turns cooler. See the article in this issue for ideas on firepits to fit any budget.

9. Shop local interior design and furniture shops for all-weather outdoor furniture that allows you to expand your living space to the outdoors.

10. For safety and convenience, add a wireless remote system to your dock to control lights and boat lifts. It’s a service most local dock builders offer.

11. Grow vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, etc.) in large pots on your deck or dock to help keep them out of reach from Smith Mountain Lake’s ever-present deer.

12. Pot some herbs, too, to use for drinks and snacks on the dock. Think mint for mojitos and cilantro for homemade salsa.

13. Add a lake-themed sculpture to your landscape to create a focal point. If you’re crafty enough, make it a living sculpture by creating a topiary.

14. Hire a professional photographer to capture a special family photo session using the lake as an idyllic backdrop. This is an especially great idea for a time when extended family members, or those who aren’t able to visit often, are all gathered at SML. Purchase frames and display the photos prominently in your home.

15. Get details from the Smith Mountain Lake Association (smlassociation.org) on how to create a buffer garden along your shoreline to prevent fertilizers and other chemicals from running off into the lake.

16. Order a 911 emergency dock sign from the SML Rotary Club (smlrotary.com) to make it easier for SML fire and rescue squads to more easily locate your home by boat in case of fire, personal injury or illness. Signs are $27 for do-it-yourself installation or $47 if installed by Rotary volunteers.

17. Make your dock a reflection of your personality by decorating with a theme. Fun ideas include Margaritaville, nautical or your favorite college or pro sports teams.

18. Give your boathouse a polished look by finishing the ceiling with low-maintenance composite materials and a fan to keep you cool on the hottest lake days.

19. Install storage bins on your dock that can keep life jackets, pillows and other dock necessities tucked neatly away while providing extra seating for get-togethers.

20. Add solar lights around your dock and boathouse. Rope lighting or decorative strings of lights around bar areas also add a festive touch.

21. Add a retractable awning or drop-down screen to your deck or dock. Doing so allows you to enjoy sun when you want it and shade when you need it.

22. Pergolas, shade sails and structures covered by weather-resistant cloth, bamboo, reeds and vines also make for beautiful and functional escapes on hot lake days. See the article in this issue on ideas for shade structures.

23. Use a journal or guest book for visitors to sign, date and share memories of their visit to the lake. Or consider using a decorative box that can be displayed on your coffee table or a bookshelf. Fill it with card stock so guests can record “favorite thing about the lake,” “best meal” or “biggest laugh.”

24. Install an outside shower for you and guests to rinse off before heading inside. Decorative hooks—like those shaped like flip-flops or Adirondack chairs—are a must to hang towels and wet bathing suits.

25. Use a piece of driftwood to create a towel rack that is functional, whimsical and virtually free!

26. Purchase a decorative Smith Mountain Lake map to frame and hang. Not only does it provide a stylish accent, it’s a great reference for visitors. Maps can also be used to create other home decor items, like personalized serving trays.

27. Make a clock on which every number on the dial is a 5 (because, at the lake, it’s always a good time for a party, right?).

28. Suspended beds are a popular new trend for porches. Or, for a more low-cost alternative, hang a hammock in one corner. Either way, you’ll have a cozy spot to catch a lake breeze while reading, relaxing or napping.

29. Stop by The General Store in Westlake and create a custom Smith Mountain Lake home decor item with or without a reference to the 50th anniversary. The shop offers laser engraving (text and graphics) for cutting boards, clocks, picture frames and more. 

30. Purchase a variety of bright beach towels and assign each family member or guest a color. Everyone will always know which towel is his or hers, saving on loads of laundry. Station a giant basket near the door to your backyard (or wherever folks come in from the lake) and roll the towels up for easy access.

31. Construct a makeshift towel “tree” with rods at varying heights to avoid towels strewn all over the dock, deck or house and to allow for quicker drying time.

32. Repurpose water skis or wakeboards into furniture. If you’re not particularly handy, search online for local and national companies that sell these whimsical chairs and benches.

33. Invest in acrylic beer mugs and wine glasses for the dock. Not only are they stylish, they eliminate the risk of injury from broken glass. Check out local gift stores for lake-themed products or browse etsy.com for monogrammed options. Floating wine glasses also are available online, as are floating drink holders.

34. Stock up on board games and keep them handy for evening and rainy-day fun.

35. Jazz up a porch, deck or dock with a colorful outdoor rug. Choose one made from durable, all-weather material for a comfortable and carefree style.

36. Got tons of great photos of friends and family enjoying Smith Mountain Lake just piling up on your phone? Create a gallery wall or a custom photo book using an online service such as Snapfish or Shutterfly. Make it manageable by tackling one season at a time.

37. For your next big party, fill a canoe or kayak with ice to use as a cooler. It makes a stylish beverage station for everything from a backyard barbeque to a casual lakeside wedding.

38. Indulge in one of two new wines Hickory Hill is marketing in honor of the lake’s golden anniversary. “Full Pond” and “66” are available boxed with two branded stemless wine glasses for $66 at the Moneta winery’s gift shop. (See smlwine.com for more information.)

39. Give your mailbox a fresh look by painting the post and adding lake-themed accents such as a sailboat or waves on the box itself. Local retail shops also offer lake-themed mailbox covers and garden flags. Add some low-maintenance plants at the base for a pop of color.

40. Invite friends to bring their signature cocktail to your next party. Or create a signature cocktail of your own and give it a clever name. Not feeling creative? Try “Lake Water”—one part coconut rum, one part pineapple juice, one part Blue Curacao liqueur. Mix in a cocktail shaker, strain and pour over ice.

41. Add an inflatable party island so friends and neighbors can lounge in style! Many offer cooler space, cup holders and a mesh center to keep everyone cool. Amazon also sells a floating card table so you can lounge in the water and play games at the same time. See the article in this issue on hot new water toys.

42. Purchase a corn hole set for fun in the yard, on the deck or even the dock. Or create your own with a kit ordered online or from a local building supply store. Consider customizing it with lake-related graphics in honor of SML’s 50th anniversary. SML Signs at Westlake can help.

43. Jazz up some old outdoor furniture with a new coat of paint in a summery shade. Choose a durable outdoor paint that can be sprayed directly on to plastic or metal for a quick DIY project.

44. Commission a local artist to create an original sketch or painting of your home or dock. (The local Bald Knob Artists would be a good place to start.) Have it framed or create custom notecards with a 50th anniversary theme.

45. Perk up your porch, deck or dock with colorful accessories such as throw pillows in all-weather fabric, a lantern candle holder and planter boxes. Add a large basket to keep magazines handy for downtime.

46. Frame your patio with a seating wall or bench to add extra space for guests to sit at get-togethers. Use hardscaped stone or decking materials. Bench seats can even be used to create extra storage space.

47. Plan a 50th anniversary-themed raft-up party. Have friends arrive by boat and then tie up together so guests can socialize and share snacks. Create a music play list that includes tunes from the past five decades to play on outdoor speakers.

48. Invest in a frozen drink machine for the home, deck or dock to produce icy beverages for adults (think margaritas) and kids (fruit slushies). Or if ice cream is more your thing, inexpensive options are available to make it homemade—perfect for a make-your-own sundae party for kids or grown-ups.

49. A water carpet (also known as a water mat) is a fun dockside addition. Made of industrial-strength foam, these products allow entire families to walk, play and lounge together. They also are ideal for monitoring swimmers from the middle of the action instead of from the shoreline.

50. Don’t leave your pooch out of the water fun! In addition to a doggie life vest, consider purchasing a floating raft made especially for dogs such as the Pooch Pad from O’Brien Watersports. Water carpets, dog life vests and dog floaties are all available online and at Bridgewater Marina.