Renowned for its charm, comfort and simple interior design, the cottage has always been a popular type of home. Typically located in the country or near lakes or mountains, cottages are smaller homes with unique decor, inside and out, that look and feel warm, cozy and lived in. A cottage style can be designed with the right furniture, colors, fabrics, materials and decorations to achieve an unpretentious, sweet living space.
There are many ways to create a cottage style home that reflects your taste and lifestyle. To inspire you with ideas, we’ve compiled a guide on cottage style interior design that will help you transform your home. Whether you want a modern interior or prefer traditional decor, you’ll want to explore these cottage decorating ideas to find the right look for your living room, bedroom, and kitchen.
What Is Cottage Style?
Cottage style is characterized by effortless and relaxed interior design with comfortable furniture, distressed finishes, textured natural elements, fresh colors, and cute decorations. Full of character and charm, cottage style decor is typically modest and cozy, and can be achieve with a mix of light colors, eclectic wood or iron furnishings, floral or gingham patterns on fabrics, and unique decorating ideas.
Cottage homes exude an easy-going country vibe with happy, bright spaces for a warm living area. Since cottage interiors are versatile and accommodating, there are many ways to blend traditional and modern designs to create the perfect look and feel for your home.
Brief History of the Cottage
A cottage is defined as a small simple home with a minimalist design. To understand the aesthetic, we should first talk about the historical significance. During the Middle Ages, wealthy people who owned large estates would enlist farmers to work the land. Those people, who were known as “cotters” would live in a small home in exchange for their labor. Over time, the style of small humble homes that these peasant farmers lived in became known as cottages.
Cottages are still found throughout Europe today as primary residences. When you picture a rural town in the bucolic English countryside, it is dotted with cottages. These types of homes can also be found in the United States, although those are typically used as secondary vacation homes.
Cottages are defined by their size more than anything else. The exterior can include details from any kind of design style. A cottage in England might incorporate Tudor elements, while a seashore cottage in the US might incorporate coastal-style architecture.
Traditional Cottage Decor
Traditional cottage decor is all about simplicity and personality. Furniture might be slightly eclectic and mismatched, with vintage items bringing in some personal style. The furniture style can be described as retro, antique or collected with a focus on wood, iron, wicker, and other natural materials. You’ll also find traditional cottages with exposed wood, brick and stone complemented by large windows.
Decorative elements are plentiful and have a character or interesting story behind them. The decorations displayed can range from personal collections of plates and dolls to rustic pieces, pictures, family heirlooms, and things you’d find in antique shops.
While cottage decor as a style came into being in the mid-19th-century, the furnishings aren’t as era-specific as they are in other styles like mid-century modern. You can bring in furniture and decorations from many different time periods to create a look that is unique and customized to your taste.
But while you should choose interesting pieces for decoration, you should also ensure that your space is not overly cluttered. A traditional cottage will also share some similarities with other design styles, including shabby chic, rustic, and farmhouse.
Modern Cottage Interior Design
Some people appreciate cottage interior design but find it a little stodgy and old-fashioned. In recent years, modern cottage decor has started to gain popularity and blends traditional and modern style ideas.
For starters, modern cottages are no longer owned by cotters or serfs, but by wealthy families in the countryside who want vacation properties near rural lakes and mountains.
Modern cottage homes keep many of the same design features that characterize the decor of the traditional aesthetic. For instance, the architecture is still cozy and welcoming vibe, but the buildings are larger and the furnishings are more contemporary, trendy, and chic.
While traditional cottage furniture, fixtures, and decorations are made of natural materials like wood, brick and stone, modern cottage decor incorporates man-made materials for a stylish touch. The result is a luxurious look and feel with upscale decorating ideas.
These homes may also stick to a more monochromatic color scheme for a more sophisticated feel.
Because cottages are so small, the color palette inside is usually light and bright. Darker colors would make these homes seem much smaller and tight. White is a popular choice for wall colors, although any neutral tones make a great base.
While a monochromatic all-white color scheme is gorgeous and pristine, if you prefer a little color, look for soft pastel shades that complement the surrounding environment. Country cottage style colors to consider include light green, pink, yellow, and purple is varying combinations.
While you can choose from many different colors, patterns and paints, the ideal color scheme should be unified. If you have a seashore cottage, look for ocean-inspired shades like pale aquamarine. A cozy cottage in the woods might have pale sage walls to pick up the green in the surrounding forest. A cottage on rural farmland could include buttery yellow paint. Again, there is a lot of room to showcase your personal taste.
Because this style dates back so far, natural materials are usually a featured element. Building materials like wood, stone, and brick are left exposed. The exterior of a cottage might be made of stone, or it could feature wooden shingles. Cottage roofs are usually pitched and may showcase exposed wooden beams.
Furnishings and home accessories will also use natural materials. Fabrics are typically designed to hold up over time. Upholstered furniture and throw pillows will be made from sturdy materials like cotton, linen, leather, and burlap. Other furniture like tables and chairs are often wood or wicker.
The natural elements surrounding your cottage may influence your design choices. A beachside home might feature vignettes like driftwood and seashells lined across a fireplace mantle, while a house in the woods might have a bowl full of pinecones or a glass jar with stones and verdant moss.
Furniture in this genre of decor will utilize natural materials. Other hallmarks of the style are durability and comfort. Upholstered furniture is usually comfortable and oversized. Couches and chairs often feature throw pillows for extra comfort, and soft chenille blankets might be draped across the backs of furniture so you can snuggle up with a good book. Because these homes are meant to be practical, sofas are often covered in rugged slipcovers that can be removed and washed.
Other furniture like cabinets, tables, and sideboards are often made from wood. That wood can be left natural with just a warm and light wood stain, or it can be painted. Chalk paint is a great choice for cottage furniture because it’s easy to distress and lets the wood shine through. This can give even newer furniture a vintage appeal.
Lighting and Accessories
Good lighting can make a simple cottage feel more spacious and open. Natural light is an important feature in designing a cottage, so window treatments should be chosen accordingly.
Curtains and shutters that let in plenty of light are ideal. White painted shutters with sideways slats would achieve this in a beach-themed home, while sheer or lacy white curtains would be perfect in a space with rustic or farmhouse elements.
Natural light should also be augmented with plenty of additional light sources. Just like furniture, there’s no particular style or era that lighting fixtures should adhere to. You can and should mix and match light fixtures from different eras and in different styles instead of matching them all.
Overhead fixtures and lamps with stained glass shades are very popular in these kinds of designs. Having a few of them in different patterns brings color and eclectic appeal. If your style is more understated, look for lamps with ceramic bases and shades made of natural materials like raffia.
Flooring is another area where you want to bring in natural materials. Wooden floors are a very popular choice, especially if they are vintage or original to your home. If you install new hardwood floors, opt for something like distressed pine with plenty of knots and color gradation so they have a more antique look. Stain wood floors in deep or warm shades to contrast with lighter and brighter walls.
Floor tiles made from natural materials like stone are also a good choice. If your style is more Mediterranean, you could use large terra cotta tiles throughout the home.
If your style is more farmhouse or country, you can bring in patterned tiles in rooms like the kitchen and bathroom. Tiles with a floral pattern are great in a country-style kitchen.
If your home was built in the 1920s, you could choose tiles with art deco influences. Flooring can be left unadorned, but people can also opt to put down rugs to bring in more pattern and comfort.
The defining characteristic of a cottage is always its size and simplicity. Floorplans and layouts can vary depending on a person’s needs and lifestyle, but there are a few common features you often see in cottage homes.
Cottages are generally built with porches and pitched or gabled roofs with exposed beams. These properties are typically either one or two stories tall and come with two rooms on each floor for a cute quaint look.
A traditional, vintage house with this architecture will often have a closed floor plan with separate and distinct rooms, while a more modern cottage may open up the floor plan.
The living room is the heart of a cottage home. The vibe should be comforting, welcoming, and homey. Select large, plush furniture like sofas and armchairs to curl up on and populate them with throw pillows and blankets in different designs and colors. If there are interesting architectural details in the room, play them up.
For example, you can update a vintage fireplace with paint or tile that accentuates its character and arrange furniture around it so that it’s a focal point.
Leave windows open to let streams of light through, but keep plenty of lamps on tables for additional light at night. For decorative details, visit thrift stores or antique fairs to find vintage items that go along with your style. A milk glass vase with a bouquet of wildflowers or an antique typewriter brings in some character and shows off your interests.
Bedrooms designed in this style tend to be cozy and cute. Bedrooms should have lots of windows to bring in natural light, with sheer or lacy curtains. You can also install discreet roller shade blinds so you can have more privacy at night.
For your bed, you can look for an interesting antique headboard. You can also get a bed frame made from decorative wrought iron that could be left natural or painted white. Paint walls in white or other light colors to keep the room feeling airy, but bring in texture by putting shiplap or beadboard on the walls.
For textiles, look for things like vintage french linens and cheerful floral quilts. Bring in mismatched lamps, shabby chic nightstands, and other offbeat and vintage decorative touches.
How To Get A Cottage Style Home
- Easy and relaxed vibe
- Comfortable furniture
- Light bright colors
- Vintage and eclectic decorative elements
- Natural materials including wood, stone, cotton, and linen
- Furniture can be left in its natural state or painted and distressed
- Interesting features like exposed brick walls or unique tile backsplashes
- Sturdy and durable furniture and decor
- Space for personalization