22 Fresh, Frugal Cottage Ideas

This Maine cottage was transformed with custom-made furniture, antique quilts, and one-of-a-kind artwork. Use our ideas to create your own home sweet cottage for less.


1. Simple window treatments ensure ample light. Any lightweight cotton fabric will do. Find tab-top panels for less than $20 at Target or Bed Bath & Beyond. Or simply hem all raw fabric-by-the-yard edges and use clip-style curtain rings over rods for an easy project.

2. Slipcovers reflect the easy-living attitude that's crucial to cottage style. Sewn from affordable canvas, these slipcovers easily slip off and into the wash.

3. Colorful vases look charming with or without flowers. Select flowers that might grow in the cottage garden, such as hydrangeas, roses, and daisies, and fill the vase to overflowing. Try your local farmers' market for bouquets that offer the perfect combination of color and abundance.

Affordable Accents

4. Vintage fabrics might seem pricey, but consider their design punch. A curtain panel should yield enough fabric for three 20-inch-square pillows. Shop for damaged or stained pieces that can be cut to make a pillow top; add new coordinating fabric on the back.

5. Beaded board creates cottage style faster than any other element. Wood paneling called Ply-Bead from Georgia Pacific looks like beaded board, but it's really a 4x8-foot sheet paneling with tongue-and-groove edges. At about $19 a sheet, it offers a lower-cost option than traditional beaded board at $8 for a piece 8 inches wide and 8 feet long.

6. Hardwood floors offer warm wood tones and an easy-care surface that looks good with soft fabrics and subdued color schemes. Leave the floors bare in summer and add rugs in winter. For an affordable large rug, buy several small rugs and stitch them together.

7. Worn paint suits cottage furniture. For a durable finish, use Benjamin Moore's Low Lustre Waterborne Satin Impervo. For a matte finish, use low-luster milk paint. Buy directly from www.milkpaint.com.

Color Selection Tips

8. Lattice adds cottage charm to walls and more. For a lattice panel that reflects the garden, buy ready-made panels at a home center. Add trim to top and bottom to encase the panel.

9 Ways to Add Cottage Style

9. Shells gathered during a walk on the beach and displayed in clear glass containers bring the beach home. Sharing the things you love creates personal style.

Seashell Style

10. Romantic chandeliers add charm to any room. You can paint and add crystals and lampshades to an existing dining room light fixture. Or check out home centers for new chandeliers with lots of style for less than $100.

11. Printed fabrics in pastel colors soften any chair. Extra details, such as the buttons on the backs and striped cording, give these standard chairs a style boost. To find similar chairs that fit your budget, check out the upholstered wood parsons chair for $90 plus shipping at www.linensource.com. Parsons chairs can be found in good shape at furniture resale shops.

12. Feminine curves on everything from the table apron to the cake stand edge suit the romantic nature of cottage decorating. Look for fancy pieces of milk glass to get the look for less than the creamware shown here. A milk-glass cake stand costs about $25, but you might find one for as little as $15 at a flea market.

Decorating with Fabric

13. Collections are key to cottage style, but the freshest way to show them off is with restraint. A coat of paint may be all it takes to transform a cabinet at your house into a simple backdrop.

14. Baskets give a room casual style. Buy a natural basket and spray-paint it a soft green. After the paint dries, rub it with steel wool for an aged look.

15. Style a lampshade with flowers. It takes only a little fabric and a self-stick lampshade to create this look. Try any fabric store or crafts store for self-stick shades. Cut and paste to create a pretty view for your bedside table.

Selecting Bedsheets

16. Details, such as eyelet trim on pillowcases and buttons glued to the edge of a lampshade, sweeten the look. Keep it simple for fresh cottage style.

Pillowcase Embellishments

17. Wicker brings the feel of the porch inside. Look for wicker rockers or settees at Pier 1 or World Market. For a vintage look, add cushions at least 6 inches thick.

Caring for Wicker Furniture

18. Architectural fragments, such as corbels, brackets, and molding, bring aged cottage elements into a new home. Look for vintage pieces at salvage stores, garage sales, and online auctions.

19. Knobs dress up a utilitarian piece of furniture. Adding glass knobs from Target at $4 each freshens a dated vanity. Look for new or vintage knobs at flea markets and antiques malls.

20. Wire baskets and a worn cupboard add charm as well as storage. If you can't find the right vintage piece, spray-paint a new piece and gently rub the paint in areas of usual wear with steel wool before the paint dries to create a patina of age.

21. Claw-foot tubs offer instant cottage style in the bathroom. Look under "Salvage" in the Yellow Pages to find a vintage tub in your area. It's possible to find reproduction tubs online, but be aware that shipping costs will add up. Check out eBay. You might just find a claw-foot tub that's close enough to pick up.

22. Wainscoting wraps a bathroom with charm. Watery blue paint tops the beaded board with restful color, and it's easy and inexpensive to redo when your color mood changes. Wood floors repeat the look of the rest of the house and work just fine in this damp location.

More Cozy Cottage Tips

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