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Somewhere in the evolution of the American home, families deserted the living room at the front of the house in favor of conversational areas in and around the kitchen. But more homeowners are finding ways to turn this traditionally formal space into a more comfortable, inviting room.
In this example, the use of washable slipcovers, painted finishes, simple shapes, and a restrained palette show how it's possible to pair a new relaxed attitude with classic cottage elements.
Built-in bookcases add a personalized, lived-in charm to any living room. By leaving space for a banquette, these homeowners created a place to hang treasured photographs. Solid-color throw pillows add a temporary punch of color that can be changed with the seasons.
Mirrors do much more than reproduce the view. They transfer the sparkle of sunlight to all corners of the room. In a small living room, expand the view and the light with a mirror that stretches from floor to ceiling. If you place it behind an airy piece of furniture, the mirror frame almost disappears.
A modern settee combined with vintage farm and French furniture offers a welcome, unexpected contrast to this living room's rustic stone backdrop. Such a surprising mix is one way to infuse cottage freshness into a room.
Fabric treatments turn any window into a focal point and establish a color scheme. Pair the pattern with solid-color fabrics in a complementary hue. If you need to cover a window for privacy or sun control, simple blinds or shades with curtain panels provide the freshest look.
In this sunroom, a favorite china cabinet wears its original paint--white outside and sage green within. It's a soothing backdrop for a collection of white ironstone. Gathering collections in a spare palette creates harmony. A tiny white picket fence above the window serves as a charming valance.
A palette of white-on-white for walls, woodwork, window shutters, and furniture ensures simplicity in a cottage by the sea. Texture in the form of sisal rugs, wicker accents, and pressed botanicals keeps the look interesting. The drop-leaf table was cut down to serve as a coffee table.
This little living room has all the basics of cottage style: white slipcovers on soft, upholstered pieces, floral pillows, filmy window coverings, and vases of flowers. But don't expect this to look like a cottage from 20 years ago. Elements such as the Philippe Starck floor lamps and the metal-and-glass coffee table ensure a cottage that's modern at heart.
The condition of the table doesn't matter when you skirt it to the floor with hardworking cotton canvas. In a small house, this trick makes room for storage as well. If the table is set only when company comes, turn it into a library table for day-to-day use.
Who says a garden table and chairs can't take up permanent residence inside? This vintage set looks relaxed and inviting in a small dining room. French faience and its English equivalent, ironstone, match the soft, off-white set.