Cottagecore Is the Popular Decorating Style That's All About Intention

A trend expert shares how today's popular cottagecore aesthetic has evolved, plus easy ways you can add the style to your home.

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At our 100-year anniversary celebration this fall, global trend ambassador Patti Carpenter identified cottagecore as a top aesthetic, with both decorating and lifestyle components, that shows no signs of slowing down.

Cottagecore is a decorating style that evolved from traditional cottage designs. According to Carpenter, the trend started to emerge in 2016 but was on the decline—until the pandemic hit. “That evolution of cottagecore, in a more traditional trajectory, was on its way to not being as influential,” says Carpenter. “But COVID-10 re-energized that particular trend because we were forced to slow down.”

cottage chic orange rug kitchen white ruffle shade window
Brie Williams

The Foundation of Cottagecore Decorating

While at home throughout the pandemic, many of us reconsidered our spaces and spent time on domestic activities like cooking, gardening, and hobbies like needlepoint. “We made room for the time that it took to do something,” says Carpenter. “That’s what’s at the core of cottagecore: a kinder, slower, gentler pace of life.” Where cottagecore evolved beyond traditional cottage style is in the themes driving the decorating trend: it’s maximalist, nostalgic, and absolutely intentional. 

Cottagecore developed and gained popularity alongside (but opposite from) sleek, minimalist styles like Japandi. “Whenever there’s a trend, there’s a countertrend,” says Carpenter. Where Japandi and Scandi aesthetics are neutral and clean-lined, cottagecore is maximalist. It embraces a mix of patterns, textures, oversized pieces, and bold colors. But this maximalism is driven by nostalgia. “It closely ties with grandmillennial style or granny chic,” says Carpenter. Florals, warm woods, and colors, for example, are right at home in the cottagecore aesthetic.

That’s what’s at the core of cottagecore: a kinder, slower, gentler pace of life.

Like all maximalist styles, more is more. But with cottagecore, the abundance is intentional, in more ways than one. “Everything really got more intentional as we were forced to sit at home and pay attention to the things we were living with,” says Carpenter. She calls one intentional aspect “shopping with our values,” which includes considering the sustainability, craftsmanship, and source of the products we bring into our homes. Thrifting and antiquing, for example, are a staple in cottagecore decorating; these intentional purchases contribute to slow decorating and add a nostalgic undertone. 

Cottagecore is also about balancing functionality and style. Decor should withstand and be part of the activity of a home; rooms aren't just for show. “It’s not supposed to be precious,” says Carpenter. “It’s not a room we don’t go in but just point and say, ‘Isn’t that stunning in there?’ It’s really about being able to live with it.” Cottagecore demands both form and function, things that are not only useful but also beautiful. Think tabletop items that can be left out between uses and don’t need to be hidden away in storage or furniture that’s useful for everyday activities. 

cottage dining room

Nathan Schroder

How to Achieve Cottagecore Style

Looking for ways to bring cottagecore style to your home? Below, Carpenter shares nine elements of cottagecore style that capture the cozy, thoughtful aesthetic. But before you begin, Carpenter has some advice.

“Be mindful of color and the way color works together,” she says. Carpenter points out that color, pattern, and texture aren't perfectly coordinated in cottagecore, but you want an “intentional clash, not a haphazard clash.” She says starting with a color palette can help achieve that. And don’t forget that, even in a maximalist aesthetic, “everything can’t be the star of the room–you’ll need a place for eyes to rest,” says Carpenter.

cottage entryway

Greg Scheidemann

1. Layer Textures and Patterns

Carpenter says incorporating multiple textures, patterns, and prints is critical to cottagecore’s maximalist foundation. Don’t be afraid to layer them, using varying patterns on furniture upholstery and throw pillows (like this Better Homes & Gardens Embroidered Pillow, $18, Walmart) and blankets, or with wallcoverings and wall decor.

cottage farmhouse dining and breakfast nook with blue floors
John Bessler

2. Go for Florals

“In the early days of cottagecore, florals were tiny and tight, and now we see them getting much larger and expansive,” says Carpenter. While you can still decorate with smaller botanical prints, big, bold florals dominate, found everywhere from textiles to wallcoverings. Carpenter says show-stopping floral murals also add appeal to accent walls. 

cottage-style pantry with floral wallpaper

Jay Wilde

3. Hang Wallpaper 

Ditching paint for wallpaper is an easy way to craft a cottagecore room, says Carpenter. Wallpaper complements cottagecore’s nostalgic foundation, and it's a great product for layering maximalist colors and patterns. Try this Better Homes & Gardens Peel and Stick Wallpaper ($35, Walmart).

cottage farmhouse living room

Jay Wilde

4. Get Cozy with Upholstered Furniture 

For seating, Carpenter says to incorporate “overstuffed, vintage-feeling furniture” that are shapely and a source of pattern. Carpenter recommends styles with a carved wood frame “harkening back to that grandmillennial kind of feeling.” If you’re looking for a star element for your space, she suggests a bold textile on the sofa with more toned-down chairs for additional seating. 

Bedroom with wooden furniture and ledge with artwork
Jeff Herr

5. Embrace Color

Early cottagecore was about softer pastels and lighter color palettes. “Now, rich jewel tones are coming in,” says Carpenter, listing beetroot–the new burgundy–and sapphire blues, emerald greens, and topaz yellow-golds in the cottagecore palette. She notes that these rich, earthy jewel tones work especially well when paired with wood. Carpenter says color is integral to achieving a cottagecore kitchen, too; use it on appliances and cabinetry. 

vintage wood vanity in cottage-style bathroom

Jay Wilde

6. Accent with Wood Furniture  

Furniture, like hutches or sideboards, that features carefully crafted details is one example of how wood is being used in cottagecore decorating. Carpenter highlights accents like scalloping along chair edges, shapely profiles, and linear textures like plisse. She also notes the re-emergence of decadent burl wood. “It’s something we haven’t seen in a long time, but we’re definitely seeing a rise in burl,” says Carpenter. 

cottage style bedroom checked bedspread
Brian McWeeney

7. Look for Handmade Details 

“We’re seeing a lot more hand-detailing bringing in texture,” says Carpenter. This includes beading, embellished textiles, and even embroidered wallpaper. More broadly, incorporate handmade products that showcase attention to detail and craftsmanship. These one-of-a-kind elements add to the comfy, personalized style of cottagecore.

pink and yellow tablescape with floral theme
Victoria Pearson

8. Create a Tablescape

During the pandemic, we spent more time growing food in our gardens and developing skills in the kitchen. As a result of being more invested in meals and dining experiences at home, Carpenter says a thoughtfully decorated table came back into style. To create a cottagecore tablescape, stick with a color palette and mix and match prints with items you already own.

kitchen with green cabinets and wooden beams
Nathan Schroder

9. Use Style-Forward Floor Coverings 

Carpets and rugs are great examples of style elements that can be both beautiful and practical, protecting and adding comfort to floors while also presenting a layering opportunity. Carpenter calls it “art under foot” and says it's a prime spot to create eye-catching moments in a cottagecore house. She recommends a stand-out pattern with color, texture, and dimension or elegantly sculpted edges to take your floorcovering to the next level.

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