The clearest sign you are in a cottage-style home is the prevalence of white. Used in beachfront cottages, lakeside cabins, or cul-de-sac-hugging bungalows, white walls and woodwork exude cheerfulness. White makes a room feel clean, airy, and bright. Often in cottages, the furnishings are also white, from slipcovered sofas to whitewashed cabinets. The other hallmarks of cottage style are the colors that tie in to its inspiring environment: Beachy cottages feature watery blues and sunny yellows. Garden cottages have petal pinks and leafy greens throughout their spaces. These appealing hues harmonize naturally with the crisp backdrop.
The monochromatic all-white cottage color scheme is impressive. It is the essence of simplicity and restraint. White on the walls and woodwork continues onto the furnishings and upholstery. Even the floors can be painted white. Some of these schemes fall on the modern edge of the style spectrum, with clean-lined furnishings and minimalist art and collectibles. Other all-white schemes are used to convey romance, with flouncy slipcovers, crystal chandeliers, and ornate accessories.
A less restrained but still edited color scheme is the two-color palette. White is paired with a cottagey hue, such as yellow, green, pink, or blue. By sticking to just one complement to white, you can make easy decisions about art and accessories. If it doesn't reinforce the palette, you can skip it. A two-color palette works well in a kitchen, where decorative flourishes are limited. Pick one shade for the cabinets, and one shade for the walls. For this palette to be successful, one of the colors should be dominant, taking up slightly more visual real estate than the other. In this white-and-blue living room, for example, white appears more -- on the large portion of the walls, the slipcovers, and the wide frames around the artwork. Blue still makes its presence known but doesn't fight for attention.
Another version of a cottagey color palette involves a trio of hues used in equal, balanced amounts. White, pink, and blue is a popular version, with blues ranging from aqua to royal, and pinks from blush to raspberry. A primary palette of blue, yellow, and red is also a common sight. Sometimes derived from nautical flags or garden blooms, it conveys simplicity. It's also easy on the eye because they are the building block colors we see everywhere. To be successful, this palette should reside in the middle of the brightness spectrum, neither too pale nor too intense.
Browse cottage-style rooms in the Decorating Gallery and find plenty of inspiration for your spaces.
Try out colors before you paint with My Color Finder.
See how blue makes a decorating statement in this cottage, filled with flea market finds.
A rainbow of colors brings this seaside cottage to life.