Today's cottage style offers more comfort, easier living, and a wider range of decorating options than any other style. No wonder it's an American favorite.
Cottage style easily reconciles your eclectic tastes. Unlike more edited decorating styles, cottage style is personal and forgiving--there's always room for one more find. You can mix old and new; rare and inexpensive; and simple and ornate pieces and forget about committing to a single decorating genre. This is a style about pulling together what you love; it's pretty decor your way, designed for your life.
In this slideshow, find ideas for creating your own cottage look.
Few styles hold the storybook charm of cottage-style homes. Usually smaller, both in footprint and curbside appearance, cottages generally feature an asymmetrical architecture with a steeply-pitched roof. Cottage-style homes feature natural siding materials such as stone or brick for texture. A prominent roofline and picturesque dormers give the homes height and visual presence.
And no cottage-style home would be complete without a small, cheerful garden to enhance a pretty front facade.
Somewhere in the evolution of the American home, families deserted the formal spaces at the front of the house. It's not surprising. The informal family room offers easier living, put-up-your-feel comfort, and cozy charm.
So what's happening today? Families are returning to those front rooms, but the look is all about comfort. Washable slipcovers, painted finishes, simple shapes, and a restrained palette allow people to live with style and ease. The transformation is celebrated with living rooms that show how to pair a new, relaxed attitude with classic cottage charms.
Getaway cottages introduced all of us to a relaxed style of living. It's no accident that bedrooms, the most personal of spaces, are where cottage style really works its easy-living magic. It makes perfect sense to pair luxurious details with the intimate size of a bedroom to create a snug retreat.
Bedrooms are softer than ever with pretty palettes and touchable fabrics.
With an emphasis on simplicity and serenity, cottage style is a natural fit for today's bathrooms. A limited palette of colors and materials adds serenity to a bath. Windows allow sun to pour in. Wrap the walls in beaded-board paneling.
Stylish salvage pieces add nostalgia to the bathroom. Explore salvage yards and flea markets to find pedestal sinks, claw-foot tubs, lighting fixtures. A worn finish on vintage pieces, such as vanities, grounds the cottage look and adds character.
The kitchen is already the hub of the home. Why not make it the hub of cottage comfort? Whichever version of cottage style suits you best, you'll find it easily transforms a kitchen.
The changes are simple. Pretty colors, painted cabinets, and soft fabrics give kitchens visual comfort. Hardworking surfaces and well-planned work areas offer comfortable working conditions. That sense of ease translates into a room that smoothly adapts from party central to short-order restaurant.
The natural connection between a cottage and garden is celebrated with outdoor "rooms" created within the sheltering arms of giant trees, porches outfitted with sofas and rugs, and dinner parties held outdoors.
Today, homeowners are as apt to hang a chandelier from an outdoor trellis as from a ceiling indoors. Vintage cupboards appear on the porch, filled with collections. This outdoor expansion grows living space as well, a boon to cottage life. New all-weather fabrics handle moisture, sun, and humidity with ease. Life on the porch has never been so sweet.
This fresh interpretation of cottage style, with a nod toward English, French, and Scandinavian cottages, showcases how to give traditional dressed-up elements down-home comfort.
Pared down and lightened up, today's cottage with a European accent offers comfort, freshness, and individuality. Gone are the yards and yards of flowery fabrics and the collections that only invite dust. Today's look means saving floral designs for pillows or paintings, editing collections down to a chosen few, and creating light and simple rooms with bare windows and painted woodwork.
Mixing and matching fabrics is key to English cottage style. In this room, you'll count seven separate fabrics: silk curtains, linen and canvas chair covers, pillows with roses and plaid, a bench in soft toile, and a French chair with an embroidered back.
Here's how to create a French-urban cottage look:
1. A restrained palette of gray, soft blue, and off-white creates a soothing retreat that draws on the colors of Paris and makes a small space live large.
2. Indiennes fabrics, printed with one color plus white, show even a classic pattern can be simplified for today's sparer look. Gone are the multiple patterns with many bright colors.
3. One-of-a-kind objects still define French style, but the look is more restrained, with one or two objects on a tabletop. Unexpected collections honor the French tradition of living with unusual pieces.
Here's how to create a modern Swedish cottage look:
1. Cover walls with tongue-and-groove wood. Add a Scandinavian-style wood-burning stove with tile behind it. Lay wide-plank wood floors and give them a natural scrubbed finish.
2. Use soft grayed colors, such as chalky blues and greens to keep the Swedish mood. Add in rustic colors, such as rust and oatmeal. Whitewash over natural woods. To bring in additional color, consider a modern interpretation of a mural.
3. Step away from the too-soft look with hardworking leather, handsome ticking, and linen. Use casual textured fabrics on formal furniture. Add soft linen panels at the windows.
4. Simplify. Put clutter away. Consider placing only one collection used regularly in an open cupboard. Unexpected surfaces, such as a bench, fill in for traditional display pieces.
The hardworking homes of America's past--farmhouses and bungalows--soften up when introduced to cottage style. Each offers the opportunity for creating a cottage look that stays true to its architectural and decorating traditions but offers easier and more comfortable living for today's families.
Touchable natural-fiber fabrics, painted furniture, personal collections, and soft color palettes reinterpret the style. Original features, such as worn woodwork, wood floors, high ceilings, and great porches, keep the softness from feeling too sweet.
Here's how to create an airy cottage-style farmhouse look:
1. In houses with rooms of ample size, few alterations are needed. Preserve and honor basic moldings and architectural details. Open up small rooms by removing walls. Adapt a small bedroom for use as a bathroom.
2. Paint covers the walls, but the color palette is more personal, softer, and varied than in the past. Try walls painted in pretty colors rather than just white. Wood floors topped with rugs still anchor rooms with a warm tone.
3. An eclectic collection of furniture works well in plain farmhouse rooms. Curves and curlicues add surprising contrast. Look for fancy chairs to mix with farm tables. Place a Victorian parlor chair next to a modern sofa.
4. An attitude of utility prevails in collections that look good and work hard. Bowls and platters sit on open shelves above kitchen countertops, where they can be appreciated as well as used. Watering cans might grace porch steps.
Here's how to create a bungalow cottage look:
3. Furniture from the era--1930s and '40s--helps establish the mood, but practice restraint. Too many old pieces can make a house feel like a museum. Add new pieces, especially comfortable upholstered chairs and sofas that are the right scale for small rooms.
4. Create a focal point from one large piece, such as a vintage cupboard, or from a collection, such as cream-color McCoy flowerpots. Simplify to make the pieces you love stand out.
Cottage style might take a modern spin, but it never strays too far from its classic roots--rooms that embrace human scale, windows that catch views of the garden, and textured materials that meld modern and cottage styles. Look for cottage icons, such as botanical prints, painted furniture, and neutral fabrics, presented in new ways.
Modern and cottage hardly seem like words that go together. But they're the perfect pairing to describe what's happening to cottage style today. Just think of what defines a cottage space: rooms that feel cozy, windows to the garden, furniture that's people-friendly, and accessories drawn from the spirit of collecting. Those elements are present in homes with a simple, modern version of cottage style.
Here's how to create a modern cottage bungalow look:
1. Bring bungalows up-to-date by accenting architectural details with white paint. Use mirrors as "Windows" to open up small rooms. Simplify to create clean lines, for instance, by eliminating natural brick around a fireplace.
2. Try an eye-popping hue, such as apple green or tangerine. Use just one color in various shades throughout the house, even adding just a tablespoon or two or colored paint to tint white paint. Keep windows as bare as privacy allows.
3. Solid-color fabrics with texture are the backbone of this look and let the color of paint and accent fabrics pop. Bold-pattern fabric in white plus one color updates the look of vintage florals.
4. A bold display, such as reprinted botanicals framed to create one large work of art, is one way to update favorite collections from the '40s. Objects in multiples and with modern silhouettes also help define the look.
Here's how to create a modern cottage look:
1. Rustic wood, tumbled stones, and French doors bring a livable quality to modern houses. Doors and windows connect a house to nature and draw in sunlight that embraces its occupants. Shoji screens and level changes, rather than walls, divide rooms.
2. The views of gardens through windows and doors create the best of backgrounds. Woods with a natural finish and rustic quality warm up the surfaces. Paint with a touch of blue or soft green offers a softer palette than stark white.
3. Texture provides interest when fabrics lack pattern. Fabrics include worn leather, old linen, and nubby cotton. Throws in touchable textures soften seating, which is covered by solid fabrics with a soft hand, helping relax contemporary shapes.
4. Organic objects, such as carved birds, birch branches, stone bowls, and rustic benches, ground the design. Make a statement by placing a few pieces of a collection on a piece of furniture built to display. Furniture itself serves as a collection when arranged so pieces look sculptural.
The getaway cottages that sparked the revolution in casual home design offer style for year-round living. Consider how a lakeside cottage can get dressed up for company without feeling stuffy and how a woodsy cottage lined with pine can look hip and young again. It's all in the mix of comfortable furnishings, fun accessories, and favorite collections.
The carefree lifestyle these cottages promised continues to be a way of living many of us want today. It's still within reach. Even if you don't own a house by water or woods, you'll want to live as though you do.
Here's how to create a cottage look in a '50s ranch:
1. Revamp the floor plan to create open living areas. Integrate the kitchen to keep the cooks in the thick of things. Retain a fireplace to divide seating areas and add warmth.
2. A double-sided fireplace clad in wood complements wood paneling used elsewhere to give a house a warm, cozy feel. Other textures, such as grass-cloth wallcoverings and sea-grass rugs, supplement the wood walls.
3. The new look is all about texture in elegant fabrics such as velvet and linen. Leather, trimmed with brass studs, refines the look even further. Every fabric is chosen because it looks even better as it ages.
4. Pottery from the '40s and '50s is still popular, but display is more important. That might mean carefully editing the collection and finding a perfect furniture piece on which to display it. Gather favorite objects and use them as wall art, to serve a meal, or as a lamp base.
Here's how to create a cottage look in a beach house:
1. New beach houses stretch up for the views and include plenty of windows and doors. Fewer walls ensure large open spaces that adapt when company arrives. Vintage architectural pieces build character into the new spaces.
2. Create spaces that live for a weekend or year-round. Use paint to reflect the colors of sand and surf. Finishes on wood flooring make it last even in a seaside location.
3. More durable fabrics make it easier to find great style you can live with inside or out. Solid-color fabrics that can be washed or bleached as needed add style. Ticking stripes in cotton add accents of color.
4. The beach is the perfect place to showcase a collection of shells. But don't expect an unsophisticated approach. Shells look elegant in glass containers and on shell mirrors. Vintage light fixtures, updated with paint, offer a collection that works hard.
Looking for more cottage inspiration? Explore these homes that embrace cottage style.