Reinterpreted Cottage Style

The old, the recycled, and the unusual were sought after to recast this 1920s cottage in a new light.

When creating cottage style, decorating is all about making good use of materials on hand. Using all things well-worn, antique, or, in some cases, abandoned as trash brought this humble 1920s cottage to life.

In the living room, white sofas and creamy white walls let the collectibles and artwork take the spotlight. The coffee table is simply an old painted chest. White paint covers the walls, ceilings, and doors -- not for lack of imagination, but because it provides a simple backdrop for the home's eclectic artwork and collectibles.

A fearless combination of eras, colors, and styles works to make the cottage interesting -- just check out the living room's slipcovered sofas teamed with mid-century modern metal-mesh chairs.

Vintage Cart

This hip 1950s beverage cart offers the perfect setting for a mix-it-yourself bar. "Outsider" art -- often inspired by found objects -- fills the home with color and wit.

Outsider art is art that's created by individuals who are not academically trained in art. You may also hear the genre called self-taught art, visionary art, or folk art. Like the artwork in this cottage, the pieces are wildly creative and often make use of unusual materials or uncommon subject matter. Find outsider art in a big-city gallery, and you may pay thousands of dollars. Get creative with your thinking, and you can get it for free. For example, you may find strange, handwritten signs piled at the curb on garbage day or you may uncover a treasure in the attic -- a portrait of your great-aunt so-and-so drawn by your cousin for his third-grade art project.

Cottage Style

Beaded board hung horizontally ups the wow factor of a traditional cottage element. With old pieces-such as the schoolhouse coat cubicle, chipped paint and worn finishes only add to the cottage look. And there was no need to scout architectural salvage stores: The home's old door hardware was cleaned and reused.


Collectibles, such as the pillow that references the homeowner's hometown, give the living room a personal touch.

Cheap Chic

Dinged and colorful croquet balls assembled in an old orange metal bowl become a winning and low-cost conversation piece.


Trust your instincts. When you decorate with things you love, no matter how mismatched or homemade, your home will be friendly and personal. Recycle damaged bed linens and quilts as fabric for throw pillows and upholstery.

Vintage Green

The painted-green hue of a dresser and chair was popular in the 1930s.

Floor Boards

This gorgeous old claw-foot tub was hauled from a nearby field back to the home. However, before you drag an old porcelain or cast-iron claw-foot tub into your house make sure the floors can support its exceptional weight.

Rewire Old Lamps

Vintage lamps (rewired for safe modern-day use), such as this 1950s floor model, fill the cottage with retro charm.


Like what you see in this story? As of 2006, the items featured in this story were available from these manufacturers.

Vintage lamp parts -- Grand Brass Lamp Parts, Inc., Brooklyn, New York; 212-226-2567; Love seats -- Crate & Barrel; 800-996-9960; (product line varies). Art; furniture -- Judith Racht Gallery, Harbert, Michigan; 269-469-1080; Paint on beaded board, wood trim Proclassic Oil in Extra White -- The Sherwin-Williams Co.; 800-474-3794;


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