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Main Elements of Cottage Style Decor

Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

Cottage style is characterized by comfortable furnishings, fresh colors, and natural elements. There’s really no right or wrong way to approach this cozy décor style. By incorporating just a few of these ideas in a room, you can create a warm and inviting space for the entire family.

Cottage style is a great choice for those of us decorating on a budget. Floral patterns, organic textures, weathered finishes, and traditional lines typify this charming decorating style. The casual nature and shabby appeal of cottage decor make it one the easiest and inexpensive styles to curate.

Walls

Anything from true white to soft, muted colors are suitable for your cottage style walls. Paint colors like muslin and eggshell can serve as a neutral palette for floral artwork, pillows, and upholstery. If your taste runs more toward formal English cottage with elaborately patterned chintz fabrics, you may want to opt for subdued tone-on-tone stripes so as not to upstage the fabrics.

Use floral wallpaper as an accent, rather than papering all four walls. A lovely floral pattern looks quite fetching on the feature wall in your bedroom or lining the back of built-in shelving, an armoire, or china hutch.

Beadboard is an economical way to add architectural interest and that touch of cottage to your walls. Purchase sheets of beadboard from the home improvement center and wrap your room with bright white or distressed wainscoting and top it with simple rail molding.

Neutral walls make for the perfect blank canvas for a cottage room.

Neutral walls make for the perfect blank canvas for a cottage room.

Colors

Pastels and neutrals are your guide as you plan your cottage style room. Bring in soft colors found in nature like blues, greens, beiges, yellows, and corals. If small children and pets aren’t an issue, try a monochromatic white palette. Combine it with either an oyster shell, light taupe, or a soft gray for a crisp, clean take on cottage style.

Another take on a cottage color scheme involves three balanced hues against your neutral background. For example, use pink, white, and blue or primary red, blue, and yellow. These color trios convey simplicity and make the room easy on the eyes. It works best if you keep the colors in the middle of the saturation spectrum so they're not too pale or too bright.

Start with neutral basics and then add color and pattern.

Start with neutral basics and then add color and pattern.

Furniture

Wood, wrought iron, and wicker furniture take center stage and add to the casual feel of cottage interiors. Pair those hard surfaces with soft, down-filled cushions—perfect for settling in with a cuppa and a good read. Tag sale and second hand pieces fit right in to this homey design style.

When selecting used furniture, look at the overall style and quality of construction before you purchase. Minor imperfections can be fixed with a coat of paint and fabric. Slipcovered furniture is a popular option for cottage style rooms. You can slipcover a rescued sofa or check out retailers for economical slipcovered seating.

This slipcovered chair and clean white painted desk create a garden cottage feel.

This slipcovered chair and clean white painted desk create a garden cottage feel.

Fabrics

Use neutral and floral fabrics on upholstered pieces. Throw stripes and checks in the mix to create additional visual interest. Don’t forget to add trimming and fringe to curtains and pillows as a finishing detail.

Rumpled cotton and linen fabrics embody the feeling of comfort found in cottage style rooms. Natural and pastel solids are a lovely backdrop for subdued cabbage rose florals, vintage yardage, stripes, and plaids. Chunky knit throws add a cozy touch when draped over a chair or the foot of a bed. Rag or hooked rugs warm up a room and highlight the vintage nature of this style.

A slipcover made from a combination of florals and stripes give a cottage room an eclectic feel.

A slipcover made from a combination of florals and stripes give a cottage room an eclectic feel.

Finishes

Furniture, cabinetry, and accessories should show gentle signs of wear. Avoid going overboard with white washing and sanding or you will end up with a country chic room rather than a traditional cottage interior. For the most part you want the warmth of materials to come through.

Painting furniture is a great way to give your existing furniture a special personality. Give gently used wood furniture a second lease on life with a distressed chalk paint finish and new hardware.

Wood should range from weathered surfaces that highlight years of wear to painted finishes with clean and crisp lines. Distressed furniture should be subtle without appearing too crude. Metals can be shiny or patinated, simple or ornate, and even slightly rusted.

A coat of paint transforms an old chest into a cottage keepsake.

A coat of paint transforms an old chest into a cottage keepsake.

Accessories

Hit up antique malls for items that can double as unique accessories. There’s nothing like scoring a weathered corbel to place on the mantel, a crystal doorknob to use as a paperweight, or an old pitcher as a vase for fresh flowers.

This is the quintessential example of one man’s trash transformed into another one's treasure. Your possibilities are truly limitless given a little imagination and persistence as you search for vintage accessories.

A wall of vintage suitcases dress up a cottage hallway.

A wall of vintage suitcases dress up a cottage hallway.

Cottage Decorating Ideas

  • Add Some Punch: If you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of neutrals, add a pop of color to your cottage style room. It can be things as insignificant as a coral accent chair and lamp. They will give the space a needed boost of energy.
  • Use Natural Elements: Warm up hard surfaces with natural elements. A jute rug, reclaimed wood flooring, and organic fabric slipcovers brings your cottage design down to earth. Bring in architectural salvaged pieces as a counterpoint to newer furnishings. Use beadboard or shiplap on walls, ceilings, and open front cabinets. Beadboard looks best painted white or off-white while shiplap can either be painted or left natural.
  • Keep It Cozy: Always keep in mind the cozy factor. Cottage style is meant to be relaxing and rejuvenating. Each furniture piece and decorative accessory should look like an effortless addition—as if they have been collected over time. Your cottage room should exude comfort and livability. Cozy does not mean messy. Edit your furniture and accessories to maintain an easy, simple vibe.
  • Mix Casual and Traditional: Maintain balance by mixing styles. Use good judgment and pick opposite styles that compliment each other. Top a traditional, turned leg dining room table with formal place settings on wicker chargers. Take the wicker theme one step further by seating guests around the table in casual wicker chairs.
  • Include DIY Projects: Cottage decorating is a wonderful way to get your creative juices flowing. There are thousands of cottage project ideas online. Or just flip through your favorite shelter magazine for ideas. Something as simple as adding a chalkboard wall in your kitchen to cutting a larger table in half to create wall-mounted bedside tables will add charm to your home.
  • Upcycle and Repurpose: This is the best part of cottage style. Think outside the box and give new life and a different purpose to vintage items. For instance, take an antique tiered wire stand and turn it into a spice rack for your kitchen counter. It’s super easy to do, just put on your thinking cap when you’re browsing the antique mall, yard sale, or thrift store. You can come up with new uses for almost anything old.

Identifying Cottage Style

© 2012 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 27, 2019:

I also like cottage style, Kenzie. It is a comfortable and cozy design.

Kenzie Cartwright from San Myshuno on August 27, 2019:

I love cottage style, it's so homey. I'm loving that green print slipcovered chair and white desk.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 09, 2019:

asrdesignstudio --

Glad you enjoyed this article!

asrdesignstudio from CARLSBAD, CA on July 09, 2019:

Hi, Your Decoration is really good and the wallpaper designing and your interior are really stunning. I like it very much. Thanks for sharing this.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on January 13, 2015:

Mike, I agree that wallpaper is a good way to impart cottage style. Lovely florals, checks, plaids or toiles give a cottage room a homey, authentic feel.

Mike Lintro on January 13, 2015:

I agree that wood with wrought iron really makes a home feel like a cottage. Also, you have to have the right wallpaper. Being able to paint some old wood furniture, to match the wallpaper in the home, seems to make things look nicer. It's either that, or redo all the wallpaper. http://HerCountryCottage.com

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 28, 2012:

Alwaysamom, you are welcome! I'm so envious. A lake house sounds so wonderful and relaxing. What a fun decorating project! I look forward to hearing how your cottage style turns out. I'm sure it will be positively charming. So happy you popped in to read this Hub!

alwaysamom from St. Louis, Missouri on July 28, 2012:

We will be moving to a lake home as our permanent residence soon and want to decorate in Cottage style. I loved your info and ideas.

I will be mixing two styles of decorating together and hopefully will be able to achieve a more relaxed, lakeside, homey feel. I look forward to your next Hub relating to Cottage style! Thanks!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 26, 2012:

So glad you enjoyed these ideas, Simone! Cottages are just so darned charming, aren't they? Almost everyone can relate to their welcoming and cozy nature.

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on July 26, 2012:

I absolutely love cottage-style homes and rooms!! Thanks for these lovely ideas- they'll certainly come into play in my future dream cottage!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 26, 2012:

Light-filled, monochromatic rooms are a favorite of mine too, Leah. A lake cottage would be so much fun to decorate. Maybe someday, right?

Leah Lefler from Western New York on July 25, 2012:

I love the monochromatic look with a single color to brighten the room. This makes me want a little cottage on the lake to decorate with your ideas, lindacee!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 25, 2012:

Awesome Om! Thanks for the tweet! That's part of the beauty of cottage style -- mixing things up just makes it better!

Om Paramapoonya on July 25, 2012:

Great job, lindacee! All these pictures look so inviting. Also, I love the idea of mixing casual and traditional styles together. Rated up and tweeted :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 25, 2012:

Thank you, Vanderleelie for the votes and comment. I think cottage style is so versatile -- and beach cottage is my absolute favorite. Next month I'll be publishing a Hub about the different types of cottage style (there's a section specifically on beach cottage). Keep an eye out for it. I know you will have a great time coming up with ways to decorate the house!

Vanderleelie on July 25, 2012:

I'm redoing an older house that's close to the beach, and I plan to incorporate the fresh cottage look you have described so well. Upcycling older garage sale finds is a terrific idea for saving money and preserving charm. Voted up and useful!

Ann Leavitt from Oregon on July 25, 2012:

The only reason I'm considering silver is because I saw some silver-wicker baskets in a Martha Stewart mag and they looked surprisingly stylish! Thanks for the advice about testing the color-- that's good to keep in mind. :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 25, 2012:

Jane, thank you so much for your lovely comment! Yes, I have painted wicker furniture (many times!) I think silver wicker is a really unique idea, but any of your selections should look very stylish. I would advise using a high quality spray paint for the project. Also test the color before you get started. They often look completely different on the cap than in real life -- believe me, I've learned the hard way. The good news is there are many beautiful colors to choose from!

Ann Leavitt from Oregon on July 25, 2012:

This was one of the best hubs I've read in a long time! I loved your photos-- especially the "green" themed room with all the large windows. Your ideas were helpful and I'm already scheming about incorporating some of them into my own room.

Have you ever tried painting wicker chairs or benches? I really like the look of white or silver wicker-- even maybe a beige or muted green might be nice.