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4 Popular Cottage Decorating Styles

Cottage Styles

What do you think of when you hear the term “cottage style”? Is it a sophisticated cabin in the mountains, a casual beach bungalow with coastal accessories, or a cute little house with a picket fence brimming with collectibles?

The answer is yes to all. Cottage style could take some getting used to, especially if you lean toward a modern aesthetic. It is a style that celebrates life’s imperfections and turns up its nose to high-end furnishings and the latest trends. That’s what makes this unpretentious style so popular and endearing.

There are several variations of cottage style decorating, each with its own personality and charm. If you are a fan of this quaint and cozy decorating style, here are the four most popular options to consider.

Thrifted items for a vintage kitchen add a nice pop of retro color.

Thrifted items for a vintage kitchen add a nice pop of retro color.

1. Vintage Cottage Decor

Vintage cottage is the type most closely associated with cottage style. If you have a fondness for flea markets and garage sales, this type of cottage style will certainly appeal to you. It allows you to let your imagination run wild. Picture a home decorated with a collection of old furnishings, accessories, and fabrics from various design periods. It should feel warm and welcoming, including items that reflect your personality and interests.

When designing a vintage cottage room, think about soft wall colors that blend with various fabric patterns and colors. Incorporate white shiplap or beadboard for a true vintage flavor. Don’t be afraid to mix patterns like florals, plaids, and stripes—that’s the true essence of this cheerful style. You can still find actual vintage fabrics, pillows, curtains, dishtowels, and funky tablecloths to pull your design together.

Old tablecloths make great covers for throw pillows. On occasion, you can even find entire bolts of vintage fabrics just waiting to make a statement in your home. If you don’t sew, you may be able to find curtain panels and pillow covers made from vintage floral fabrics.

Overstuffed chairs and sofas are a great choice for the living room. Throw on a neutral slipcover and use pillows and throws to bring color into the space. Mix different wood tones and painted furniture pieces. There’s nothing quite like retro appliances and light fixtures to round out a vintage kitchen. White cabinets paired with retro dinnerware and accessories serve as fun accent colors.

Light and airy fabrics and furnishings give a cottage a beach feel.

Light and airy fabrics and furnishings give a cottage a beach feel.

2. Beach Cottage

Beach cottage decorating is easy to achieve. Start with simple lines and comfy, neutral furnishings. Work with casual furniture and accessories with a color palette of the sand and sea. Think of light and airy spaces filled with old beach photos and coastal renderings.

Picture walls of beige, subtle gray, or pastel blue with contrasting bright white trim. That's the first step in your journey to beach cottage style. Imagine a roomy sectional or sofa and loveseat pair covered in durable cotton twill. Add a large, whitewashed coffee table, side table, and natural wood bookcase to round out your seaside family room.

An oil painting in subtle colors on canvas would shine over the mantle or a console table. A framed watercolor in soft sea hues can easily evoke the feeling of ocean waves. A still-life shell print with a linen mat makes it a must-have for any beach-style cottage.

Layer on a jute area rug, woven window shades, and breezy curtain panels. Inject subtle sea glass colors in pillows, chunky knit throw blankets, and accessories. Sprinkle in woven baskets, shells, driftwood, and coral specimens to bring home the beach cottage look.

A white-on-white color scheme is the quintessential shabby style.

A white-on-white color scheme is the quintessential shabby style.

3. Shabby Cottage

The shabby cottage has that faded charm that works in any contemporary home. It is wonderfully weathered, worn, and imperfectly distressed. If you're in love with this soft and dreamy style, it's a fun and inexpensive way to decorate your home. It features up-cycled furnishings with a curious farmhouse feel.

Soft neutrals and muted florals blend with natural materials and textural fabrics to give this distinctive style its laid-back look and feel. A mix of slipcovered seating, charming furniture, and slightly rumpled textiles create a look that not only fits perfectly with today's relaxed lifestyle, it will remain fresh and relevant for years to come.

Try a furniture distressing technique such as antique glaze or a crackle effect to imitate aged pieces. The easiest way to distress a painted piece is to sand around the edges to give it a worn appearance. You can even age metal lamps and objects using similar faux techniques.

Create a refined take on this style by using an overall palette of off-white, parchment, and antique beige. Add white-washed and distressed wood for interest and texture. To keep it from looking flat and boring, layer in soft colors, minimal accessories, and textural fabrics.

A stone fireplace makes a statement in rustic cottage design.

A stone fireplace makes a statement in rustic cottage design.

4. Rustic Cottage

Whether it’s by the lake, on a mountain top, or tucked away in a forest glen, rustic cottage style establishes a warm ambiance featuring organic elements. It has a textural bucolic style that can be recreated in the city or country.

Select paint and fabric colors in earth tones and warm neutrals. Keeping this style true to form a combination of natural surfaces and furnishings is necessary. A stone fireplace and reclaimed wood flooring will give your home the feel of a sierra getaway. Add texture and color by layering your floors with beautiful woven Navajo, Kilim, or Dhurrie rugs. Architectural features such as ceiling beams, columns, and weathered wall paneling give it depth of character.

Keep the decor simple, classic, and sophisticated. Choose furnishings that would feel right at home in a mountain ski lodge. Take your cues from a worn leather chair, riding boots, and faux fur throws. Fabrics in linen, suede, and wool are ideal for pillow covers and throws. Look for quality pieces such as lodge-style furniture, leather upholstery, and sophisticated patterns to lend authenticity to the space.

© 2012 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on March 07, 2014:

Holly, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! I, too live in Las Vegas (actually Henderson). Good luck with your furniture hunt. You should be able to find plenty to up cycle into French flea market creations. I will definitely check out your FB page!

Holly Wojahn on March 07, 2014:

What a find you are! Just recently landed for a few months time in Las Vegas; my home for 20 years is France.... As an artist/ Francophile, my fifteen years in Paris enabled me to comb through Flea Markets almost daily. Smaller Antiques markets sufficed during my past four years in the south of France!! While here, I'm up cycling tired old pieces of furniture, to reflect the feeling of French Flea Market finds, with handpainted and decoupaged bits!! On FB, you can find me at; Melange By Holly.... Vegas may be the final frontier, in terms of penetrating the typical "Glam Décor", with bits of French Cottage inspiration!!!

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

Dolores, I feel your pain! At one point I had a large collection of vintage tablecloths -- also perfect for pillows and valances. I didn't have the heart to take the scissors to them! :)

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on September 26, 2012:

Cottage style is so cozy and comfortable! My small house is perfect for this. And I have lots of vintage fabric that would be perfect for pillows, old tablecloths that just sit in a closet, never used. I just can't bring myself to cut them up!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on September 14, 2012:

Me too, Simone! Cottage style is so versatile, you can take it, shape it and make it your own. I especially love its eclectic nature. Glad you enjoyed this Hub!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on September 14, 2012:

I absolutely love this style of decoration. Thanks for the fun decorating ideas!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 20, 2012:

They are cozy and easy to achieve. I think rustic cottage style would suit your rural home the best. Thanks for reading my Hub and commenting, Leah!

Leah Lefler from Western New York on August 20, 2012:

I would LOVE to have a beach cottage, but since we live in a forest in rural NY, the rustic theme would fit better! Cottage themes are so cozy!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 18, 2012:

Angela, thanks for the compliments! Cottage decorating is the perfect thing for the first-time home buyer or someone straight out of college. It is so easy to do on the cheap. So good to hear from you!

Angela Blair from Central Texas on August 18, 2012:

Excellent information and presentation -- should be enough ideas for anyone approaching re-decorating (or a first time home/apt). Best/Sis

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 18, 2012:

Om, I'm with you. Beach cottage is such a laid-back style. It's one that does exude that endless vacation feel! :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 18, 2012:

Carol, it is amazing how you can incorporate cottage into the most unexpected dwellings. But, sometimes the architecture of certain homes just won't support such a homespun interior style. Anyway, I'm glad you're a fan of cottage decorating and can appreciate its special nature! Good to hear from you!

Om Paramapoonya on August 17, 2012:

Lovely! My favorite is probably the beach cottage style. It's just so simple and relaxing, making me feel like I'm on a vacation all year long! hehee

carol stanley from Arizona on August 17, 2012:

I love cottage decorating and little cottages with white picket fences. However we live in a townhouse far from that. Your hub was great with terrific photos. Thanks for sharing all of this.