4 Popular Cottage Decorating Styles

Updated on May 6, 2019
lindacee profile image

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


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 a number of 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.

1. Vintage Cottage

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 a variety of 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 a variety of 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.

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. | Source

Vintage Cottage Decor Ideas

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 colors of sea glass in pillows, chunky knit throw blankets and accessories. Sprinkle in woven baskets, shells, driftwood and coral specimens to bring home the beach cottage look.

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

Beach Cottage Decorating Ideas

3. Shabby Cottage

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

Shabby Cottage Decorating Ideas

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 ambience 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. To keep this style true to form a combination of natural surfaces and furnishings are a necessity. 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 gives 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.

A stone fireplace makes a statement in rustic cottage design.
A stone fireplace makes a statement in rustic cottage design. | Source

Rustic Cottage Decorating Ideas

How do you feel about cottage decorating style?

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© 2012 Linda Chechar

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    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      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!

    • profile image

      Holly Wojahn 

      6 years ago

      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!!!

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      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 profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      7 years ago from East Coast, United States

      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!

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      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 Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

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

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      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!

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      7 years ago from Western New York

      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!

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      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 profile image

      Angela Blair 

      7 years ago from Central Texas

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

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

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

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      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 profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      7 years ago

      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

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      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.


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