Designing on a budget is a passion of mine. Cottage style gives me the opportunity to express my personality through my surroundings.
Cottage-Style Decorations Are Laid-Back and Unpretentious
If you prefer a relaxed approach to decorating—mixing wicker with wood, metal, and rattan, combining antiques with modern pieces, ignoring rigid rules of design—Cottage Style is for you. Ten years ago when my family moved into our new place, I felt overwhelmed by my life with a 5-year-old son with autism, an energetic toddler, a dog, three cats, and a husband who traveled often for business. In the thick of it all, I found joy and peace by embracing Cottage Style. It's whimsical, laid-back, and unpretentious, bringing fun and light back into my life when I needed it most.
1. Set the Scene With Pastels
Cottage Style begins with walls painted in pastels. Pastels create a soft, playful mood and have a calming effect. They make spaces seem more open and inviting. A pale, unobtrusive backdrop lets you go bigger, bolder, and brighter with furniture, window treatments, rugs, pillows, and accents (walls painted in brighter hues and paired with colorful furniture make a room look like a cartoon).
2. Embrace Asymmetry and Curves
If you're anal retentive with matching lamps upon matching tables on each side of your bed, Cottage Style isn't for you. To achieve its casual charm, you must throw out rigid rules of traditional design and embrace asymmetry. It's that imbalance that sets this style apart, providing the happy informality that makes us smile.
In addition to asymmetry, embrace curves. Stay away from furniture pieces with straight lines and sharp corners. Select pieces with curves that soften: rounded corners on tables, carved legs on chairs, cushioned arm rests, and oval rugs. In the living room, pull sofas and chairs away from the walls to form a circle, making conversation easy and relaxed.
3. Mix Old and New: Combine Wicker, Wood, Glass, Rattan, and Metal
Whether it takes two days or two years to decorate your home in Cottage Style, you want it to appear that it's been a life-long labor of love. This involves layering pieces—old and new—so it looks as if each one is sentimental and significant, placed there with intent to evoke a memory. Combining wicker, wood, glass, rattan, and metal gives your space the eclectic, casual, and whimsical look that characterizes Cottage Style. Don't hesitate to mix light and dark woods, painted and unpainted pieces, rough and smooth textures. Frequent trips to flea markets, antique malls, and garage sales will give you the look you want with the budget you can afford. Explain to relatives that you're decorating in Cottage Style and would love something in your house from them. They'll feel flattered and your home will become even more personal from the family contributions.
4. Provide Plenty of Soft Seating Everywhere, Especially the Living Room
Cottage Style is warm and welcoming. It says, “Come sit down for a while and get comfortable.” Plush cushions, mountains of decorative pillows, overstuffed chairs, and roll-arm sofas give that homey feeling that make people relax and be themselves. Draping a blanket or quilt over the furniture extends even more hospitality, letting guests know they can get cozy and warm if they wish. This is especially generous if you have elderly guests who might want to take a nap or get easily chilled. Adding a window seat in the bedroom, a snug chair tucked away in a corner, or a primitive bench in the hall all help create the style.
5. Make It Cheery With Flowers
Nothing adds Cottage Style to a home more effectively and less expensively than flowers. Unlike the tacky plastic flowers of days gone by that sat around and gathered dust, silk flowers today are gorgeous, look realistic, and clean up easily. Daisies, geraniums, and carnations offer a casual vibe while roses and lilies look more formal. Some decorators choose one particular flower to use as their signature throughout the home, creating continuity and charm.
Place flowers in unique eye-catching containers such as wicker baskets, mason jars, watering cans, ceramic pitchers, Coke bottles, teapots, and antique umbrella stands. Add floral touches throughout your home with furniture fabrics, wall stencils, area rugs, mats, and decorative pillows. Make sure you have some kind of natural element in every room. In addition to flowers (real or artificial), decorate with plants, twigs, leaves, feathers, and shells.
6. Hang Plates on the Walls
Use plates—both old and new—to create a look of whimsy and add dimension to your design. Think outside the box, integrating the plates in places other than the kitchen. Choose different styles, patterns, and sizes. Hang them with colorful ribbon if you want to add even more charm. Group them by color to create a soothing scene. Goodwill, garage sales, and thrift stores are terrific sources for finding unique plates at reasonable prices.
7. Invest in Painted Furniture or Make Some Yourself
Painted furniture makes your Cottage Style pop. You can spend a lot of money on one-of-a-kind professionally-done pieces or just a little to spray-paint furniture you already have. You can distress, lacquer, or stencil to make the pieces unique. Having painted your walls in pastels, you can now go bolder and brighter with furniture, making it a focal point in the room. To add even more pizazz, you can add color to doors, stairs, and wooden floors.
8. Use Tiles to Add Charm and Personality
Tiles are typically reserved for bathrooms and entry ways. But, in Cottage Style, they're seen in every room of a house, adding playfulness and character. Whether they're glass, ceramic, or porcelain, tiles are used for back-splashes and countertops, on stairs and fireplaces, and on furniture and shelves.
Decorating with mosaic tiles adds texture, color, and charm. Because they're fun and easy to make, mosaics are the perfect parent-child project. The finished product will be a unique addition to your home, evoking memories of your time together. Simple mosaic projects include:
- Flower Pots or Vases
- Birdhouses or Birdbaths
- Frames and Mirrors
- Tables and Chairs
- Jewelry Boxes
- Servings Trays
While we typically associate mosaics with ceramic tiles, they can also be created with buttons, bottle caps, decorative paper, and fabric.
9. Pair Wood Floors With Area Rugs
Wood floors paired with area rugs are quintessential to Cottage Style. Needlepoint rugs add a romantic feel, hooked and braided rugs give a country casual vibe, and seagrass rugs add texture. Choose round or oval rugs to soften the look. Because your walls got painted in pale pastels, you can get more dramatic with area rugs—using bolder patterns, brighter colors, and unusual textures.
The area rug you select for your living room is especially crucial. It will anchor the gathering space where family and friends will sit and talk, kids will play, and memories will get made.
10. Make It Personal
The joy of decorating your home comes from personalizing it and never stopping. Incorporate family photos. Put children's artwork in frames. Bring in memories from your family's past: old sports jerseys, baby rattles and toys, Grandma's homemade quilts, and Aunt Jo's embroidered pillows. Integrate your family's collections: teacups, baseball cards, license plates, snow globes, and stuffed animals. Have fun while designing your Cottage Style home and embrace the whimsy!
© 2016 McKenna Meyers
McKenna Meyers (author) on July 25, 2017:
Thanks, Jane. You made my day. Like you, I love finding old pieces of furniture at flea markets and garage sales and incorporating them into my home. With cottage style, you can create a comfortable and beautiful home on a shoestring budget and feel good about it.
Jane from Uk on July 25, 2017:
Love cottage style too, it's warm, cozy and inviting. I love painting old pieces of furniture and finding a place in my home for them.
Great hub I so enjoyed reading it!!
McKenna Meyers (author) on August 15, 2016:
It's a great style for family life because it's not fussy. Chips and scratches just add "character" to the furniture and aren't a big deal. Thanks for reading.
Denise McGill from Fresno CA on August 15, 2016:
Super cool. I love cottage style. Thanks.