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Cottage Decorating Ideas

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

yellow cottageContributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman

A few decades ago, the average size of a new American home took a big leap up. Rooms grew in size, and the number of rooms increased as family rooms, game rooms, home offices and extra bathrooms became the norm. But the trend is now reversing. People are rethinking how much space they really need…or want…in a home.

And leading the way in the smaller home design trends is the cottage. The cozy cottage design appeals to people looking for a warm and welcoming home without the excesses of the “McMansion” mentality. If you’re ready to bring a cozier feel to your home, here are some simple cottage decorating ideas to get you started.

10. Well-loved is just fine

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turquoise distressed dresser

One of the reasons the cottage look is so popular is that everything from the furniture to the rugs on the floor is meant to be used. It’s not about having the perfect shine on the tabletop or keeping couches pristine for guests. It’s about using the furnishings and the space for living… all of it. So well-loved, well-worn is just right. Bye-bye fingerprint patrol!

9. Forget matching

cottage bedroom

Once upon a time, bedroom furniture was ordered in sets. The headboard matched the bedside tables and the dressers, the pillows matched the curtains and the accessories and art work were chosen to pick up some shade in the bedspread. Not so in the cottage decorating world.

Here, you get to find the things you love and make then work together. Everything is chosen because it’s loved. And it works. The colors coordinate, but they don’t match. The patterns look good together, but they aren’t the same.

8. The story counts

vintage dress on dress form

Mass-produced is fine for car parts and light bulbs. But when it comes to the things we use to decorate our homes, cottage decorating prefers the story to the perfection. Instead of using brand new items, show off the things that mean something to you. Put grandmother’s first formal on a dress form. Arrange your dad’s childhood wooden blocks on a shelf. Let people see your family treasures and share your stories with the things you use to decorate your home.

7. Rethink the purpose

teacup on lace on a book

It doesn’t matter if that metal basket was made to collect eggs. It works perfectly to hold your favorite bracelets now. And that chipped tea cup? Layer it on an old bit of lace and turn it into a vase for fresh picked wildflowers. Cottage style is about looking at old things and seeing a new use.

6. Bring the outdoors in

cottage with garden

For decades, homes were built with tiny windows, often up near the ceiling. And big windows were hidden behind blinds and heavy drapes. Nature was something to be kept at bay. Not so with cottage decorating. The line between what belongs indoors and what belongs outside is very thin and movable. Vines and climbing flowers reach up to windows. Soft, pillowy cushions appear outside on chairs and benches. Plants live on bedside tables and old dressers find new life as potting tables.

5. Think simple materials

wooden table

Cottage style loves simple. Simple materials like pure cotton for your quilts and natural linen for your table linens. Furnishings made of solid wood, not plastics and laminates. Accents and accessories handcrafted from metals like iron, pewter, copper and silver. Forget the sleek finishes and the synthetic fabrics. No plexiglass or chrome here, thank you.

4. Comfort comes first

white cottage living room

I remember hearing a couple of years ago that couches with short backs, narrow unpadded arms and a shorter seating area were the popular style. And no one, the designer informed me, wanted big, overstuffed sofas anymore. They just weren’t trendy.

Cottage style ignores those silly trends. Couches and chairs are meant to be comfortable places to relax with a cat on your lap or a friend across the room. Beds are meant to be comfortable for sleeping and for piling up pillows for a late night read. Cottage style doesn’t care about trends that ignore comfort.

3. The power of balance

cottage keeping room with fireplace

Despite what many design magazines are showing, cottage style does not have to always be lace and ruffles. There is a place for balance in good cottage decorating. Make room for simplicity and spare decor, too. White washed walls and simple well-constructed wood furnishings offer a serenity needed in any home.

2. Find the heart

food on wooden kitchen table

One of the problems with too-big modern homes is that they have no heart. No place where everyone gathers to talk and eat and connect. When you’re decorating a cottage (or any home in cottage style), make sure you create a heart in your home. Use furniture, color and accents to create a warm space in one room (usually the kitchen) to draw everyone in. Make sure there are big tables, enough chairs and lots of space for family, friends and guests to talk, help prepare a meal or just share laughter over cups of tea.

1. Let it evolve

cottage room

A cottage’s decor is never done. Unlike a more formal home where the decor is completed at some point, a cottage is constantly in a state of evolution. Things come in. Things move around. And things go to new homes. Cottage decor is organic.

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When it comes to decor, a cottage is not certain architectural style in a building. It’s a way of looking at space and a way of living inside of that space. Cottage living, it seems, is a state of mind.


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