By Angela Stephens
Defining a style is a tall order to fill. For each person a slightly different mental image may be conjured up. When talking of cottage style, one might picture a quaint little house on the coast of Maine, a rustic shack by a lake, or a simple dwelling in a rural farming community.
Cottages were originally summer or vacation homes or simple country houses. As a vacation house, owners were interested in it being easy to care for, fun, durable and mostly for spring and summertime use. They were often furnished with leftovers, hand- me downs, or bargains. Pieces were meant to be used and enjoyed. Time spent at the cottage was supposed to be full of pleasures for the senses.
I like to think that cottage style is more of an attitude than a list of design details. The gentle breeze of a summer day, the relaxed bliss of a vacation, a cold glass of lemonade enjoyed on a porch swing, waking to the chirping of birds, and the scent of fresh cut grass bring a mindset of comfort and relaxation. Those sensory experiences can be duplicated in cottage style design. The trick is to find pieces that you love that summon cottage attitude while still producing a cohesive look.
Here are a few ideas to help create cottage style attitude:
While there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to a color palette for cottage style, it is usually a good idea to stick to lighter colors. Common cottage style colors can be found by looking outside at nature and specifically the garden. Shades of pink, coral, green and pale orange, yellow, along with varying shades of blue are among a few. Blue and white combinations are very common. Many cottage enthusiasts prefer an all or mostly white color scheme for maximum relaxation. Whatever color you choose be sure that you love it.
For comfort and relaxation consider overstuffed or at least cushy upholstery pieces. Slipcovers are popular in cottage style because they extend the life of worn out sofas and chairs and are budget friendly not to mention easy to care for. Slightly weathered pieces add an informal feel and won’t make guests nervous to put their feet up. Warm wood finishes bring life and interest to a cottage space. Painted wood and pine pieces are also often used. Many furnishings in a cottage house may have had a previous life – perhaps with different upholstery or a different paint finish. Garden and patio furnishings find their way into a cottage space, often in the form of iron or wicker.
Soft textiles in the form of rugs, pillows, drapes, and throws are both comforting and an easy way to repeat your color scheme throughout the room. Fabric choices include floral, stripes, checks, and solids, sometimes mixed all together. Cotton fabrics are an obvious choice because they are easy to take care of. Again, there are no real rules, but stick to fabrics that aren’t too fancy or difficult to keep up. Woven fibers in the form of baskets and rugs are a great way to bring more texture to a space and are seen frequently in cottage homes.
-Putting it all together-
Now comes the tricky part, putting it all together. Cottage style is by nature a little bit eclectic so how do you keep a space from feeling disjointed? One strategy is to repeat your color scheme throughout your room. Once you have chosen your colors stick to that color palette and repeat it. Inspiration can come from anywhere but common sources are a rug, dish, pillow, or favorite artwork. Textiles and artwork are also a great way to keep the palette together. To make furnishings that are different in style or finish seem more cohesive, consider painting them a unifying color such as white or black. Accessories are an important part of cottage style and should be highly personal. But going overboard on knickknacks detracts from the essence of cottage style. Keep it as simple as you possibly can.
Cottage style is difficult to pin down. When you get in the cottage mood it is difficult to imagine being anywhere else. Who wants to leave when you are on vacation?
About the Author: After being a student of Southern Oregon University’s English program, Angela Stephens has dedicated herself to the study of interior and furniture design styles for the past 6 years. Angela established Peniel Products, an online retailer of Home Furnishings and Decor.