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Defining a Style Series: What Is Cottage Style Decor?

Living room of a chalet with forest and mountain view.

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You don’t have to live deep in the woods or by the sea to understand the appeal of cottage style design. With its clean look and unique personal touches, it’s not hard to see why this aesthetic has been around for ages. In our opinion, it’s not going anywhere fast either.If you’re a fan of relaxing cottage vibes, this post is for you. Keep reading to receive the ultimate education on how to make this look work in your interiors. With our advice even the busiest spaces can be transformed into a calming oasis.

Pick a light color palette

Wooden chairs at table with flowers in natural dining room interior with poster and lamp. Real photo

KatarzynaBialasiewicz/ Getty Images

Cottage design is all about creating light, bright and airy spaces. When designing these rooms, this should be your primary consideration, starting with the color palette. Since many cottage interiors have an eclectic edge to them, color often ends up being a strong, unifying factor.As always, start with a neutral base. In this case, clean whites are the gold standard. Some cottage interiors even go so far as to build their design around an entirely white look. Doing so gives the room a simple and sophisticated feel. If you decide to go that route, just be sure to play around with plenty of different shades, patterns and shapes to give the room plenty of variety.If an all-white look isn’t quite your style, primary color palettes are also popular with cottage styles. However, they’re often in softer shades. Consider using colors like raspberry, robin’s egg blue or cornflower yellow to add some visual interest to your neutral foundation. Use an eclectic mix of furniture.

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Choose eclectic furniture

Open-plan sitting room and diner with white and beige gingam sofas (Ektorp from Ikea)

Andreas von Einsiedel/ Getty Images

Cottage style interiors revel in being anything but cookie cutter. In these rooms, each design element usually has its own backstory, especially where the furniture is concerned. It’s best to forgo purchasing unified sets in favor of hand-picking more eclectic pieces that catch your eye.Traditionally, cottage furniture has a vintage feel to it, too. Don’t be afraid to look at some outside-of-the-box sources to find the best buys. Keep an eye out at local antique stores, thrift shops, yard sales and flea markets. You never know what treasures you’ll stumble upon (provided they’re in sturdy, functional condition, of course!).Once you bring your finds home, all you need is a few coats of paint to tie them together. Choose a shade that fits well with the color palette above — with either a matte or eggshell finish — and you should be good to go. That said, if you’re not big into DIY, slip covers are also very common in cottage looks and can go a long way toward making different styles of furniture look cohesive.

Use unifying patterns

An open floor plan interior of a beach house. Living room and kitchen nook both leading into a galley kitchen and the stairwell bringing you to the three bedrooms.

Janine Lamontagne/ Getty Images

Incorporating pattern is another way you can bring together the hodgepodge feeling that sometimes comes with cottage style designs. Historically, floral patterns were very popular, but to make the look more modern, consider using a chevron or geometric pattern.Cottage looks are all about embracing comfort, so you have plenty of opportunities to work pattern into the room through textiles. As you bring the space together, focus on using a variety of throw rugs, seat cushions, blankets and pillows to make it feel as warm and inviting as possible.One thing we don’t talk about quite as often is window treatments. With cottage interiors, you want the room to feel as though a refreshing breeze could come through the window at any moment. Placing a few sheer panels around your window frames is an easy way to achieve this aesthetic. They, too, could benefit from a healthy dose of pattern.

Add plenty of accessories

Balcony terrace seating, Barbados, West Indies, Caribbean

Andreas von Einsiedel/ Getty Images

Regular readers of Freshome know we’re typically big fans of using restraint when it comes to accessories, but cottage style décor is an exception to the rule. These interiors are all about feeling cozy and lived-in. There’s no better way to drive that point home than by displaying your most prized possessions.Here, what you choose to display is less important than how it’s done. Cottage interiors have been known to house anything from personal collections to reclaimed, rustic items and coastal décor. However, it’s important to make sure your surfaces look purposely styled rather than thrown together. The key to that is knowing how to create groupings.There’s no definitive rules on this, but in general, designers recommend sticking to odd-numbered groups of items and playing around with arrangements of varying directions and heights. If you find yourself getting stuck, take a moment to search for some design inspiration and pattern your aesthetic after those looks.

Feel free to put your own stamp on cottage style design. Cottage style design has been around for ages — and for good reason. This traditional take on shabby chic is the perfect choice for creating a relaxing haven away from the stress of everyday life. If you’re ready to have your interiors feel like your own personal oasis, keep this guide close at hand. It has all the information you need to bring a cottage look to life.What do you think of cottage style design? Would you use this look in your own interiors?


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