Cottage Style Defined

Get inspired by simple cottage home decorating ideas.

By Lisa Frederick

Although cottage style today graces even the most upscale homes, its roots lie in modest means and making do. The hallmark elements that characterize this popular look—pale paint colors, distressed surfaces, humble fabrics, and found treasures—were born of practicality in an era when high design was available only to the wealthy.

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The Basics

Casual Country/Rustic Kitchen by Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson

Cottage style doesn't follow rigid guidelines; instead, it's more of an attitude. It's about relaxation and resourcefulness, easy living, and a sense of contentment. Casual, comfortable, and lighthearted, it embraces imperfection and nimbly straddles both the past and present through its mix of weathered furnishings and fresh simplicity.

These designer rooms employ cottage style beautifully:

Get the Look

If cottage style strikes your fancy, try these strategies for blending it into your interiors.

Iron and Brass Sleigh Bed by Charles P. Rogers
Charles P. Rogers
Painted furnishings. In the past, humble furnishings often were made of low-grade wood, painted to mask its imperfections, and the painted look still is integral to cottage decorating. Sanded or lightly distressed edges create an impression of age, wear, and tear.

Pale colors.
White tones anchor the cottage palette, but other light and neutral hues round it out. Choose faded greens, yellows, and blues, or weave in dusty lilac, lavender, and rose. Cottage style can handle a few jolts of brighter color as long as you cut it with swaths of pale neutrals. Golden wood, such as pine, maple and oak complement the color scheme.

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