A Decorator's Guide to Cottage Style Decor

cottage decor

Trinette Reed / Stocksy

Technically speaking, Cottage Style isn’t a style. After all, a cottage is meant to be lived in, to be enjoyed, and is usually the recipient of all the cast-offs from the real home. But Cottage furnishings and accessories have grown in popularity in recent years. In Cottage Style, anything (and everything) goes.


The furniture in a Cottage Style home is often recycled, purchased from a flea market, or collected from family rejects. Nothing needs to match--and it shouldn’t--yet the overall effect is charming and comfortable. Anything found can be painted or recovered to help it fit into your scheme.

Reuse Vintage Items

In Cottage decor, pieces are often adapted from one use to another. For example, a bench might serve as a coffee table, an old kitchen cupboard can hide towels in a bathroom, or a kitchen table might become a desk. You might also reuse a section of old wooden or iron fence to serve as a headboard. To fit into the scheme the piece just needs to look old and loved with signs of wear-and-tear.


Floors in Cottage Style homes are often informal and even imperfect. Bare wood floors are a good option. New wood can be made to look old and painted floors can have patterns stenciled on, either to add interest or define areas. Raw planks can be covered with vintage braided throw rugs. Wall-to-wall carpet can be too perfect for this style yet tile is okay. Covering any type of flooring with vintage area rugs is another way to get the cottage look.

Window Treatments

Since Cottage Style homes are informal, windows should look light and airy. Consider lace instead of heavy drapes or sheers instead of opaque panels. For privacy, if you need it, pick simple shades that can hide away during the day. When privacy is not an issue the windows can be left bare. Valances can be sewn in fabric or made of grapevines. Swags of lace help add a softer look.


Cottage decor usually calls for a mix of fabrics used for slipcovers, upholstery, curtains, draperies, table skirts, pillows and more. Coordinate a variety of prints like florals, stripes, checks, and plaids for a collected look. Slipcovered furniture is also very popular in a cottage look, offering relaxed and easily updated furnishings. Throws for snuggling under can be tossed anywhere.

Color and Pattern

While there can be many colors and patterns in a cottage-style setting, it’s good to have a unifying theme. English Cottage suggests pinks and greens in floral prints. A rustic style, with a twig or rough-hewn wood furniture, works well with forest colors—greens, rust, and golden tones. For a Cottage Style home near the shore, try beachy colors of soft blues and sandy beiges with lots of white. Patriotic or faded color schemes also fit well in these casual homes.


Any odd thing can serve as an accessory in a Cottage Style home, so be on the lookout wherever you go. Charming plates, old hats, musical instruments, interesting frames, and heirloom samplers become the center of attention in a comfortable cottage room. Antique shops, tag sales, grandma’s attic, and flea markets all reveal a treasure trove of items both useful and decorative.


Collectibles can easily be adapted into lighting fixtures by installing inexpensive lamp parts. Turn an old jug, vase, or tin into a one-of-a-kind lamp. Not sure you want to tackle wiring a lamp? Take a vintage find to a lamp store where you have it adapted to your need for minimal expense. The more unusual your item, the more fun you’ll have looking at it when it’s electrified with a cute shade.

Begin collecting your favorite style of hand-me-downs and treasures to create a unique version of Cottage Style for your own home.

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