So what exactly is cottage style? Today we will explore the roots of cottage style, the common variations of this charming style, and simple ways you can add this style into your home! Let’s go visit some cottages!
Traditional English Country Manor House Style
This style was more formal, using grand proportions, expensive materials, symmetry, and object gathered from extensive travels. Think elaborate “show” rooms with jacquard wallpaper, high ceilings, ornate moldings, fancy drapes using yards and yards of fabric and trim. Decorative items were often collected from foreign travels giving the style a “traveled” look and contributing to the quirk often found in English homes today. This is “mother” style from which the English cottage style descended thanks to John Fowler & Nancy Lancaster.
These rooms had a more “done” look that Fowler & Lancaster intentionally strayed from. Birth of the English Country Cottage: during the feudal period in England’s history the lord lived in the Great house and portions of his land and a small building of traditional building called a “cot”, “cote”, or hut would be “let” or rented to a “cotter”. A cotter was a Scottish term for a pheasant farmer. In exchange for the land and cot, the cotter would provide some sort of service to the lord. Over time these cots were called cottages and they not only grew in size but began to resemble the grand house in interior design just on a simpler scale. This style is the first interpretation flowing from the traditional country house style. More informal, the admirer of this style favors casual living above trend or convention. Quality is still important as you will see furniture from decades past, but it will often be clad in the original, rather shabby upholstery.
Nancy Lancaster knew that a degree of informality promotes relaxation – hence the English adherence to comfort above all. She also held that every room should have something “ugly” to offset the beauty of other items in the room. Neither did she believe in perfection. “Crossing too many t’s and dotting too many i’s makes a room look overdone and tiresome.” she said.
These grand manor rooms had a more “done” look that Fowler & Lancaster intentionally strayed from. Hence the birth of the English Country Cottage. During the feudal period in England’s history the lord lived in the Great house and on portions of his land were small traditional buildings called “cots”. These cots or hut would be “let” or rented to a “cotter”. A cotter was a Scottish term for a pheasant farmer. In exchange for the land and cot, the cotter would provide some sort of service to the lord. Over time these cots were called cottages and began resembling the grand house in interior decoration on a simpler scale.
The English Manor house would be the “mother” style and, the simple English cottage style a direct descendant. This style is the first interpretation flowing from the traditional country house style. More informal, the admirer of this style favors casual living above trend or convention. Quality is still important as you will see furniture from decades past, often be clad in the original rather shabby upholstery.
English Cottage Style
The English cottage style pulls more strongly from the original English manor or country house than the other styles. There is a sense of history about the furniture, artwork, and decor items. This often comes across effortlessly because these pieces actually do have history. They have been passed down from generation to generation. This style is the little sister to the manor house in as the main influence is derived there, but the greatest difference from the manor lies in the favor of comfort and livability.
Elements of English Cottage Style:
- In architecture (walls/floors): the houses are usually small and have cozy nocks. You will see exposed beams. On the walls you’ll see very little sheetrock. Most walls are tongue and groove, brick, stone, or wallpapered. stone or brick walls, and old brick, stone, or wood flooring covered with wool or rag rugs. Open shelving in the kitchen.
- Lighting/furnishings: this look favors a soft ambient glow through so you’ll rarely see rooms lit with overhead lighting, or it will be put on a dimmer. There are typically lamps everywhere in every shape, color, size, and often with the classic pleated shade. Antique furniture, mixed wood finishes, but more dark wood, and some painted furniture. Furniture emphasizes comfort with plush rolled-arm sofas, deep wingbacks, and a liberal sprinkling of throws and cushions. Casual, practical living generally oblivious to trends
- Color Palette/Décor: Here you’ll see color in a couple different camps from muted & natural, to bright & quirky. In décor the English indoor/outdoor lifestyle and love of flower gardening is revealed through their tendency to have flowers on everything… in addition, the British enjoy reading and keep books always within easy reach. Art is required in creating the English cottage style and you’ll see it everywhere.
This style is probably the most recognized for its fullness in the “stuff”, color & pattern, and the emphasis on comfort, and personalization. Most of the other styles (except French) are more regimented in design aesthetic, and color palette.
In an article published by House & Garden, written by Ros Byam Shaw. “Of all the styles of decoration that have flourished over the past 50 years, none has been as enduring as that associated with the English country house. Though ‘English country house style’ has never been exclusively English, was perfected by an American, and pops up in Clapham nearly as often as in the Cotswolds, its decorative tropes are instantly recognisable: a mix of antique furnishings, at least one capacious sofa with a generous serving of cushions, rugs, table lamps with fabric shades, and flowers both fresh and recreated in prints and paintings. Antique textiles, a dash of modernity, a flourish of the oriental, and a couple of dogs can be added for extra flavour. Part of the success of this style is its tolerance and flexibility. Unlike minimalism, which demands straight-edged perfection, or rough luxe with its ban on prettiness, English country house style embraces wear and tear, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.”
Isn’t the English way of mixing color and pattern fabulous?! I’ve been enamored with this seemingly effortless skill and have studying many, many photographs to learn the secrets. Here are the tips I’ve picked up:
- Choose a color palette either warm, or cool. This will help all the pattern seem to come from one “family”
- Choose one, or two feature fabrics. Feature fabrics generally have the most colors and largest patterns.
- Aviod too many floral prints… (I know, I know it doesn’t seem possible). Breaking up floral prints with stripes, checks, dots, or solid textured fabrics (like corduroy) gives a more balanced look.
French Cottage Style
The overall feel of this style is a blend of the romantic and rustic, which can swing from quite fancy, to humble and rustic. You will see more chandeliers, gilded picture frames, curved furniture, painted furniture, and dreamy artwork. shabby elegance with a rustic backbone/framework.
Elements of French Cottage Style:
- Architecture (walls/floors): Wood finishes can be raw wood, weathered gray, or covered in delightfully chipped paint with gold touches. Think faded glamour.
- Lighting/furnishings: French chandeliers, wall sconces, brass candlesticks, and Chrystal lamps are commonly seen in French cottages. Furniture has curved lines with carved wood edges. You may see tufting, as well as the casual slipcover in vintage French grain sacks. The fabrics, while used simply, can be sumptuous satin, velvet, jacquard, toile, and historical tapestry. Often these fabrics are gently faded or tattered contributing to the faded beauty of this style. This style mixes well with English cottage and farmhouse.
- Color Palette/Décor: Color palettes usually include a muted or neutral monochromatic scheme, or soft pastels including the classic French blue.
Photo courtesy of Theelliothomestead.com.
Another trademark of French cottage decorating is the use of copper. This copper bathtub is stunning! You will also see collections of copper in the kitchen to accompany the magnificent range and gourmet meals.
In the French cottage style juxtaposition is king. Think faded glamour, or aged beauty. If you were to picture this style in an out fit a worn blue jean jacket paired with an antique lace skirt would be the perfect blend of rustic romance.
In these bedrooms you see a backdrop of soft French pastel colors in ballet pink and powder blue. The romance of floral fabrics, curved furniture, and ornate picture frames is happily mixed with rugged exposed beams, heavily textured plaster, and practical jute floor coverings.
French color palettes:
- Older Tuscan styles of red reds, golden yellows, and bright navy blues.
- Soft pastels: Dreamy powder blues and ballet pink.
- Monochromatic neutrals: whites and creams
Coastal Cottage Style
Think simple, serene, light, bright, and casual. The focus with the coastal cottage is on being outdoors, or bringing the outdoors in. Decor is generally minimal, casual, and unfussy. An emphasis on blurring the lines of indoor/outdoor living.
Elements of Coastal Cottage Style
- The architecture reflects natural elements such as exposed beams in raw wood, natural finishes on wood flooring, stone accent walls, and lots of windows.
- Lighting/furnishings: Lighting includes lamps in natural raw wood, driftwood, glass, baskets, or textured crocks and pottery. In furnishings hard furnishings you’ll see wood finishes in naturally finished, raw, or weathered wood, as well as chippy paint. Typical soft furnishings include casual rolled arm sofas in slipcovers, deep comfy armchairs, and wooden farmhouse tables in a natural or raw wood finish. Fabrics for curtains, throw pillow, or rugs will include stripes, textured fabrics such as linen and drop cloth or burlap, and woven, jute rugs.
- Color Palette/Décor: Think natural, neutral, light, and bright with a clear seaside flavor in blues, greys, greens, sand, and creams. Décor styles are relaxed, and may include seaside paintings, driftwood displays, seashell collections, oars, and duck decoys.
Modern Cottage Style
This style, as the name suggests, is a more recent variation of the cottage style. The look has clean lines, neutral, or strongly contrasting color palettes, minimal furnishings, with the architecture often making the loudest statement. This is the more pared down version of cottage style and where the modern “farmhouse” lover could merge easily into a “cottage-y” look.
Elements of Modern Cottage Style:
- Architecture (walls/floors): The open floor plan concept is more prevalent here with higher ceilings and exposed beams creating sharp angles. Walls are smooth sheet rock, or plaster and texture is kept at a minimum.
- Lighting/furnishings: Light fixtures can play a large role as the statement piece in the room. Overhead pendants in glass or metal are often oversized and sculptural.
- Color Palette/Décor: neutral, with pops of black, or with dark colors as accents.
Why does interior design matter? It is from home that we venture out into the world, return for rest and refuge, and rejoice with friends and family. Cultivating the art of a certain style in your home creates an atmosphere of calm, comfort, and intention. By establishing the why and how your home reflects the needs and tastes of your family you create a place of refuge and rejoicing to share. By learning the elements of your style, you gain focus. You can search for specific pieces on a budget to tailor the feeling that style offers as well as the function that will best serve your family.
My all-time best cottage style design tip: Really, this tip applies to any style of interior design. Create comfort. The function of your home is more important than how it looks. You use your home first and when it functions well, you enjoy your home. Take careful note of how you and your family live in your home and look for ways to make it more comfortable, to serve you more smoothly. Then make it pretty!
Thank you for joining me today as we strolled through several different cottage styles! I hope you gained some insights into the elements of each style and how to use them in your home. Until next time,
some lovely examples!! Thank you for exploring each cottage style. I admit I am at a loss with which is which, it’s nice to have some concrete examples. I love all the cottage styles and I fear my house reflects that, but maybe that’s not so bad!
Hello, Miss Josette!
I’m glad you found your visit defining the cottage styles to be helpful. No worries trying to figure out which cottage style is yours ~ the mix is delightful! Really the only place where you’d find a “pure” example of a certain style is in a museum ~ and who wants a home like that?! A true reflection of your personality will shine through the pieces that reflect your taste. Mix well, let it bake, and tweak the “recipe” as you go!
Ellen Seagren says
Wonderful post and video! I feel like I’ve taken a class in interior design with all the information and examples you provided. The list of books and blogs is so helpful. I look forward to some long evenings with a cup of tea and stack of books to slowly savor. Thank you for the explanation of why home design matters. Sometimes I chide myself for paying to much attention to it all but maybe that’s what a “home-body” truly is!
Good afternoon, Miss Ellen!
How exciting to see you pop up here on my blog ~ welcome! I’m thrilled you found today’s visit encouraging & helpful, it is my hope that this video will serve as a useful reference for design style definition and direction in my viewers homes. Most of all, I’m glad the thoughts shared at the end of the visit on making our homes lovely resonated with you. As long as we keep sight of the fact that serving & blessing our families (& not feeding a collection obsession, or as an excuse to shop), is the ultimate goal we will be successful “home-bodies”! I have a couple “new” books from the library to peruse with a cup of tea in the evening as well!
Lina Frandin says
Thank you Rachel…so much! I enjoyed this video due to my eclectic style of English, French, & Coastal!
I love them all. I have created my home, built in 1913, with a sense of warmth, comfort, and beauty. I love how you placed the best pictures for these designs. The florals, plus the art work, never has to break the bank, and you show us how to utilize these in your own home. I love your guest room art wall!
Thank you for the tips, the book ideas, and most of all what a wonderful life home-making can be, and is!
I made bread today and the smell is wafting through the fabric of “home”.
God Bless You,
Good evening, Miss Lina!
Thank you so much for joining me today on the cottage style tour ~ it was great fun to have you along! Your home sounds lovely, especially with the scent of fresh bread floating through the rooms ~ incredibly welcoming! Artwork has got to be one of my favorite parts of a home as it reflects the personality of the host.
May the Lord bless you too,
This was such a helpful, inspiring, and educational post. I’m split between French and English cottage style. So many reasons to love both.
Hello, Miss Arianne!
I’m so happy you were inspired & helped by this post. Yes, French & English styles are both easy to love, plus they blend beautifully!
Thank you for visiting & leaving your thoughts.
Have a lovely spring!
Luana Tomaine says
Very inspiring, the Tuscan bedroom is really attractive. I love the colors.
Looking around my home I notice that I often default to those colors in small details. The flowers around the cottages, well now that’s a really something. I am putting roses on top of my shopping list.!💕
Hello there, Miss Luana!
I’m glad you found your visit to be inspiring! It was such fun to make this video & learn more about each cottage style variation. The color palette in your home sounds warm & welcoming. You’ll never regret roses! Have a lovely evening.
You really have put in a lot of time to research the different cottage styles. You are becoming quite* the expert sweetie. Great job on your video!
*The American meaning of “quite,” rather than the British.
Thank you, Matt.
I’m “quite” happy you like the video!
Joanna F. says
This was so thorough and packed with information. The various pictures that show the different styles were so helpful! By the way, I looked up pictures of the boho modern farmhouse cottage style and you were spot on with that! Everything in the decor in this style is what I gravitate towards when picking items for my own home…a nurturing, serene place with some of the outside brought in + a little bit of luxury. Now that I know about the modern farmhouse style/boho, everything makes sense! It ties everything together and will create cohesiveness throughout my home.
I’m really glad you found the post/video helpful. Your home is lovely, thank you for stopping by!