Cottage style is very much still popular. In fact, it’s only gaining in popularity! However, when working with cottage style, it’s important to steer away from details that make your home look tired and dated. There are many aesthetics that fall under the cottage style umbrella which can make it difficult to navigate. Thankfully, it’s pretty simple to get right when you know which design elements to embrace and which to completely avoid.
The most alluring aspect of cottage style is it makes us feel comfortable, cozy and instantly at home. There is an inherent feeling of coziness and the familiar. Let’s explore the key elements that make up this design style and some tips for adding a sense of timelessness and cottage charm into every room in your home.
When Did Cottage Style Become so Popular?
We all enjoy the creature comforts which are at the heart of cottage style – surroundings that are warm, comfortable, and that positively appeal to our senses. In that sense, cottage aesthetics have been popular for a very long time! We all want those qualities for the spaces and rooms we call home.
But things are a changin…
Don’t worry, warm and comfortable still reign supreme, things are only getting…cozier.
Farmhouse with its white, washed out everything, soft grays and ultra neutral palette is being replaced with COLOR!! Also, patterns are everywhere from the ceilings to the walls and we are seeing a return to historical inspiration. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I could do a happy dance with the color part alone!
Don’t get me wrong, I still have a special place in my heart for the ever popular Mindful and Repose Gray, but I’m over the moon to see a widespread embracing of more vibrant hues and saturated color palettes.
This shift has been happening for a few years now with new cottage aesthetics influences such as cottagecore starting to fill our social media feeds. However, it is the pandemic that really catapulted this style forward. After many years of open floor plans, we’ve learned that while togetherness can be a wonderful thing, so too can smaller, more intimate spaces in our homes that provide space for privacy. In interior design and architecture, we are now starting to see a trend back towards using actual walls to divide and define the main living spaces in our homes.
What Defines Cottage Style?
As mentioned earlier, there are many aesthetics (which we’ll dive into a little deeper below) that fall under cottage style, but there are a few key design elements that they all have in common.
Use of Saturated Color
The decor typically incorporates colors that naturally occur in nature and they are used in variations that are saturated and complex. Excellent examples include any of the colors from Farrow & Ball’s paint collection featuring a wide range of beautifully deep and rich colors.
Pattern is used and is often combined and mixed in unexpected ways. Favored patterns include anything organic such as florals, but stripes and plaids are very popular as well.
In almost all aspects of the design, there is a desire to bring natural elements from the outside in. We see a lot of furnishings and finishes using natural materials and textiles, as well as houseplants and floral arrangements.
Think lots of upholstered furniture constructed of wood with super comfortable down-filled cushions and snuggly throw pillows.
Synthetic textiles are avoided and instead we see the use of cotton, wool and linen fabrics on the furniture and window coverings. We also see natural fibers on the floors as well with sisal and a liberal smattering of warm rugs.
In general the finishes tend to show gentle signs of wear and more of their natural state is allowed to show through. For instance, you’re not going to see highly polished wood floors stained in modern tones such as gray. Instead, it’ll more closely match its natural color and may show some wear and age. Metal finishes will also show signs of wear with aged brass, bronze and iron taking the stage instead of nickel and polished chrome.
7 Cottage Style Aesthetics
These are the most popular and well-loved cottage styles according to The Cottage Journal. I’ve also included the Cottagecore trend in this lineup as well. It leans a bit more towards the fanciful, but it is fresh and comforting. Which is a space many of us are going to continue to seek out for many years to come.
The vintage cottage aesthetic has a bit of an 80s, Laura Ashley vibe to me with its beautiful mix of antiques, floral wallpaper and the midcentury piece thrown into the mix here or there for good measure. However, it’s a style definitely not stuck in the 80s when brighter, more vibrant colors are used to freshen it up and make it feel more updated and modern.
If you love being near the water, or just want to give your home a coastal vibe – the cottage aesthetic is for you. The color palette is very relaxed and lighter than most of the other cottage aesthetics and uses tones of blues and greens typically found in the ocean or near the water. Wood tones are also lighter and more “washed-out” to echo the feeling of driftwood and the natural ebb and flow of time.
Southern cottage decor aesthetics place a heavy focus on providing warm and comfortable spaces for gatherings. Whether it be for family, or friends, there are ample places inside and out to entertain, hang out, play games and enjoy each others company. Imagine large front porches for enjoying a refreshing glass of iced tea and living spaces designed for coffee (or a nice glass of wine), conversation and sitting a spell.
When we think of cottage style, the English cottage aesthetic is most often what a lot of us envision…with its time-worn rustic, but elegant architectural details, liberal use of patterns, warm colors and cozy spaces with books and nooks for sipping afternoon tea. For those of us on this side of the pond, the key to this aesthetic is incorporating lots of architectural details that can often be missing (unless we live in an older home) such as crown molding and lots of wood details and trim.
The country cottage aesthetics draw more inspiration from the countryside than some of the other cottage aesthetics. Therefore it lends itself to incorporating rustic touches such as exposed brick, rustic ceiling beams, painted floors, textured natural fabrics and simple gingham check patterns mixed in.
If you are looking to add a bit of romance and elegance to your decor, French cottage may be the style for you. This aesthetic incorporates many of the same timeless elements found in the English cottage style, but the feel is a bit more relaxed in my opinion. While florals and chintz are a typical choice for an English cottage, you’re more likely to find toile, ginghams and stripes in French cottage decor.
Lastly, we have cottagecore. This is the fairly newish cottage aesthetic kid on the block. Everything “cottage” pretty much goes and it freely mixes elements of all the cottage styles. However, the key element that pushes a look into the realm of cottagecore is a heavy dose of fancifulness and whimsy.
This aesthetic is a dreamy romanticized vision of a beautiful rural country life…one that includes tending farm animals and frolicking in a wild flower filled pasture with ducklings, chickens and baby goats. Only then returning to your quaint fairytale cottage to enjoy a sip of tea or a picnic on the lawn.
Within this style aesthetic, that translates into embracing more feminine colors and taking a more maximalist approach to your interior decor…with cottagecore more really is more.
What to Avoid and What Cottage Style is NOT
AVOID shabby and opt for gently worn. Modern cottage style is not 90s and 00s shabby chic, and it is not whitewashing everything in your home. While the color white is very much still popular, it shows gentle signs of wear and is not overly distressed.
AVOID contrived signage for “wall art”. You don’t need a sign on your wall that says “Family”, “Home”, or “this way to the beach”. So for all you text lovers out there, it’s time to take down the signs and opt for some vintage artwork, or a curated gallery wall instead which is a trend that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
And if you really want to convey the feeling of family, home, or the beach, think of more non-literal ways to incorporate it into your decor. Such as a stack of games on a shelf your family enjoys (and actually plays) or a decorative bowl of shells or driftwood you collected at the beach.
AVOID too many furnishings and decor that are new. Antique and vintage shopping has to be one of the best perks of adopting a cottage look for your home.
Lastly, before I move on…
AVOID milk painted everything.
This public service message goes out to all y’all DIYers out there. Can you please stop buying up all the beautiful antique wood furniture, that just needs a tiny bit of love, and destroying it with milk paint? It breaks my heart to go into antique shops now and see booth after booth of what would be gorgeous antique furniture, painted white (or gray) and oververly distressed with black paint accents and sandpaper. This is one trend I think we’re going to collectively look back on and wish we hadn’t gone there.
Tips to Do Cottage Style Right
With all styles, there are elements that turn into trends and as with all things, trends eventually run their course and start to look and feel dated. The trick to keeping things looking fresh and modern as we move into 2022, without falling victim to trends, is to honor the bones and core elements of what makes each cottage style what it is and keep the colors and accents new and fresh. The cottage aesthetic overall is getting more elegant, a little more european, and more sophisticated.
DO use natural materials that are warm and timeless and don’t be afraid to incorporate warmer, naturally occurring colors. Beige is starting to make a comeback.
DO keep it cozy. Finds ways to carve out intimate areas for conversation and privacy and add snugly touches like overstuffed throw pillows, warm textures. Think baskets filled with fluffy blankets and throws.
DO incorporate both vintage and antique items combined with modern colors and accents to keep it fresh and current.
DO add architectural details if missing, such as crown molding, trim details and built-ins.
DO have fun with color.
DO use lots of houseplants, botanicals and florals to bring the outside in.
DO go big with patterns and don’t be afraid to mix it up and have fun with plaids, florals, gingham, ikat, toile or stripes.
And speaking of patterns, DO go beyond just pillows. Think beautifully upholstered sofas and floor to ceiling curtains trimmed with decorative bands of color and trims.
With this, I leave you with the fantastical world of House of Hackney. I don’t think it gets more cottagecore than this!