What Is a Cottage Style House?

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The term "cottage" traditionally refers to a holiday getaway retreat or weekend home for urban dwellers. But the engaging personal appeal of cottage style makes it a good choice for year-round living as well.


Clean, comfortable and casual are basic elements of cottage-style interiors.


Exteriors vary depending on location. A successful design makes use of readily available local materials and blends the building structure with natural features of the land to create a pleasing harmony.

Architecture for Personal Retreats

  • To capitalize on a view -- a garden, meadow, mountain range, stream, lake or the sea -- many cottages offer wide porches or an expanse of windows.

    Cottage exteriors include a variety of design approaches that range from simple log cabins and weathered-shingle Cape Cod styles to ornate Victorian structures with wrap-around porches.

    Rustic, stone-covered fantasy cottages, English Tudor designs with steeply pitched roofs and crossed gables, and contemporary interpretations of these classic looks add to the array of architectural possibilities.

Exterior Architectural Features Add Style

  • Rooflines, chimneys, windows, fences and gardens shape the impression of a property.

    A picket fence covered with climbing roses classically surrounds a Cape Cod, while a drive leading to a log cabin might be lined with a split rail fence, and an English cottage could be completely surrounded by an informal garden with no fence at all.

    Dormer windows add characteristic exterior detail and interior access to views and light. Window boxes overflowing with flowers and painted shutters highlight the overall comfortable mood.

Size Doesn't Matter

  • Classic cottages need not be large -- the idea is to provide the essentials for comfortable living since space is often limited.

    Open shelves provide accessible and attractive kitchen or book storage, hooks on the wall hang clothes, built-in seating opens to offer trunk-like spaces to keep blankets and linens.

    Furnishings are kept to a minimum for appearance and function -- an inviting guest room may merely offer a comfortable-looking bed, table and chair along with a lovely view from the window.

Quiet Interior Colors Create Serenity

  • White is the classic background color for cottage decor because it keeps the atmosphere light and airy, makes the space seem larger and unifies a collection of eclectic furniture and accessories.

    Natural wood ceilings and floors contribute to the authenticity of older buildings, although painted floors add style and interest, and painted ceilings may lift the spirit of a darker space. Easy maintenance is key, so natural fiber rugs and richly colored linoleum are good options.

    While neutral tones for larger pieces of furniture are always a reliable choice, hues that echo nature’s colors are also effective. For example, soft blue connects with the ocean and broad skies outside a seaside home, and verdant greens repeat the view in houses in wooded settings.

Comfort Is Key

  • Furnishings in a cottage-style home need not match -- in fact, a variety of antique styles all painted white is an effective start. Relaxing comfort is essential; select seating pieces that are cozy and add to your look. Fabric textures on furnishings should be soft and washable, if possible, for worry-free maintenance.

    Include accent colors on puffy pillows, softly woven throws or hand-sewn quilts in a variety of patterns of the same hue. Remember to choose a range of light and dark tones to keep the spirit of the room lively and use the least amount of the most vivid accent color to avoid a jolting effect.

Cottage Homes Sparkle With Personality

  • A cottage-style home is a showcase for your individuality. Choose natural accessories that highlight your special interests, such as a collection of bird’s nests or shells, paddles or rudders, fishing rods or antique lures, snowshoes or ship models.

    A single large piece of art or a striking photograph creates a focal point in a simple room. Framed children’s art adds whimsy in an informal setting. Re-purposed architectural elements add style and interest, such as a headboard made from well-worn painted paneled doors. Accessories from real living are most effective in creating a feeling of warmth, quality and authenticity in a cottage-style home.

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