The word “Cottage” has come to mean a small, unassuming home that is both charming and cozy. It might be a beach house, a tiny home tucked into a tree-lined neighborhood, or a peak-roof home with a welcoming front porch.

The key is simplicity, because this style doesn’t put on airs. Clear colors, combined with lots of white, set the stage for down-to-earth furnishings and the owner’s personal tastes.

• Walls and ceilings. Choose pale shades or bright pastels (pink, blue, yellow, green, lavender) for walls. Accent them with white woodwork in every room for a cohesive look. Beaded board is often used as wainscoting; it should be either one-third or two-thirds the height of the ceiling.

For more pattern, use wall coverings with small geometrics or flowers, or apply a faux finish to the walls for texture. Ceilings offer an opportunity for texture as well: Add painted beams or cover the ceiling with painted wood planks or beaded board, with crown molding around the perimeter.

• Floors. Hardwood flooring is a good choice, though painted wood is often better. Accent the floor with thick, toe-scrunching area rugs, or, for a more up-to-date and summery look, try sisal or sea grass rugs.

• Surfaces. Kitchen cabinets should be painted, with brushed steel hardware, bin pulls, or simple round knobs in black, porcelain, or glass. Replace the wooden panels in the upper cabinet doors with glass, or remove the doors altogether and paint the inside of the cabinet a harmonizing color to the walls. For the bath, choose tile flooring in light colors and brushed-steel faucets with porcelain handles.

• Furniture. Keep in mind just one word: “Comfortable.” Upholstered furniture often has slipcovers (for a different look when seasons change), and pillows are plentiful. Wooden furniture is simple yet functional, and furniture such as an ottoman that opens to hold extra blankets, for instance, does double-duty.

• Fabrics. Choose easy-care cottons, and hang a colorful handmade quilt on the back of the sofa. You can combine fabrics in a variety of compatible colors and patterns in the pillows, but choose neutral tones for larger surfaces. Use simple Roman shades or shutters at the windows, perhaps softened by a valance at the top. Save heavier drapery for rooms where privacy is important.

• Accessories. The more individual the better when it comes to choosing the small pieces that lend personality. Include antiques, display family pictures, and fill bookcases with a combination of books and favorite treasures.

• Details. Tone down wallpaper that is too bright by applying glaze that is tinted white for a lighter look, or “antique” it with a highly diluted smoke-tone glaze. Start a collection of antique picture frames, teapots, teacups, or anything else that evokes a homey feeling and group the items together.

Author Image
About Don Vandervort
Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years as a remodeler and builder, Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996. Read more about Don Vandervort