Cottage Looks: European Cottage Style

Pared down and lightened up, today\’s cottage with a European accent offers comfort, freshness, and individuality. Today\’s look saves floral designs for pillows or paintings, editing collections down to a chosen few, and creating light and simple rooms with bare windows and painted woodwork. Mixing and matching fabrics is key to English cottage style. In this room, you\’ll count seven separate fabrics: silk curtains, linen and canvas chair covers, pillows with roses and plaid, a bench in soft toile, and a French chair with an embroidered back.

How to create a French-urban cottage look:

  1. A restrained palette of gray, soft blue, and off-white creates a soothing retreat that draws on the colors of Paris and makes a small space live large.
  2. Indiennes fabrics, printed with one color plus white, show even a classic pattern can be simplified for today\’s sparer look. Gone are the multiple patterns with many bright colors.
  3. One-of-a-kind objects still define French style, but the look is more restrained, with one or two objects on a tabletop. Unexpected collections honor the French tradition of living with unusual pieces.


European Cottage Style: Swedish Elegance and Modern Sparseness

  1. Cover walls with tongue-and-groove wood. Add a Scandinavian-style wood-burning stove with tile behind it. Lay wide-plank wood floors and give them a natural scrubbed finish.
  2. Use soft grayed colors, such as chalky blues and greens to keep the Swedish mood. Add in rustic colors, such as rust and oatmeal. Whitewash over natural woods. To bring in additional color, consider a modern interpretation of a mural.
  3. Step away from the too-soft look with hardworking leather, handsome ticking, and linen. Use casual textured fabrics on formal furniture. Add soft linen panels at the windows.
  4. Simplify. Put clutter away. Consider placing only one collection used regularly in an open cupboard. Unexpected surfaces, such as a bench, fill in for traditional display pieces.


American Cottage Style: Aired-Out New England Farmhouse

  1. In houses with rooms of ample size, few alterations are needed. Preserve and honor basic moldings and architectural details. Open up small rooms by removing walls. Adapt a small bedroom for use as a bathroom.
  2. Paint covers the walls, but the color palette is more personal, softer, and varied than in the past. Try walls painted in pretty colors rather than just white. Wood floors topped with rugs still anchor rooms with a warm tone.
  3. An eclectic collection of furniture works well in plain farmhouse rooms. Curves and curlicues add surprising contrast. Look for fancy chairs to mix with farm tables. Place a Victorian parlor chair next to a modern sofa.
  4. An attitude of utility prevails in collections that look good and work hard. Bowls and platters sit on open shelves above kitchen countertops, where they can be appreciated as well as used. Watering cans might grace porch steps.


American Cottage Style: Bungalow Reborn

  1. Built-in bookcases, beaded-board paneling, porches with columns, and an abundance of French doors–either replaced or updated–create a cottage look that\’s both old-fashioned and up-to-date.
  2. Add charm by creating focal points such as fireplaces and bookcases, picking a color palette to romance the look, and limiting the number of materials. Coherent design makes it all flow.
  3. Furniture from the era–1930s and \’40s–helps establish the mood, but practice restraint. Too many old pieces can make a house feel like a museum. Add new pieces, especially comfortable upholstered chairs and sofas that are the right scale for small rooms.
  4. Create a focal point from one large piece, such as a vintage cupboard, or from a collection, such as cream-color McCoy flowerpots. Simplify to make the pieces you love stand out.