Finding your cottage style
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From rustic backwoods cabins to breezy seaside beach houses, here’s some essential inspiration to help you imagine the cottage of your dreams.
In its purest, most archetypal sense, a cottage is simply a cabin in the woods. This style of cottage celebrates that rustic ideal in its cozy corners, worn surfaces, and overall woodsy feel. Whether it’s an actual log cabin (and here’s the info if you like the idea of building one) or something with exposed beams and reclaimed barn boards, wood is an important part of the equation. Likewise, a roaring wood stove and a pile of split logs are essential for keeping cozy on those chilly spring nights and autumn mornings.
Decor-wise, keep an eye out for things like old-fashioned cross-country skis and snowshoes to be arranged decoratively on a wall, and vintage Turkish or southwestern rugs in geometric patterns for the floor. If you want to go full-on Grizzly Adams, country antique shops can be a good place to find your very own taxidermy deer head, or simply opt for a set of antlers (deer and moose shed them every year anyway, so they won’t mind).
The Beach House
The lapping of surf, the screeching of gulls, and the smell of briny ocean air are the hallmarks of a home by the shore, but you don’t need to own a beachside lot to conjure up the same feel. While a cabin is all about cozy plaids and exposed dark wood, a beach house is light and breezy, using shades of blue, green and beige to call to mind water, beach grass and sand. White slipcovered furniture makes for a calm and inviting living room, with the added benefit of being washable in case someone spills their margarita. Wicker, raffia and rattan accents - from end tables and chairs to light fixtures and floor coverings - also contribute to a tropical, beachy vibe.
One of the best things about decorating a beach house is that you can find a lot of great accent pieces on the beach itself. Gnarled sticks of driftwood and mason jars filled with seashells and wave-worn beach glass have the right feel, and gathering them is part of the fun. If you’re feeling crafty, you can also turn your seashell collection into a set of wind chimes. For other thematic decorative touches, scour local galleries and auction sites for nautical-themed artwork and fun sculptures of your favourite sea creatures. For a more contemporary look, photography of rolling waves sets just the right tone.
The Farm House
Get in the pioneering spirit with a design style that’s all about simplicity and rustic charm. Whether you’re buying new online or at your closest small-town antiques barn, from iron bed frames to enamelled milk pails to wood-burning stoves, you can really get into the thrill of the hunt. That said, because there are so many of these items available, you can easily fill your cottage with too many old timey knick-knacks that it ends up looking like a cheesy theme restaurant. After all, farmhouses were typically modest, practical dwellings without a lot of embellishment, so a little goes a long way here.
There’s definitely still a lot of fun to be had with your decor. Fill your living room with tufted furniture upholstered in luxurious fabrics like velvet or even floral prints, and find some vintage watercolour paintings for the walls. Bone up on the classics with a few leatherbound books, which make great decor pieces once you’re done reading them. The centre of every farm house is the kitchen and dining room, so anchor yours with a butcher block and a big wooden dining table, then fill your china hutch with charming selection of mismatched British porcelain from thrift stores and flea markets and a set of Bakelite-handled cutlery. For a connection to your area, keep an eye out for work by local artists or antique pieces that might have been made nearby. Then sit back with a cup of tea and enjoy your rustic surroundings, grateful that you don’t have to milk a cow or plow a field in the morning.
Jeremy Freed is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. His writing about fashion, travel, food and design appears in Sharp, Harry and re:Porter magazines, among many others.
Jeremy Freed is a paid Sonnet spokesperson.