Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cottage Style

What it is:  In some ways, cottage style is as much a frame of mind as it is an approach to decorating.  There's an empty everyday ease in the way it celebrates imperfections, ordinary treasures and blended families of furniture.  Cottages tend to be humble, unpretentious and full of heart - traits most of us would be proud to claim.

Why it works: Comfy, casual and personal, cottage style is perfect for the way you really live.  Fabrics are forgiving; furnishings invite us to flop down and prop up our feet.  There's a lot of leeway for the individual expression that anchors the way we think about decorating these days.

You'll love it if . . .  You rock the straw-hat look.  Shiny surfaces leave you cold.  You bought slipcovers way before they were trendy.  You'd take a pitcher full of hydrangeas over a bouquet of long-stemmed roses.  You're on a first-name basis with the local flea market vendors.

Not so long ago, cottage was practically synonymous with shabby chic.  Although that term feels stale now, the elements that made it so popular - light colors, floaty fabrics, mismatched furnishings - are still mainstays of cottage decor.  Faded prints, rumpled fabrics and peeling paint contribute to the vintage charm that underlies this style. 

HOT TIP:  There's a fine line between pleasantly distressed an plain beat up.  To avoid crossing it, balance aggressively weathered pieces with newer ones and keep color schemes soft and simple.  The gracefully aged furniture in this space (above) appears more striking against clean, updated walls, trim and window treatments ..... PS - LOVE these window treatments!

If there's one thing that shouts "cottage" it's bead board.  This classic  grooved paneling is a perennial favorite, and for good reason.  Not only is it easy to install but it's a no-brainer for adding warmth and character to a bare wall, a blank ceiling or bland cabinetry.  You can't go wrong by painting it creamy white, but 's also fun to add a hint of subtle color and distress it every so slightly.

HOT TIP:  Bead board can be a strong addition to a room, so a little goes a long way. 

As much as any other element, fabrics define cottage style, delicate florals, ticking, stripes, gingham, eyelet.  Natural, textured materials, such as cotton, linen and burlap fall right in step with the look.  Vintage fabrics, from hankies and dishcloths to flour sacs and aprons, pop up on pillows, quilts, chair seats and more.  Curtains are usually simple, sheer and breezy.

Slipcovers and cottage style were made for each other.  What's more laid back than tossing a sheet over an old sofa and calling it a day?  OK, so it's not quite that simple, but the right slipcover does lend a low-maintenance charm - and hides a multitude of upholstery sins.

Several of my beach clients like this look so well they have four different sets of slipcovers, one set for each season of the year. 

Cottage decorating mavens have never met a dresser that they couldn't liven up with a paintbrush.  Whether you want to rescue a ratty finish, brighten darkwood, or unify pieces that carry the mismatched look a little too far, paint in your friend.  It's inexpensive, it's quick and it's fuss free. 

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