We are in the depths of full-on cottage styling here these days. Yes, there is a vegetable garden that needs to be weeded. Yes, the flower beds could use an extra layer of mulch. The pig pasture is currently only halfway done being fenced, I'm sure the chicken coop could use a cleaning, and lets face it – laundry is never done. But so what! We're reviving our 1909 cottage to pure cottage style glory.
Farmhouse Cottage Chic
And with these easy ways to get farmhouse cottage style, you can do it too, no matter what type of house you live in.
I've been scouring the internet and old magazines seeking inspiration for the ‘big picture' of what I want our farmhouse cottage to feel like when we're done. Farmhouse cottages have a feel. They're not meant to be cookie-cutter, perfectly square, homogenized homes. Cottage style is about being quirky, rusty, and layered. Cottage style tells a story. It accepts imperfections and builds a comfort that reminds you you're home.
I remember preparing for the c-section of our first child. Hunched over the operating table, preparing to get my epidural, the anesthesiologist told me to “go to my happy place”. You know where I went? I went to the cottage featured in the movie Babe. That's exactly the cozy, rustic, European, farm-esque comfort I want to bring to this ‘ol house.
I'm in full on cottage style mode. Watch me fly!
Ways To Get Farmhouse Cottage Style
Flower Beds: Dare I say, it's impossible to have a cottage without flower beds. Rarely do you see one without hollyhocks growing up along it's borders. Cottage gardens are typically a bit wild – a bit unstructured. Almost as if you just plucked a chunk of the earth up – wild flowers, mosses, and rocks fit in perfectly. Cottage gardens are noted for their large variety of colors, textures, and height. When I was a floral designer, there's nothing I loved more than making an arrangement that resembled a little piece of a cottage garden – snap dragons would peak at the top, sunflowers would give a strong focal point, veronica would add some funky flair, and mosses and greens would provide a colorful and textural base. Think black eyed susans lining an old iron fence. Think patches of poppies and raspberries creeping alongside the echinacea. I won't say the flower beds make the cottage… but… well…
My beds are all new, seeing as just moved into the cottage in January. I'm anxious for the years to come when they're fleshed out and full!
Shutters: What is it about shutters? The cottages that I'm drawn to always boast some style of shutter, typically a very simplistic version made from a few 1×4 boards. One think they all have in common? Color! Old European cottages typically flaunt a bright, almost primary, color – royal blue, emerald green, and ruby red are very common. Robins egg blue and varying shades of celery also hold their ground well when it comes to enhancing the overall cottagey feel of a home. We've added three new windows into the kitchen during the remodel and they're screaming for shutters. I'm leaning towards an emerald green or ruby red. Make no mistake. This is a cottage!
Stone: Get it wherever you can! As much as you can! Many old cottages were made almost entirely from stone and the depth and texture simply can't be replicated! I'm not talking about a faux stone veneer. I'm talking about the real deal. Our house is stucco, but we're incorporating stone into walls, borders, and even the framing of our arched doorway. Stone says old. Stone says history. Stone says I'm of the land. At the very least, use stone to line your garden beds and pathways – no cookie-cutter pavers allowed.
Pea gravel: Pea graaaaavel! I love you so much. Not sure what to do with that ugly pathway? Cover it in pea gravel. Got a spot of land nothing will grow in? Get to shoveling that pea gravel, man. I'm not talking about gravel… I'm talking about pea gravel. It's (get this!) the size of peas and has a smooth, round surface. Like a pea. Pea gravel. Get it? It should go everywhere because it's amazing. It's easy to keep freshened up with some easy raking, works as a mulch, and adds a rustic but polished look.
Call your gravel or rock supplier and get you some.
Rusty metal: Cottages are noted for having long histories, so it's no surprise that rusty metal would be a perfect fit for a cottage. Because after metal ages, it rusts. Adding this element to you home makes it feel as if it has a history as well. Seriously – what metal doesn't look better rusted? This can be incorporated in a variety of ways – we have rusted iron fence panels and light posts in our potager, rusted brackets in our kitchen, too many rusted tables and knick-knacks to count, and are currently purposefully rusting the brackets and bolts that will go onto our new door. Rusting s-hooks, screws, and nails can be a great way to keep that cottage look rockin' in new projects.
Quirky architecture: Back in the day, homes didn't have to fit that one-size-fits-all idea that we hold today. Any design or home buying show will quickly remind you that almost all home buyers want a ton of bedrooms, a zillion bathrooms, walk in closets, huge game rooms, seventeen pantries, four laundry rooms, and a twelve car garage. That isn't, and won't ever be, a cottage. Cottages have misaligned doorways and quirky ceiling heights. Their floors are rustic and have gaps in between the boards. Maybe the rooms don't even have closets and be prepared for some seriously small and funky-shaped bathrooms. That's okay! That's part of it. My husband and I share a closet the size of a telephone booth and there's barely more than 2-feet around the perimeter of our queen sized bed in the entire master “suite”. But that's okay! As silly as it sounds, quirky architecture adds to the charm of the home for me. It tells me that the home was built in a different time – obviously at a time when people were shorter, had less stuff to store, and all men went to the bathroom outside.
Climbing vines and window boxes: If you've just moved into your cottage, for the love of all things, plant something vining, like, yesterday. Get it going! Because we all know that one of the foundational ways to add cottage charm to your home is to cover it in something alive. Climbing roses, honey suckle, ivy – whatever tickles your fancy. Just get something growing and train it up the side of your chimney or trellis it around windows and doors. We were lucky enough to have some climbing roses right at the base of our chimney – a beautiful soft pink variety that's probably been there for a few decades. We had to drape the entire chimney in chicken wire (can you imagine how that went down?) and tie the unruly roses up, but I'm confident in a few years time they'll learn the general idea of what's expected of them. Climb, roses, climb! On that same note, window boxes are an instant way to add cottage charm to your home. Plant them with some bright annuals during the spring and summer and stuff them with greenery during the fall and winter. They don't need to be fancy, they just need to be.
Texture: Texture is foundational to the cottage. We've talked about the texture of pea gravel and stone, but really, the textural element is applicable anywhere. Instead of smooth lumber, opt for a more textural hand cut cedar post. Add mosses and ground cover thyme to borders. Use flat stone for pathways. Incorporate coarse linens, twead, and burlap. Straw. Thatching. Corroded metal. Wicker. Anywhere you incorporate texture, bring it.
Rough up the edges: Nothing in a cottage is clean cut. There are few straight lines and even fewer manicured lawns. Rather, cottages are shaped from the ebbs and flows of life… worn down pathways through grassy fields… rubbed off stain where the door is always opened… chipped paint… overgrown flowers… mishapen layers of potted pants strewn about. Let it be uneven. Let it be rough around the edges.
Add comfort: Life at a cottage is supposed to be a life that is comfortable and warm. Think hammocks strewn between the tree branches and an open bottle of wine on the iron table in the garden. Extra throw pillows strewn about, wool blankets over the arms of vintage couches, garden tools leaned against the side of the house and baskets of muddy boots by the front door. Let it be lived in. Let it be comfortable. Let it be a home.
Cottage life is the good life. Clean lines, manicured gardens, and shiny metals be damned.