Cottage decorating ideas – 13 ways to get a charming, characterful look

Inspiration for creating a the perfect homely rustic space, from furniture to papers and paint colors

Cottage decorating ideas
(Image credit: Neptune)

Are you looking to decorate a cottage? Or do you simply love cottage decor ideas and style and adore swooning over chocolate box homes? If so we've got plenty of inspiration for creating this cosy look in your home, however large your space.

From stylish wall colors and finishes to pretty but practical flooring and window treatments to characterful decor schemes to copy, these cottage decorating ideas are the perfect place to start planning your scheme. 

See: Cottage kitchen ideas – design inspiration for homely spaces

What is cottage style?

Cottage style is all about showcasing and preserving prized original features as well as creating cozy, homely spaces. Small but beautiful, cottages are awash with historic stone and timber floors, rustic ceiling beams and quirky angles, and its these elements which give cottage interiors their unique character. 

Prized features of the rural landscape, chocolate-box cottages are entwined with geology and the landscape, so taking decorating inspiration from the natural surroundings is a fitting place to start thinking about a scheme. Think colors inspired by the nature, botanical prints and an eclectic mix of handmade and antique wooden furniture.

1. Decorate in earthy, natural tones

Cottage decorating ideas - living room Vanessa Arbuthnott fabrics

(Image credit: Vanessa Arbuthnott)

Cottages are inextricably linked with their rural setting and brimming with natural materials with soft weathered textures so what better palette to decorate in than with the gentle colors of the countryside? 

Here, Little Greene’s greenish neutral – North Brink Grey 291 – sets a relaxed mood and a calm foundation for furniture in a mix of Vanessa Arbuthnott's nature-inspired fabrics including a vintage german sofa in Fruit Garden Straw, Pigeon, Charcoal and armchairs in her May Blossom Pigeon/Charcoal.

Don't miss our cottage lighting ideas for pretty, practical solutions.

2. Mix and match wooden furniture 

Cottage decorating ideas - cottage susie watson dresser

(Image credit: Susie Watson Designs)

Embracing natural materials is the perfect complement to the rustic features of a cottage, as Susie Watson, founder of Susie Watson Designs, explains. 

‘Using natural wood furniture, connects a space to its surroundings and adds character,’ she says. ‘Antique furniture can blend well with newly bought furniture, don’t worry about matching the color of the wood just make sure the era of the pieces feels coherent.’

3. Choose warm, earthy colors

Cottage decorating ideas - Warm paint colour kitchen

(Image credit: Future / Brent Darby)

Cottage style is all about creating that warm welcome and homely feel. Choosing warm shades based on natural earth pigments is an easy way to enhance the mood of a space; try creams, and earthy stone and honeyed yellow shades through to warm plaster pinks and rich terracottas for instant coziness. 

When decorating an old cottage with original plaster it is advised to use a breathable formula made such as Edward Bulmer's Natural Paint, for similar shade to the above try Brick. 

For cottage kitchen ideas, don't miss our inspiring image gallery.

4. Choose a Shaker-style kitchen

Cottage decorating ideas - devol

(Image credit: Devol)

Based on the Shaker principles of simplicity, utility, and craftsmanship, the elegant proportions and fuss-free, linear design of Shaker kitchen cabinetry make it perfect for a humble cottage, mixed in with reclaimed unfitted pieces for a relaxed feel. 

If low ceilings are an issue, limiting storage mainly to base cabinetry is a good way to keep a cottage feeling bright and open, while also allowing beautiful stone walls to stand out, as this beautiful deVOL kitchen proves. 

5. Create a homely, social space with a vintage kitchen table and chairs

Cottage decorating ideas - Devol

(Image credit: Devol)

Cottages are loved for their warm and welcoming feel, and key to creating this is including a rustic farmhouse table and chairs for social gathering, as Helen Parker, creative director at deVOL explains. 

'The charm of a cottage kitchen is often the quirky and eclectic mix of old and new that gives the feeling of a cosy and welcoming space. A vintage kitchen table and chairs is a must, all cottages need a spot for chatting and drinking tea and the ubiquitous jug of wild flowers.'

6. Fill your home with garden flowers

Cottage decorating ideas - country cottage kitchen lovatt beams

(Image credit: Future / Brent Darby / Styling Pippa Blenkinsop)

When it comes to cottage style 'fresh garden or hedge row flowers are a must and can mark the difference between urban and country living,' reveals Vanessa Arbuthnott. 

For a pretty floral centerpiece on your kitchen table, gather a selection of vessels in different materials and sizes such as apothercary vases, chippy enamel just, jam jars and stoneware pots and fill with your fresh pickings. Don't worry about stems being different lengths or about colors clashing, this variety of blooms jostling for attention is key to the quaint cottage look.

See: Cottage garden ideas – pretty ways to embrace rustic style outdoors

7. Decorate with heritage prints

Cottage decorating ideas - bedroom with morris wallpaper

(Image credit: Future / Kasia Fiszer)

Pay homage to the beautiful rural setting of your cottage by decorating with papers and fabrics that capture the charm of the countryside. William Morris – artist, designer, poet, socialist and ‘Godfather of the Arts and Crafts Movement’ – created hundreds of designs that celebrate the beauty of nature. 

Mostly created around the late 19th-century, his stylized flora and fauna prints are still available to buy today, in original and refreshed colorways, and are the perfect way to bring the beauty of nature into the bedroom. 

8. Add in upcycled vintage furniture

Cottage decorating ideas - stone walls country desk space

(Image credit: Future / Kasia Fiszer / Styling Pippa Blenkinsop)

The great thing about creating a cottage look is that it can be created on a shoestring using vintage pieces and a bit of imagination. Easy to come by at specialist furniture shops and flea markets, dated brown furniture can easily be refreshed with some chalk furniture paint into original and rustic pieces, as this pretty desk proves. 

Don't worry about the finish or the wood color, instead look for beautiful shapes that will shine once painted. When you have spotted the perfect piece, simply sand down, coat with Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint and sand again once dry to create this weathered French look. 

9. Choose a traditional, curvaceous sofa 

Cottage decorating ideas -sitting room with dresser

(Image credit: Susie Watson Designs)

With elegant curves and a Howard-style silhouette, this small Classic sofa from Susie Watson Designs is a great choice for zoning a snug kitchen-cum-living room, and is layered with paisley, ticking and statement floral cushions, plus a wool throw, for a cozy cottage feel.

10. Get retro with your textile treatments

Cottage decorating ideas - bathroom

(Image credit: Vanessa Arbuthnott)

Thought that the curtain pelmet and sink skirt were things of the past? Think again if you're looking for cottage bathroom ideas. Vanessa Arbuthnott shows how these vintage-style designs can look fresh and stylish in this bathroom using her pretty mix and match fabrics. To stop the look feeling too cutesy, embrace contemporary color combinations, such as the the Dark Hay/ Charcoal colorways of these French Ticking, Herbaceous Border and Dainty Daisy fabrics. 

‘The yellow and grey botanical fabrics bring the countryside in and the pretty striped frill around the sink softens and warms up the space too.’ says Vanessa. ‘The bathroom is given a light and airy feel, with its painted wooden floor, and free standing bath.’

11. Paper with romantic botanical wallpapers

Cottage decorating ideas - colefax and fowler wallpaper

(Image credit: Colefax and Fowler)

Prints inspired by nature are a mainstay of quintessential cottage interiors. A master of timeless style, Colefax & Fowler is the go-to brand for romantic botanical prints. New from its Jardine Florals collection, Greenacre features distinctive fan-like gingko leaves with dancing blossoms to produce a contemporary foliage design, and is available across wallpaper. For a vintage botanical bedroom try using this Leaf Green colorway wall to wall, as well as on a quilt, chair and valance.

12. Use a neutral palette to highlight rustic features

Cottage decorating ideas - cottage bedroom beams neptune

(Image credit: Neptune)

There’s something truly magical about sleeping up in the rafters. Let original oak beams stand out against a palette of simple neutrals or pastels. Complement the rustic patina of aged wood with a natural seagrass carpet, then try delicate patterns, such as Neptune’s Emma linen in Sage for upholstery and cushions. 

'As spring is on the way, natural colours like pinks and greens, complement the light and contrast harmoniously against darker greys,' says Amber, home designer at Neptune. 'Alternatively, an all-white look can go a long way in lifting the room to create a lighter space, and our Grace scatter cushions are perfect for adding a little texture.'

13. Create a cozy reading spot

Cottage decorating ideas - Jody Stewart Spurling

(Image credit: Future / Jody Stewart)

There's lots of Marie Kondo-inspired talk about living clutter-free these days, but when it comes to cottage interiors, a little clutter is a good thing. Shelves of books make homes look cozy and lived in. Having bookshelves floor to ceiling in the living room will keep books organised and will mean they're close at hand when you want to curl up with one by the fire. 

This feature was created by H&G's sister brand, Period Living magazine 

This feature was created by H&G's sister brand, Period Living magazine 

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Pippa Blenkinsop

Pippa is a contributor to Homes & Gardens. A graduate of Art History and formerly Style Editor at Period Living, she is passionate about architecture, creating decorating content, interior styling and writing about craft and historic homes. She enjoys searching out beautiful images and the latest trends to share with the Homes & Gardens audience. A keen gardener, when she’s not writing you’ll find her growing flowers on her village allotment for styling projects.