Cottage living rooms are loved for being cozy spaces full of character and rustic charm. When it comes to decorating yours, first look to what you have – historic cottage living rooms are awash with beautiful original features from rustic beams, timber weatherboarding or exposed stone – so build a scheme around these living room ideas and features to really make them shine.
Secondly, take inspiration from nature. Cottages are often surrounded by idyllic countryside, so cottage decorating ideas should naturally include earthy and muted colors inspired by the landscape. These are a brilliant foundation to build upon, alongside neutrals to keep spaces calm and bright. Furnishing with natural materials and finishing with flora and fauna prints, or classic checks and stripes, will also ensure timeless charm.
Cottage living room ideas
'If it’s not cozy, then it’s not a cottage!' says LA based interior designer Stefani Stein (opens in new tab). 'Start with comfortable seating, incorporate a variety of textures and then layer in a patterned throw pillow or two... for a great cozy-yet-calm vibe, I like to include earthy hues, dusty palettes and a hint of leather.'
Read on to discover more cottage living room ideas and inspiration for creating the perfect country retreat.
1. Embrace architectural features
Cottages are loved for their original features, from their rustic wooden ceiling beams and stone flagstones, to inglenook fireplaces. If you're lucky enough to have a property with beautiful architectural features, then it's a good idea to use them as the starting point for your interior design, creating a scheme around them that complements their aged patina.
Taking center stage in this grey living room, these exposed Cotswold stone walls really sing when set against greyish blue tones.
2. Furnish with natural materials and textures
Intertwined with the landscapes which surrounded them, historic vernacular cottages are often built with the very stone they sit on or wood sourced locally, so what better way to pay homage to their origins than to furnish them than with earthy natural materials?
Lay a textural sisal or seagrass rug and choose handcrafted furniture made from FSC timber, or cane and rattan, with seating upholstered in natural fabrics such as wool, cotton and linen.
3. Choose an uplifting color palette
As spaces to relax and unwind in, it's important that a cottage living room has a calming, uplifting living room color scheme. Fabric designer Vanessa Arbuthnott (opens in new tab) explains how blue and yellow make a great pairing for cottage living rooms.
'Lemon yellow and soft smoke blue complement each other so perfectly. The tone of each of these colors is gentle which draws you into a room. This shade of yellow (above), which I call Hay, is so fresh, making you feel happy, full of hope and sunshine. On the other hand blue if often seen as peaceful and secure.'
4. Create a cozy feel with a woodburning stone
If there's one thing a cottage living room can't be without it's a living room fireplace. The cozy heart of the room which everyone gravitates towards, the fire is the perfect place to kick your boots off, put your feet up and relax by after those long country walks.
5. Choose comfortable, traditional sofas
A sofa is a big purchase – it's where we unwind after long days and is the centerpiece of the living room, so getting the balance of comfort and style just right is important.
To create a classic, cozy cottage feel consider a traditional Howard-style design with a soft curves and a dropped, scroll arms. Choosing loose feather-wrapped foam cushions will give that comfortable sink-in feel and relaxed look without the constant need to fluff up.
6. Mix up modern and vintage furniture for an eclectic look
Cottage living rooms are places to relax and unwind but also to socialize and entertain, so factoring in an array of versatile seating options to accommodate guests is a good idea.
Mixing up styles and materials is a great way to achieve a layered, homely look, as interior designer Stefani Stein explains.
'I prefer a space that has a bit of the unexpected and that means you can mix a shelter arm piece, a channel tufted item, a button tufted element and some great vintage finds. And, don’t be afraid of allowing the space to be eclectic – it's perfect if a pattern or color doesn’t quite match with the rest.
7. Use mirrors to maximize light in a cottage living room
Hanging a series of mirrors is a great way to maximize natural light in small spaces, and can make for a stylish feature wall, too. For classic elegance, try white frames on blue walls – you can't go wrong with this timeless color combination.
Don't miss our cottage lighting ideas for pretty, practical solutions for brightening dark spaces.
8. Create a cozy window seat
Cottages are all about feeling relaxed and cozy, and what could be better than curling up on a window seat with a nice cup of tea while you take in views of surrounding countryside?
'Window seats are super useful in a small cottage sitting room for extra places to be. The perfect place to sit to watch the outside world from and read a book,' says fabric designer Vanessa Arbuthnott.
'Make sure you make a really good thick window seat and add lots of cushions to so that the space is really comfortable. Either dress the window with a blind or have curtains that draw back past the recess do they don’t interfere with the window seat.'
9. Layer neutral shades to keep spaces bright yet interesting
Cottage living rooms can be small and lack light due to small windows – opting for white or off white walls throughout is an easy way to maximize any natural light. However, it can leave a room feeling cold and empty.
To counter this, ensure you furnish with lots of texture and neutral shades. Try wooden pieces in a washed, light grey finish with armchairs upholstered in an oaty, textural linen ticking fabric as pictured in this space.
For cottage kitchen ideas, don't miss our inspiring image gallery.
10. Bring a cheerful color pop with vibrant floral prints
Keeping cottage living rooms neutral is a great way of making them feel bigger, but it doesn't mean you can't introduce some bold prints. Try adding in floral prints through curtains and cushions to bring color and pattern to your space – they can be easily changed with the seasons and if tastes change.
11. Fit floor to ceiling bookshelves
Fitting floor to ceiling book shelves are not only great for storage in small spaces, but will give cottage living rooms a snug, homely feel, too. While we love them, the irregular angles and lack of straight lines in old cottages can cause difficulties when furnishing, so getting a carpenter to build in bespoke shelving is a brilliant solution. You could even paint them to make a feature of them as pictured here.
12. Add color, pattern and comfort with curtains
Though they can be overlooked, cottage curtain ideas are an important finishing touch of any scheme – they control light, privacy and add a layer of insulation to cottage living rooms that can suffer from cold drafts.
To make cottages cozy, homely spaces, curtains or fabric blinds – or both – are one of the best options; their soft pleats lend a relaxed feel to a space.
What’s more, there are infinite prints to choose from, whether it be country checks or bold botanical prints. If you’re looking. to create a feeling of quintessential country charm you can’t go wrong with a faded floral linen such as this Roses design from Kate Forman (opens in new tab).
13. Choose elegant and timeless sofas
The key to mastering cottage style is about creating a relaxed, cosy atmosphere that will endure across the years, so be sure to invest in good quality, timeless pieces of furniture. Choosing traditional, Howard-style sofas with elegant curves and loose, sink-in cushions, is guaranteed to bring comfort, but are also perfect for creating a laid-back look.
'These practical classic ‘go to’ sofa styles can be used in modern and traditional interiors,' says Sarah Vanrenen, co-founder of Vanrenen GW Designs. 'A fixed back is less messy and easier to maintain and the small arms also take up much less room and give more sitting space.'
'We chose the light blue for the walls as the room needed a pale, soft colour to bring in more light and this works really well, it’s brighter, soft and gentle,' she adds.
14. Embrace dark colors
Cottage living rooms can often be on the smaller side, and as a result we often lean to decorating with lighter colors, however, dark living rooms can look brilliant in cottages, helping to create a wonderful cosy and cocooning atmosphere. When decorating with deeper tones, be sure to introduce plenty of texture as well as some accessories in bright accent colors to lift the space suggests Andrea Childs, editor of Country Homes & Interiors magazine.
'Don't be afraid to use a deep color in a small cottage living room with low ceilings. This rich green shade – Wooded Dell by Morris & Co (opens in new tab) – is reminiscent of sitting beneath a cool, shady canopy of trees,' says Andrea Childs.
'To lighten the atmosphere for your interiors scheme, think about how the woodland floor contains texture and touches of bright color from wildflowers and ground-cover plants. This yellow cabinet and complementary cushions hit the spot to create a comfortable cottage living room inspired by the shades of nature.'
15. Decorate with antiques
Decorating with antiques is a lovely way to bring character to a cottage living room. Featuring distressed patinas and imbued with fascinating history, antiques can be beautifully decorative and help interiors to tell a story. In this neutral Southampton, New York home designed by Becca Interiors, antique fixtures, furniture and objects have been used throughout to bring texture and interest to the space.
'We restored the living room space to its original layout, with the fireplace serving as the heart of the room. Although we could not reconstruct the original fireplace, we sourced an antique pine mantle, paired with hand picked vintage brick to frame the firebox and add an antique affect,' says Becca Casey, founder of Becca Interiors (opens in new tab).
'A mixture of found vintage accessories are staged throughout, mostly sourced from vintage stores and markets in Connecticut and New York.'
16. Factor in plenty of ambient lighting
Cottage style is all about creating a cosy, relaxed atmosphere, so be sure to factor in plenty of mood lighting in the form of living room wall lighting and table lamps.
'In my view lighting is key to the atmosphere of a room,' says interior designer Penny Morrison (opens in new tab). 'I always light rooms with lamps only, except where there are very dark corners where I will put small down lights in the corners of the room on dimmer switches which can be used to gently enhance the illusion of daylight on a really dark day.'
Many cottage have beautiful original walls, so when it comes choosing cottage lighting ideas for a living room, table lamps may be a preferable option over wall lights as they can be easily plugged in to create instant atmosphere without impacting the fabric of the building.
Pippa is Content Editor on Homes & Gardens online contributing to Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors print issues. 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.
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