Elements of Style

How to Bring Home English Cottage Charm

How to Bring Home English Cottage Charm
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English cottage style is synonymous with cozy (or as the English would put it, cosy), heightened with a dash of time-honored elegance. A home decorated in English cottage style is one where sofas are made to be sprawled out on, favorite books and keepsakes are always close at hand, and signs of wear proudly speak to a lifetime of happy use.

Fortunately you need not have a Cotswolds cottage or a Devon bungalow to get the look. Below are ways you can bring English cottage charm to your home.

The pale-blue floral wallpaper sets a quiet mood in this cottage-style bedroom. Photo by Tony Vu.

The pale-blue floral wallpaper sets a quiet mood in this cottage-style bedroom. Photo by Tony Vu.

Always in Bloom

In England gardening is less a pastime and more a passion. After all, this is a country where gardeners Monty Don, Alan Titchmarsh, and Charlie Dimmock have been household names. So given the relative brevity of the English summer, it’s no surprise that the classic English cottage is lush with floral prints and other botanical patterns. From wallpaper to bedding, faux floral arrangements to botanical prints, bringing the beauty of a garden indoors is key to the look. Going all-out with one pattern—using the same floral toile on the walls, upholstery, and curtains—is one approach. But layering multiple garden motifs is fine too. Ditto a more subtle approach, such as limiting yourself to a bedspread in a tone-on-tone posy print or a display of Blue Willow dishes in your china cabinet.

Though the toile dominates, it is broken up with enough solid white and green so that it is anything but dizzying. It also helps that the colors are muted. Photo courtesy of Twin Farms.

Though the toile dominates, it is broken up with enough solid white and green so that it is anything but dizzying. It also helps that the colors are muted. Photo courtesy of Twin Farms.

Softly, Softly

The English cottage palette may lean toward the quiet, but it isn’t limited to neutrals and pastels. Rather it means that blues are more robin’s-egg than cyan, greens are more sage than emerald, reds are more rust than crimson. The walls and moldings of an English cottage might all be painted the same nongloss color, or if the walls are white or cream, the moldings might be accentuated with a color that helps tie together the room’s other hues.

As for furnishings, the layering approach often popular with patterns is even more common with colors. Forget a monochromatic look. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many hues can live together harmoniously in an English cottage. Not confident in your color acumen? Start with your rug—preferably a Persian or Oriental rug that looks as if it could have been in your family for at least a generation. If a color appears within the rug, you can safely repeat it on your furniture, walls, window treatments, or accents.

Strong but quiet colors, comfortable seating, and of course, flowers and foliage give this room the combination of comfort and elegance that defines English country style.

Strong but quiet colors, comfortable seating, and of course, flowers and foliage give this room the combination of comfort and elegance that defines English country style.

Comfort and Joy

Uncomfortable furniture and look-but-don’t-touch geegaws have no place in an English cottage. That’s why sofas and chairs tend to be heaped with pillows and throws and there are plenty of tables for resting drinks. This emphasis on comfort extends beyond seating you’ll love nestling in; it also encompasses surrounding yourself with favorite artworks, books, and collections. “Less is more” is not a phrase you’ll hear regarding English cottage style.

Pillows and throws in mismatched patterns make this sitting area even more welcoming. And yes, in most English cottages the dogs are allowed on the furniture. Photo by Manuel Rodriguez. Room design by Dransfield & Ross.

Pillows and throws in mismatched patterns make this sitting area even more welcoming. And yes, in most English cottages the dogs are allowed on the furniture. Photo by Manuel Rodriguez. Room design by Dransfield & Ross.

A pleated patterned lampshade, a skirted table, flowers, and framed photos of dogs: the epitome of English cottage style. Photo by Frank Tribble.

A pleated patterned lampshade, a skirted table, flowers, and framed photos of dogs: the epitome of English cottage style. Photo by Frank Tribble.

Hallmarks of English Cottage Style

• Patterned wallpaper, ideally a floral or a toile.
English-arm sofas and armchairs.
Staffordshire dogs.
Spindle-leg furniture.
Pillows and throws with plaid, floral, paisley, or other classic prints.
Wedgwood, Cornishware, and Willow china.
• Pleated lampshades; extra points if they’re patterned.
Prints of dogs, horses, or dogs and horses.
Skirted tables.
• A patina of age and wear—nothing should look freshly purchased, even if it was.

 

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