Accessories & Furnishings

Carefree cottage style

How To Get A Carefree Cottage Style

Photography by Lauren McPhillips

Accessories & Furnishings

Carefree cottage style

The cottage allows you to take a more relaxed, playful approach to decor. Here are 11 ways to help you get that carefree summer vibe.

For many, the word "cottage" conjures up welcome childhood memories. It also may conjure up images of mismatched furniture, dark paneling and all sorts of retro delights that antique dealers now charge a fortune for. There’s something delightfully carefree about that anything-goes approach.

However, there are ways to bring a cottage into the 21st century while maintaining that sense of quintessential cottage nostalgia. "Cottages allow a little more fun, whimsy and chance, taking in the decor of the space," says Heather Smillie of Heather Smillie Designs Inc. "A cottage is an escape, so the decor can reflect that with interesting collections of memorabilia, antiques and/or collectibles. These can all be layered more effectively in a cottage."

Here are 5 ways to achieve carefree cottage style.

1. Choose durable fabrics and finishes

Wet bathing suits, muddy shoes, multiple pets … floors and furniture can take a beating. Which is why you want to choose durable fabrics and finishes. Heather recommends using natural fabrics like linens, cotton and wool for their textures.  "Anytime you can use a product that will be maintenance-free (even if it costs more), do it," she says. Heather recommends using colourful floor tiles and complementing the walls with beadboard, panel wainscoting or v-groove for durability.

2. Experiment with trends

If there are any trends that seem a little too bold for your home, give 'em a whirl at the cottage. Major royal events, like Will and Kate’s wedding and the Queen’s Jubilee have sparked the Britannia trend. "The combination of blue and red decor in a cottage surrounding can be fun and energetic," notes Heather.


3. Use reclaimed items

Cottages have always been like the Island of Misfit Toys for furniture. "Reclaimed has become such a part of design, it has transcended ‘trend’ and become an integral part of any home or cottage," says Heather. "So finding an old door and turning it into the façade of your island, or the backing of a bookcase is perfection."   


4. Unify your mismatched furniture

Because cottage furniture is often acquired via family giveaways, curbside finds and yard sales, it can often result in a frightening hodgepodge. "Combining different styles of furniture pieces can be pulled together with a complementary palette of fabrics," suggests Heather. "Whether you use a monochromatic or complementary colour scheme in your fabrics, they will fuse together the style and give you that 'finished' look you want."


5. Make less work, not more

Finally, Heather's biggest piece of advice is to make less work, not more. "The last thing you want is to be driving to your lovely cottage thinking: I've got to paint the windows or stain the deck or get another load of gravel for the driveway. Instead, invest in vinyl or aluminum-clad windows, fiberboard siding, composite decking, and pave the driveway or use interlocking brick. Then you will arrive to nothing harder than deciding what to put on the barbecue."

Tara Nolan is the Web Editor of and is a regular contributor to

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Accessories & Furnishings

Carefree cottage style