Look We Love: How To Create Cozy English Cottage Style

published Aug 9, 2017
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(Image credit: Architectural Digest)

If you find yourself constantly yearning for a Nancy Meyers-esque house swap to whisk you away to the picturesque hills of the English countryside, maybe it’s time to bring the English countryside to you. Whether it’s a cramped big city apartment or a modern cookie-cutter tract home that has you feeling trapped, these simple design tips will give your home that cozy, quaint, pastoral feeling that English cottage daydreams are made of.

Patterned upholstery

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First and foremost, you’d be hard pressed to find an authentic English countryside cottage (like the one seen above from Architectural Digest) without a sofa and/or armchair upholstered in a patterned textile. Stripes, florals, plaids…all of these would fit into the look seamlessly.

(Image credit: Nicholas Yarsely)

Layering textiles

Cozy nooks, like the above fireplace situation via Period Living, are quintessential in most traditional English cottages. What’s that? You can’t afford a 300-year-old farmhouse with exposed wood beams and a stone hearth? You’re in luck. Using a variety of throws, pillows, and rugs throughout your home creates instant warmth and homey vibes. No matter what room you find yourself in, you should always be comfortable. If you have a chair or sofa without at least one throw and pillow on it, you’re doing it wrong. Also, don’t be afraid to scour the Goodwill bins! This style highly encourages a mixture of colors, textures and patterns (and most of these items are 100% washable).

(Image credit: Phillip Lauterbach)

Lots and lots of books

Cozy nooks love reading material and you don’t need fancy built-in shelving to display your collections beautifully. Pile your tables, benches, and even floors with good reads to be available on the ready (bonus points if you top those stacks with curious little trinkets like a rooster or a model car as seen here from Period Living). Any books will do, but opt for leather bound or worn-and-tattered titles when possible to bring richness and character to empty surfaces.

(Image credit: Victoria Harrison)

Flowers and florals

No English cottage fantasy is complete without a stroll through the ground’s overgrown gardens. Bringing in simple arrangements of fresh flowers and herbs, preferably those found in an English cottage garden, is a great way to give your home that pastoral feel. Lavender, violet, thyme, and sage, are a great place to start and, when put in a vase or planter, have that subtle wild quality that’s unfussy (a hallmark of this look).

(Image credit: Hooked on Houses)

Plenty of toile and paisley

Speaking of that Nancy Meyers-esque house swap, this shot from the set of “The Holiday” via Hooked on Houses is the home of Kate Winslet’s character. Taking a closer look, no English cottage would be complete without a well-worn armchair upholstered in a toile or paisley, as well as draperies and throw pillows in the motifs.

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

A neatly made “guest” bed

An English cottage without comfortable guest quarters is like a Jane Austen novel without a female protagonist. Treat your guests like royalty, and, more importantly, treat yourself like a guest! Keep all of your bedding simple with crisp, white linens, a plush blanket or quilt, and pillows stacked neatly (as shown above from Period Living) for an optimal cozy-yet-uncluttered sleeping situation.

(Image credit: Oberto Gili)

Refreshments (particularly tea)

Always have a pot of tea on and plenty of saucers and cups ready to be filled. Mismatched china arranged on a tray or open shelving provides functional decor (and don’t forget living “decor” the likes of a sleepy cat like the gorgeous specimen lounging in this room from Architectural Digest). Also, you can’t put a price on the sweet scent of fresh baked bread and nothing looks quite as delightful as a pile of rustic buttery scones next to a jar of lemon curd and a dollop of clotted cream. Take the time to bake from scratch and savor a cuppa on the regular.

(Image credit: Tessa Neustadt)

Muted tones

Using muted yet rich tones when painting your walls, cabinets and/or furniture ensures that your cozy, peaceful environment won’t be disturbed with distracting hues. Above, Green Smoke from Farrow and Ball was used in designer Emily Henderson’s Mmodern English country-inspired kitchen.

(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

Fabric lamp shades

While fabric lamp shades can sometimes look dated or stuffy, when it comes to English cottage style, they can add an element of warmth and classic charm. Here, homeowner’s Karen and Kevin have chosen a neutral color palette, which keeps their uber cozy English cottage-esque living room from looking cluttered or chaotic. Simply replacing some of your more modern, streamlined shades with antique, or antique-inspired fabric shades, is an easy step toward achieving that quaint English Cottage look.

(Image credit: Devol Kitchens)

Classic hardware

Replacing your hardware with basic wooden knobs or old-fashioned brass drawer pulls like the ones shown here from deVol Kitchens is a quick and easy way to add style to any room (well, as long as it has drawers or cabinets). Renters, just check that your new hardware doesn’t require any additional drilling so you can easily stash the old knobs and replace them if you move out.

and lastly…

Something “a little bit ugly”

Nancy Lancaster, the 20th century Virginia-born tastemaker often credited with categorizing the English country style, suggested every room in a home should have “something a little bit ugly”. Because “ugly” is such a subjective term, we’ve chosen to let you use your imagination here. Whether it’s an ominous portrait or a gaudy patterned tablecloth, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and add some unconventional charisma to your cozy quarters.