How to Design a Cozy Cottage-Style Interior
TOH's guide to the architectural elements and interior details that give any house, big or small, cottage character
More infused with a spirit than put together according to a set of rules, cottage-style interiors have a happy informality. Rooms are airy and intimate at the same time, with nooks and alcoves that offer both curl-up daydreaming spots and space-saving built-in storage—after all, who can relax if there's clutter all around? From colorful weathered paint to warm stained wood, finishes are touchable rather than hands-off and only get better with age. These spaces often get a dose of nostalgic charm from vintage-look fixtures and fittings, hardware, and woodwork details that seem to turn back the clock on today's high-stress, high-tech lifestyle. Most any place can use a helping of cottage coziness, as long as the goal is to create an inviting interior with a carefree, well-lived-in look. Here and on the following pages, we highlight some key features that you can borrow to give your own home that uplifting, easygoing feeling.
Step through the door or walk around the corner and what do you discover? Tucked-in shelving and furniture that ingeniously make use of every nook and cranny.
Even the simplest built-in can add a big dose of personality in a snug space. Here, a writing surface made from wall cleats and 2 boards spans a tight spot in an attic, turning a low-clearance corner into a light-filled workstation with a view.
What could be cozier? Stacked twin beds get a character boost from an arched enclosure. This pair is finished with wood paneling and white paint that tie in with the rest of the room. Books find a home on shelves at the head of each bed; extra linens hide in the lower bunk's deep drawers.
Playful color and pattern underfoot add a lighthearted touch—and a finished surface that wears its age well.
A coat of fresh white paint sets the staircase apart from khaki walls and stained wood floors; old-fashioned numbers stenciled onto each riser add a welcoming bit of whimsy.
Large squares of sunny yellow and soft cream change the mood of a living space instantly—no further upgrades needed. Added bonus: Paint is a nice way to disguise flaws on old floorboards.
See the step-by-step instructions for how to paint a checkerboard floor.
Back in the day, wood boards made cheap and durable walls for hard-working rooms. The look has endured, thanks to its casual, homey appeal.
To The Ceiling
Machine-milled beadboard took off in Victorian times for kitchens, baths, and work areas. Running the entire height of the walls, as well as up the banquette, it's still an eye-catching, easy-care surface for a busy dining nook.
Well crafted and practical, period-look woodwork, fixtures, fittings, and hardware add a personal touch—and a sense of history—to informal spaces.
Nothing's better for keeping everyday dishes close at hand. Oversize brackets lend these shelves a handcrafted feel; screw-in hooks put colorful cups on display.
Swooping basins with built-in backsplashes and wall-mounted faucets have a handsome utilitarian look. This oversize double sink anchors a shared bath, offering plenty of room for cleanup after a day's work. The shelf below the mirror makes up for the lack of deck space.
Elevated on ball-and-claw feet, an old-school soaker in porcelain-coated cast iron might just be the height of laid-back style. Plum paint, used on this tub's sides and on the surrounding wainscoting, gives it an updated look that's right at home with dark-stained wood floors.
In a bath, it's a fuss-free way to hang towels—just toss them there to dry. Throughout the house, peg rails can function as both millwork accents and storage solutions for everything from dish cloths to backpacks.