I am excessively fond of a cottage; there is always so much comfort, so much elegance about them.
~ Jane Austen

I am having a difficult time describing the style of decor that I envision for the farmhouse.  I can see the rooms in their completed, decorated state, but I cannot pinpoint or articulate a specific style.  Not that the decor will be hodgepodge, as certain elements will definitely be present.  It may be that I am envisioning a combination of styles and need to coin my own phrase to describe the marriage of elements from each concept.  Even “eclectic” does  not come close to describing the overall idea.

Elements from the following decorating styles are included in the design I imagine:

  • Primitive – belonging to or characteristic of an early stage of development. Crude and rudimentary. Items in this category include old wooden hay rakes, antique handmade rag dolls, and any other handcrafted antique items. These things are not perfect or uniform, they are worn or stained. While I do not think the decor of the farmhouse can be termed “primitive”, it will contain some of the elements found in this decorating style; i.e., worn, stained, etc.
  • Country – while “country” is a rather general term, it actually depicts a class of pieces a little higher than primitive – antique cotton quilts, Hoosier cupboards, stoneware bowls, enamelware and wooden dovetailed boxes. Wood and cotton fabrics seem prevail in Country Decorating. These elements are closer to the style that I envision for the farmhouse, yet the “definition” is not quite a fit.
  • French Country – yellows, blues, rooster collections, tiles on the floor and walls. When applied to interior design generally means a mix between elegant and rustic. Faded or whitewashed wood, blue, pink and yellow small prints and flowered fabrics, sunflowers in a dripware pitcher.  This style strongly appeals to my sense of decor and is a close interpretation of what I envision for the farmhouse. I like the words “elegant” and “rustic” used together.
  • Shabby Chic – a mix of flea market finds, redone to suit the new owner. Comfortable, inviting, with character, are a few words to describe this new/old decorating style. Worn but comfy chairs covered with a old faded quilt, old trunks remade into coffee tables, baskets holding magazines and worn lace hung as a curtain.  Shabby Chic is purportedly a style coined by Rachel Ashwell. Its elements sound a great deal like French Country: “balance of elegant things with old and worn, shiny silver accessories with painted wooden tables, soft throw rugs with rough old lace.”
  • Cottage -In the strictest sense, Cottage Style isn’t really an actual style, at all. A cottage is a type of home that is meant to be lived in, to be enjoyed, and is usually the depository for all the cast-offs from the main house. Recycled furnishings and accessories once relegated to the cottage have grown in popularity in recent years. A feature of cottage style decorating is that anything and everything works.  This style seems to be a perfect union of the various styles that impress on my sense of decor for the farmhouse.

The furniture used in Cottage style home decorating more often than not is second hand. It may be a piece found and purchased from a flea market, rescued from friends and family or collected from the curb. Nothing has to match, and if it doesn’t, so much the better. The overall effect you want to achieve is a look that is one of charm and comfort. Anything that you have found can be painted or covered with new fabric to help it fit into your decorating scheme.

In Cottage decor, it is not unusual for pieces to be adapted from one use to another. For example, an old door might be converted into a table, an old window can be turned into a coffee table, an old cupboard saved from a kitchen can house towels in the bathroom, or an old sideboard or buffet might become a desk. You could also turn a section of old wooden or iron fence into a custom made headboard. To become a part of your decoration theme whatever you make use of simply should look old and loved, complete with signs of wear and tear.

Floors utilized in Cottage homes are frequently made of wood, marked with little imperfections. If you need to employ new wood as your flooring, it can be made to look old. Floors that are painted can have patterns stenciled on, either to add interesting details or to help define areas. Raw planks can be covered with vintage braided throw rugs, and covering over any type of flooring with antique rugs is another way to get the Cottage look. Rather than wall-to-wall carpet which has a too perfect appearance for this style. The use of recycled tile is okay,

Since Cottage Style homes are considered to be informal, windows should have the appearance of being light and airy. Lace would be appropriate instead of heavy drapes, or translucent materials would work better than opaque panels. If privacy is an important consideration, be sure to choose some simple shades that can be hidden away in the day. When privacy is not a consideration, you can leave the windows bare. Valances for the windows can be sewn out of fabric or made of braided grapevines. Swags made of lace material will help add a softer look to the decor.

Cottage Style decor usually requires a variety of fabrics to use in the production of slipcovers, upholstery, table skirts, pillows, etc. Choose a variety of prints that work well together such as florals, stripes, checks, and plaids for a coordinated look. Furniture that has slipcovers is also a very popular element of the Cottage look. It provides furnishings with a relaxed look and can be easily updated. Handmade throws to snuggle under can be sprinkled around anywhere.

Any odd bric-a-brac can act as an accessory in a home decorated in the Cottage look, so look for fun pieces wherever you travel. Interesting vintage plates, old fashioned hats, musical instruments, neat looking aged frames and heirloom samplers can become the centerpiece in a comfy cottage room.

Antique shops, estate sales, grandma’s attic, and local flea markets all possess a treasure trove of items which will prove to be useful and decorative. As you begin collecting your favorite kind of hand-me-downs and rescued treasures, you’ll be well on your way to the creation of a unique brand of cottage style for your own home.

Deborah of The Fairfield House says Cottage Charm takes on as many definitions as there are bloggers. There are whites only (not a racial comment), coastal, vintage, farmhouse, industrial junkers, shabby chic, french country … the list goes on and on.  I prefer to think of Cottage Charm as a way of life more than a way of decorating.