Cottage décor

Tips on how to add style to even the most rustic cabin

If your names are Kurt and Goldie, this article is not for you. For other cottage owners bereft of designer services, this décor primer speaks to your humble escape.

Comfort zone

The cottage is the place to pull out classics like ticking and white cotton duck. Slipcovers can go a long way to updating a sofa that’s well-constructed but has seen better times. Canvas bought from an art supply store can withstand grape juice and muddy dog paws and will only get whiter after use, thanks to stiff bleaching at the end of the season (which should be done in town).

Cushions are inexpensive and add a hit of colour, and nothing feels more luxurious than a pile of them to bolster you on the hammock. Add a good quality throw like a Hudson’s Bay Point blanket (a new updated colour scheme features neutral stripes in brown and greys). Vintage textiles or small florals make quaint curtains and tablecloths, and braided or hooked rugs are another retro staple.

The white stuff

There is a reason that white board and batten paneling is a cottage staple: it looks clean, references nautical architectural detailing and is cost effective. If you don’t have the budget for ready-made panels and moulding, a coat of white paint goes a long way to freshen the interior of a dark cottage.

Light taste

Make sure there is ample task lighting for reading. Instill character and authenticity with nautical-inspired nickel lanterns, or reproduction arts and crafts fixtures. For a more exotic touch, Moroccan lights add atmosphere and mood.

Shop locally

Instead of hauling up furnishings and accessories from home, explore small shops in town, garage sales, estate and antique auctions for beds and dressers. Not only can you find amazing bargains that would never make it inside city limits, they can be a source of hard-to-find vernacular pieces with history (and ferreting them out is a fun way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon).

A fine vintage

Kitsch up old cabinets and work the theme with colourful accents and dishes such as Fiestaware, retro reproductions of coffee and sugar tins, enamelware, cake stands and coloured juice glasses. Or suss out the real thing at thrift shops: anything enamel or tin will help deter mice.


The cottage might sit on the Canadian shield but that doesn’t mean it has to look strictly Canadiana. What is your favourite hotspot? If it’s Greece pick a pretty white and blue palette. An African safari can resonate with an all-purpose wooden stool or big woven baskets to stash books and magazines. A Jamaica sojourn can inspire breezy curtains to hang around your bed, plantation style (take that mosquitoes).

Too often, cottages become repositories for junk or wedding presents too horrifying to dispatch through eBay. Display a treasured collection of seashells, or a watercolour of the lake proudly, but don’t give a second thought to anything that doesn’t make you feel happy when you look at it. Whether it’s local colour or a place halfway around the globe, let the things you love inform your decorating choices and you’ll make the cottage that much harder to leave.