Interior designers on how to achieve the idyllic cottage interior

There's just something about cottages that we can't get enough of, but how do you get the look right on your own? Interior designers weigh in

Katharine Paravicini

Antiques are so important to add depth and interest to any interior, and for a cottage, thinking of antiques would be one of the first places I’d start for much of the furniture and lighting. I love mixing antiques from different periods and places, and I always keep an eye on my favourite antique dealers, and scour antique shops, auction houses and Etsy and eBay.   

I think a cottage calls out for lots of colour, and pattern, as well as a mix of natural textures and finishes. But with the rooms being smaller in scale, it is particularly important in a cottage to get the balance of all this just right, to retain a sense of calm, and to keep elements of simplicity which feel authentic to a cottage environment.

Katharine's shopping sources for cottage interiors
  • Miranda Willes has a wonderful eye and I always find something I want to buy from her.  Her shop is well worth a visit
  • I had to include the wallpapers by Howe. They fit brilliantly in many interiors, and I think that they they just sing in a cottage environment, and I have used two in my own cottage
  • Art and pictures are so important to give a room character and to make it feel personal and like home, and I think it is key to slowly collect pieces that you love.  I’ve been lusting after these hand painted framed prints by Get the Gusto for a while for my own cottage
  • These chairs by Sascal Studio x The Odd Chair company would look great in a cottage kitchen
  • I am envisaging some wonderful fabrics by Antoinette Poisson on a new cottage project I am currently working on
  • Often faced with low ceilings in a cottage, where there is little space for pendant lights, these ceiling fixed lights by Dyke and Dean are a great option for a kitchen or utility room, and I have them over the worktop in my own kitchen.  I avoid spots where I can, but particularly so in a cottage where they feel oppressive overhead with lower ceilings.
  • I love the natural texture and the softness Tatiana Tafur’s sunshades and rugs bring to a space.
  • I’m shortly going to begin work on some bathrooms in a cottage for a client, and some hand-painted tiles by Balineum will definitely be featuring
  • I recently bought one of Rebecca Udall’s gingham ruffle tablecloths and it is really lovely and looks perfect in my own cottage kitchen
  • The refurbished period brass taps by Wandle Brassworks are perfect for a cottage kitchen or downstairs loo where they would look like they’d been there forever

Caroline Holdaway 

Throw chic out, welcome colour in. Choose a palette of colours (neutrals, to my mind, are best kept to walls only!) and run them throughout. Most cottages are small so I find keeping the palette the same throughout increases the flow. Cushions can be hectic and thrilling and can break the colour mould, I like to edge mine with bright silk velvet. The country is forgiving of idiosyncrasies! Very limited use of recessed ceiling lights, I favour table and standard lamps to give pockets of promise rather than blanket light. I love single wall lights on small turns of stairs or narrow pieces of wall.

Caroline's shopping sources
  • Hector Finch for wall lights, with decorative fabric shades
  • Marianna Kennedy resin Spring lamp bases
  • Cosy small patterns such as Blithfield
  • Wicklewood are perfect for furniture
  • Wallace and Sewell for glorious honeycomb throws–Edith being my favourite colourway–for snuggling under in the winter
  • And finally, the all important Scandinavian flat weaves from Sinclair Till for rugs and runners in lovely bright country colours, perfect complement to stone or timber floors. Simple!

The idyllic cottage kitchen in Harriet Anstruther's house

Ngoc Minh Mgo

Harriet Anstruther 

Utilise the anomalies of the space and vernacular and make sure you look at the negative spaces around your furniture and objects, to allow the spaces to be flexible in use if necessary. For maximum comfort and relaxation, you want to use organic, soft forms when it comes to furnishing your cottage.

As for atmosphere, candles, texture, colour and scent are all key for cottages, as is softening sound with rugs and fabric overlays.

Ultimately, you need to understand what makes you tick to ensure the space is authentic to you. Source found objects to create a more real look, rather than modern items and this will help you  create stories and vignettes that capture a theme or interest. Throw out thoughts of fashion or trends and take your time decorating.

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