How-to: Get the Cottage LookThink colorful eclectic. A cottage can be unpredictable; don’t be afraid to experiment with a lot of bold color. Accent with warm, organic elements: wooden chairs, wildflower bouquets, and fresh fruit centerpieces. Extend it to the porch or veranda with plump pillows on a wicker swing.
Here’s a summer suggestion: Toss those cloths!Wake up tired rooms the easiest and cheapest way with bright textiles. Beautifully printed fabric can take the place of expensive art and even change the layout of a room. Bring your basket-full of linens to the cottage, throw open the windows, and hang fabric on walls, in doorways, and over cluttered cabinets. Use tablecloths and quilts to cover and brighten dark, old furniture. Frame placemats, cushion covers, or collectible tea towels. Every once in a while, relax, stand back, and assess your surroundings. If there is something you don’t like – throw a pretty cloth on it! The great thing about decorating with cloth is that it can be mixed up and moved around quite easily, and switching a single cloth can have the effect of reinventing an entire room. There are no rules at the cottage – just relax, be yourself, and enjoy!
How-to: Entertain with Cottage AmbienceThe lively and entertaining spirit of the cottage—whether it’s a cabin in the hills, or a camp on the lake, or even a jazzy apartment in New York, with the summer breeze coming in through a raised window cottage-style—is a carefree attitude. This happy style presents ideas to inspire your own entertaining when creating an atmosphere of relaxation in your summer place.
Enjoy a fun, eclectic look by putting a few tables together bistro style. Mix up your tablecloths: use a classic floral on one table, a conversation print on another, and on a third table, a jacquard. Adding a check cloth will make the setting more casual and retro in feel. As long as the same colors are threading their way through all of the tables, the total look will be unified. Garnish your dishes with edible flowers (see Flowers on Your Table and on Your Plate). Add the cottage look to your napkins and table settings, by tucking a wildflower into your napkins, or add a jug of black-eyed Susans to your centerpiece. Decorate chairs with placemats and ribbon tiebacks. Make it jazzy in the evening with tea lights and great music. Or play golden oldies that everyone can sing along to. Make sure to provide plenty of plump pillows for a relaxing snooze—an old couch and a cotton blanket are the best part of a cottage afternoon!
In the mornings big bowls of fruit can greet the early risers, in the afternoon lemonade. A slice of watermelon cools the sting of a sunburn, and the cottage is a great place to pull out Grandma’s brown sugar fudge recipe – at last time to relax and enjoy simple activities.
Remember to have a pack of cards on hand – and a book of Hoyle’s Rules to calm the disputes that are bound to occur among summer card players.
Key ingredients for decorating—cheerful color, a mix of old, new, and found, ample food, comfy chairs, and the people you enjoy!
(this article was first published in the spring 2005 issue of April Cornell - The Art of the Everyday)