The Simplicity of the Cottage Style

by WOHe

In our high-tech, time-deprived, stress-filled lives, Americans are
yearning for simplicity and nostalgia. And, an important design
trend in our industry the Cottage theme reflects these times.’

More and more, people want to spend time at home. And, whether
they are entertaining or relaxing, self-expression in home
lifestyle is becoming a high priority. The cottage look is ideal
for people who are enthusiastic about their homes and engage in
pastimes such as’
collecting antiques and crafts, cooking for enjoyment, and even
canning preserves (or maybe just reading about it).’

The trend to a cottage look in decorating takes a simple and
fresh approach to styling. Capitalizing on this design trend is a
number of magazines, catalogs and retail outlets. Think of the
popular Pottery Barn and Ballard Designs catalogs, and slick
magazines such as Martha Stewart Living and RealSimple.’

Today, the cottage theme is evident at a very high-end level
within exclusive design boutiques, as well as being mass marketed
through retailers such as Kmart, which carries the Martha Stewart
Everyday Home Collections.’

In fact, one of the biggest catalysts for the cottage theme
emergence is Martha Stewart and her corporate empire. Whether or
not you are a devotee of Martha Stewart, she is an undisputed
American lifestyle guru, and currently has a tremendous influence
on trends, retailing and consumer buying decisions.’

The cottage style has definitely arrived. Are you ready to
capture this consumer market segment? Here’s how to merchandise the
cottage look in your showroom.

The cottage theme
The cottage style represents a shift to a more casual feel, lighter
in coloration pastel to brighter hues with a fresh handmade or
crafted appearance to the accents. It is’
not an austere look. Rather, it shares some of the detail elements
indicative of Old World styling, but the cottage style is quite
different. Offering a decidedly American Country influence, the
cottage design features simpler, yet distinctive detailing compared
to Old World.’

Lighter finishes
For your cottage display, consider the cabinetry or wood components
to be the backdrop used to solidify the theme. Lighter finishes are
important to the motif, and the number one place to start is with a
version of white.

There is always a “white kitchen buyer” in the market, and the
cottage style will grab this buyer’s interest. Soft white
variations similar to biscuit or ivory cream would work well.
Ideally, the cabinetry, paneling and molding should feature a
multi-stepped finish, with the finish rubbed off in key profile
areas and edges to create an aged texture. However, if this finish
enhancement is not available to you at your price point, a white or
cream, solid opaque-colored cabinetry could represent the theme. If
painted looks are not an option, then choose the lightest maple
wood in a Champagne or natural coloration.’

Door styles
Select a door style and profile that will sell in your market, but
be sure it does not duplicate what you already have on the showroom
floor. Consider a twin double-, raised- or flat-panel door. A
single-raised panel will work, but in all cases, selecting a cope
and stick construction is best. Miter door designs are not
authentic to the theme, and should be avoided. But, beaded panel
doors are growing in popularity and can really enhance the cottage
look. An applied moulding or inset door would also be a good

Whatever the door style, mix up the visual texture of the
display with the addition of mullion glass doors, plain insert
doors with punched tin, gathered fabric or decorative seeded clear

Visual impact
When planning a cottage layout, focus on giving prominence to one
or two areas. This is especially needed for L-shaped displays. One
way to achieve this is by staggering cabinet heights and using
bump-outs. Make bump-outs broader in scale. For example, rather
than limiting a bump-out to the space needed for a standard 36″
cooktop area, dare to go bigger and wider maybe 54″-60″ overall to
include roll-trays, or two 18″ base cabinets flanking the primary
cooking area. This oversized look is very appropriate to the
cottage theme, and works beautifully to create a charming cooking
hearth space or specialty dish area.

Detailing is essential to completing the design of the cottage
theme. Elements appropriate to this look include:’

  • Beaded backs on open cabinetry and end panels.
  • Mouldings that add character, such as a rope motif or a
    small-scale scallop trim.
  • Wicker basket roll-outs as part of a base cabinet.
  • Little drawers such as vertical apothecary bases.
  • Small niche spaces to display decorative items like colorful
    dishware, or canisters.
  • Lace and grape leaf patterns.
  • Simple valances like a traditional arch, or straight style with
    wood onlays, or a specialty cut out.
  • Country sinks that feature an apron front.
  • Feet treatments in complementary skirts to coordinate with wall
    Adding these textural elements will enhance a multi-step finish and
    the furniture appearance of the display. And, it is worth noting
    that the furniture look continues’
    to be a genuine hot button in consumer appeal.’

Display products such as sinks, faucets and decorative hardware
should enhance the theme. Materials like aged pewter, bronze,
stainless or copper-finished plumbing and decorative hardware work
wonderfully with the cottage motif. For whitish cabinetry, select
lighter finished items such as a white country apron sink. Have fun
with your decorative hardware choices. Using multiple types of
hardware is fine maybe a cup pull design or funky, fun utensil
pulls. Just make sure the hardware styles are good decorative
companions, or from the same family. When in doubt, keep it

Fresh colors further define the cottage look. Blues, in
particular, are a good choice and are becoming a forward,
fashionable color for the cottage look. Soft sage green, butter
cream and natural wood tones in mid-values also work. Don’t be
afraid to use a bold splash of color like rust or barn red, but
keep from going overboard. Fabric accents are an effective way to
begin to bring other decorative aspects of the theme into the

Decorating options are plentiful at all price points. Arrange a
set of larger mixing bowls, antique milk pitcher, wooden rolling
pin, canning jars with fabric tops, fake foods and colorful plates
within the display area. Be creative, but make sure the end result
is well integrated and coordinated.’

Keep in mind, it is also an opportunity to maximize your
products and selling opportunities. The buyer of the cottage theme
is searching for a different design direction a cleaner, lighter,
airy American style.’

Offering the cottage style within your retail setting provides
this niche customer base with a reason to visit your showroom in
their search for simplicity and, in turn, it presents a clear
marketing advantage for your business.

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