I have a file I call my “Forever File” that contains photos of rooms I can’t throw away because they continue to inspire me. I go through it a few times a year to see if I still feel the same way, and I usually find a few images that no longer cut it. The trendier the style, the faster they date, I find.There is one shot, though, that I’ve had for years and can’t let go of. It’s of a room with a kitchenette in the background and a living-dining area in the foreground. It’s small, and the decorating is classic rustic — but with a kick. There are pieces of painted furniture, linen slipcovered chairs and a few modern pieces mixed in. Nothing particularly noteworthy. But what gets me every time is the cosy feeling of a space that’s comfortable and has moments of bold colour and pattern through the use of paint and fabric — charming without being sweet. It feels like a place to escape to and relax. I can’t do any of that in our city house; the scale is much bigger and the mood, serious.For me, this shot is what cottage decorating is all about. It’s a place to play with old, mismatched pieces of furniture, reinventing them with paint and fabric. It’s where you don’t have to apologize for imperfection because those chips on favourite old plates and the worn and frayed edges on vintage throws are all part of the charm.TOP: What a fabulous room! Notice the pale walls, ceiling and floor, and the gallery wall of art of all kinds.BOTTOM: Mismatched dining chairs need a visual anchor. Here, it’s the matching pair of electric blue armchairs at either end. Get out your paintbrush!Here are a few tips for cottage decorating and shots of a great example of this style in a northern Michigan cottage.
1. CREATE A TEXTURED SHELL
White-painted cottage interiors are a classic option but even better is shiplap or tongue-and-groove wood panelling left natural or stained. You can run the boards vertically (traditional) or horizontally, which is more modern. I vote for vertical for a more classic look.
2. KEEP YOUR TRIM AND CEILINGS ALL ONE COLOUR
White is ideal because it helps create a seamless background. Plus, it’s a nice, crisp contrasting colour against the natural pine shiplap. Add light wood floors and you’ll have an envelope that will allow your furniture and art to f loat and really pop visually.
3. HAVE FUN WITH PAINT
Find a core palette of strong colours and limit yourself to only a few. Use themrepeatedly to paint doors, an old hutch, tables, cabinets or rattan chairs.
4. USE BOLD-PRINTED FABRICS STRATEGICALLY
A throw pillow, duvet cover or slipcovered chair in a bedroom will be enough to draw the eye and create drama.
5. AVOID SHINY METALS, POLISHED MARBLE OR ANY OTHER FINISHES THAT SCREAM CITY
Your hardware and light fixtures should be oiled bronze, matte black or gunmetal, plus a bit of antiqued brass. Tiles can be ceramic, slate, honed granite, stone, soapstone or honed composites.
6. LAYER IN THE VINTAGE
Have fun collecting old furniture and collectibles to mix in with new pieces.
7. THROW IN SOME ICONIC SYMBOLS
Old canoe paddles, a Hudson’s Bay point blanket used to upholster a bench, old CPR silver bowls, vintage runners and rag rugs, and art and artifacts from Canadian Indigenous artists and artisans, such as quill boxes and beautiful beadwork: these are treasures that will bring a sense of history to your cottage.
8. USE ART JOYFULLY, MIXED IN WITH FAMILY PHOTOS
The cottage is the place for all that art that isn’t sophisticated or serious enough for the city. It’s the place for kids’ drawings to be framed and hung alongside vintage oil paintings.
9. CREATE PLAY STATIONS
Make sure there’s a games table for that puzzle that’s always in progress, or for art projects or card games.
10. PUT COMFORT FIRST
Have lots of comfy chairs and sofas with good reading light, and quality mattresses, showerheads, plush towels and sweet-smelling soft cotton sheets. These and other comforts are what help make a stay at the cottage the pleasure it should be.