Cottage Style Kitchens

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You don't have to be a great cook to appreciate a welcoming kitchen: It's the place where the kids come to chat, where you retreat to decompress after a hard day and where everyone seems to congregate in good times and bad. It's the perfect spot to share a cookie, snag a beverage or grab an apple for the road.

What is cottage style?

Cottage style kitchens have a lot going for them when it comes to enhancing the natural attributes of a great family kitchen:

  • They're light in color (often white or ecru), which can make a petite kitchen look larger, cleaner and brighter.
  • They rely more on charm and detail than they do on expensive appliances and cutting edge materials.
  • A little wear and tear (like what most of us encounter in real life), just adds to their charm, so they're kid and pet friendly. If décor is intentionally worn, you may be entering “shabby chic” territory.
  • They're easy to rearrange and update without the process becoming a major expense.
  • They're flexible: Your favorite theme or color will probably work in a cottage kitchen with a little pre-planning and come creativity.

Cottage kitchen built-ins & walls

You know those heavy built-in cabinets with the elaborate door or drawer pulls and the dark finishes? They look opulent, which tends to justify their high cost, but they also tend to make kitchen spaces look smaller -- even cramped -- and dark, too. Cottage style kitchens are the opposite of opulent and imposing- they're casual and welcoming. Nothing says that better than cabinets, walls, countertops and appliances that lose the emphasis on dark wood, stainless steel and stone in favor of light colors and textured surfaces. That's one reason beadboard is so popular in this style.

If you don't feel comfortable whitewashing all your hardwood cabinets or removing their decorative doors, consider adding open wall shelving to an area of your kitchen or breakfast nook. It will give you an opportunity to display some of your pretty dishes or even a cast iron pan or two. It's cottage friendly, and using functional items for display is one charming feature of a cottage kitchen. Experiment a little. You'll like the look.

Other popular cottage style kitchen elements are:

  • Open shelving - Yes, some savvy designers are taking the doors off conventional built-ins for a more open, casual look.
  • Glass fronted cabinets - For an open look that sparkles
  • White beadboard wainscoting
  • Whitewashed or linen effect wall treatments
  • Wood or tile countertop treatments
  • Tin ceiling treatments

The Flooring

Wide-plank wood floors are an authentic cottage touch, but they aren't the only option. A neutral tile works well, and adding texture in textile throw rugs (think jute, burlap or canvas) can help conceal a floor that doesn't quite offer the cottage feel you want. Another small cheat is to create the look of higher baseboards with a contrasting paint color. It's an inexpensive way to add some cottage ambience on a budget.

Other Features

Here are some classic elements of cottage kitchen design you might also want to include:

  • Multiple small pieces of wall art or mirrors (Small pane windows are a cottage classic and this is a budget friendly homage). Art should depict farm scenes, food or nature.
  • Shutters, or blinds with wide slats in a natural finish.
  • Roman shades
  • French doors
  • Cafe curtains
  • Overstuffed cushions
  • Large scale flowered, striped or checked textiles in curtains, tablecloths, rugs and accessories.
  • Quilted items (like toaster covers and tea cozies)
  • Wicker and woven grasses in baskets, chair seats, placemats and floor coverings
  • Using white (or off white) as a neutral with pastels
  • Distressed finishes
  • Iron furnishings, lamps and accessories
  • Ceiling fixtures with fabric (or paper) shades

Remember, cottage style kitchens should be cozy and functional, not flashy! If you have older white appliances rather than stainless steel, this is all the better. Stick to lightly colored, natural materials, traditional patterns and delicate décor.

Last Updated: March 14, 2013
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About Sara Elliot Sara Elliott is a freelance copywriter and dedicated blogger. Her popular gardening, cooking and crafting blog, The Herb Gardener, was cited by The Wall Street Journal for its fun and frugal tips. Sara has a degree in English, and you can find her health, crafting, and lifestyle pieces on sites like,, and

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