Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What is a Cottage?

Often, when the term 'cottage' is mentioned, a beach is the first thing that comes to mind.....at least in our part of the country.  Cottage living does not necessarily refer to summer, or weekend, living.  Far from it.

So today, I searched for the definition of 'cottage' and found the term was developed in the Middle Ages to describe what was then the home of a 'cotter' - a working peasant.  Also, 'cottage' was derived from a combination of the English word 'cote' which means 'hut', and the French word 'cot' which means 'hut' - in other words, a peasant's hut.  And the peasant's huts were understood to be 'cozy' because they were small.  Hence, cottage style living is always cozy.

'Cozy' has come a long way since the Middle Ages!  Cozy is no longer determined by size, and cottage is no longer determined by size, or location, for that matter.  The large summer cottages that were built for the very rich in Bar Harbor in the 19th century changed all that.

Over the years, cottages have developed certain characteristics that are common among them, such as shingled, stucco, timbered or stone siding, deeply slanted rooves, paned windows, gabled windows, chimneys and they are sometimes enclosed by picket fences with gates.

Some cottage elements are specific to the country they are in such as England, France, Sweden, etc., so we have English cottages, French cottages, Australian cottages and then we have the same for interior decorating...i.e., English country, French country, American country, refined, rustic, Victorian, shabby chic, traditional.....what does it all mean and how does one country's decor differ from another?

And are cottages always by a body of water?  Definitely not.....they can be found in the woods, mountains, rural and urban areas.

To try and sort it all out, let's look at some international cottage styles.  And tomorrow we will look at some interior design styles.

Tiny cottage in upstate New York
Hand built by a woman as her own retreat
Recycled materials

St. James Park, London, England
Stucco, gabled roof, (no thatches), bird house on roof

Traditional Irish cottage, Donegal
Steep roof, paned windows, colorful
Stone walls, gate

St. Bart's, Caribbean
Coastal cottage

Michigan full-time residential cottage
Decorative window panes, steep roof

Swedish cottage
Shingled, gables, veranda

Infamous Grey Gardens
Hamptons shingled cottage 1897

Contemporary Hamptons cottage
10,000 sq. ft.?
Shingles, gables, paned windows, chimneys

Australian cottage

Image 1 NY Times, Images 2 & 3 Wikipedia
Image 4 Coastal Living, Image 5 Cottages of Harbor Springs,
Image 6 Unknown, Image 7 East Hampton Historical Society
Image 8 Unknown, Image 9 Unknown


  1. Living on the Island and loving the water I'd have to say my favorite one is the Caribbean one! But I also really enjoy the Australian one too!

  2. Nice article and very helpful pictures. When I was trying to name my house I was not sure of the definition of a cottage. I thought because my house was two stories I could not call it a cottage. So at first I called it Sea Petal Manor... but now I call it Sea Petal Cottage and it is a much more suited name. I am by the sea.... I have faux board siding, pained windows, one octagon window... not very steep roof and I do have a large screen porch and deck... oh and I do have the picket fence and gate.... working on the cottage garden now.