The great British cottage has a rural charm not found in any other architecture. The oldest examples date back to Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, from 1560 onwards. Generally the buildings imagined when cottages are discussed will be half-timbered or stone, squat buildings with thatched roofs. The reality is that most were built with whatever stone or materials were available locally, sandstone, granite, limestone or oak framing were all used during this period.
The golden age for the British cottage was between 1560 and 1700. The buildings were generally very modest affairs, built for and by peasants. They would generally have few rooms, some only 2 or 3 for a family, but many have been extended and added to over the years.
Internally each cottage tends to have a very different feel to it, as each would have been built by hand by their original owner. Many would have had roughly plastered whitewashed walls, but bare stone is just as common. Modern cottage owners will tend to emphasise the original features that are left, loving the age and character that they bring, be they large stone fireplaces, strangely shaped windows or gently undulating wall surfaces.
Finding the right decor for cottages can be strangely difficult. What’s sold as ‘rustic’ often looks cheap and out of place when it’s put in a cottage setting, but the shiny flat surfaces of modern designs is equally off kilter. Many successful interiors rely on the exiting character features, leaving floors wooden with large rugs for warmth, installing a wood burner into large fireplaces, and making sure the internal fixtures and fittings are in keeping with the age and feel of the building. Good quality antique furniture works well in most cottage living areas, as does classically designed floral print fabrics for the soft furnishings.
Historically the gardens attached to a cottage would be used to grow food for their occupants, and maybe keep some livestock. This is a far cry from the modern “Cottage Garden”, that’s now synonymous with an informal design, traditional materials and pastel native flowers that nestle under and next to the thatched roofs.
Now cottages are accessible to anyone wanting to spend a quiet weekend away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Rent My Cottage is one company that offers a way for cottage owners to let out their cottages to guests.