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Contemporary cottage interiors: styled by Lucy Whitehouse

contemporary cottage interior decor ideas

Exposed brick, rich wooden beams, a cosy sofa and snuggle-worthy armchair by the fire… cottage interior design is a quintessential part of British culture, conjuring up images of charming furnishings in simply idyllic settings.

Moving into a 16th century former bakery in Cheltenham last year, interior stylist and designer Lucy Whitehouse, aka @at_lucys_house, swapped her light and airy 1950s remodelled home for a 500-year-old property complete with low ceilings and original features.

“I have a really eclectic style,” Lucy confesses, “I like to reflect the character of the particular house when I design the interiors.” Despite wanting to stay true to the character of the property, Lucy updates the cottage décor trend by introducing modern and contemporary pieces to give the interior design a fresh look. “Just because it’s a really old house it doesn’t need to feel like a National Trust property,” the stylist explains. “This house has an abundance of beams and wonky walls and so I wanted to reflect this in the furniture so there’s lots of waves and curves which I think works really well. But I also think you need to mix it up. Introducing more modern pieces keeps it fresh and interesting! And vice versa with a new house!”

Green velvet sofa in cottagecore living room

One way in which Lucy achieves a contemporary cottage home décor is by introducing bold, warm colours that bring a fresh, contemporary look to the space while still playing into its cosy nature. “I have introduced a lot more colour into this house because I think an older house can take it and often needs it because of the smaller windows and lower ceilings. The previous house was a complete remodel and was very modern with massive windows so clean lines and light walls and furniture felt fitting whereas this house is darker, so the injection of colour keeps it uplifting and plays on its cosier vibe.”

Introducing colour through her bold fabric choices, the stylist creates balance by complementing her statement pieces with more understated, neutral furnishings, ensuring the room still feels elegant and bringing the completed look together. “I used to be all about white rooms with minimal colour, but ultimately these spaces never felt very cosy or personal. Lately I have been really drawn to colour and the positive impact it can have on your mood!

In each room I always mix textures and colours so if I have a bright green sofa, I then temper this with some more neutral chairs.”

Pairing our Saturday sofa in Olive cotton matt velvet with the Claude armchairs in Taupe Brushed Linen Cotton in her formal living room, Lucy wonderfully creates a space for friends and family to settle into. Combining the beautifully button tufted armchair with the plush sofa style with softly scrolled arms, the interior stylist keeps the designs classic to reflect the character of the 16th century property.

“We have owned a couple of sofas in the past and have always been so impressed by the quality but also the fact there is a sofa to suit every house style and age. Our previous house was modern, so we chose the Izzy chaise sofa, a completely different style to the ones we went for in this old house, and yet there were still plenty to choose from. I wanted to add lots of colour and texture, so I was really drawn to the velvets and the basket weaves.

But as Lucy reminds us, classic doesn’t have to mean vanilla. Choosing our Olive and Butterscotch cotton matt velvets to inject some vibrant colour into the interiors, Lucy gives the popular cottagecore interior design trend a colourful update with bold fabrics that bring a real zest for life.

“I’m a strong believer in choosing the fabric that makes your heart sing rather than what’s the most sensible for a family. Of course, there’s always a trade-off but I think you can still have a velvet sofa with children! For example, in the snug I kept the sofa neutral in the house basket weave so that if there’s any accidents, I can deal with them easily! In the playroom we have used the smart velvet on the sofa bed and that is so easy to clean if the kids spill or wipe anything untoward on it!”

Designing both a formal living room and a snug, Lucy creates different atmospheres through her choice of colour palette. Choosing golden, warm tones for the snug, and light, fresh shades for the living room, the interior stylist cleverly creates a flow between the two by subtly incorporating colours of each room in the ceiling and woodwork of the other. “The two spaces are actually quite open plan (for a cottage!) so I wanted them to feel like distinctly different zones, but they also had to work together as you can see the formal living room when you walk into the snug. I therefore kept the colour palette complementary e.g. The wall colour in the snug is also used on the ceiling and woodwork in the formal living room so there is some subtle continuity.

Choosing our Bluebell loveseat and two and half seat sofa for her snug, Lucy creates a cosy escape full of warmth and William Morris patterns. “I wanted the snug to be a slightly more informal, family friendly room, whereas the formal living room has a more grown-up vibe!

“My favourite spot though is in the formal living room sitting on my Olive velvet Saturday sofa having a drink with friends in front of the fire, there’s no tv and loads of board games so it’s a really fun grown-up space (that the kids are inevitably invade!)”.

Green velvet sofas and tufted armchairs in contemporary cottagecore living room

If like us, you’re feeling inspired by Lucy’s use of colour, there are a few simple ways to dip your toe in the rainbow… “I would say if you are scared of colour then perhaps limit it to a statement piece like an armchair to begin with and see how you feel after that, I bet you will end up adding more!

“Another really easy way to add colour to a room, without it feeling too crazy, is to paint your skirting and door frames in a statement colour like a sage green. It will make the space much more interesting but is a really easy way to dip your foot into the world of colour.”

Yellow velvet loveseat in snug

And let’s not forget Lucy’s stunningly eclectic use of pattern… “Don’t Be afraid to clash patterns. You will likely notice that all the rooms you have been saving on Pinterest or Instagram have lots of different patterns and textures which ultimately make a room feel much more cohesive and give depth to the design. My favourite patterns to clash are stripes and florals.”

Inspired by Lucy’s home? Keep up to date on her home journey by following her on Instagram at @at_lucys_house!