Cottage-Core Interior Design: Everything You Need to Know

Claire Nicholas

By Claire Nicholas

Jun 13, 2024

When we choose an interior design style to implement in our apartments, it’s based on aesthetics, of course, but it’s also often based on an energy we want to introduce in our home. The right choice of colors and layouts can actually help us feel more grounded and relaxed. This aspiration for both feelings and flair is where some of today’s most popular interior design styles come from — like cottage core.  

Think of cottage core as the aesthetic polar opposite of modern trends like Art Deco and minimalism. Cottage core decor (sometimes stylized as one word: cottagecore) welcomes all the styles of yore: lace doily tablecloths, crushed velvet upholstery, and detailed floral fabrics, to name a few. It’s like bringing a 19th century English countryside bungalow into your 21st century apartment living room.

The cottagecore aesthetic allows us to return to simpler times. Plus, it’s versatile and yields stunning results. Here’s everything you need to know about cottage core, the tantalizing time machine of interior design styles.  

Where did cottage core originate? 

Unlike other design styles that have been around for decades (like midcentury modern) or centuries (like Victorian Chic) cottage core is a relatively new decorating trend. Popularized in the last five years, cottage core was born on the Internet during the pandemic. It took over the interior design space on TikTok and influenced the masses as they stared down months of lockdown. First came the cottagecore lifestyle: cultivating sourdough starter, tending to gardens, knitting and embroidery, focusing on sustainability. Then, came the cottagecore home design trend: neutrals and warm-toned color palettes, dried and fresh flowers (and floral patterns everywhere), lots of wooden furniture and exposed brick, vintage finds on display. 

However, the cottagecore trend wasn’t just a social media fad that faded away as the pandemic went on. Part of the reason why cottage core has staying power is because it borrows from many different eras and geographic regions, without many strict rules or parameters. So, cottage core makes a laid back, romantic, nature-inspired lifestyle available to a modern consumer and city apartment renters. You don’t have to have a cottage or any experience with real country living to achieve cottage core in your own home. 

Curating a cottagecore vibe relies on sustainable practices like thrifting and upcycling secondhand furniture, which reflect its focus on nature and interacting with the outside environment. For modern consumers, it’s a way to follow a trend, achieve a put-together interior style, slow down, and appreciate the environment.  

What does cottagecore interior design look like?

Although cottage core takes on a different look in every home, it has some recognizable characteristics that give it its distinct feel. For example, you’ll likely see a significant number of natural elements and greenery in a cottagecore home, from hanging plants in windows to small trees and potted plants dotting every room. You’ll also likely notice fresh flowers and depictions of flowers whether in botanical prints in artwork, floral prints on quilts and throw pillows (made of natural materials like cotton or linen, ideally), or floral wallpaper.

In terms of home furnishings, cottage core living spaces often feature old and antique furniture that has lots of character, or tasteful wear and tear. Often, cottage core spaces de-emphasize matching colors and focus more on whimsy, and the curation and collection of decorative elements. Think: hand-thrown pottery, ornate frames, baskets, antique lamps, patterned pillows, and anything else that would make your home feel cozier.

How do you achieve cottagecore style at home?

Implementing the cottagecore design style revolves around a sort of everlasting treasure hunt — for family heirlooms, Goodwill gems, and antiques. Breaking it down by material and texture can help you discern exactly what you’re looking for.  Read on for some cottagecore decorating ideas.

Linens: When it comes to cottage core, don’t skimp on your linens. Anywhere you can cozy up your space, go for it. To start, if there are any “must-have” items in a cottagecore apartment, they’re curtains. Try looking for older muted floral designs with plenty of detail; otherwise, lace, gingham, and canvas. Complement your window treatments with intentional (but not necessarily matching) bedspread and pillow choices.  

Raw Materials: If your apartment has exposed brick or wood, let it shine: Draw attention to it with lighting, and don’t over-decorate around it. You can also introduce more wood furniture to your apartment with tables, chairs, coffee tables, open shelving, and dressers. For these more expensive items, keep your eye on Facebook Marketplace and family hand-me-downs. The older, the better. 

Metals: Despite their being man-made, metals do have a place in cottagecore interior design. When used as an accent, a metal element can actually bring the whole look together. For example, visit your local antique store for a brilliant copper tea kettle or give your grandparents’ garage a thorough search for brass wall sconces to mount on either side of your bed.  

Textiles: Art is always an important part of home decor. For cottage core, keep your eye out for frames, paintings, and peel-and-stick wallpaper patterns that inspire peace and simplicity. Depictions of nature are always a green light with cottage core, for example. But, if you want to try genre-bending, art is also a great opportunity to do so — there are no rules. The right Basquiat reproduction may be a modern statement in some homes, but in your cottage core space, it could be the perfect design element to implement a color or energy you feel to be missing. 

Cottage core is a beautiful and unique decorating style in that you can make it what you want on a budget. It can be maximalist or minimalist; it can involve mostly pinks and pastels, neutrals, or even vibrant ; it can change with the seasons based on different accents you pull out or put away. After all, the ethos of cottage core is creating tranquility as home, and decorating as if the view out your apartment window was rolling hills and wildflowers — or whatever makes you happy. 

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