How to Build a Cottage Kitchen

How to Build a Cottage Kitchen

How to Design a Cottage Kitchen


Looking for a complete kitchen redesign, or just to reinvigorate your space? First off, you’ll probably be looking to find inspiration, or style inspiration to guide your design choices. 

When it comes to kitchens, most kitchen designs fall into two distinct camps – the modern and the classic. Modern kitchens prioritise shining steel surfaces, the glossy and the cutting edge, the minimal. 

Classic kitchens, meanwhile, prioritise the well-made, natural materials, a sense of history and a sense of comfort. Classic kitchens usually vary slightly, falling into one of three, somewhat similar, categories – ‘farmhouse’, ‘cottage’ and ‘Shaker’. Although these three are subtly different, they all stem from similar roots and have similar goals. 

When looking for a complete redesign, many initially gravitate to the newest, the most modern – glossy surfaces, clean lines, stainless steel, marble finishes. But what is pioneering and modern now will look aged in five to ten years time, as design profiles move on. Have you noticed what doesn’t age? What never goes out of style? The Classic styles. These sort of kitchens tend to suit country bumpkins, those who appreciate vintage looks and those looking to create a kitchen with a cosy, inviting feel to it. 

This blog will discuss the cottage kitchen style in particular, but mentioning how it crosses over with farmhouse and Shaker styles.

What is a cottage kitchen?

Well, we’re talking about the classic, traditional cottage look. Spaces are traditionally relatively small, and often dark (as traditional, older buildings prioritised warmth over swathes of glass). 

Cottage kitchens are lived in and are decorated functionally – think mismatched and colourful ceramics adorning open shelving, rather than a sculpture. They are often the heart of the home, with a solid ‘farmhouse’ table fore and centre, covered in produce. They ultimately have a lived-in look; where modern kitchens aim to look untouched, cottage kitchens aim to look as if they’ve been inhabited for centuries – by people with style.

In design-speak, when we think of a cottage kitchen, we are talking about “Shaker” foundations, with decorative touches. Shaker design comes from a religious group called the Shakers, who believed that creating something with their hands was a form of meditative prayer, so they would make beautiful, simple, and importantly, functional, furniture. 

They believed that beauty resides in utility, so Shaker designs avoid unnecessary flourishes and adornment. Shaker designs are usually solid, and made from natural materials, in neutral colours. They also happen to be the perfect foundation for kitchen design, because of their stress on utility – making every space useful.

Tips for a design overhaul, or a quick and cheap refresh


Cottage kitchen ideas are easy enough to come by, once you know what to search for and where to look. Depending on whether you are looking for a complete redesign or just a cottage kitchen style refresh, this is a great design choice to opt for, because a few touches and techniques can completely change the look of your space.

For a quick and cheap refresh


Cottage kitchen styles allow for a quick, cheap-and-cheerful style refresh. Adding a splash of colour or pattern to walls, painting cabinets, and adding some soft furnishings, are very cheap ways to breathe new life into your kitchen space.

Adding reclaimed door handles to your kitchen cabinets can add a sense of age, as can other reclaimed ‘architectural’ fragments – old-style taps, for example, old ironware coat hooks for aprons and tea towels, and old milk bottles or earthenware jugs for gathering wooden spoons, whisks and rolling pins.

Complete Cottage Kitchen Redesign


If you are starting with a complete blank canvas, and want to follow the cottage kitchen look, start from the ground up. Cottage kitchens are based on solid, quality foundations – so focus on those basics first. You will never successfully create the cottage look having skimped on those basics.

The cottage look can seem to reside in those final touches – the ceramics, the aged furniture, the soft furnishings – but truly, the look is based on solid, simple Shaker foundations. Quality reigns supreme in the basics – we’re talking about flooring, worktops, and sinks. 

Opt for natural and ageless materials such as wood for countertops and flooring, and existing flagstones are gorgeous if you’re lucky enough to have them. For sinks, prioritise utility – it really will both maximise functionality and give you that cottage kitchen look. Large square Belfast or Butler sinks really fit the brief (what’s the difference? Butler sinks are wider and shallower), whether you opt for a reclaimed original or go for a new sink in this traditional style. 

How much might it cost?


How much does it cost to build a cottage kitchen, you might be asking? Well, just like any kitchen design, there is a sliding cost scale when you take into account the quality of the materials you want to use, and the workmanship it takes to install them. Spend more, get more.

Shaker style kitchens are not cheap, because they tend to revolve around well-made cabinetry and quality, natural materials (modular kitchens in plastic from IKEA will always be cheaper, but will never give you the cottage kitchen look). The good news is that investing in the Shaker fundamentals (flooring, cabinetry, work surfaces and appropriate fixtures) is easier to justify in a cottage kitchen scheme, because you are prioritising elements which have a long life span, and the better the instal now, the longer they will last. 

The final cottage kitchen touches are easy enough (and relatively cheap) when based on these solid design foundations. Those final aesthetic touches, which exude that cottage kitchen charm, can come second hand, vintage, or pre-owned. You may invest in the fundamentals of your kitchen – but these will last an awfully long time, and ‘the rest’ (ceramics, soft furnishings, art, etc) can come in at whatever your budget permits.


What are popular colours for a cottage kitchen scheme?


The finishing touches in cottage kitchens are what tend to shape the space. With Shaker foundations, it is the colour scheme (as well as decorative elements) which tend to take the space either towards a combination of Shaker and modern Scandi, or towards a vintage, English cottage look. 

Design paint kitchen

Which of these avenues you take will vastly change the colour scheme you might want to pursue. A range of natural tones, from warm greys to taupe, linen, or soft mole all suit a Scandi, neutral, Shaker design. 

When you’re deciding on colours, chalk paints can be a real godsend. They can be used on existing woodwork (brightening up that old dresser, or bringing life to those battered wooden chairs!) but also bring a chalky pale-ness that works well in a cottage scheme. Browse through Farrow & Ball colours and Annie Sloane – paint can cost a lot, but you will be surprised by the degree of quality a perfectly mixed paint will give to your space as opposed to the industry basics.

The more English country cottage approach welcomes pops of colour and cheerful moments of brightness – especially in cottage spaces which are traditionally more dark. This is the colour scheme to opr for if you envisage a busy, lived-in kitchen, where colourful ceramics burst from shelves, jugs of flowers adorn windowsills and baskets of produce fill tables. These are not minimal spaces; they buzz with life.

One trick to remember for this look, though, is that if your final, aesthetic touches are bursting with colour, you might want to keep the walls neutral. That way the rich reds, burnt umber, rose pink or cheerful sunshine yellow which you’ve chosen in your rugs, curtains and crockery, can take centre stage, and not compete with vibrant walls.

Putting it into Practice


So you’re imagining your Shaker design, with wooden cabinetry and farmhouse worksurfaces, you’ve chosen a palette in your head to suit the space you’ve got, and you’re imagining your crockery sorted to showcase your style. You might be thinking…what next? How does all of that actually come together to represent a cottage kitchen style, coherently?

Well, there are some tips which may seem obvious but will send you immediately in the right direction.

Keep Shelving Open


Closing all of your kitchen ‘gadgetry’ and beautiful crockery behind the sleek lines of your cupboard doors does not add up to represent the cottage style. Of course that doesn’t mean just bung all of your useful kitchen stuff on a shelf, on show – but your lovely Dualit toaster, and your set of Emma Bridgewater mugs, can really pop on open shelving, a Welsh dresser, or just open fronted cupboards.

Organise, and then Showcase your Pottery


It’s unlikely that all of your purchases over the years will sit cleanly within a cottage kitchen design scheme. That doesn’t mean you should part company with them – but it also doesn’t mean that they should be amongst the ‘chosen ones’ which line the shelves, on display. 

Look through your crockery and kitchen gadgetry, and also collect miscellaneous trinkets (carboots, antiques’ shops and ebay are great places to search for a collection of vintage ceramic milk bottles, for example, or a set of decorative jelly moulds or Bundt tins) – all that work towards the design idea you’ve focused on. Cottage kitchen styles are perfect for fitting in with your eclectic tastes. 

Unlike minimal, modern kitchens where a statement vase and decorative candlestick are the only aesthetic items on show, cottage kitchens brim with cheerful, happy things; they are full of your personality. Mixing old and new, valuable and cheap, simple and ornate, you can end up with a stylish kitchen which perfectly illustrates your tastes, your history, and your lifestyle.

Decide on your colour approach. Take either one colour, or analogous colours on the colour wheel (the colours next to each other) or, most successfully of all in cottage-look schemes, a monochromatic palette (varying shades of the same colour, from blossom through peach to deep rose, for example). Then group the crockery you’ve sorted, and see what fits your colour scheme. Look at the background tones, too – is that crockery pink on a cream background? Probably better stick with warm whites and creams, then, as a base, rather than cold whites.

Bring in Pattern

Did a theme develop through your curation of your crockery and trinkets? Run with it! That small floral print would look wonderful emulated through a wall of wallpaper, for example, or in curtains decorating the window above the sink. Patterns with a small scale are usually more successful in a cottage scheme, although simplistic, block print looks can be really successful too. Slightly sunbleached, age-softened colours tend to work better than ‘straight out of the pot’ fuchsia pinks.

For a scheme that’ll keep you happy for the foreseeable future, don’t go mad with countless, clashing patterns in different sizes – although it’s all the rage in design mags at the moment, a proliferation of pattern can be confusing and tiring on the eye in the long term, especially when you consider that when your kitchen is actually in use, there will only be more stuff around – from that pile of bills to the breakfast jams on the side to the dog’s basket in the corner)! Opt for two or three patterns, which sit well with and complement each other, at maximum.

If you think a cottage kitchen may be the design you want to opt for, get in touch with us for a free consultation, or take a peek at our brochure here.