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Restoring and decorating a cottage can be extremely rewarding, but there are pitfalls and potential problems, as with any project. This guide gives an insight into the process.


Restoring & Decorating A Cottage


Cottages are beautiful buildings desired by many, and most people have at least once thought about living in one in a lovely location in the future. Cottages are very desirable and quirky and tend to be in gorgeous getaway areas like seaside villages, or rolling rural areas where space is in abundance. Whereas huge town houses used to be the property of choice for city dwellers looking to relocate to enjoy the good life, price hikes have meant that smaller properties like cottages are much more achievable.

decorating a thatched cottage

To live in, cottages are cosy and they go hand in hand with a simpler life, if you want it. They also offer a wonderful sense of connection to times gone by, particularly when the cottage has retained a lot of original features. There is also a sense of excitement and pride in the fact that every cottage has its own characteristics and history.


For the reasons above, and many more, a lot of people choose to take on a cottage, restore and decorate it to its former glory and put their own stamp on it to make it their own. If you’re considering taking on this kind of chocolate box property, there are some things you should know first.

thatched cottage by waters edge



  • Get a full electrical survey done before buying, clearly a roof made from straw and electrics don’t mix if the property hasn’t been maintained.
  • House insurance might not be as much as you think for a thatched cottage so do some research relevant to the property you’re interested in.
  • Don’t think a bad looking existing thatch job means that it will cost a ton to fix, it might just need some TLC to get it to look glorious again.
  • Thatching takes skill and time, unless you have training, you will need to enlist the help of professionals to keep your roof ship shape.
  • Nearly 3 quarters of thatched cottages are English Heritage listed so check restrictions before you start making plans for restoration.
  • Make sure the flue and chimney are fully inspected by a professional. The stonework and lining needs to be in great condition at all times to be safe, and this takes regular inspections and maintenance.

decorating a cottage


  • A lot of non-thatched cottage properties are listed buildings, so check if the property is listed before you plan any restoration.
  • Many old properties can have structural issues so it is worth checking if there are any major ones before you purchase.
  • Old properties can also have damp issues, so it is worth checking if there are any before you purchase.
  • The roof is much more likely to have problems than with a modern property.
  • If the property is on a holiday site, there may be restrictions as to how much you can use it, or you may have to pay fees for grounds keeping.


These are just some basic considerations you should make before buying an old cottage. If you get everything right, do your research and proceed with caution, you will have a wonderful opportunity on your hands.


Restoring Your Cottage

So now you have a cottage, how do you restore it? Clearly the process is detailed and specific to your cottage, but there are some great tips to follow whilst making your plans:


Things not to do when restoring your cottage


  • Don’t fly forward changing things without planning first. There is so much to consider, from the way you feel about the property in different seasons, to whether or not you have permission to do certain works, to how much budget you have. For example; if you buy in summer and the place is boiling hot you might feel inspired to invest in floor tiles for the bathroom, but come winter you might have wished you had gotten underfloor heating installed first.
  • Don’t try and do everything at once. Make renovation plans in order, not in a way where you’re just throwing yourself at the entire house all at the same time. This project can easily be manageable if you take the time to work on one room at a time. This also helps with organisation, with managing the project alongside work and family commitments. It also helps you manage money better, and also if you employ people to help you do the work, you can work with them a lot more closely.
  • Don’t extend too much, as cottages with massive extensions tend not to be as desirable on the market as original cottages. Some extension is fine, but if you are extending the property to be huge it sort of stops being a cottage.
  • Don’t worry too much about spending a lot on restoration. You should get the money back in value, but if you are moving into the property for life and you love it, money to some extent isn’t as much of an issue.
  • Don’t expect a modern home life in a period property. Cottages were originally owned by the poorest people and the property came with hardship. It might get cold, or a bit damp at times and you have to simply work with the property.
  • Don’t use modern building techniques, these will cause problems with ventilation and the way the building was designed to breathe.


Things to do when you restore your cottage


  • Do treat the house as though you are there to preserve its heritage. It has been there for decades and been the home of many people: it is important.
  • Do your research with enthusiasm! The more you know about the architecture and needs of the property, the better able you will be to get the most out of it.
  • Do speak to neighbours with similar properties as they will have invaluable advice on caring for the property, and you can get a feel for the local style.
  • Do understand that you won’t be able to have everything you want in the way of how you like to live. This is an old building that has its own ways in terms of light and space, and you have to work around the building. It is definitely worth viewing the property in the day and night to see how you feel about it as it will let you see how the light runs through it and you can tell if you are OK with that.
  • Do be prepared to follow laws protecting your property. It may have many laws protecting it if it is listed and in a conservation area.


Obviously, there are no set rules apart from the ones relating to the law, so really it is just about restoring the cottage to please your own taste and needs whilst also respecting and embracing the different quirks and characteristics of the property you now own. You may well want to embrace some of the period features and leave others alone, you might want to modernize some parts and keep others traditional; it is your choice entirely. Just make sure before you make any major changes that you research first whether you’re legally allowed to, and second if you really want to or should in relation to the overall property.


Decorating Your Cottage

Now all the hard bits are over you get to play a little and decorate your cottage. This is a much less serious part of the restoration because an ugly cushion or a bad chair can be taken away as easily as they are put in. You can have a ton of fun with your cottage design and make it as traditional, quirky or modern as you like.


Here are some top tips for decorating your cottage:


Cottage Gardens Are Beautiful But They Take A Lot Of Work

One of the most beautiful ways to make your cottage look traditional and gorgeous from the outside is to have a cottage garden. This is where you have wildflower and grasses growing along with other British flowers and shrubs, like roses and perhaps a trellis around the door. This is a wonderful idea at first, getting a landscaper in to help you get the garden started and then the first summer comes and it is beautiful. However, as time goes on, winter’s come and go and weeds and insects do their bit to change the landscape, the garden will need a lot of upkeep. If you do not have green fingers and don’t want the work, consider some potted plants and garden accessories in traditional cottage garden style using British plants and easy to care for fruits like strawberries. A Victorian style bench is an great, easy to care for garden accessory that is very cottage garden in style.


Don’t Feel You Have To Make The Most Of Every Period Feature

There will be a lot of period features you want to make the most of, like beams and little nooks and crannies to put tables and accessories in. But don’t feel you have to embellish each feature, as sometimes less can be more, particularly with decorating. For example, a fireplace with traditional wall tiles might look beautiful with just a wicker basket holding logs next to it.


Buy Second Hand

Don’t be afraid to buy second hand furniture for the property. It means you can get antiques that will fit right in with the overall feel of the place. It also means you can make the decor just as quirky as the property itself.

making a room feel cosy

Be Careful Not To Make It Into A Museum

There is a difference between making decor cottage style, and sticking with the style of the period so much you end up creating a museum. Take inspiration from the era your cottage was made in, rather than literally sticking to the exact type of decorations that were used.


Be Inspired By The Quirks

The little nooks and crannies of the cottage should be inspiring to you when you decorate. Little corners and indents are ripe for creative accessories and decorations.


Let There Be Light

Cottages are naturally dark, so you need to be really careful not to make them entirely cave like with your decor. Try and stick to paler palettes as a general rule for things like paint, floor tiles, wall tiles, wallpaper and carpets. Bring in colour and pattern with furnishings, cushions, rugs and curtains.


Traditional British Cottages Can Look Gorgeous

There are lots of lovely British details you can add to your cottage that will make it look pretty. Bunting for example is a great way to add colour and pattern to your kitchen. White crochet quilt sets and bedding look beautiful in traditional bedrooms, and a victorian roll top bath in your bathroom would look simply divine.


Opt For Comfort

Cottages should be cosy and comfortable. A teapot on the stove, a blanket basket by the sofa, cushions galore: your cottage should feel comfortable and cosy everywhere.


Soft Lighting Adds Ambience

Fairy lights, candles and lamps all add to the romance of a cottage. Consider using scented candles to add to the ambience even more.


Don’t Fill Up Your Windows!

One common mistake people make is using window ledges as shelves for decorations and it just doesn’t work in any capacity, let alone cottages where there’s not much light getting in anyway. Keep window ledges free from plants and ornaments. One vase with flowers in, or one small plant or ornament won’t be an issue, but a window ledge full will suffocate the place.



Hopefully you’re feeling inspired and excited about your new cottage! Remember, take your time and consider every major decision properly. But when it comes to decorating: have fun! You have a quirky cottage, so let loose with your personality, if anything doesn’t work you can easily change it. With a little care and creativity, your cottage will be beautifully restored and your unique decorating will make it just as quirky as its meant to be.