Do you hanker after a weekend staycation bolthole, far from your daily life? Let these homes feed your dream
Those key dark features, picked out by the large artwork and fashionable Berber rug, give this space a contemporary spike, even with the lovely ancient features, including the stone fire surround and solid shutters.
Although this Irish lakeside cabin doesn’t have such petite proportions as the average cottage, some of its space-boosting ideas are transferrable to a smaller room.
Take this reading corner for two, for example. With the moveable footstool (which doubles as a coffee table), this already comfy chair becomes the perfect lounging spot. Also, so you don’t get lonely reading a Brontë by the light of that handily flexible floor lamp, the adjacent window bench (perhaps best enjoyed leaning against the wall and facing the painting, knees up) almost turns this corner into a makeshift kissing seat.
Look out alternatively for an oversized armchair for two, aka a love seat, or a slimline chaise longue for one to complement your main sofa. Giant floor cushions, covered in a hard-wearing linen or woven fabric, could also do the job.
This pair of battered leather armchairs define this airy seaside living room and boost its relaxed, informal feel.
The lesson to take from them? That if you’re browsing in an antiques market or vintage shop, don’t dismiss something so well-worn it’s almost falling apart. Here, the original seats are long gone, and the undersides are breaking loose, but these chairs still look beautiful and inviting.
The owner has simply made replacement cushions in a contrasting fabric, and piled on more cushions, in different textiles again. Cottons and linens, being as natural as the leather, work really well.
If you’re tackling a similar repair job, don’t worry about matching up your fabrics, but do work within a palette. This mix of sun-bleached blooms and stripes makes for a shabby chic effect.
For a slightly nautical nod, you could use blue and white striped ticking to make cushion covers. Ensure you choose the squishiest cushion fillers you can find – anything too stiff or overstuffed would clash with such chilled-out chairs.
Any self-respecting country or seaside bolthole will have a fire. What else will you sit around with your tea and crumpets after a blustery walk? It may seem like an out-of-reach idea (perhaps like the fantasy cottage itself), but perhaps this little bit of your dream could come true…
While an open fire will always require a proper hearth and chimney, wood-burning stoves come with their own flues, and aren’t, therefore, tied to a preordained spot in the room. There are also some surprisingly convincing wood-burner-like designs powered by electricity. You might not get that lovely smell of singed logs, but some do even produce a vapour that looks like smoke, and they’re still toasty as well as being a snug focal point.
You can, of course, just go for individual lamps. However, being able to control your mood lighting at the flick of a wall switch (ideally a dimmable one) is a nice touch, and wall lights are also good in rooms where space for floor or table lamps is tight.
Candles are a habit. A good habit! Get used to having a stash always in stock and stop saving them for ‘best’.
Collect a variety of glass jars and find candles to fit them – a mix of long-lasting column candles and tealights (you can buy 8-hour versions of the latter). Keep a stock of your favourite scented candles, too, and burn one of these in the mix rather than waiting for guests to come over.
To remove old wax from jars and keep using them, warm the exterior gently and poke out the bulk of it with a dining knife or similar. Then fill the jar with very hot water and the residual wax will melt and dislodge itself. Don’t pour this water down your drain, though, as the wax will reset and cause you all sorts of trouble.
The defining artwork in the living room of this coastal house in Cornwall is a harbourside watercolour (probably by the renowned St Ives artist Eric Ward if you like it). Beautiful and suitable.
A painting or large-format photograph that connects a house to its surroundings – especially when said surroundings are part of its USP – is a great addition to a home-from-home’s living room. (It’s also a good consolation prize in your regular home, to remind you to go back to places you’ve loved.)
You don’t need to be an art expert to pick the perfect piece. Staying local is a good start: seaside towns often have several small galleries selling work by artists from the area. You might find something suitable second-hand, too – an atmospheric portrait of a gnarly old fisherman or, if you’re deep in woodland, a forest scene.
Bear in mind that you’ll ideally want a focal-point artwork to reflect your décor’s colour palette: the ideal is to start with a cherished piece and furnish around it, so as not to have to compromise on picking the perfect painting. A vintage map of the area could look good, too.
Ancient rural or coastal homes like this one sometimes have unfinished stone walls on their insides as well as their exteriors. Rather than tidily plastering over such a unique feature, celebrate it and keep any paintwork equally basic.
For already smooth walls, you can achieve a comparable feel by leaving plasterwork exposed (get advice on sealing it, though, so it isn’t porous) or using reclaimed wood as wall cladding. A feature wall might be enough – or simply a start.
Of course, bingeing on box sets after a blustery walk can also be nice, but consider relegating it to your computer, so you don’t get sucked into the daily telly habits you have at home (especially if your evenings are timed around the news).
Alternatively, consider at least housing your TV somewhere far more hidden than your at-home version might be, so as to prioritise reading and chat.
Talking of old-fashioned entertainment, don’t forget music. If slow living is a big part of your cottage fantasy, consider going vinyl. Yes, there are speakers for your phone or tablet, but nothing beats the simple pleasure of selecting a record, carefully lowering the needle and waiting for that comforting crackle. Rather than just scrolling and hitting play, putting on music becomes an activity and a spectacle in its own right.
Vintage-style players with built-in speakers, like this one, aren’t too pricey and they look beautiful. Stock up on interesting-looking discs from charity shops to start with and build a cherished collection.
Which ideas would you put in your fantasy holiday cottage living room? Share your dreams in the Comments below.