Design & DIY

An interior designer’s guide to updating your cottage decor

cottage decor hacks from interior decorator By / Shutterstock

Breathing new life into your cottage decor doesn’t have to come with hefty price tags or demolished walls. Consider that your cottage is usually the go-to place for old furniture to go out to pasture and that there is a wealth of inspiration right under your nose. Cottage Life spoke with Emily Griffin, a Toronto-based interior designer and founder of Emily Griffin Design Inc., to learn how to revamp your cottage space— no wrecking ball required.

Establish your aesthetic

“There are so many different ways you can decorate a cottage—white and breezy, old-style Canadiana? What’s important to figure out right from the start is what look you can realistically achieve,” says Griffin. “If you’re after that modern farmhouse look with huge windows and tall ceilings looking out to the lake but your cottage is a bungalow with small windows it’s best you try a different look.” For a place to start, she recommends Pinterest. “Build a board of looks and feels you like and then start seeing what’s possible.”

Pick a palette

When choosing a colour for your cottage decor, look out the outside. “I either draw from nature—blues, greens, sandy beiges—or from something existing like a rug or sofa that I want to keep and roll into the new cottage look.”

For 2021, think bold

bold colours for cottage decor
Photo by Simons

“It is no secret that colour and pattern are back with a vengeance in design,” says Griffin. “So why not ditch the scandi beige on white scheme that has been so popular in cottage design and swap it out for toile, bright colours, painted kitchens, and lots and lots of pattern. Play with fabrics!”

Buy this chunky throw at

Consider wall texture

It may not have occurred to you that your walls don’t “work” for creating visual impact in your cottage decor. “Cover any drywall that exists with either beadboard, shiplap, or wallpaper,” says Griffin. “Nothing screams ‘city’ more than drywall!”

Light wisely

task lighting for cottage decor
Photo by Willow & Bee

For cottage spaces, Griffin recommends avoiding pot lights when you can. “Instead,  opt for ceiling-mounted fixtures and lots of task lighting for a more relaxed and moodier feel up north,” says Griffin.

Buy this lamp at

Just add pillows

graphic pillow for cottage decor
Photo by Oui

If you’re looking for a super-easy way to refresh your decor, Griffin has three words: pillows, pillows, pillows. “The more the better,” she says. “I switch mine out every year for an automatic change of scenery.”

Buy this one at

Reimagine existing furniture

furniture paint for cottage interior decor
Photo by Hemway Dove

Don’t ditch quality or sentimental cottage furniture. “I am a sucker for dated cottage furniture, so I would find spots for them amongst your new pieces; it will instantly add character to your space,” says Griffin. In instances where you don’t love the look, refurbish it instead. “I am actually doing that right now with an orange stained 70s pine dining table and chairs that one of my clients inherited in the cottage they just bought,” says Griffin. “We are stripping it down to the raw wood and then putting a more contemporary stain on it in a nice warm honey colour.”

And don’t be afraid to get creative: “For the chairs, we decided to paint them not re-stain them, and are going with a beautiful soft bluey/green to soften the look of the dining room.”

Get the chalk paint used in the above image at

Keep that 70s cottage couch

slipcover for cottage decor couch
Photo by Weehomy

Nothing can throw off cottage decor like an outdated couch. “If the lines are good, you can slipcover it. I like white canvas fabric or my personal favourite, blue and white ticking fabric,” says Griffin. Buy this one at

For finishing touches, shop local

“I love shopping at junk shops up north to finish a space and add stuff to walls,” says Griffin. “Cottagey items like old baskets, wagon wheels mounted on the walls (yes, I have done that at my cottage), old tennis rackets or skis, antique pottery displayed in your kitchen, etc. all add warmth and soul to a cottage.”

Invest in bedding

linen bedding for cottage decor
Photo by Levtex

“One of the advantages of getting out of the city is the gorgeous sleep you get with all the fresh air!” says Griffin. “Make sure your mattresses are comfy and your bedding is all-natural, either cotton or linen, no polyester at the cottage, please!”

Buy this washed cotton duvet cover at or check out Emily’s line at

A good rug ties a room together

kilim rug for cottage decor
Photo by Surya

“Kilim rugs are a must as far as I’m concerned at cottages. They not only scream country they are amazing at concealing dirt and stains,” says Griffin. “It’s the first place I start when starting to decorate a cottage. Nail the rug!”

Buy the rug pictured at

If renovate one thing, make it this

window pane frame for cottage decor
Photo by Bed Bath And Beyond

The windows. “I am a huge fan of increasing window size if you can swing it. The outdoors add the biggest impact to your interiors when in nature.”

Buy this window frame at

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