Design & DIY

How to create space in a small cottage

Spending time at the cottage is such a wonderful luxury. I’m grateful to my grandparents all summer for setting up such an amazing inheritance to pass on to each generation. But there are times that the generations still using it make it feel small. Admit it: a full cottage is a blessing on one hand and a frustration on the other. Cottages can start to feel cramped and small no matter how much you love them and the people in them. But don’t despair—there are ways to make your space feel and function like it’s bigger. And here’s the surprise—I’m not going to tell you to paint it all white!

To create the feeling of a larger space, many people build open-concept cottages without walls to impede the view. But then they struggle with where to put their furniture and how to have a little privacy. One trick is to delineate spaces with rugs and furniture. You can also add curtains that can easily be pulled back when privacy isn’t required. This open-concept space does all of this, and the monochromatic colour scheme works to make it flow from one area to another.

The type of furniture you select is also important in creating a greater sense of space. Many cottages require a large number of dining chairs for a multitude of guests. Because over-stuffed and upholstered chairs take up a lot of space at the table, consider using a something more pared down and flexible. These chairs would also work as outdoor chairs at a moment’s notice.

Dining Chairs
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Play around with the idea of using space that’s not typically thought of for storage or function. For example, a shelf placed in front of a kitchen window is a perfect spot for fresh herbs or pretty dishes, and it doesn’t impede the view or light.

Window Shelves
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Another example is the hallway. It can be used for a lot more than circulation. Add some proper depth shelves and you have a whole wall of found storage space.  

Hall shelving
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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: spaces in cottages need to be multi-functional and multi-purpose. Why not make that cozy little reading nook an extra space for an overnight guest? It’s not hard, and it will come in handy time and again. Simply add some storage below for sheets and towels; install a reading light at bed height; and include a side table or nightstand. People will be fighting over who gets to sleep there.  

Reading room
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The big debate at our cottage (and that’s the polite way of putting it) is whether to paint the tongue-and-groove bead board white. At the moment, it’s beautifully aged and so cozy in the winter, not to mention an original feature of the 100-year-old place. But it’s a little heavy and dark in the summer, which is when we use the cottage most. Design trends of late would suggest painting it all white and completely brightening up the space. I think a good compromise would be to paint the walls and leave the ceiling.

Dark Ceiling
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I’ve tried the whole “I’m the expert” thing at my cottage, but that doesn’t really work—especially with my brother-in-law. And since he’s the one who would be doing the painting, I have to tread lightly. (Besides, he’s sensitive!)  

The fact is, we all have to live and get along at the cottage no matter what size it is.   Therefore, my best advice for making your cottage feel bigger is to take care of the people who enjoy it alongside you. Nothing makes a space feel smaller than fighting with the people who share it with you.