Rustic woods and easy-care fabrics create a low-maintenance atmosphere

When designing your cottage, simple and easy-to-maintain should be your main objective. If you design your vacation home with this in mind you’ll spend the summer being happy, carefree and relaxed.

Start with a Cottage Purge

Your home-away-from-home should not be a drop-off spot for everything that’s no longer useful at your full-time home. De-cluttering your spaces and creating clean lines lends a look of elegance and it’s easier to maintain.

Rustic and Simple Cottage Style
Grainy, low-gloss hardwood floors and tables will prevent dust from being highlighted.

Rustic Cottage Flooring

Rustic design works best at a cottage since you and your guests go there to relax and connect with nature.

Select a wide-board plank flooring with some natural movement to it. A hand-scraped walnut or an oak floor in a medium brown colour tends to work well. Look for a matte finish so flaws are not highlighted in the sunlight. For example, maple flooring tends to have no graining so it’s easy to see everything from dust to sand. The more complex the wood grain the less dirt will show, and the less you will feel the need to reach for a vacuum.

Choose Easy-Care Furniture Fabrics

Continue the rustic theme with your cottage furniture choices. The more “polished” the pieces, the more they’ll require maintenance. Lots of people use pieces left-over from their full-time homes but the look becomes a cobbled-together living space that’s diminished by feeling worn. Psychologically, the design is disappointing; it creates a feeling that everything needs your attention. Which is the opposite goal of going to a cottage.

When it comes to soft seating — sofas and chairs — search for pieces that will keep the work to a minimum. Choose either leather or fabric, but be aware that leather can be hot in the summer and bare legs may stick to it. While there’s a range of maintenance levels with leathers, the same is true of fabrics; many people erroneously believe leather is easier to care for than fabric. Sunbrella or Crypton fabrics can perform just as well as leathers.

Keep the sofa simple with attached-back cushions — or make it a tight-backed sofa. People tend to flop on the furniture more at the cottage and straightening the couch up can cut into your relaxing on the dock time. Add a couple of larger throw cushions, down-filled for greater comfort, for impromptu naps — they also make great lap desks or a place to prop your book or tablet in the evenings. Cushion covers are easily changed.

Rustic and Simple Cottage Style
Cottage bedrooms are the place to focus on quality.

Cottage Bedrooms

Continue the rustic feeling into the bedrooms with bed frames, night tables and dressers in reclaimed woods with the same relaxed quality as pieces in the other rooms. But make sure the mattress is new. Neither you nor your guests want to wake up feeling like you’ve slept on the lumpy floor of a tent.

Cottage bedrooms are the place to focus on quality with not only the mattresses but also the pillows and linens. Everyone will thank you for it. As well, you’re going to need a reasonable number of towels, between those used for swimming and the ones in the bathroom. Towels will be used many times a day — make that experience as pleasant as possible by getting something of a reasonable quality.

It’s work to keep the linens from getting musty while you’re away; many cottage country towns have laundries that will wash and fold for you to pick up when you return. You can get them to do the towels, as well.

Keep it Simple

Going to the cottage should mean leaving the city behind to celebrate a more natural world. So when it comes to accessorizing the interior space, be sparse. The more surfaces you have and the more clutter you acquire, the more difficult it is to quickly clean. Leave the visual interest to what’s outside the cottage windows . . . isn’t that why you drove hours to get there?

Cool nights at the cottage cry out for a fire and fireplaces offer a rustic heat, lighting and aroma. But the clean-up and, for some, risk of a cottage fire has caused many of our clients to not use their fireplaces. A new product — the Stuv fireplace (pictured above) — has rotating doors allowing you to go from an open flame of a regular fireplace to a closed-front stove. It solves the issues of fire risk also solves the clean-up issue since ashes fall into a drawer that can be pulled out and dumped.

Every appliance in the cottage should have the same low maintenance function. A separate beverage fridge allows space in the big refrigerator to be used for the food you need to stock up on to feed your family and friends for long stretches at a time.

The reality is that cottages get dirty simply from traffic in and out, dirt roads, kids, lakes and even the tiny flying things that end up dead on the floor. Not having the place look dirty allows you to relax, get out to the dock, enjoy your guests without feeling like “you have work to do”. Plan well from the start when you design your space and you will be reaching for a champagne flute far more often than a dust mop!

Photography by Larry Arnal

Glen Peloso, Principal of Grafus Design Co., has been providing design inspiration for over a decade. A well respected name in the design world; Peloso has appeared as television design expert on Restaurant Makeover, Take This House and Sell It and the Marilyn Denis Show.

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Glen Peloso

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