Here's how to do 2020's cottagecore aesthetic at your house
Warm whites, bold florals, accents from nature
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If you’ve found yourself wistfully staring out of the window daydreaming of flower-filled fields as you wait for your sourdough to rise, you’re not the only one. This whole “shelter-at-home” thing has gotten a lot of us rethinking what home and shelter really means to us.
From this introspection a new design trend has emerged: cottagecore. If you haven’t heard of it, you haven’t been spending much time on Instagram, where photos of homemade kombucha, cinnamon rolls, and needlepoint curtains have helped propel the hashtag and the aesthetic trend that has followed.
The cottagecore aesthetic is largely embraced by Gen Z, but the appreciation for the simplicity that it celebrates transcends generations. The vision of an idealized rural life has been steadily gaining steam with the larger masses since the COVID-19 epidemic forced all of us to have a more domesticated existence.
So, what is cottagecore?
Also known as ‘farmcore’ or ‘countrycore,’ cottagecore at its heart is a confidently embraced anti-cool that focuses on comfort and a visceral connection to one’s surroundings. The trend is best summed up by how its subreddit, r/cottagecore, defines it: “your grandma, but like, hip” and “an aesthetic based around the visual culture of an idealized life on a Western farm. Common themes include plants, animals, rural kitchens, and straw.”
The cottagecore aesthetic centers around what you may imagine living in a cottage in the countryside could be like, with lush wildflower gardens, cozy bedding, gauzy curtains, colorful textiles and wallpapers, butcher block counters, and large farmhouse sinks.
Amanda Brennan, Tumblr’s trend expert, says, “The trend of the cottagecore aesthetic undeniably shaped internet culture this year with its glorification of a pure and simplistic lifestyle, romanticizing farmhouse-inspired décor, homestyle baking, sprawling flower fields, intricate embroidery, and more.”
“In November 2020,” she continues, “we saw a 216% increase in engagement around the tag “handmade” on Tumblr, further showcasing the breadth of cottagecore’s influence on the way people are spending their time.”
Why is the cottagecore aesthetic popular now?
Dak Kopec, Ph.D., MS. Arch., MCHES, H.FASID, an architectural psychologist and associate professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ School of Architecture, and an author, says we are seeing an attraction to this trend in part as a reaction to personal disassociated feelings that have been spurred by our disconnection from human interaction. Kopec says our reaction is to make our living spaces feel like touchstones of connection. Cottagecore is born from this.
“I see it gaining steam as a reaction to the modern pressures placed on people. We are heavily scheduled, the expectations, whether real or believed, are weighing us down,” he says. “As a society we have been searching for ways to simplify and to become grounded. We are re-evaluating our connections to our past and the land.”
Co-founder of Plover Organic, an organic textile and home goods company, Marissa Kula Mercer agrees. “It harkens back to a simpler time of life that we feel so far from these days,” she says. “A lot of the endeavors associated with [the trend]—baking your own bread, making jam, growing your own food—give us a sense of purpose and usefulness.”
Mercer describes these endeavors as things we can do that provide us something real and tangible to be enjoyed—unlike most of the other work we do on our computers or virtually chatting.
“The connection you feel with other people, and they feel with you, when you're enjoying something they have made is also very real,” says Mercer. “It makes a person feel cared for in some way,” adding that it’s an overall cozy aesthetic that gives a real sense of maternal comfort—like what you might have experienced while visiting your grandmother’s home, but with an updated and curated sense of style.
Please don’t call it shabby chic
While there is a cozy point of view to both cottagecore and shabby chic, Los Angeles-based interior designer Alison Kandler says the two are undeniably different.
“Shabby chic has a very weighted look to it—it’s faux antiques with a lot of visual weight to them and heavy painted pieces,” she says, adding that cottagecore is all about giving light and a lift to things, but with coziness and nostalgia. “It’s more refined and elegant while also being comfortable. It’s a really exciting trend, if you ask me.”
Kandler adds that the cottagecore aesthetic—in contrast to shabby chic—is less about strictly focusing on flea market finds and more about sun-filled houses, furniture you can sink into, beautiful and airy prints, and soft curtains.
“You see a lot of nature elements incorporated,” she says, adding as an example that while shabby chic was about paint-chipped shutters, cottagecore is about beautiful and gauzy curtains, with no heavy shutters to speak of.
Kandler continues, “Shabby chic was more cloistered in its look. Because cottagecore is about being more connected to nature and tangible experiences, the design is about letting the outside in.” Think herb-filled straw baskets, pressed flower wall hangings, and playful patterned cloth napkins.
How to incorporate it into your home
Because Cottagecore is so much about infusing personality with warm, cozy, and collectable elements, Kandler recommends you start small and exercise restraint, lest you tip to the wrong side of grandma-chic.
“We want to keep it stylish and airy. We want to be wary of things going too far and feeling jumbled,” says Kandler.
Many of Kandler's clients are tech-industry people who crave a contrast between the work they do and their home life, so she has some tips for striking the balance to ensure your foray into cottagecore is comforting, not cluttered.
Tip: White is your weapon
While white walls may not be the first thing you think of when envisioning a cottage on a farm, Kandler says it’s her secret weapon to creating a home that’s both warm and inviting and helps you to accomplish the airy outside-in element that is so important to this trend.
There is a school of thought that focuses on copious use of textures and prints, but that can be tough to pull off for the novice decorator. If you do try doing this yourself, Kandler recommends going for a beautiful white paint and gauzy curtains, giving you a soothing backdrop that will allow for prints to be a more focused accent point in a room.
“I like using a lot of white paint [and then using] wallpaper in unexpected places like hallways instead of the big rooms,” she says. “I like the bold prints to be a texture that falls into a background. It doesn’t have to be big flowers that are screaming at you. There is something peaceful about them if done right.”
Tip: Sheer curtains offer comfort
The cottagecore aesthetic says goodbye to heavy blinds and curtains, instead making way for sheer window coverings that let light in. Kandler favors window coverings where sunlight and breeze help a fabric reach its full potential, especially since this design trend is a nod to nature.
“Pick window coverings that work the sun and breeze to create a mood,” says Kandler. “A set of curtains that can beautifully pick up the breeze gives a wonderful organic element to a room.”
Tip: Go cozy
If there is one room you can’t go wrong in when going cottagecore, it’s your bedroom, at least according to Kandler.
“[The bedroom is] secluded, and it’s meant to be cozy. You can really go all-in and experiment to figure out what feels right to you,” she says. She recommends investing in soft bedding, down comforters, pillows, and a romantic bed frame.
“The bedroom is really all about the bedding, and it should reflect your personality in the colors and patterns you pick,” she says, adding that she loves to mix prints on bedding—a favorite is John Robshaw—and throw pillows, and that she always looks for stuff that’s easy to wash.
“This type of décor is one where you curl up with your kids and your dogs, so make sure whatever bedding you choose can stand up to that,” she says. “This style is casual, airy, and fun. My best advice is be yourself and let that shine through.”
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