Dressing Up A Cottage Style Bathroom

Cottage style bathrooms are traditionally pretty cozy spaces – simple, casual, and often a little bit on the small side – reminiscent of the cottage style homes where they were first and most commonly found. But cottage style bathrooms have been getting a more glamorous, sophisticated treatment in recent years. With just a little dressing up, this iconic style can take on a very chic, classy appearance that works great with either a very traditional or modern style.

Increase The Size, Upgrade The Materials

Though it might seem silly, using a cottage style in a larger bathroom will immediately elevate the design, making it feel more open, elegant, and luxurious (by Claire Jefford at Creating Contrast Designs, photo by Buchman Photo)
Though it might seem silly, using a cottage style in a larger bathroom will immediately elevate the design, making it feel more open, elegant, and luxurious (by Claire Jefford at Creating Contrast Designs, photo by Buchman Photo)

The cottage style bathroom has been popular on and off for the last hundred years or so, but this distinctive design has its roots in actual turn of the century cottages. These cottages were typically quite small, used as vacation or summer homes rather than as a primary residence. What that means is that traditional cottage bathrooms are designed to be compact and efficient, and emphasize light and simplicity, all of which have been factors in the style’s impressive staying power. That said, maybe the best way to dress up a cottage style bathroom is to simply add a little square footage. A little extra space will make a cottage bathroom feel grand rather than cozy and give it a little room to breathe. Upgrading from a pedestal sink to a large bathroom vanity and from porcelain tile to stone or wood will also give the space a dressier, more sophisticated look and feel.

Shop Cottage Bathroom Vanities:

Add A Chandelier

Even a simple cottage style bathroom gains a distinctly more sophisticated, elegant appearance with the addition of a crystal chandelier (by Stonewood LLC)
Even a simple cottage style bathroom gains a distinctly more sophisticated, elegant appearance with the addition of a crystal chandelier (by Stonewood LLC)

Many of the fixtures used in cottage style bathrooms – especially pedestal sinks and clawfoot bathtubs or pedestal tubs – have a very classy appearance all on their own. They’re shapely, elegant, and classic, with simple clean lines and a soft glossy finish. But while they’re designed to work with a simple decor, they’re also extremely easy to dress up. One of the simplest ways to do it? Hang up a petite crystal chandelier or chandelette. A decadent crystal chandelier, even a small one, instantly elevates the room’s style, casting those pretty porcelain fixtures in a much more elegant light.

Shop Chandeliers:

A Touch More Traditional

This year, pairing soft grays, canvas upholstery, and reclaimed wood is an especially popular way to combine an elegant, sophisticated look with a simpler, more rustic feel (by Restoration Hardware)
This year, pairing soft grays, canvas upholstery, and reclaimed wood is an especially popular way to combine an elegant, sophisticated look with a simpler, more rustic feel (by Restoration Hardware)

Cottage style bathrooms are, strictly speaking, very traditional – many of the basic elements haven’t changed much in the last hundred years. But they aren’t what come to mind when you think of a sprawling, ornate antique bathroom. That said, cottage bathrooms can easily be dressed up to have a little more of that antique flair while sticking to their simple, classic roots. Adding in antique furniture – like upholstered chairs or chaises or small decorative tables – is an especially effective way to give the bathroom a slightly more Victorian feel without a lot of pomp and circumstance. Incorporating luxurious fabrics – like thick window dressings and area rugs – will also add texture and old world sophistication without making the space overly ornate or busy.

Shop Accent Tables:

Make It Modern

Vivid patterns done in a high contrast black and white completely alter the appearance of a cottage style bathroom, giving it a posh, modern look and fee (by Drury Design)
Vivid patterns done in a high contrast black and white completely alter the appearance of a cottage style bathroom, giving it a posh, modern look and fee (by Drury Design)

This might sound a little counter-intuitive, but this classic style can work in a very modern space, too. A bathroom vanity with simple, stark lines (think Shaker cabinets – which are very much in this year) will create a nice minimalist base.  From there you want to amp up the glam, opting for really opulent, ornate pieces that are more traditionally associated with an antique style: chandeliers, ornate furniture, and embossed, textured, or even metallic-finished wallpaper. The catch: do it in a bold, high-contrast style, with pops of bright, vivid color and an all-over glossy finish. Add unique designer mirrors and you’ll have a bathroom with all traditional trappings but a very modern flair.

Shop White Bathroom Vanities:

Paint It Black

Adding just a touch of black to a white on white cottage style bathroom will make the whole space look more striking and modern, no bold patterns or wild designs needed
Adding just a touch of black to a white on white cottage style bathroom will make the whole space look more striking and modern, no bold patterns or wild designs needed

Now, really intense black and white bathrooms create an incredibly modern, very striking look that’s hugely popular this year. But simply swapping a white cottage style bathroom vanity for an identical one in black is a surprisingly effective way to give the space a more sophisticated look and feel – without making any other changes. Conventional cottage style bathrooms rely on lots of white to reflect light and make the space feel warm, open, and bright. But black has a more intense, striking, and elegant look. Especially paired with a very simple cabinet design, a basic black vanity can subtly alter the tone of a cottage style bathroom, making it feel just that little bit more posh and elegant.

Shop Black Bathroom Vanities:

Go Monochrome

A white on white decor in a stark blueish white light will have a very striking modern look and feel
A white on white decor in a stark blueish white light will have a very striking modern look and feel

Shop Virtu Bathroom Vanities:

On the flip side, opting for a monochromatic white-on-white color scheme is another way to get a slightly more sophisticated cottage style bathroom – at least when done right. After all, cottage style bathrooms are often more or less white-on-white to start with, with lots of porcelain fixtures and tile. But in a more conventional cottage bathroom these are meant to be clean and bright, filled with warm natural light. For a more modern look, opt for a cooler light (an ideal choice for a bathroom with no exterior windows) and soft gray accents, which will give the space a much more stark, modern appearance.

What do you think of these slightly dressier cottage style bathrooms? Do you like the added touch of elegance, or do you prefer a more traditional, casual cottage style?