Every century there is a “back to nature” movement, from 18th century nobility creating fake villages to modern wi-fi-free family camping trips. The current iteration you may have heard of in the news is called “cottage style” or “cottagecore.” The name seems simple enough, but the actual lifestyle behind it is much more complicated. Let’s take a look at what it is, why people are doing it, and how you can incorporate the trend into your home.
What is Cottagecore?
The actual term “cottagecore” is a portmanteau of cottage, a style of house, and core, a core principle. It is an aesthetic and a lifestyle wrapped in one. Pastels and natural colors combine with a lack of urgency in day-to-day living in both look and feel. Cottagecore means giving yourself time to walk in the park, take care of local wildlife (even if it’s just your dog), and breaking free from the constant grind of work. We’ve been seeing this trend coming in for a while with more focus on creating reading nooks, meditation spaces, and comfortable outdoor furnishings.
This may sound like the latest internet fad, but cottagecore has incredibly deep roots beyond the internet and the name. English gardens from the 18th century were filled with native wildflowers and purposely trimmed to look overgrown. Some famous names like Marie Antoinette went as far as recreating rustic hamlets on their property to indulge in the monotonous physical work of the lower classes. During large wars, civilians were heavily encouraged to be self-sustaining so resources could be distributed more to soldiers. From mending your own wardrobe to growing food, the cottage lifestyle was even considered patriotic.
A Simple Appeal
Most of us don’t live in cottages, so why is this style so popular? It’s not quite a counterculture (yet), making it accessible to anyone willing to give it a try. It’s about bringing yourself back into the creative process of making a home. Doing something by hand can make the finished product less professional-looking, but it feels quite good. Cottagecore takes the pressure off your furnishings to be glamorous and pristine and refocuses on letting your love show through wear and tear. It also takes advantage of the resources you already have, like natural lighting and local flora.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
What I find very interesting about cottagecore is that it’s more based on how something is made than how it looks. Yes, vintage finds are a big part of the aesthetic. However, furniture doesn’t have to look like it belonged to your great-great grandmother. Anything made of material on its second life–like treated driftwood, recycled paper, vintage hardware–is technically cottagecore no matter how modern it looks. You don’t have to commit to a farmhouse style of home to make it more kind to its individual parts.
The Reality (It’s Hard Work)
There is an emphasis in cottagecore about doing things the old-fashioned way because that’s how we used to survive rather than relying on modern conveniences. In some respects that’s great! But then you notice you don’t see images of cottagecore bathrooms. That’s because in the cottagecore world, no one uses them. Like all aesthetics, the actual hard work involved is glossed over. For instance, sewing your own clothes takes so much time and resources to make something you can buy much cheaper online. This isn’t to say you can’t achieve a cottagecore style in your home, just that convenience isn’t always the enemy. So don’t go throwing out your indoor plumbing just yet.
A Good Investment?
I can’t pretend that there isn’t a higher initial cost for “simpler” looking furniture. Replacing all of your furnishings with handcrafted and ethically-sourced alternatives is expensive, but there is a reason for it. Furniture made by hand from a tradesperson is less likely to suffer from planned obsolescence. That extra cost means you don’t have to replace your dining chairs in two years like you would with a mass-produced set. The real investment that comes with cottagecore living is its sustainability.
While cottagecore is not a full cultural movement yet, it doesn’t look like it’s going away soon. Adopting the style now means you get to help define what a cottage look is in the future; and who doesn’t want to be a part of history?