Irish Cottage Style Decor

Sally Painter
Irish cottage with thatched roof

The Irish cottage can have greater appeal when combined with contemporary conveniences. You can recreate this design style in your home decor by adding a few architectural elements, colors, patterns, furniture and other furnishings.

More Than a Thatched Roof

When you hear the phrase Irish cottage, you probably think of a thatched roof home. While this is appropriate, there is more to a quaint Irish cottage than its signature roofline.

The round wattle (sticks) and daub (mud or clay) round huts were replaced with the rectangular thatched roofed cottage. According to Cottageology website, with the advancement of building techniques, the laborers took some of the technology back to their communities and the cottage was born. Stones and rocks were typically used for the cottages. The result was very thick walls.

The cottage designers addressed the often harsh Irish environment by taking advantage of solar gain through siting the cottages facing south. This allowed sunlight to warm the home all day. The stone walls provided a large thermal mass, retaining the heat and releasing it at night.

Architectural Features

There are several architectural features found in an Irish cottage that you can incorporate in your home design.

Whitewashed Stone Walls

Constructed from the ample supply of rocks and stones, the exterior and interior were often white-washed for an even more unique look. You can paint stone or brick walls/fireplace white or use an actual whitewash to give an authentic look to your design. You may prefer to transform a plain wall with a faux whitewashed brick wallpaper to give the illusion of a textured wall.

Traditional Thatched and Stone Roofs

The iconic thatched roof is typically the first thing that comes to mind upon hearing the phrase Irish cottage. Sod was used for insulation on the inside part of the full or half hipped roof set on full gable walls. The roofs were typically thatched although builders in rocky regions took advantage of the slate and stone for sound roofs.

The type of materials used for thatching depended on the region and types of industries. For example, along the coastline where the weather was very harsh, ropes were woven into types of nets to secure the thatch. Locales that had linen manufacturing used rushes, marram grass, heather and flax instead of straws.

You can create a stylized thatched roof or go with a traditional design.

Modern Thatched Roofs

Technology advancements have solved the common issues of expense, maintenance and infestation of bugs, rodents and other animals. An Endureed® Synthetic Thatch offers the authentic look for your Irish cottage with modern solutions to these age-old problems. Opt for a synthetic thatch roof for easier care.

Cottage Window Niches

The Irish cottage window can be transformed into a niche with a stained wood windowsill that's ideal for a quaint vase of flowers or to display a couple of collectibles.

  • The bottom tier sheer over the pane-window can be framed with a floral print curtain and valance.
  • You may decide to use Irish lace for the curtain sheer, adding one more layer to your Irish decor.
    cottage window

Fireplace and Hearth

The fireplace, complete with an open floor-level hearth, was made from local stones/rocks and was located in the center of the home in the kitchen. All family activities, such as cooking, eating, and relaxing, took place in this space. The fireplace/hearth wall was very thick and extended beyond the roof. This massive masonry structure provided radiant heating for the entire home. A bedroom was usually located directly behind the fireplace wall to take advantage of the heat.

  • Build a floor to ceiling stone fireplace with a floor level hearth in one end of your kitchen.
  • Add a stone or rough hewed timber mantel.
  • Set a dining table and chairs in front of the fireplace or use for a seating area.

Half Door

Some cottages had two exterior doors, one on each side (north and south). The half door was a brilliant solution to allow air circulation inside the home. The top half of the door could be swung open inside the home while keeping the bottom half secured. This type of door is also called a Dutch door or stable door.

The bottom half often had a small shelf that served as a prop when looking out over the farm or simply daydreaming. The half door also served as a barrier to any wandering farm or wild animals as well as corralling the children inside while airing out the home that was often smoky and damp.

Flooring Choices

While many of the cottage floors were nothing more than packed clay or mud, builders often took advantage of the available local flagstone. Alternatively, use slate for the flooring in your cottage.

Exposed Beam or Rafters

The open floor to ceiling concept found in one-story vernacular cottages allowed either the use of rough-hewed beams or the actual rafters that set directly on the walls.

  • Use real wood or faux wood ceiling beams to re-create this look.
  • Add beams in the kitchen, dining room, den and master bedroom with the walls space between painted white, cream or a soft pale yellow.
  • Stain the beams or rafters in a dark color to add depth to your design and contrast to the painted walls and ceiling.
    exposed beams

Colors, Patterns and Textures

You can create greater warmth in your cottage design when you mix colors, textures and furniture for the right balance in your decor.

Color Palette

There are many colors quickly associated with this type of cottage design. You can rely on the colors found in nature for your color palette. These include green, brown, ochre, red, blue (ocean, lakes and sky), and hints of black or dark brown.

  • Choose two main colors and one accent color for a color palette with depth.
  • Use the accent color throughout your room(s) design to give depth and continuity.
  • For small spaces, use the same two main colors. You can change the accent color to give your decor greater interest.

Patterns and Textures

Floral prints are a must for any cottage design.

  • For an authentic feel, go with a retro fabric pattern, such as small floral patterns.
  • Irish lace for curtains and tablecloths will make any room, such as a bedroom or kitchen, feel cozy.
  • Throw pillows can feature lace ruffles and/or inserts.

Cottage Furniture Ideas

There are a few key furniture pieces that are a must for your design. These include:

  • Use a tall heavy wood hutch with plate display shelves to show off your china.
  • Iron beds were a constant, although a rough wood headboard and footboard bed design works, too.
  • There were always several wooden stools placed about the fireplace in case additional seating was needed.
  • A rocking chair by the fireside is always a necessity. Add a solid-colored cushion and patterned lumbar pillow for greater comfort.
  • The dining table placed in the kitchen often doubled as the preparation table. This was large enough to seat the entire family.
  • Straight backed chairs or benches can be used for table seating.

Accessorizing Your Cottage

There are a few accessories that you'll want to add to your cottage look. These include:

  • Display decorative china, plates and bowls in the kitchen/dining room hutch.
  • Silver or pewter trays, bowls and tankards can be displayed on the mantel.
  • Be sure you include an antique-styled tea kettle for the kitchen stove.
  • Statues and figurines that depict Irish folklore or spirit can be placed on shelves or tables.
  • Waterford crystal makes a special display in a hutch or mantel.
  • Musical instruments, such as a lyre, drum, harp, fiddle, uilleann pipes, penny tin whistle, or flute can also become conversation pieces as well as placed on a shelf, mounted on the wall, or set in a corner.
  • Wall art can include photos or paintings of Ireland landscapes or carved wooden plaques.
  • Add a wool plaid throw for a nice pop of color for a couch, chair or bed.
  • Be sure you include a Peterson pipe or two displayed in a pipe stand. Place on a coffee table, end table, desk or mantel. Don't forget the tobacco jar.

Contemporary Room Examples

Keeping in mind the colors and textures, along with the furniture and accessories noted, you can take Irish cottage design and move it into your own contemporary home.

Cottage Kitchen Design

This contemporary spin on the classic Irish cottage kitchen with a tile backsplash is luxurious in comparison to the typical rustic qualities of an Irish cottage. Using your imagination, you can incorporate the best elements in your kitchen design.

  • The gray-greenish cabinets offer slotted dish storage and open lower shelves for basket storage.
  • The deep inset window and windowsill is perfect for growing fresh herbs.
  • A large porcelain butler's sink was often surrounded by wood countertops complete with drain slots cut into the wood for guiding the water into the sink.
  • Add a brass facet set, and this design creates the perfect blend of classic cottage with contemporary touches.
    cottage kitchen

Iron Bed Focal Point

This upstairs bedroom design features an iron bed that was often found in some of the Irish cottages. Your contemporary recreation may have carpeting instead of stone flooring, but you can add other Irish cottage elements. These include:

  • Use floral print curtains and a matching fabric quilt bordered by a tiny rose bud pattern.
  • Add a matching pillow and a green lumbar pillow to repeat the lampshade color.
  • A small night stand supports the floral vase-like lamp.
  • Place a mirror over the lamp/nightstand for a great reflecting effect.
  • Complete the look with a faux or real wood beam.
    cottage bedroom

Tour a Contemporary Irish Cottage Home

In this video, the viewer is shown how the Irish cottage is used in a contemporary house design for a holiday rental. You can take away a few decorating ideas to incorporate in your Irish cottage design.

Kitchen

This cottage design features ecru colored cabinets in a vertical panel design.

  • A glass door, open dish rack and shelf break up the window wall, preventing the wall from being cabinet heavy.
  • The emerald green window shade repeats the backsplash tile color.
  • Add a white painted table and chairs for a splash of contrast against the dark tile floor.

Sitting Area

The sitting area features a floor level hearth.

  • A floor to ceiling stacked rock fireplace displays a thick rustic wood mantel.
  • Hardwood floors add warmth to this room design.
  • Add a red loveseat with oversized pillows and an area rug to complete the cozy feel to the design.

Bedroom

This cottage bedroom design is crisp and simple with a bed, table, and chair.

  • The focal point for this bedroom design is the unique iron bed design.
  • The walls are painted a taupe with green used for the accent color
  • The green floral bed pillow repeats the painting over the bed and the green side chair.
  • White bed linens, pillows and a white tablecloth covers the bedside table.
  • The deep inset windowsill allows for displaying decorative items or you could set a houseplant here.
  • The dark picture frame above the green chair repeats the black ironwork bed.

Second Bedroom

Keep the second bedroom simple yet stylized.

  • Tie back curtains are made from a fabric pattern of vertical floral lines.
  • A rocker is nestled against a pine armoire.
  • A matching pair of framed prints on the wall above the chair fills the empty wall space.
  • Lead embedded criss-cross pattern windows add charm to this simple bedroom design.

Staircase

Knotty pine plank floors run the width of the foyer below the staircase.

  • The staircase holds a surprise with matching blooming wild flowers on the stairwell wall.
  • A wide ledge beside the staircase provides display space for art objects.

Hints of Rustic Cottage in Contemporary Designs

When you use some of the characteristics of a rustic thatched-roof Irish cottage in your contemporary decor, you get the best aspects of this design style. The influences of this ancient culture can be further highlighted through furnishings as well as architectural and design elements.

Irish Cottage Style Decor