The Cottage – an Environment or an Architectural Style?

If you think of the word “cottage,” what do you see?  Do you envision images of warmth, coziness, and flowers climbing on front porches? Or maybe a smaller, less ornate house, and a lifestyle of tranquility and serenity.

A cottage may look different depending on the beholder, but one thing that is certain is that the term describes a category of house and a lifestyle rather than an architectural style.

Historically, the term was used to denote more than charm and tranquility. During the Gilded Age in Newport, Rhode Island, the “Summer Cottages” were anything but today’s typical image of a cottage. There, the opulent and sumptuously appointed summer retreats were built to outshine one another among the wealthy elite during the summer months of vacationing and partying.

Today, the term has evolved to denote a quaint, cozy, charming, smaller house, often in a more rural setting, although cottages can be found in some cities as well. There are thatched-roof cottages in the English countryside, Tudor-style cottages on both sides of the Atlantic, and even fairy tale cottages in, well, fairy tales. Among the more famous cottages is Green Gables of Anne of Green Gables fame.

But the history of the word goes back even further than Gilded Age New England: according to Southern Living writer Maggie Burch, “The term ‘cottage’ and the house style most closely associated with it originated in England during the Middle Ages. Peasant farmers were known as “cotters,” and their modest, rural homes came to be called cottages. Even today, a cottage-style house in the U.K. has the same description it did hundreds of years ago—the homes are simple dwellings meant to fight off the cold, typically with one large living room downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs, under a thatched roof.” The house in the Cotswolds featured in the movie, The Holiday, is the quintessential English cottage.

Today, there are a variety of cottage styles in the U.S.

The “Coastal Cottage” denotes being near the beach. Massachusetts and Connecticut have a great many of these charming homes. The architectural term “Cape Cod” is a cottage style associated with Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. The clapboard siding, the red brick chimneys, their meandering walkways, and charming flower-covered fences evoke a longing for innocence.

The “English Cottage,” with its thatched roof and overgrown gardens and open spaces, will be found in the English countryside. (Designing an overgrown garden in many newer communities in our areas could invoke the wrath of homeowners’ associations.)

“Creole Cottages” have evolved from New Orleans and the “Low Country.” They are often narrow, have front porches, and covered outdoor living areas. They are light and breezy: picture white gauze curtains billowing in the breeze.

A “bungalow” can be a cottage. Its defining features are a sloping roof, dormer windows, and an overhanging porch. This style of house can be found throughout the U.S., from Craftsman post-and-beam construction to brick bungalows with horizontal dormers found in the Chicago area.

What are the key elements of the cottage? Outside, they will have natural building material – callboard and/or wood shingles all set amid casual and lush landscapes. The interior elements of the cottage will feature lush textiles, pillows, rugs, curtains, blankets, and comfortable furniture. Fireplaces, nooks, and cozy kitchens are hallmarks of the style.

In our local real estate market, many homeowners love the cottage style. Although recent trends have been minimalistic in shades of gray; cottage-style homes with their cozy elements have resold quickly –  many over list price. Cottage style tugs at the heartstrings, offering the dream of intimate and quiet family times.

In search of your diamond-in-the-rough cottage? Contact Properties on the Potomac at 703-624-8333 today!