Fresh And Frugal Cottage Ideas, Part 1- A Better Homes And Garden Comparison

One of my favorite magazines has always been Better Homes and Gardens. I love the accessible decor, food, and crafts. As I was checking out their website the other day, an article that caught my eye titled Fresh and Frugal Cottage Ideas. Can you guess why it might have appealed to me? Frugal and cottage in the same sentence- be still my heart!

As I was reading, I started mentally checking the list with my own cottage to see how I compared. And I thought it would be fun to share what I found with you and ask what you’d add to the list- or what you already have and love. As the list grew, though, I realized I’d need two posts, so you’ll get Part 2 in a rare Saturday post tomorrow (click here to see part 2).

Here’s An Oregon Cottage’s take on frugal cottage style (my numbers correspond to the slides from the site, so you can check out their interpretation as well):

1. All About Windows

At windows, the cottage style is epitomized by simple styles and lightweight fabrics. I went to our bedroom to shoot this photo- its the only place I have lightweight, airy curtains. I love them there, but for most of the rest of the house I have simple, homemade loose roman shades. The fabric might not be lightweight (they’re mostly made of painter’s drop cloth), but they are simple and frugal- I think they count, don’t you?

2. Slipcovers

Oh, yeah- I’ve got this covered. I’ve had slipcovers for years- I make them myself out of drop cloth or thrift store or sale fabrics. I made the cover for our couch from a drop cloth many years ago. And I appreciate the neutral background which makes it super easy and affordable to update like I did in this living room makeover.

Slipcovers have allowed me to make over thrift store finds like the white fabric that covers this lovely *ahem* bright orange terrycloth slipper chair – a $10 thrift store find. I used a cotton tone-on-tone Jacquard that I found on sale for $3/yard.

3. Simple Accessories

I absolutely agree with this one: I don’t want to spend too much time, effort, or money on these things, but I do like things to give me joy when I see them. I think the mantle you helped me refine and declutter qualifies- I used what I had, learned the tips to make it pleasing to the eye, AND saved money by returning the black lanterns that didn’t work. Score one for An Oregon Cottage’s readers!

4. Cozy Details

This is about using vintage fabrics and trimmings to make your cottage feel like a well-loved home. I have a weak spot for vintage fabrics, especially hand-embroidered items (I just imagine those hands lovingly working the thread and the fabric into a beautiful design, and I just can’t leave it moldering in a pile at a sale or thrift store…), which I try to incorporate into pillows, quilts, and towels.

On our bed I’ve used some vintage pillow shams with hand-crochet edges and a piece of linen cutwork that has been embroidered on the accent pillow.

5. Charming Walls

Here the folks at BHG only mention beaded board, which I love and will soon have in our kitchen as well as the bathrooms. However, I also think plank walls and board and batten walls are great for cottages, too- in fact, we added some faux paneling to our master bedroom when we moved into our current house.

6. Simple Surfaces

Otherwise known as worn and distressed painted surfaces. To me this is a hallmark of cottage style- not only do I love the history of a worn piece, but I love the casualness it brings to an environment and the way that it reduces the worry associated with living life (children and dogs? No problem!).

And for Brian and me, our DIY mantra has always been “it’s the cottage style!” when something turned out uneven, chipped, or not square. It’s part of our philosophy to “embrace imperfection” which lets go of a lot of the pressure when doing things ourselves. Life isn’t perfect and our home doesn’t have to be either- it’s just needs to be a place where we enjoy living.

7. Classic Floors

These are defined as wood floors which we LOVE. We found enough pieces of old oak flooring to cover our hallway shortly after we moved in- for a total of $60.00. That certainly counts as frugal.

The problem is, we have bedrooms and the living room that were just particle board in this circa 1980 house and finding enough wood for these rooms has proved cost-prohibitive. If they aren’t already in your house, wood floors are often not frugal. What to do?

Use paper! (long time readers probably knew where I was going with that, huh?) Using torn pieces of brown craft paper, gluing them down and covering it all with coats of polyurethane is our favorite, frugal “classic floor” option. It gives the feel of wood flooring and holds up really well.

We even have a video tutorial that takes you through each easy step- you can have a new floor in a weekend for about $100.

8. & 9. are Quaint Fence and Seaside Charm.

Hmm, I don’t have either of these, though I do often add some shells for summer decorating. These two don’t seem as universal as the others- they add cottage style, but I’ve seen quite a few cottages without these, whereas wood floors and slipcovers are fairly common.

10. Casual Dining

It’s funny that the only thing mentioned here are chandeliers- which in a different setting can be decidedly not casual. Cottage style is known for the juxtaposition of fancy and rustic, so with the chandelier you need that chippy table and plank ceiling. And I love our chandelier- it is a memory for Brian and I. We found it for $10 in the first few years of our marriage- before we even had a house! We brought it home, rewired it, cleaned it up, and replaced any missing crystals. This thing will follow us no matter where we go.

But I think other, especially vintage, light fixtures work very nicely for casual dining, too. This eBay find ($43.00- before shipping became exorbitant over there…) hangs in our kitchen, but it would look equally “cottagey” in a breakfast nook or dining room with a rustic table and benches.

Click here to read Part 2 and see AOC’s interpretation of frugal cottage ideas like pretty and natural fabrics, bringing the outside in, sweet touches, and relaxing baths (of course I’d have to bring the clawfoot tub into it, wouldn’t I?).


This is linked to:
Frugalicious Friday
Frugal Friday @ Shabby Nest
Show and Tell Friday


  1. says

    That was really fun to read! I too love to look around the BHG site, I am glad that they have revamped a bit, i will have to check that out. I will be back to see what else you come up with … love your fun and fresh style! jules

  2. Anonymous says

    Stumbled upon your site (while searching for homemade slipcovers)…everything is so cozy looking and inviting. Loved your paper on the floor idea and other cost saving ideas. Plan to come back.

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