July 18, 2024

Like harvest time and daffodils, country living trends come round every year. But cottagecore, the latest spin on rustic reverie is a global phenomenon, uniting young and old, fashion icons and smallholders, social media influencers and those who just want to wander off-grid in a forest.

It’s about much more than pretty ditzy prints, flourishing gardens and raisin sourdough starters, and since lockdown forced us to revaluate our fast-paced lives, the cottagecore aesthetic is appealing to young and old, city and country dweller alike.

What is cottagecore and what does it really mean?

Cottagecore is a cultural movement which idolises the concept of a simple, self-sufficient life. Capturing a yearning for a life that is more rural and idyllic, it taps into a desire to be at one with nature, and to live in a world outside of the one currently inhabited.

Imagine cottagecore as a warm, non-judgemental comfort blanket that wraps itself around your living space. The ethos is whimsical and nostalgic but with quirky and eco-friendly elements that reflect our need for beauty, sustainability and security.

Think handmade, muted, mellow and above all, pretty things that spell pastoral pleasure. ‘There are parallels with the Arts & Crafts movement, both place value on products with integrity, such as handmade and artisan items,’ says Hampshire-based interior designer, Steph Briggs of LaDiDa Interiors. ‘Both mark a reaction to the damaging effects of industrialisation and social conditions. This view is as poignant now as it was in Victorian times.’

10 tiktok home interior trends you'll be seeing everywhere in 2021pinterest

How did cottagecore start?

Definitely not on the high street; #cottagecore started gaining traction on social media platforms favoured by American teens and early twenties, such as Reddit and Tumblr. The hashtag has been around for three years, but started attracting major attention from January this year.

Lockdown set cottagecore alight; Tumblr reports it’s seen a 153 per cent increase in cottagecore posts since March. And it’s already racked up more than than 252 million views on TikTok; the video app allows users to post short clips of themselves baking, making and wandering through hazy cornfields.

scallop stripe tea towel  little cress oven glove via tori murphypinterest

How has cottagecore spiked during quarantine?

Staying at home and outdoor exercise during lockdown have given the trend wings. ‘COVID-19 has undoubtedly increased interest,’ says Deirdre McGettrick, founder of furniture search and discovery engine ufurnish.com, and co-host of The DnA of Home Interiors podcast. ‘With more time available people are returning to traditional skills and crafts including flower arranging, baking and pottery to pass the time.’

cottagecore aesthetic – notonthehighstreetcom
cottagecore aesthetic – notonthehighstreetcom

Also, cottagecore has taken a wider direction on social media – there are now more than half a million tagged posts on Instagram. Leading UK cottagecore influencers include Naomi Stuart @grove_cottage, accompanied by her spaniel, Radley, and Paula Sutton, @hillhousevintage, a lifestyle blogger and former fashion editor who moved from London to rural Norfolk a decade ago.

paula sutton, hillhousevintage, a lifestyle blogger and former fashion editor

Paula Sutton: @hillhousevintage

Political and social influences

There is an ever-so-gentle but strong anti-establishment message. Cottagecore taps into the heartfelt political and social values of Gen Z and is inclusive; non-judgemental of sex, gender or ethnic background. If cottagecore was a movie, it would be Little Women, starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen.

This mindful ethos is represented by classic cottagecore artists and musicians, such as chunky knitwear-loving Taylor Swift – her latest album is called Folklore – Irish folk singer/songwriter Hozier, and the ethereal tones of Florence and the Machine, who earlier this year released a single, Light of Love, to raise funds for intensive care patients.

How is cottagecore developing?

American and UK cottagecore share key themes – farmhouses, forests, foraging, and glorious picnics. However, we’re now seeing UK cottagecore fans making it their own, with sustainability, eco living, mindfulness – and tradition.

‘UK cottagecore has a quintessentially British feel, faded patchwork, traditional crafts, Cotswolds cottages, crochet and pottery,’ says Bex Massey of lifestyle store Bramble & Fox. ‘It also has a darker edge that borrows from Romanticism, traditional fairy tales, children’s literature and Agatha Christie – it’s Miss Marple meets Enid Blyton.’

Escape to the country

Since restrictions eased, more than half (51 per cent) of Londoners thinking of moving say they are looking for a new home in the countryside, according to property portal Rightmove.

Meanwhile, cottagecore brings rural values to town. ‘For many people locked down in small apartments in big cities, it’s related to the nostalgia of youth and the associated freedom,’ says Deirdre McGettrick.

Younger people returning home during the pandemic find inspiration from their parents and grandparents’ houses: ‘These slightly-dated interiors are helping to inspire their own ideas, giving them something different to share on social media.’

annie sloan   living room   chalk paint in svenska blue with floral decoupage, antoinette linen union sofa coverpinterest

The cottagecore aesthetic

There’s a symbiotic relationship between cottagecore fashion and lifestyle. Unlikely cottagecore converts include David Beckham, who filmed himself on YouTube building a wooden beehive in a V-neck, and Kanye West, whose Instagram documents his rural ranch-life idyll in Wyoming.

This easy adaptability marks out cottagecore from previous incarnations of ‘country style’ – see shabby chic, faded genteel and rough luxe. ‘My version is based around old English country houses,’ says Paula Sutton. ‘Chintz and chickens, and pots of tea. Lots of colour and a layered mix of antique, vintage inherited and new. My furniture is often vintage, bashed and chippy.’

paula sutton, hillhousevintage, a lifestyle blogger and former fashion editor

Paula Sutton: @hillhousevintage

How to achieve the cottagecore look at home

Exploring vintage markets, crocheting cushion covers and roaming free sounds wonderful, but the good news is you don’t have to import the entire lifestyle. The whole point is that you curate it yourself.

Adolphe Millot - Fleurs C - French vintage photographic Print
DejaVuStudio Adolphe Millot – Fleurs C – French vintage photographic Print
Credit: Redbubble
Campbell Blue Imari Pendant Light
LYNGARD CERAMICS Campbell Blue Imari Pendant Light
Credit: Notonthehighstreet.com
Handmade paper and pressed daisy bookmark
MyaghsCrafts Handmade paper and pressed daisy bookmark
Credit: Etsy
Wicker Basket Gondola
PRESTIGE WICKER Wicker Basket Gondola
Credit: Notonthehighstreet.com
Liberty Print Quilt In Capel
POPPY AND HONESTY Liberty Print Quilt In Capel
Credit: Notonthehighstreet.com

Where to start? With nature. ‘Look for natural fabrics and materials in colours that commonly appear – linens in sun-faded terracotta, soft sheepskin rugs in tawny brown, quaint floral prints,’ says Ross I’Anson at natural sheepskin company Jacobs & Dalton. Hang bunches of dried herbs and meadow flowers and use foraged finds such as tree branches as decoration. I’Anson also mentions home-sewn cross stitched wall hangings – but this may take some practice.

Will cottagecore topple the all-mighty hygge?

Both cottagecore and hygge, the cosy home décor trend which started in Scandinavia, pivot on natural materials such as wool and embrace texture and pattern. They have much in common, but can they co-habit harmoniously? Deirdre McGettrick argues hygge is a minimalist style, with a neutral colour palette of white, beige and creams, whilst cottagecore is ‘all about your floral patterns and the clutter of life, a country cottage kitchen, a small space with plenty of jugs, plates and glasses’.

However, Bex Massey thinks both styles complement perfectly. ‘I absolutely believe that cottagecore and hygge fuse together organically,’ she says. ‘Both aesthetics are driven by nostalgia, cosiness and the craving for a slower, sustainable and more soulful life.’

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Headshot of Jayne Dowle

Jayne specialises in advice stories for House Beautiful magazine and writes about a wide range of topics, from gardening and DIY to decluttering and mindfulness. Based in Yorkshire, she has recently renovated a 1920s house, where she lives with her family.


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