Chances are, your heart melts a little every time you pass a cottage. They ooze old-fashioned style, but the good news is that you can get the look too. Any inspired change—a crisp white gate, a new door in a bold paint color, or a traditional gas lantern—can lift your home to new heights and add instant appeal.
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1. Add Full-Swing Shutters. A cottage staple, shutters are an instant update for windows and doors. They come in many styles—louvered and paneled—and have lots of options for accessories like hinges and holdbacks, also known as "shutter dogs." Here's the key to getting shutters right: They have to be operable (not just screwed onto brick or siding) and should be sized correctly. A good rule of thumb is that a pair of shutters, when closed, should cover a window or door opening completely.
2. Make a Splash With Color. Craving color in small doses? A front door is the perfect place to show off a bold hue and set the tone for a house filled with style. Whether you go for a traditional shade or think outside the box, a colorful door is sure to make any cottage stand out from the street.
3. Paint it White. Cottage exteriors can come in many architectural styles (Farmhouse, Tudor, and Craftsman, to name a few) and are often clad in brick, clapboard, or shingles. But no matter the look, most of our favorites have one thing in common: a crisp white exterior shell that's timeless and pops against a lush, green garden backdrop. See our favorite white paints.
Related: Pick the Right Exterior Paint Colors
4. Upgrade the Roof. One of the biggest investments in a house, roofs are often overlooked. Because of its hefty price tag, a roof is a more permanent decision. Choose one that's durable, long-lasting, and easy on the eyes.
5. Make an Entrance. Cottages are often comprised of simple architectural forms. One of the best ways to add prominence to the facade is to create an entry with distinction. Even if it's as simple as upgrading your front door, don't overlook the importance of a well-groomed entry.
6. Plant Boxwoods. If you want a simple and classic landscape to surround your house, choose boxwoods. Evergreen and easily pruned into a variety of shapes, boxwoods are ideal foundation plants and partners to many different ground covers and colorful annuals.
7. Install a Gate, Rail, or Fence. Establishing boundaries is often a good thing. Fences and railings help to add a sense of enclosure and define yards and outdoor spaces. Garden gates lend an air of mystery—tempting guests to walk in and explore. To create the illusion of depth in a small space, Birmingham architect Jeremy Corkern suggests installing a fence in the middle of the yard rather than at the sidewalk.
8. Create an Outdoor Living Room. When you're short on space, as you often are in the more modest proportions of a cottage, you have to make the most of every square inch. One of the best ways to do that—especially in the South—is to extend your living space outdoors and take advantage of porches and patios. Decorate them with plush, weather-resistant furnishings for an extra room you can use year-round.
9. Build Detailed Dormers. Nothing else makes a small space live large like a dormer. Positioned on a roof, a dormer projects out to add extra square footage, ceiling height, and natural light to a room. The key to getting them right is scale—too small or too large and they'll make the house look bug-eyed. Other finishes like operable shutters and windows amp up the appeal.
10. Finish With a Fine Piece of Jewelry. The outside of your home deserves to be accessorized, just like the interior. Try adding decorative details like doorknockers, light fixtures, house numbers, and mailboxes that welcome visitors and express personal style. Not only do these accents add flair, but they also say something about the owners. Whether you want to show state pride or announce a hobby, look for small touches that add a bit of whimsy.