Flea Market Style: A Comfy Fit for Cottages

By Becky Dietrich

What do flea markets, thrift stores and antiques shops have in common? You are likely to find the most fabulous stuff buried under piles of blankets or sitting in a dark corner. This is the kind of stuff that brings story and humor and a bit of quirkiness to your interior -- and that's just the kind of decor a cottage loves.

Eclectic Living Room

If your decorating bent is toward old handmade rugs and quilts, chairs with messy slipcovers and a personal array of accessories, flea market style is just right for you and your cottage.

Vintage pieces are often painted -- sometimes with multiple coats of peeling and distressed paint. These kinds of furnishings tell the same story as the cottage itself. Age is good, and a little wear and tear not only are to be expected but are desirable. (Keep peeling paint away from toddlers, though, as it could contain lead.)

Look what this whimsical cupboard brings to this space, and imagine what the space would lose if it weren't there. Note, too, that the scale of the older linen-covered chairs is just right. And even though the table is long, its profile is not in any way bulky -- helpful when you're dealing with small spaces.

Farmhouse Family Room by Newton Center Media & BloggersJustine Hand

Long, narrow farm tables are so appropriate for cottage living. Whether used for dining or doing a project or homework, their skinny dimensions and family-friendly finish make them a key ingredient in flea market style and a multipurpose tool. They are also readily available -- either vintage or created from old wood.

Vintage furniture (or, in this case, reproduction vintage furniture) tends to be smaller than its contemporary counterparts, which makes it perfect for decorating your cottage. In spaces where every inch counts, smaller is definitely better.

The old benches that are common at flea markets also totally work for a cottage. Like the farm table, they are long and narrow, and adapt readily to many uses. From beings the consummate cottage coffee table to providing extra seating, to allowing dining in front of the TV, the bench answers the call.

Flea market wicker, whether used inside or out ...

... speaks cottage fluently, with its open weave, cozy feel and whimsical style.

Mixing is inherent to the success of flea market decorating, and cottages totally embrace that. The varied chairs pulled up to this drop-leaf table are utterly charming, as is the mix of wood and caned pieces in the living area. Drop-leaf tables are, by the way, another great friend in decorating a cottage.

Some of my favorite ingredients of flea market style are the mixed textiles ...

... the frumpy, comfy, "come sit on me" upholstery

... and the quirky pieces that abound with personality and function. In what new-furniture store would you find a piece like this sink?

Or this enchantingly fanciful coffee table?

Or this welcoming painted bench? Flea market style and cottages are a match made in design heaven.
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