Long before the world flipped in on itself and we were all forced indoors, we’d been already been dreaming about a return to simple living. Harvesting our own homegrown veggies… gathering eggs from our chook pens… teaching the kids to sew… making wholesome meals with fresh, local ingredients… living modestly with minimal impact on the planet — all backdropped, ideally, by the soothing sounds of a babbling brook. It’s a very alluring lifestyle image. In fact, it’s one so appealing that it’s even coined its own name: cottagecore (as in hardcore, a term originating from the 1980s punk music scene). In essence, it’s a romanticisation of country and cottage life where self-sufficiency rules supreme and shabby chic décor defines interiors.
Soft furnishings and leafy potted plants offer instant ambience to both indoor interior and outdoor spaces. A layering of plush rugs, coloured cushions and throw blankets invite you to sit back with a cup of Earl Grey — poured from a vintage teapot, of course — and lose yourself in the pages of a classic novel as dinner slower simmers in the background. Rustic furniture and vintage décor are the mainstays of shabby chic interior design. The idea behind this theme is that precious pieces were passed down from generation to generation, with a little TLC along the way. As such, quality furniture and homewares find themselves in an eclectic mix of old and new or vintage-look — creating a style unto itself.
To some, the cottagecore movement is about a return to more traditional household roles — where one partner earns the money and the other takes care of the domestics and childrearing. However, in the non-binary 2020s, these roles are no longer defined by gender. Households come in every shape and size — from the working mum and stay-at-home dad to same-sex marriages and single parents.
There’s certainly a throwback, however, to the traditional décor of earlier 20th-century and farmhouse life, such as chintzy wallpaper, lace curtains and pretty ceramics.
Eclectic displays of various vases and glass jars, statues and ceramics offer a charming and romantic depiction of the cottagecore interior. A variety of vessels can be arrange ad hoc to hold flowers, keys, pens and knickknacks. Part of the appeal of this design style is that you can mix and match containers and collectables — both old and new, bought and made. Arrange them on the mantlepiece or a side table with a vibrant bouquet, candles and precious keepsakes handmade by the kids or grandkids. Take this look to your walls too with a mix of frames for your photos and prints. Exhibit them in an asymmetrical fashion on the walls and ledges. Cottagecore is a balance between cluttered and ornate, but to avoid a disorderly look, balance your scenes and get rid of things that aren’t working. It takes a little practise but is so rewarding when you get the look right.
The cottagecore lifestyle embraces the idea of intentionally smaller houses, voluntary minimalism, cooking from scratch, knitting jumpers, washing in outdoor showers and tubs, and screen-free childhoods somewhere far from the madding crowd and constant drone of the internet — like Animal Crossing or a Beatrix Potter book.
No doubt a backlash against the fast-paced and often stressful reality of the modern world, this yearning for the simple life has gained even more momentum in the isolation era as we all crave a return to living in harmony with nature and escaping the anxiety of global warming and global pandemics, where even getting groceries has become a mission.
An edible garden
Autumn is a peak time to plant your winter vegetables. Consider cabbage, lettuce, rocket, spinach, carrots, Asian greens, cauliflower, spring onions, leek, swedes, beetroot, pumpkins, potatoes, radishes and turnips. Broad beans are a great source of protein and also ready for planting at this time of year. Parsley is one of the hardiest herbs and incredibly healthy. Also add some rosemary, oregano, coriander, thyme and mint. You’ll have so many delicious combinations for cooking throughout winter. Think creamy soups, crispy roast vegetables, rich curries and fresh salads. And don’t forget to add lots of vibrant flowers to your garden. Here’s a guide to seasonal planting in Australia, including a companion planting guide.
Cottagecore offers a form of nostalgia that celebrates the benefits of the slow life where not a lot happens — sounds like quarantine, right? People are being reminded of the simple things in life, such as being more self-contained and reliant in the family unit. In the cottagecore ideal world, life is devoid of contemporary stressors and the only work is domestic work… brimming with a sense of fulfilment.
Teaching children life’s necessities is a part of the cottagecore ideal, such as how to sew, knit, harvest vegetables, repurpose items, knead bread, bake and cook healthy meals. Introducing them to domestic life early while they’re young, eager to please and always want to be by your side is a great way to set them up with skills that will last a lifetime.
Thai pumpkin soup
2 tbs coconut oil
2 tbs Thai red curry paste
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bunch coriander, stalks finely chopped and leaves roughly chopped
1 piece ginger (thumb-sized), grated
1 tsp minced garlic
1 red chilli, chopped (optional)
750g butternut squash, peeling and diced into 2cm pieces
1.5 litres vegetable stock
1 lime (optional)
1 Heat the coconut oil in large soup pot and cook the curry paste and onion for a few minutes.
2 Add the coriander stalks, ginger, garlic and chilli (if desired) and cook for 2 minutes.
3 Put pumpkin cubes in pot with the stock and simmer for 30 minutes until the pumpkin is soft.
4 Add the lime juice (if desired) and blend with stick mixer until smooth.
5 Scoop into soup bowls and sprinkle with chopped coriander leaves.
You could top your pumpkin soup with croutons and pepitas, serve with garlic bread or with cheese toasties to make it a hearty meal.
Whether you’re hardcore cottagecore or simply looking for a way to bring a more relaxed look into your home in a way that references the wholesomeness and self-sufficiency of less complicated times, we’ve got plenty of rustic furniture and shabby chic homewares in-store and online. And don’t miss our story on the Hectic Eclectic — a stylish influencer who has maximalism down to a fine art.