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Cottage-style Kitchen:

Do you love the breezy, uncomplicated mood of a summer cottage? Do you long to capture that feeling and experience it year-round at home?

So do many of the rest of us--which goes a long way toward explaining the wildly popular trend of cottage-style kitchens. Why are cottage kitchens all the rage? Maybe it's because they let us escape to a slower and simpler time without sacrificing the modern conveniences that keep us in step with our fast-paced lives.

"The reason our vacation home kitchens and summer cottages work so well is because we stick to the basics, and that makes us feel relaxed," says Robin Pelissier of Robin's Nest in Hingham, MA. "Cottage-style kitchens are especially conducive to today's busy lifestyle because they are pared down and efficient," she says. "Honest-to-goodness simplicity is the key."

   
The hallmarks of the cottage style—its carefree attitude, utilitarian or vintage features and liberal use of white—work well in any kitchen, whether it's high-end with state-of-the-art appliances or a modest, cozy room. The first step is deciding how far to go with the look. You can opt for full-blown vintage, replete with distressed walls and exposed framing, or add cottage-style features gradually to your existing kitchen.

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Just be sure to choose items that resemble or replicate great antique finds, says Jennifer Gilmer, a kitchen and bath designer in Chevy Chase, MD. "People are looking for that simple, primitive look that has sophistication; that's casual, yet has style," she says. "They like the feeling that something has been there a long time."

Here are some tips to help turn your kitchen into a cottage getaway:

Shelves

Use open shelving and plate racks that are whitewashed or painted a light color.

   

Window treatments

Cottage windows are portals to the great outdoors, so avoid elaborate treatments. Try venetian blinds, a woven shade or a simple valance—or leave the windows bare to show off their great shapes or wood moldings.

Sinks and countertops

Farmhouse and apron-front sinks are hugely popular additions to the cottage look, although undercounter trough sinks and freestanding porcelain sinks also work well. For a touch of luxury, add a stainless steel or ceramic sink to an island or pantry area. For countertops and backsplashes, white Calcutta marble is drawing attention because its brown and yellow tones provide a ready-made patina look.

   

Faucets

Enhance an apron-front or farmhouse-style sink with an antique wall-mount or high arch faucet finished in chrome, polished nickel or hand-rubbed bronze.

Cabinetry and hardware

Keep cabinets light and accentuate them with old-fashioned freezer handles or large wooden knobs, bead board or batten doors, or hardware finishes such as oiled or antique bronze, or even copper. Glass doors in upper cabinetry work especially well. A real find is a distressed or light-colored hutch that doesn't necessarily "match" other surfaces in the kitchen, but still looks great and functions well in it. Consider placing feet on this and other cabinets so that they more closely resemble furniture.

   

Floors

Old wood floors are popular, particularly those with wide or random planks and authentic, old-fashioned pegs. Painted floors help define a cottage look, and a black undercoating can give them a well-worn look. Vinyl flooring is making a comeback; it comes in a variety of designs, is easy to maintain, and provides a nostalgic feel.

   

Ceiling

Authentic old beams or crown molding bring old-world charm to a ceiling. Or try a more stately option: a coffered ceiling.

Appliances

Because they are bulky and freestanding, professional ranges fit nicely with the cottage style, as do pot fillers for the stove. Don't be surprised to see a return of retro-style refrigerators as well.

Kitchen table

Remember, this is cottage living. The eating table is moving back in the kitchen, for casual, family-style dining—sometimes as a built-in breakfast nook.

While the cottage look works best in smaller, more traditional houses, such as bungalows, it is also possible to achieve the cottage look in the large kitchen of a newer home. To add a cozier feel, Gilmer recommends using color to define different areas of a large kitchen, such as clean-up and prep areas. She also recommends turning a portion of the kitchen into an open pantry and lining it with beautiful baskets.

"With the sophistication and scale of some of the newer appliances and fixtures on the market, just about any space can define our personal aesthetic," Pelissier says. "Any size room in any size home can say 'cottage' or 'castle.' You can dictate which one."

Kitchen Design

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