If you are lucky enough to live in a country cottage you will recognise the utter appeal of English cottage style furniture. There is no doubt that tasteful furniture that is in keeping with its surroundings, contributes to the convivial heart of a home and this is no more so than with the appropriate use of cottage style furniture.
Historically cottage furniture was designed to be practical, comfortable and above all affordable. Although these days many genuine antique pieces can fetch enormous sums of money, originally much of the furniture designed and created for cottages was modern in its day and was simply hewn from natural materials that were easily to hand. These materials would have included mighty oaks, beech, ash, tall pines, wild cherry, pliable willow and the great elm trees sadly no longer with us. All were cut and felled from fields, woods, river banks and open moorland and then left to season before being turned into chairs, tables, stools, settles, four-poster beds, dressers and cupboards by skilled local craftsmen.
The dark stained and polished traditional cottage style furniture you see today, in antique shops, cottages and even old manor houses, would originally have started life as light or pale coloured wood that only darkened over the centuries. Any furniture that survived through to the modern day became more valued and much sought after items in their own right.
Many of these pieces would have originally have been part of co-ordinating sets of furniture comprising a double bed, a wash stand, a dresser, a small table, chairs, and sometimes a wardrobe. A hundred years ago or more an English cottage would have been a very small and unsophisticated dwelling occupied by local villagers and farm workers.
These were generally speaking quite poor people, who wanted nothing more than simple and affordable comfort at the end of the day. Their furniture needed to be functional and robust, which is why genuine cottage furniture is rarely elaborate, except for bucolic carvings and painted decoration.
Flowers, fruit, hedgerow plants, farming symbols, birds and animals were the most common carved features; these were done by local cabinet makers, who in the main didnt have any formal training. The painted embellishments were either slightly primitive, with a Folk Art feel to them or, if the artist was talented, featured highly detailed and beautifully executed scenes.
Furniture made from pine was the cheapest and probably the easiest to work but because it lacked the patina of the beautiful hard woods many pine pieces of furniture were painted and then decorated to enhance the rather plain appearance; although there are a few examples where the natural wood was varnished but left unpainted with the exception of some painted floral accents.
True English cottage furniture is homely and unfussy and should feel inviting when you walk into a room. It does in fact have a charming nave quality that is a large part of its appeal; indeed to people from all over the world. Many a well-worn country kitchen chair, lovingly fashioned from a piece of elm or beech, has gone on to become a collectors item, far from its native land.