Monday, 6 June 2011

Cottage love

Raise your hand if you dream of living in a pretty cottage in the country! . . . . . I think I can see a great many hands being raised out there!

It seems many of us bloggers would love to spend our days happily pottering around in a cosy little country dwelling that has 'olde world' features and roses growing round the door.

So, how about this little place? There are roses growing round the door, and joy of joys, there are even hollyhocks peeping in through the windows. . . . . I definitely want it! Just imagine sitting outside in the warm sunshine preparing your home grown summer fruits and vegetables.

I wonder why so many of us dream of such a rural idyll? Could it be a kind of inherited memory that has been passed down through the generations?

Or perhaps we've been influenced by the picture books we had as children. I can well remember wishing I could live in a little house like the one below (from my 'Tufty the Rabbit' book)

It didn't end with books of course, there were lots of other cottagy influences in my life. This little weather house for example (note the roses round the door).

My mum bought this little cottage lamp for my son when he was 2 years old. The cosy red glow lighting up the family of tiny teddies inside successfully lulled him to sleep on many a dark night.

Images of thatched cottages surrounded by pretty flower gardens were extremely popular from late Victorian times right through to the 1950s. This 1930's needlework book has a typical example on the cover and inside there are many more.

 Below is a birthday card that my granny received in the 1950s

I bought this Cottage interiors book about 15 years ago when 'country furniture' was very popular in Britain. Antique tables, chairs, dressers and chests made from dark oak and dating back 300 years were widely sought after and prices rocketed.

At the time old cottages were being snapped up and renovated and dark oak furniture was a must have.

Here are some more pictures from the book. . . .

Oak beams were high on the list of 'wants' as they added character to the cottage and were ideal to festoon with sweet smelling hops and herbs. And of course an inglenook fireplace was another essential feature.

Old baskets were hung from hooks in low ceilinged kitchens and antique dressers groaned under the weight of vintage china.

Tastes have changed quite a bit since then. We still have the dressers and china of course, but dark interiors have grown increasingly lighter and brighter. Brown furniture is often painted. I prefer the lighter look but also love old oak furniture that has a special glow achieved from centuries of waxing.

So I continue to dream of my perfect country cottage.

Would this be it perhaps? The garden is less colourful than my previous choice. The roses round the door have faded and the cabbages are ready for cutting.

These romantic flower-filled images of cottages and cottage dwellers were painted for wealthy town dwelling Victorians. In reality cottage life was very different to the images portrayed. Perhaps the one below would have been closer to the truth.

Many cottages were damp and badly in need of repair. Gardens were small and housed the outside toilet (a hole in the ground) which was next to the pig sty and an ever growing dung heap (many people kept a pig). Laundry was hung on the line to dry in all weathers or draped over any available surface. There was little or no space to grow flowers as a year round supply of vegetables was essential for feeding an ever growing family. Roofs leaked, chimneys smoked and vermin ran around inside the cottage.

We bloggers dream of our perfect cottage retreat (with all mod cons of course) and if we aren't lucky enough to live in one then we can give our homes a 'cottagy look'.

I'd love to tell you I lived in the perfect little country dwelling but I'm afraid I don't so I create little 'cottagy corners'. Our house has thick stone walls and leaded windows which helps with the illusion. My grandma's old chair dates back to the mid 1800s and is a nice place to sit with an early morning cuppa.

I love Victorian oil lamps and candlesticks. This glass lamp belonged to my husband's great grandfather. The chamberstick (a cottage essential) was bought from Ebay.

My old pine dresser is filled with a mish-mash of china, some vintage, some new. The cottage shaped teapot, sugar and cream were my mum's.The dresser has glass doors which I could remove but don't because I hate dusting!!

Here is another corner of 'treasures'. The oak table is early Victorian, the oil lamp is my grandma's and the ink well my great grandma's (she was an avid letter writer). The china Staffordshire figure was bought from an antiques sale (I love Staffordshire figures) and the tea cup and plate are vintage C1936. I hope you'll stay for a cup of tea and a slice of delicious fruit cake (the cake isn't vintage by the way, it was freshly made yesterday).

Until next time