DIY

Decorate with Antiques in a Cottage-Style Home

Learn how to decorate with antiques in a cottage home, adding both comfort and class. I offer tips, a shopping list, and more.

Decorate with antiques with this vintage kitchen scale. It lays next to eucalyptus leaves and  candlestick holders on a dining table.

My home is a representation of myself and my family. It is my belief that the home should be appealing, functional, and make us feel comfortable and at ease living in it. It’s a very personal aspect.

I’m going to show you how to decorate with antiques in a cottage-style home, so you can see how rewarding it is. 

Why I prefer to decorate with antiques:

Whether you have a family of six or you’re a single person living alone, care should always go into your environment and surroundings. As a means of self-care and to help you feel your best. I feel that antiques are the perfect way to showcase the unique characteristics of an old home.

With timeless energy and one-of-a-kind style, antiques add value to a home.

I personally chose to transform our home into a cottage. I love the farmhouse look, the rustic French country style, and even borrow from others as well. But at the end of the day, when I piece together my eclectic style—trinkets, colors, and texture—it is truly an English Cottage style. When I first realized the style I’d envisioned all along had a name, I fell in love with it all over again.

My personality is reflected in how I decorate with antiques and care for my home. I gravitate toward more neutral and muted colors—like pastels and shades of whites. They’re calming yet charming and bring peace to me at the end of the day. Especially when I’m trying to release all the worries and busyness from the day.

I find that I’m able to really bring the entire look together once I’ve added unique secondhand pieces into the mix, too.

This is where antiques come into play. I am definitely not shy about shopping at thrift stores for woven baskets and other knickknacks, but I especially love shopping at antique stores. Unfortunately prices can be higher, but sometimes I’m still able to find a good deal.

I’ve been able to find linens and handmade tablecloths, scales, pieces of furniture, and more.

An antique table runner sits under a display of appetizers and a pitcher of flowers in a cottage-style dining room as inspiration to decorate with antiques.
An antique handmade table runner displayed under appetizers for a family gathering in our new cottage dining room.

When I shop for antiques, I keep a mental list in my head of things I’d like to add to my home space.

Sometimes these things won’t even immediately be put out on display. They may be temporarily stored in a closet until I know what to do with them or have a room for them to go in.

We’re still renovating our 1950s home, so not all the rooms are finished yet. However, if I find a one-of-a-kind item that is perfect, I don’t miss the opportunity to grab it while I can. That’s part of the fun of antique shopping: You never know what you’ll find or how long it’ll be available for. 

Our home isn’t exactly historic, being less than 100 years old, but it is old and it is being revamped at the moment. One way to pay homage to its age is to add older pieces in here and there, sprinkled with items I may have purchased from other retailers.

I respect my home’s age and want to honor that without falling into the trap of what’s on trend in the modern world.

Trends come and go, but history will always be. If I can decorate my home with pieces I find that remind me of the era my house was built in, it feels like I’m not only adding a unique flare to it, but also restoring it to what it was meant to be—timeless and classic. 

I err on the side of minimalism and enjoy functional decor in my home. Though I certainly wouldn’t call myself a minimalist either…

Nevertheless, I don’t believe in placing things in my home that I don’t absolutely love, no matter what. This helps reduce clutter exponentially. I also don’t believe in filling spaces just for the sake of filling them.

That being said, there are a few things—including antiques—I do add to give my home a one-of-a-kind look. 

What I shop for to decorate with antiques in the cottage:

Vintage scales

These can be donned in kitchens or offices, and are often found in myriad sizes and styles. I’ve acquired both a large food scale and a small postal scale and proudly show these off in their respective spaces. There’s just something about scales that feels so “old world” and functional. Though, to be honest, I’ve never once actually used either of them. They’re rare and ornate, and I just can’t get over them.

Decorate with antiques using this antique postal scale as it sits atop two books on a shelf.

Linens and tablecloths

These are amazing because the original owners have stitched them by hand and make them with love. The quality is far superior to linens on the market today. I love using striped or pastel-colored linen napkins or white lace tablecloths. It reminds me of what I imagine my grandmother’s home once looked like when she was my age and that just feels so nostalgic.

You can show these off as part of a tablescape or centerpiece on holidays or for special occasions. Or you could even add them to a coffee/side table in your main living area as a part of everyday decor.

Articles of furniture

To date, I’ve only bought one piece of antique furniture: an old-fashioned coat rack that was a perfect addition to our living room. It’s one of the best purchases I’ve made.

You can’t find even a new, affordable coat rack (even a very plain one) for the price I paid. I happened to score a gorgeous antique rack for just $30. It’s not only beautiful to look at, it also serves us well in the colder months for hanging jackets and umbrellas. It complements our main room well and almost matches the warm wood tone of our hardwood floors exactly. 

An antique coat rack sits next to an old, sturdy front door, with light sage colored walls and a hardwood floor.

Vases, jars, and watering cans

These look beautiful on tables or, better yet, on open-shelving in kitchens. I plan on doing this when we change our kitchen cabinets. I’ve also used vases and jars as decor for special family gatherings.

For example, when we hosted a small elopement party earlier this year for our family to celebrate with us. Our theme was “rustic” since we eloped in Rocky Mountain National Park in late March. Our decorations were minimal, as I wanted everything to easily mesh with our everyday decor, and our dining area looked beautiful with the tablescape I created.

Jars are particularly great for wedding and baby showers, too, if you’re ever hosting one at your home. There’s so much you can do with them.

An antique linen with a watering can under a side table.

Baskets

I do love a good basket, mainly for practical purposes. I use them when I’m harvesting vegetables from my garden or for making homemade gift baskets. In the meantime, I sometimes like to set them out to stage a cute little corner with linens and a book nearby or dried flowers in them.

As I’m sure everyone knows, I stage it for fun. However, I do think small gestures like this can show guests the thought you put into everything, and these props can truly tell a story. I’m lucky enough to have a thrift store nearby that always has a large bin of baskets to sort through for 50 cents a basket, so I usually get mine here. Don’t forget about these other secondhand stores and garage sales. Sometimes you’ll find a treasure. 

China and serving platters

I’ve only purchased one antique piece of china so far. It’s a Homer Laughlin saucer that I like to place on a ledge, in front of a platter, above our farmhouse table in the dining room. It’s such a simple touch, but so enchanted with a classic feel. It just brings home the cottage kitchen style…

I also plan on finding more tableware like this in red for the winter holiday season.

A rustic dining table with a pitcher of baby's breath, candlesticks nearby, and an antique china saucer displayed on a ledge above.

Books

Although I have not purchased any antique books yet, I plan on doing so in the future. I have so many books scattered throughout the cottage, but none of them are truly ancient. I’d love to start collecting some of these for both reading and decor. I’d highly recommend using these for completing the cottage look.

More Tips to Decorate with Antiques in a Cottage Home

  • When shopping at antique stores, I find that when shopping in smaller shops (versus antique malls) the pricing is more flexible. They tend to price items more reasonably from what I’ve experienced. 
  • Make a list beforehand of items you’re interested in finding and stick to this list. Otherwise, you may end up bringing home every single cute little trinket you find. Believe me, there will be a lot wherever you go. It’s okay to fall in love with something that you hadn’t planned on getting and buying it. Especially if it’s a particularly rare item. Just be certain this item will serve its purpose, and don’t make it a habit if you have a tight budget.
  • Have an idea of what condition is acceptable to you. Are you willing to refinish or repair something that’s worn? Or do you prefer something that is worn so its true age shines through? How much are you willing to spend on this type of item? Will this item be functional in your home or will its sole purpose be for aesthetics? These are answers you should know before shopping.
  • Make sure you have arrangements or the proper vehicle for loading any large items. Every antique store I’ve visited will usually hold items for a length of time until you make arrangements, but if you’re like me you’ll probably want it right away. At the very least be sure to get access to a truck or van in the next couple of days. Prepare for the trip.

Final thoughts about shopping for antiques…

The thing about secondhand items that makes them more valuable than new ones is that they’ve withstood the test of time. They have lasted someone else for years and years and are still standing. Many of them are in excellent or good condition. That alone shows the quality. They hold true value from the detailed work put into them. That kind of craftsmanship just isn’t around anymore. Everything now is made by machines or quickly thrown together by hand from cheap materials. They often lack ornate, carved details that are found in furniture from decades or a century ago. This is another reason I adore antiques.

I’m so happy I began adding antiques into my decor, and I hope you’ve discovered some new ways to decorate with antiques in your home by now. Hopefully my ideas and philosophy serve you well, even if only you find one or two of these useful. 

Chat with me in the comments below if you have any secrets about decorating with antiques for a cottage-style home (or any home, really). I’d love to hear your ideas!

More Decorating Inspiration:

How to Create a Black and White Gallery Wall

Living Room Decorating Ideas You’ll Love

Curate a Cottage Style in Your Home

How to Create a Traditional Dining Room

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