Check out cozy, charming cottage style
While everyone loves the film "The Lord of the Rings" for the adventure and the characters, it's the cottages at the beginning of the film that captivate me! The simple thatched Hobbit houses radiate warmth, charm and cozy comfort. You can easily capture some of that same cottage appeal in your home.

GET THE STYLE

Simple decor that embraces natural elements is a good starting point. Furniture should be unpretentious and natural woods, or it can be painted. Other natural elements such as unfinished cabinetry or exposed ceiling rafters add charm. Cottage style is big on casual. Furniture is comfortable and in soft or muted tones. The eclectic mix of old and new is also a hallmark of cottage style.

LET THERE BE WHITE

When it comes to cottage color, white reigns supreme. From clapboards to shutters, furniture to bead board, white has a simple, casual appeal. It can be used on the walls, furniture, accents and accessories.

Cool white octagon bathroom tiles from the 1920s or white marble kitchen counters both make a cottage statement and keep the look approachable and timeless. Simple white slipcovers in cotton duck can instantly switch a formal room over to the quaint cottage style. It's that bright, cheery look you're after.

IN THE MIX

Another feature of cottage style is a mix of accessories. If there's something shiny in the room, add something distressed. Think new and antique, ornate and simple, plain and fancy.

Include humble accessories that reflect the local area. A good example is the beach cottage dotted with shells and other sea-related focal points, such as a life preserver mounted on the wall. A lakeside cottage might feature a rustic oar over a door, or an antique fisherman's creel on a fireplace mantle or used as a quaint catch for mail mounted by a back door.

Cottages in the country might be decorated with old advertising signs and accessories with images of cows, sheep, ducks or chickens.

EMPHASIZE AGE

Aged and weathered accessories are popular elements of cottage decor. Distressed furniture pulls in a cozy, worn look. Short on cast-offs? You can easily achieve a distressed look by painting a piece of furniture and sanding down the edges to give it a warm, well-used look.

Repurposing is another way to cottage up your home. Try incorporating items such as a pie safe for storage in a bathroom, an antique table modified for use as a kitchen island, or an antique stainless chicken nesting box mounted on a wall as storage in a mud room. Furniture and accessories that are new but designed to look vintage make perfectly good stand-ins for the real thing.

(For more information, contact Kathryn Weber through her Web site, http://www.redlotusletter.com.)