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How to Achieve a Cottage Style

Cabin styles vary greatly – from Adirondack to cottage to rustic to western and more. Cottage style is as popular as ever, and beadboard and shiplap are an enduring part of the cottage look.

How to Achieve a Cottage Style

Story by Daphne Howland

As shown in the interior photos, the vertical lines of beadboard and, similarly, the horizontal lines of shiplap can lend interest to walls that give spaces a textured cottage look.

The tongue-and-groove installation of beadboard and shiplap make for the less formal look of many coastal and farmhouse-style cottages. Shiplap in particular lends a nautical vibe to walls because the horizontal lines suggest boat hulls and decks, which traditionally use the often rough-hewn planks. Painting beadboard or shiplap in white or light colors helps bring out their texture, as light and shadow play on the planks and grooves, says Bob Muckle, partner at American Beadboard, which sells wood and medium-density fiberboard (MDF) panels and molding. Beadboard can be used on walls, kitchen islands, cabinets, wainscoting, in bedrooms and as headboards on beds, in bathrooms and surrounding tubs, and on ceilings.

Providence, R.I., interior designer Kate Jackson uses shiplap to bring in what she calls a “beachy look” and to lend a more casual vibe in bedrooms and other less formal spaces, especially in second homes. White and light colors help bring in the light from waterfront cottages, but she has found that using dark paint can also be useful, depending on the desired mood and effect. “In a bathroom with an equestrian feel, we painted it a charcoal grey, which dressed it up a little,” she says. “In that case, with an antique trough as the sink, a really cool faucet mounted in the wall, and a gilded lamp, the dark grey wall gave it an instant formality.”

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Beadboard can be purchased a number of ways, including as traditional tongue-and-groove lumber. When installing these, a nail gun is your friend, Muckle says. MDF is particularly useful in bathrooms and kitchens, or in homes that see a lot of moisture, because of their water-resistant nature.

Beadboard also comes in sheets, which can be found at places like Lowe’s and Home Depot, that merely mimic the tongue-and-groove construction. Lastly, paintable beadboard wallpaper is available at specialty wallpaper shops and interior design showrooms.

“Because shiplap is commonly used in barns and sheds and outbuildings, it gives a room a more casual feel,” Jackson says. “And with beadboard, too, the profile of each board partially overlaps, so the board next to it creates a channel that gives it shadow line effects, and dimensional movement. It’s nice in smaller rooms because you can appreciate that when there aren’t a lot of windows.”

Explore the Northern Minnesota Cottage