Cottagecore Trend – What is it, why is it trending and how to create it

The aesthetic for cottagecore trend has been around for some time but since lockdown, in March, the look has been growing steadily with over 700,000 hashtags relating to it currently on instagram.

In a nutshell cottagecore is what it says on the tin. It’s a hark back to country life style, ditsy prints, antiques, farmhouse style kitchens, crafting, baking and making. After the first few months of lockdown from March this year, when the world literally stopped, we all embraced the slower pace of life. I don’t think there was any celebrity worth their salt on instagram that wasn’t talking about their sour dough starter and as the sun shone and spring sprung, we all started baking, gardening, walking instead of driving and nesting in our homes which was the only place we could spend any time.

Image Skye McAlpine

It’s an aesthetic I’ve personally always held dear to my heart. A few years ago when I was a little younger, I embraced anything that looked vaguely as though Laura Ingalls, in Little House on The Prairie, would have worn it. In fact one stylist I regularly worked with, used to call it my Victorian orphan Workhouse look, a compliment I was delighted to receive 🙂

Give me an enamel plate, rough linen bedding, a jug of foraged cow parsley picked from a country lane and a nonchalantly placed market basket on a kitchen stool, any day of the week, and in short there you have it, cottagecore.

Our kitchen with foraged finds

Sustainabilty and ethical living has been a lifestyle showcased by many influencers over recent years but now propelled through lockdown, this way of living, or certainly this look, has reached the main stream and the High Street.

Homewares by H&M Home

Below are some reference shots of how to create the look at home. Consider Liberty style small prints on fabrics, lots of antiques, cluttered styling particularly in the kitchen, layered bread boards, open shelves groaning with mismatched crockery and pottery, a reading nook, filled with books and preferably a vintage arm chair, neutral colours on walls or lime plaster paint & natural flooring.

If you want to dress like your home, anything long and floral will do the job with a hand knitted cardigan and prairie style lace up boots, oh and of course a large oversized lace collar, very du jour! For some amazing vintage prairie style dresses, feast your eyes on The Pansy Garden

The Pansy Garden

Heidi style plaits on top of your head an option, possibly based on your age, but hey I’m not judging 🙂




The Modern Bohemians and Creating an Aesthetic Movement Style Interior

The aesthetic movement was a reaction against the mass production of the industrial revolution at the turn of the last century and it’s no coincidence that many of the design ideas that were made popular then, by artists and designers such as William Morris and Dante Rossetti, have re-emerged as trends over the last few years in our own homes.

The look was embraced by the middle classes of the time, who filled their homes with art work, hand made textiles, exotic woven rugs and hand carved and embellished furniture, influenced by the onset of overseas travel by the upper classes. Many of these designs, imported from countries such as Japan and India, could be bought from high class stores such as Liberty in London and this style was quickly embraced by creative thinkers and bohemians.

The arts & crafts building of Liberty London
The interior of the wonderful grade II listed Malplaquet House in London’s East End restored & decorated in an Aesthetic style

William Morris is famously remembered for his quote

“Have noting in your house(s) that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”

William Morris original wallpaper Designs have enjoyed a revival in modern homes recently.

It’s no surprise that this look has become embraced again in our homes by modern Bohemians such as TV presenter Laura Jackson. There is a definite reaction again to the consumerism of the past decade where homewares have been mass produced in the 100s of thousands in factories far across the globe. There’s a real appreciation again of hand crafted and hand made, small batch good, mixed together with salvaged antiques and vintage treasures which Laura’s house beautifully demonstrates.


The home of Laura Jackson

Melbourne Interior designer Tigger Hall’s eclectic home is another beautiful example of this style.
Exotic details and heavy use of pattern and textiles in Tigger Hall’s home

I’ve put together a mood board below on how to get this look with a mixture of vintage and, where possible, ethical and consciously made pieces. I hope Mr Morris would be happy.


The Bloomsbury Group Influence and Creating a Charleston House Bohemian Style Interior

As an interior designer and stylist it’s impossible not to be inspired by the Bloomsbury group and Charleston House the country retreat of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Over the course of half a century the house became the location where they gathered with many of their friends, artists, writers, including Vanessa’s sister, Virginia Woolf and intellectuals of the day.

The studio at Charleston House with a bust of Virginia Woolf
The spare bedroom at Charleston House with painted cupboard and fresco walls

I was lucky enough to finally visit Charleston a couple of years ago and it was, and still is, the most incredibly exciting and creative home I’ve ever been into. Everything about it shouldn’t work, but it does, beautifully. Practically every surface is painted with colour and pattern. There is pattern layered upon pattern. Painted plates and portraits hang on every surface and furniture is covered with more patterned fabric and cushions, designed by both Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.

The dining room at Charleston House

Ever since I visited Charleston, I’ve been inspired to bring elements of it into my own home and I’ve become more aware of designers that have also been influenced by their style and have built their own signature around this use of pattern and colour and eclectic way of decorating.

Two of the best designers of this style, for me, are Ben Pentreath and Luke Edward Hall

Hall is himself, like some modern day Duncan Grant, creating his own ceramics, fabrics, furniture and accessories for within his interiors.

Both these designers use elements from the era within their own designs, such as prints by Jean Cocteau and Matisse and salon walls of portraits and still life paintings on brightly coloured or patterned surface backgrounds, with a mixture of country house style furniture, tribal art and rugs and of course Staffordshire china which is all reminiscent of this eclectic style that has become synonymous with the Bloomsbury Group.

Ben Pentreath’s home
Some of Luke Edward Halls designs in his home

Another interior designer whose work I love and who also brings elements of playful painted furniture and colour into her work is Beata Heuman. Some of her work can be seen below and the bedroom design reflects the influence of the Bloomsbury artists with echos of Charleston house within the painted cupboard doors.

If this fun use of colour and pattern is something that you’d like to explore more in your own home, and I know I am itching to recreate something like this in our home, then look no further than Annie Sloan paint. The great dame of painted furniture has recently collaborated with Charleston House to produce three new colours of paint which have been sourced from similar colours used within the house. Firle a vibrant green, Tilton a warm ochre and Rodmell a soft aubergine are all now available from her website.

Firle from the Charleston range of paints by Annie Sloan

To fully create the Bloomsbury style in your own home though, the one key to it all is art and lots of it. Portraits, still life paintings, landscapes, plaster reliefs and painted ceramics. The more the better. If you want to find out a little more about where to buy good examples of art, you can read my recent blog post that I wrote about the subject here. There’s also a mood board I’ve collated below which pulls some of the other elements together to create the Charleston House look, which includes some textiles that have been reissued by Charleston house, copied from the original designs within the house and of course, a painted ceramic jug for those cut garden flowers which were always on display, brought in from the beautiful gardens at Charleston and the influence for so many of those still life paintings created by the owners and visitors to this wonderful house.


  1. Cuisse De Nymph Emu paint Edward Bulmer
  2. Selection of wallpapers Ottoline De vries
  3. Decorated wall plate Luke Edward Hall – Artemest
  4. Original Jean Cocteau Poster – A Hare In The Forest
  5. Annie Sloan Paint range for Charleston House
  6. Lamp shade – Pooky
  7. West Wind fabric by Duncan bell – Charleston House Shop
  8. kilim Rug –Rugs Of London
  9. Hand painted picture mounts – Lydia Beanland Studio
  10. Olives & leaves Jug – House of Bruar



As we approach week 9 of lockdown in the UK I think I’ve started to relax now into accepting this new way of life. The frustrations I felt over the last two weeks, when I think we all hoped some sort of normality would resume, has now subsided and I’ve realised and come to terms with, what we have now is our new normality, for some time to come.

I’ve been spending some of my time during my last post, connecting online with writers, musicians and creatives who are reaching out to the public with different and innovative ideas and ways to entertain us.

Obviously all festivals and concerts have been cancelled for the future, but many have gone online to share talks and live mini concerts streamed from their homes. It’s a real worry for many people that live venues will be closed for an unknown time scale, As one musician I watched online last night said, for many people going to a live gig is like going to church for them. Many musicians are now unemployed and it is a depressing prospect for many of us, that this is part of our life might not resume as quickly as we would like?

Anyway as promised in my previous post about sharing some of the things that I have enjoyed, which have entertained or enriched me over the last two weeks, here’s a round up of some more, that you might enjoy as well?


Atelier magazine is a downloadable lifestyle magazine sharing creatives and their work from all around the world. The magazine is the work of Michelle Mason, owner of one of my favourite shops and instagram accounts, Mason & Painter. You might recall that I’d read Michelles book a few weeks ago in my last post about lockdown here. The book shares how Michelle combines the antique and salvaged treasures she sells in her shop, with the art of displaying flowers from Columbia Road Market, where Mason & Painter shop is located. Atelier magazine was designed to raise money for a local hospice during lockdown, but issue one was so successful, that issue 2 has now been written and is available to download for a small fee of £3, the link is in the Mason & Painter instagram profile. It’s a lovely read full of the stories of small brands and creatives and what led them to pursue the life they lead.

An article from Issue 2 of Atelier magazine

Je T’aime is the love story of Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin and their hell raising adventures throughout their relationship as one of the celebrity power couples of the 1960’s and 70’s. Its a beautifully written and interesting book by Veronique Mortaigne. If you’re feeling the loss if Normal People from our screens and need to dive into another intense relationship to fill that hole, then this is the book for you.

Graysons Art Club in which Grayson Perry and his wife Pippa invite you into their home and Graysons studio to talk to celebrity friends and members of the public about what art means to them and how it has helped them throughout lockdown. Every week Grayson sets a new theme and showcases some of the artwork that has been made to this theme, choosing some of his favourites to enter his exhibition at the end of the show. It’s brilliantly heartwarming and entertaining as all of Graysons shows are.


Later with Jules Holland

Each week Jules broadcasts live from his own studio in Greenwich and invites guests from the music world to stream live from their homes to chat to him about their life stories through their choice of music and invites them to choose some of their favourite footage from the Jools Holland archives. I’ve only watched episode one up to now, with Christina from Christina and the Queens but it was entertaining and really interesting. Christina is a warm and charismatic person and you got the sense of a real empathy between her and Jules. Highly recommended.

Charleston House Festival, home to the Bloomsbury Group should have gone ahead in May but of course, it was cancelled. The artistic team at Charleston have however, brought together a series of talks from some of the presenters that would have been live at Charleston House which can be watched via their website. Guests include writers, artists and creative thinkers, of the sort that would have been invited to Charleston for the weekend by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.

Charleston House

That Summer is a beautiful short film, made in the summer of 1972, by friends of Lee Radziwill, sister of Jackie Kennedy, and her boyfriend of the time, photographer Peter Beard. The film documents the shambolic lifestyle of her cousin Eadie Beale and her daughter who have lived in grey Gardens since 1924, barely leaving the house for years. For anybody that has watched and been inspired by Grey Gardens, a film made three years later about the eccentric duo, this film was the pre cursor to that documentary. The footage was not seen for 45 years, until recently rediscovered and was available to watch on BBC4 which we had recorded last year. unfortunately it’s no longer available for free but can be bought from Amazon. It’s a brilliant film of a time which seemed long forgotten, but which we can probably all identify with a little more since lockdown. Big Eadie and Little Eadie were the original lockdown queens.

Little Eadie outside Grey Gardens

Eating & Cooking

We’ve been eating quite a bit of Lebanese and Greek food recently, maybe as a way of trying to bring some exotic eastern and mediterranean vibes to Manchester, particularly as travel will be off the agenda for much of the year? We’re also using this time to push our culinary boundaries and cooking abilities and this type of food is both easy to make but incredibly tasty. The flavours and textures of crushed spices, pulses and numerous dips & sauces, make a real feast for the senses. A favourite book that we bought a while ago but rarely used is Olives, Lemons & Za’atar with lots of simple recipes for Middle Eastern cooking. Even something as simple as homemade hummus, takes the shop bought variety to another level.


I know there seems little point parting with your money when there’s no where to go or no-one to see but sometimes a purchase for yourself, just lifts the soul a little and brightens the day when that parcel arrives. I’ve made a few online purchases that have been just perfect for the current situation.

Sans Ceuticals skin & Hair oil from Object style has been just the thing my skin and hair needed after spending weeks walking and sitting in the garden in the glorious spring sunshine we’ve been having. It’s a light dry oil which smells of orange blossom and a little applied to my skin and dry frazzled ends of my hair, really make a difference.

Bensimon plimsolls

A perennial summer favourite of mine, just for that nostalgic, schools out summer feel and they look good with anything. They’re also the perfect summer shoe for a walk around the neighbourhood, when birkenstocks just don’t cut it. I ordered two new pairs in black and sand from La Redoute with 35% discount!

Bous Candles

Hand poured in the North of England, in Cumbria, made with ethical ingredients and sustainable packaging, they smell heavenly. The sort of earthy, woody fragrance that reminds me of holidays in Ibiza and the smell of burning Palo Santo wood brought home from the hippy markets. Lighting a candle every evening after, we have all finished our chores, work, walks for the day, is the sort of ritual that marks the end of another day and gives some sort of continuity to what feels like a very unstable world at the moment.

my favourite Bous candle Rose Hammam

I hope you’ve all found some simple pleasures that have got you through the last 8 weeks? I’d love you to share them with me which you can do through the comments on my blog or by sending me a direct message or a comment on my instagram account which is @Karen _barlow.

Take care & stay safe.

Exploring The Work and Influences of Designer Faye Toogood

I’ve long been aware of the work of designer Faye Toogood  appreciating her work as an interior stylist for “The World of Interiors” magazine, which she worked on for 10 years. I’ve always admired her organic shapes and over sized scale of interior products which give them an other worldly appearance and so it was really interesting listening to her talk recently on a podcast for The Modern House. 

What was particularly interesting about the conversation was that Faye was interviewed by her husband Matt Gibberd, co founder of modernist estate agents, The Modern House and so the conversation was very informal and light hearted but Matt also dug deep to investigate what really makes Faye’s brain tick when designing for either interiors, products or clothes through her studio collaborative Toogood.

In the podcast which you can listen to here, Faye talks about a memorable childhood trip to St Ives and particularly the spark that a visit to sculptor Barbara Hepworth’s studio and gardens ignited and it is evident from Toogood’s designs that this has been a huge inspiration in her work ever since.

From the simple neutral colour palette of Hepworth’s studio, to the use of honest materials such as stone and marble that she often employs in her work, even some of the figurative sketches that she has used on fabric designs, all are reminiscent of Hepworth’s body of work.

A photo I took from my last visit to The Barbara Hepworth Studio in St Ives

The Hospital sketches Hepworth made after her daughter was hospitalised in 1944

This is no patische of Hepworth’s work though, there are many other influences, most notably Ettore Sottsass of The Memphis movement. Toogood is an amazing designer in her own right. Her work exists in many museums permanent collections, including The V&A London and her clothes are stocked in 60 shops worldwide, including Dover Street Market Her designs will continue to be referenced by many future creatives.

What I particularly loved about the interview was that she describes her own home as a sanctuary and a personal space where she gathers together her collections of found objects and ephemera, which are so important to her. It’s something she’s done since a child and something I could totally relate to. Have a listen and see if you recognise yourself in what she says.

I also came across this video that was produced a few years back by interior designer Rita Konig for The New York Times Style magazine, in which she interviews Faye about her home and what it means to her, with a tour of the interior. It’s probably changed quite a bit since then, in fact I don’t think she even lives in this house anymore, but it speaks volumes about her as a designer and what she actually loves to surround herself with in her home. She’s obviously a great sentimentalist when it comes to her most precious possessions. Be prepared to be mesmerised. I was!