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The image in the collective mind’s eye of a cosy rural cottage in Wales is one of colourful knits and crackling fires. Here’s how to get the look…
The most important element of the Welsh cottage is the fire. It’s the heart and soul of the place and should be where you put your feet up to get warm after a day walking along cliffs and through fields of sheep (you can always pretend). As shown in this sketch, it should also have all the accoutrements around it – pots, pans, candlestick holders, crockery and an old fashioned kettle.
You don’t want anything modern, twee or extravagant spoiling the look. The Welsh cottage is about simplicity and cosiness, books by the fire and thick socks. Furniture should be old, wooden and of simple design and either left its natural colour or painted neutrally, white or grey,for example.
There’s a very long history of sheep farming in Wales which dates back to medieval times, and with that comes wool production. The quality of wool depends on the local breeds of sheep and parts of Wales, particularly the south-east, were able to produce wool of an especially high quality. As Welsh cottages are traditionally modest, a Welsh blanket will give a hit of colour to your interior.
To create a cosy atmosphere, you’ll want lamps to be your main source of light once the sun goes down. Bright, elaborate overhead lighting would not only ruin the look of your cosy abode but also be unfaithful to traditional rural Welsh life which was harsh, humble and often impoverished, so instead opt for lamps, candles and the light of a roaring fire.
It wouldn’t feel like a cottage without exposed bricks, whether you leave them their natural colour or paint them so you can still their shape and texture. This is effective both inside and out.
Welsh dressers, which originated in the 17th century, didn’t in fact indicate wealth despite looking like fine pieces of furniture. They were instead a symptom of a lack of space, as they were an economical solution to store and display crockery and the like. Many families in Welsh communities lived in single room dwellings so the furnishings were adapted accordingly. So many Welsh dressers are decorative too, because along with the improvement of conditions and the increase in prosperity came the demand for furniture that was practical as well as attractive. The way many dressers allowed one to display crockery gave their owners a chance to show off their best items too.
Quilting is another well-established Welsh tradition, especially in certain areas such as Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion. The great thing about quilts is that no two are the same, each has its own story and like Welsh blankets they add colour to your rooms.
As mentioned, Welsh dressers were in part ways to display the fancier household items such as the fine crockery. To create a authentic feel, get together a collection – it doesn’t matter if they don’t match – and fill a display area with them, making them a feature in themselves. Go down to your nearest charity or flea market to get some great vintage cups and saucers. Or opt for Welsh ceramics, a really nice craft in itself.