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Design Ideas
Building a French Country Cottage
Courtney Allison shares about her journey renovating and decorating her personal haven.
The decorating process often begins with looking at something with fresh eyes or finding the beauty in something that is frequently overlooked. This is exactly how the story of Courtney Allison’s French Country Cottage unfolded, as chronicled in her debut book, French Country Cottage, named after her popular blog. For Courtney, it all began when... Keep Scrolling
Written by Margie Monin Dombrowski
Photographed by Courtney Allison


The decorating process often begins with looking at something with fresh eyes or finding the beauty in something that is frequently overlooked. This is exactly how the story of Courtney Allison’s French Country Cottage unfolded, as chronicled in her debut book, French Country Cottage, named after her popular blog.

kitchen nook with chippy farm table and bench.
Courtney’s charming kitchen nook is a is full of rustic country finds and antiques.

For Courtney, it all began when she and her family moved into their 1940s northern California cottage. More than a fixer-upper, it needed extensive work and plenty of TLC—which gave Courtney a vision for a dream home.

Romantic, rustic office with distressed light, bright desk and two chairs, sewing form and faux fireplace mantle. Hanging rod iron chandelier and bronze wall sconces on either side of a vintage mirror.
A painted cast-iron fireplace is merely for decoration in Courtney’s home office, while the elegant French‑style desk is for beauty and function. The room was once her daughter’s bedroom; the walls were a blushing pink painted over in white and now have a “barely blushing color.”

“It wasn’t the pretty storybook house that you might imagine a country cottage to be,” Courtney writes. “It wasn’t charming—it wasn’t even livable when we first saw it. To be honest, the real estate agent told us to bulldoze it and build new on the acreage … But … there was something about the house itself that we were strangely drawn to the very first time we pulled into the driveway. There was a feeling that this was perfect for our family and had the potential to be that charming cottage we longed for.”

Fire lit in a brick fireplace. Fresh firewood in a basket in front of the fire situated next to a clay pot filled with greenery and a restored chair. Bronze candleabra with white candles on the mantle over the fireplace.
Always careful not to overlook small spaces like this, Courtney created a simple yet elegant vignette with a French antique chair beside a beautiful fireplace and mantelscape.

After years of renovation and hard work, French Country Cottage today is an enchanting haven defined by a perfect blend of casually elegant romantic style.

White vertical shiplap walls, stripped floors, ornate green needlepoint covered chair and a rustic wall sconce.

Antique and vintage pieces are central to Courtney’s style. She once came home from a flea market with five different dining chairs, which she then incorporated into various vignettes throughout her home. “If I find something that speaks to me, I will bring it home, even if I don’t know where it will land,” she writes.

“If I find something that speaks to me, I will bring it home, even if I don’t know where it will land”

Vintage stacking console tables with a rustic gold finish topped with vintage books and fresh pink peonies.
Vintage Florentine tables add feminine charm to any space. A perfect spot for a small vase of fresh flowers, these tables are one thing Courtney believes you can’t own too many of.
Wooden coffee table topped with vintage books and fresh flowers. White sofa and ornate floor to ceiling mirror in the background.
Courtesy of French Country Cottage

With crystal chandeliers, French antiques and billowy peonies accenting each space, Courtney’s style continues to charm. “I believe in the power of patina, old chandeliers, and fresh flowers—and that each of them belongs in every room,” she writes.

Stack of vintage books topped with pink peonies reflected in ornate gold-trimmed mirror.
Drawn to the beauty of old, worn book pages, Courtney uses them as part of her décor—in bookcases, on shelves, steps, tabletops and mantels.
White four-poster bed sitting under a vaulted, exposed beam ceiling. Crystal chandelier hanging over the bed and gold rimmed bench at the end of the bed with a small, white dog curled up and asleep on it.
The Swedish canopy bed in Courtney and her husband’s master bedroom reminds her of her childhood bed, while the gold‑painted vintage settee and crystal chandelier add drama.

 “I believe in the power of patina, old chandeliers and fresh flowers— and that each of them belongs in every room.”

Learn how to bring rustic elegance to any space with her tips for celebrating the beauty of “well-worn” and “well-loved” décor. Grab your own copy of Courtney’s book here!

French Country Cottage by Courtney Allison, photographs by Courtney Allison, reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith, © 2018; gibbs-smith.com. 

Want more simply beautiful ideas? Check out this post on a gorgeous rose themed tablescape.

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