Photo: This little home library looks cozy for reading a book. Credit: Shutterstock
10. Keep Reusable Bags by the Door For Nearby Shopping
Here in the United States, most of us have to drive at least a mile or more to the nearest grocery store. We are so used to receiving plastic bags that are given to us for free, that we often forget to bring our own reusable bags. But in English villages, there are sidewalks everywhere. Most houses in a village are within walking distance of their High Street, which is what we’d call Main Street here in America. Every High Street usually has at least a small grocery store or news agency where you can buy your everyday essentials like milk, eggs, meat, produce, snacks, and alcohol. You could survive on these High Street shops alone without ever taking a car to a larger grocery store. When I stayed in England, I kept my shopping bags by the front door hanging on the hook so I could grab and go.
Since people can purchase small quantities of groceries when they walk down the street, it’s far more common for English people to use reusable shopping bags. In fact, grocery stores will charge 10p per plastic bag in grocery stores as a way to motivate people to switch to reusable bags. When you go places, you’ll always see these reusable totes and shopping bags for sale. It has become sort of a fashion statement, and people tend to look down on you if you use plastic. Here in the United States, it’s the opposite. There are some people who use reusable bags, but they’re usually seen as being “hipster” because they’re environmentally conscious.
Here in the United States, we tend to all have the same doors in our houses that were manufactured by companies like Home Depot and Lowes. In England, many cottages still have the old doors that have been there for hundreds of years. These include the old style latch locks, which are very cool, and fun to use. These older doors give a lot of historic character to home. It’s a really good reminder of how old the cottage actually is, even if certain aspects of it are modernized.
Here in the United States, if you want to find old doors, you’re going to have to go searching at an antique store. This is a style technique often used by interior designer Joanna Gaines. She loves to find old barn doors, as well as doors from churches and other historic buildings in a local area. Check out a salvage yard, or somewhere like The Habitat for Humanity Restore for leftover building materials.
Most homes in the United Kingdom run on radiator heat. However, there are still a lot of cottages in the countryside that rely on wood burning stoves. Sometimes, people will use both. Unfortunately, radiators don’t heat your house as well as central heating here in the United States. Even when the radiator is on, people in England typically wear sweaters, socks, and slippers indoors to keep themselves warm in the winter. The great thing about having a wood-burning stove is that you can double cooking and heating your house at the same time. One of the most famous stove brands in England is called Aga, and they are known for getting hot enough to heat an entire cottage.
In the United States, you can buy your own wood stove, but it would cost a pretty penny, since they don’t typically come standard like they do in England. Even if you have central heat, it can be a way to bring the temperature of your house up without running the HVAC at all times. This will eventually cut down on the cost of heat. However, if you don’t live in a wooded area, you would need to purchase firewood. The cost of paying for a wood stove and the logs might cancel out the amount you would save.
Everyone has heard of the white picket fence. This is a quintessential part of the American Dream, and it has been popular for decades. But you also find it a lot in England, where people have been using white picket fences in their front yards for as long as anyone can remember. This serves as a barrier between the sidewalk and the front yard. Growing a lot of plants in the front garden can also add a sense of privacy, and make the most out of the front yard.
Before the white picket fence, Europeans have been making stick and stone fences around their property for thousands of years. This was often necessary for keeping out predators and protecting livestock. Now, it’s mostly used for aesthetic purposes. Here in the United States, you should be able to easily find a white picket fence at your local hardware store. Just keep in mind that if you want to install one, you need to abide by height regulations in your local area.
In Europe, it’s not very common for people to have clothing dryers in their home. Even if they have an all-in-one washer and dryer, there are plenty of people who consider this to be very wasteful. People are still practicing the old tradition of hanging their laundry to dry on a sunny day. Believe it or not, many of them even hang their clothes to dry in the winter time. If you need to dry something in the middle of the winter, a lot of people will hang their wet clothes over the radiator or the heated towel rack.
Here in the United States, most houses have a washer and dryer, or we take our clothes to a laundromat where we can rent a dryer. If you want to try hanging your laundry at home, this can help to reduce your electricity cost. It also helps the environment. And in the summertime, you don’t have to heat up your house by running the dryer. Clothing racks are available on Amazon. Or, you could always do the old fashioned method of tying a clothing line between two trees. Clothing line rope is usually sold at Dollar Tree, as well as clothes pins and baskets.
Here in the United States and Canada, a lot of people have at least a half acre to an acre of backyard. Many of us don’t try to put up a fence unless it is absolutely necessary. In fact, some people believe that it is rude or unfriendly to put up a fence between you and your neighbor’s backyard. But in England, it is expected that every single person is going to have a tall privacy fence blocking out their neighbors. As an American, I was shocked to see that many houses in England even had tall fences in the front of their house, too. Since so many people walked to the village, and it’s understandable that they don’t want neighbors seeing into their windows or when walking by.
When you go into a backyard garden in England, it is always so fenced in, that you feel protected. There is little to no chance that nosy neighbors are going to see what you’re doing while you spend time outside. It really does feel like an extension of the house. When I got back home to the US, it really made me crave having that privacy in my own backyard, especially during quarantine, where this was my only option to get outside. If you want to do this at home, this can be accomplished with tall shrubbery, trees, trellises with ivy, or- of course, a tall privacy fence.
Along with the white picket fence, a rose covered trellis is another thing that you can add to your front yard to give it that English cottage vibe. This gives you a beautiful shaded entryway that smells good, too. The Queen of England even has her own rose garden that the public can come visit to get inspired. Noble families around Europe tended to grow their own rose gardens as well. It’s nowhere near as common here in the United States. Even the famous Rose Garden at the White House has been changed and renovated so many times, it’s no longer a rose garden at all.
If you don’t have space in your front yard for a rose covered trellis, this may be something that is more appropriate for a backyard. This can be a great way to segment off your backyard into different gardens and vignettes. A rose trellis is always a welcoming sight, no matter what area of the yard it happens to be in. Before you jump into buying the supplies, do some planning first. Consider hiring a landscape architect if you have enough money in your budget to do so.
In England, eggs and bread are not refrigerated. These are often left out on the counter so that you can reach for them quickly when it’s time to make breakfast. However, if you’re living in the English countryside, there’s always a chance that a mouse might get in the house. A bread box protects your loaf of bread from critters, but it also helps to clean up your countertop.
Here in the United States, our eggs are pasteurized in such a way that makes the egg shells thinner, which is why we need to refrigerate them. And some people put their bread in the fridge to keep bugs away. But if you’re trying to get the English cottage look, a kitchen wouldn’t be complete without a bread box. If you’re looking for a vintage style bread box, you can find these at thrift stores, on eBay or Etsy. Many farmhouse brands are also coming out with bread boxes, which can be found online.
Something that you see a lot in England and France is a painted front door. This gives your house a pop of color that can help you stand out from your neighbors, who most likely kept the standard brown color. In France, a blue door is a symbol of royalty, because the dye was only accessible to the aristocracy for a long time. As soon as commoners were able to afford blue paint and dye, it began to appear all over England and France. This is a sign that you could afford the small luxuries in life, even if it was only enough paint for your front door.
Door knockers are also popular in England, because houses were built long before doorbells existed. A brass door knocker can actually show a lot about your family heritage. For example, in the photos I included in this article, the door knockers are of a lion’s head. This is typically a symbol of English royalty. My family happens to have Irish heritage on both sides, so our brass door knocker is the Claddagh. There are a lot of different shapes and size door knockers out there available online.
In The United Kingdom, many houses in affluent areas have a name plate outside of the home. This isn’t necessarily the name of the family, but rather a nickname given to the house itself. The name can be passed down from one owner to the next, and it’s rarely changed by the new occupant. Anyone who has seen Skyfall already knows that this was the name of James Bond’s family home. The name doesn’t always have to be that original, though. Many people might call their home after their last name, like Quinn Cottage or Smith Manor. In most cases, the name gives a nod to the house’s history.
Here in the United States, naming your house isn’t something people do, because it’s seen as being pretentious. It’s much more common to see a sign with someone’s last name inside of the house, rather than outside. We might have our house number by the door, but that’s it. However, if you want to do this for yourself, you should consider hiring an artist on Etsy to create a custom sign for you. After visiting England, I felt inspired to give our family home a name, since it was built in the 1800’s, and will likely be passed down to me. After much debate, we decided on Cedar Manor, because we’re on a large piece of land next to a cedar forest. However, we haven’t made the sign yet, because we are- in fact- afraid of coming off as pretentious!