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In modern usage, a cottage is a modest dwelling, typically in a rural, or semi-rural location (although there are cottage-style dwellings in cities). In the United Kingdommarker, the term cottage tends to denote a rurally- (sometimes village-) located one-and-a-half story property, where on the second (upstairs floor) one has to walk into the eaves in order to look through the windows, which are generally located in dormers (the sort of dwelling that some Americans call a Cape Cod).

This sometimes means that the eave timbers intrude into the actual living space, and quite often, especially in recent renovations, the relevant timbers (purlins, rafters, posts, etc) can be exposed enhancing the cottage experience. However, in most other settings, the term "cottage" denotes a small, often cosy dwelling, and small size is integral to the description, but in other places such as Canadamarker, the term exists with no connotation of size at all (cf. vicarage or hermitage).

In Soutern Ontario, Canada, the term "cottage" usually refers to a vacation/summer home, often located near a body of water. However, this is more commonly called a "cabin" in Western Canada, Newfoundland and Labradormarker, a "chalet" in Quebecmarker, and a camp in Northern Ontario, New Brunswickmarker and the adjacent US states of Mainemarker, Vermontmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, New Hampshiremarker and Northern New York.

Origin of the term

Originally in the Middle Ages, cottages housed agricultural workers and their families. The term cottage denoted the dwelling of a cotter. Thus, cottages were smaller peasant units (larger peasant units being called messuages). In that early period, a documentary reference to a cottage would most often mean, not a small stand-alone dwelling as today, but a complete farmhouse and yard (albeit a small one).

Thus, in the Middle Ages, the word cottage (MLat cotagium) denoted not just a dwelling, but included at least a dwelling (domus) and a barn (grangia), as well as, usually, a fenced yard or piece of land enclosed by a gate (portum). The word is probably a blend of Old English cot, cote "hut" and Old French cot "hut, cottage", from Old Norse kot "hut".

Examples of this may be found in 15th century manor court rolls. The house of the cottage bore the Latin name: "domum dicti cotagii", while the barn of the cottage was termed "grangia dicti cotagii".

Later on, "cottage" might also have denoted a smallholding comprising houses, outbuildings, and supporting farmland or woods. A cottage, in this sense, would typically include just a few acres of tilled land. Regional examples of this type included the Welshmarker Tŷ unnos or House in a night, built by squatters on a plot of land defined by the throw of an axe from each corner of the property.

Much later (from around the 18th century onwards), the development of industry led to the development of weavers' cottages and miners' cottages.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term 'cottage' is used in North America to represent 'a summer residence (often on a large and sumptuous scale) at a watering-place or a health or pleasure resort' with its first recognised use dating to 1882, in reference to Bar Harbor in Maine.

Cottages in Canada and the U.S.

In North America, most buildings known as cottages are used for weekend or summer getaways by city dwellers. It is also not uncommon for the owners of cottages to rent their properties to tourists as a source of revenue.

Canadian cottages are generally located next to lakes, rivers, or the ocean in forested areas. They are used as a place to spend holidays with friends and family; common activities including swimming, canoeing, waterskiing, fishing, hiking, and sailing. There are also many well-known summer colonies.

Cottage living is one of the most popular tourist draws in Ontariomarker, Canadamarker, parts of which have come to be known as cottage country. This term typically refers to the north and south shores of Georgian Bay, Ontariomarker, Muskoka, Ontario, Haliburton, Ontario, and the Kawartha Lakes, Ontariomarker, but has also been used to describe several other Canadian regions. The practice of renting cottages has become widespread in these regions, especially with rising property taxes for waterfront property.

Cottages of the seasonal-use type are generally referred to as "cabins" in the United States, particularly in the Midwest and West. In much of Northern Ontario, New Englandmarker, and Northern New York a summer house near a body of water is known as a camp.

Cottages in Finland

Statistics Finland defines that a cottage (in Finnish: mökki) is "a residential building that is used as a holiday or free-time dwelling and is permanently constructed or erected on its site" . Finnish cottages are traditionally built of logs, but other wood constructions have become common. They are usually situated close to water, and almost all have a sauna.

There are 474,277 cottages in Finlandmarker (2005), the country with 187,888 lakes and 179,584 islands. Rental holiday cottages of enterprises engaged in the accommodation industry, buildings of holiday villages and buildings on garden allotments are excluded in the statistics. 4,172 new cottages were built in 2005. Most cottages are situated in the municipalities of Kuusamomarker (6,196 cottages on January 1, 2006), Kuopiomarker (5,194), Ekenäs (Tammisaari - 5,053), Mikkelimarker (4,649), and Mäntyharjumarker (4,630).

Cottages in Sweden

The formal Swedish term for cottages is fritidshus (vacation house) or stuga, of which there are 680.000 in Sweden (2007). According to Statistics Sweden, about 50% of the Swedish population has access to a vacation house . In everyday talk, Swedes refer to their cottages as lantstället (country house) or stugan (cottage). Most vacation houses in Sweden are to be found along the coasts and around the major cities. Prices vary a lot depending on location; a modern seaside house near Stockholm may cost 100 times as much as a simple cottage in the inner regions of northern Sweden.

Until the end of World War II, only a small wealthy elite could afford vacation houses - often both a large seaside house and a hunting cabin up north. During the rapid urbanisation in the 1950s and 60's, many families were able to retain their old farmhouses, village cottages and fisherman cabins and convert them into vacation houses. In addition, economic growth made it possible even for low income-families to buy small lots in the countryside where they could erect simple houses. Former vacation houses near the large cities have gradually been converted into permanent homes as a result of urban sprawl.

The traditional Swedish cottage is a simple panelled house made by wood and painted in red. They may contain 1-3 small bedrooms and also a small bathroom. In the combined kitchen and living room (storstuga) there is usually a fireplace. Today, many cottages have been extended with "outdoor rooms" (semi-heated external rooms with glass walls and a thin roof) and large wood terraces. As a result of the friggebod reform in 1979, many cottage owners have built additional guesthouses on their lots.

Cottages in Hong Kong

Cottages are commonly found in the New Territories region of Hong Kongmarker. City dwellers flock to these cottages during holidays and summer months to get away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kongmarker. Most are three storey brick structures with balconies on the upper floors. There is often an open roofed area for eating and entertaining.

These dwellings have full rooms and kitchens.

Cottages in Brittany

One type of cottage is a called a penty. The term is used to refer to a labourer's or fisherman's one-roomed house, often attached to a larger property. It is typically in cubed proportions.

Cottages in Ireland

Irish cottages ( ) were historically the homes of farm workers and labourers, but in recent years the term has assumed a romantic connotation especially when referring to cottages with thatched roofs. These thatched cottages were once to be seen all over Ireland but now are now mostly built for the tourist industry.

Notable cottages

See also

  • Ben-and-but - a simple cottage, having only an inner and outer room
  • Bothy - simple shelter
  • Bungalow – type of single-storey house
  • Cottage industry
  • Dacha – seasonal or year-round second homes located in the exurbs of Soviet and Russian cities
  • Garden real estate – property with gardens
  • Log cabin - small house built from logs
  • Mobile home
  • Mountain hut - building located in the mountains intended to provide food and shelter to mountaineers and hikers
  • Pied a terre – small living unit, typically located in a large city
  • Sommerhus – term used in the Scandavian countries to describe the popular holiday homes or summer cottages
  • Vacation rental – term in the travel industry meaning renting out a furnished apartment or house on a temporary basis to tourists as an alternative to a hotel
  • Vernacular architecture - traditional architecture in a particular area
  • Wilderness hut - rent-free, open dwelling place for temporary accommodation


  1. Statistics Finland
  2. Statistics Sweden

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