6 tips for designing your dream oak frame cottage

Written by Craig Alexander – a Chartered Architect within our in-house Architectural Design team


Would you like to build your own country-style cottage? Here are six top tips to support your exciting self-build project.


1. Start with a three-bay design

The classic, open-plan cottage layout is simple, elegant and efficient: a compact central bay with a kitchen on one side and a living room on the other. This arrangement dates back to traditional cottage designs, where rooms were typically separated by a fireplace.


2. Balance forms and detailing

A cottage’s form, scale and mass complement a few key traditional details, such as eaves, verge detailing and framed porches. Catslide roofs and the addition of gables produce a straightforward yet effective design and provide more space on the ground floor for areas such as utility rooms.


3. Consider proportion and roof heights

The eaves are usually kept relatively low and close to the heads of the upstairs windows, creating a vaulted ‘storey and a half’ cottage design. This can be supplemented with a ‘band’ of different materials at the first floor. Dormers are also common in cottage designs and are usually kept as small and compact as practical, while meeting modern building regulation requirements.

While everyone understandably wants to create a light and airy home, it can be best to break window openings into multiple casements, to avoid overly large windows which can look out of proportion on a traditional-style cottage.

A compact central bay creates a perfect entrance

4. Don’t forget the chimney

Chimneys articulate the roof, while providing a point of verticality to what is otherwise likely to be a relatively horizontal design due to the low ridge and eaves height. If you’re working to a budget, you could consider an internal chimney with brick only above the roofline.

A dormer window is a classic element in a 'storey-and-a-half' design

5. Take inspiration from the local vernacular

Throughout the UK, each region has its own style which has slowly emerged due to the availability of certain building materials. For example, typically, thatched roofs are associated with Norfolk, timber frames in the Midlands and stone in the Cotswolds. Don’t feel your cottage design should be held to the immediate vernacular, as many styles and materials travel. However, your location may inform some proportional ideas, details and the palette of materials you use.

An exterior brick chimney

6. Handpick your material mix

To achieve the classic cottage look, try to keep the materials relatively small and restrained. Cottages are often a lesson in doing more with less: a brick plinth with render over, and a natural slate or tile is often a great starting point, allowing details such as porches, window heads, cills and other features to really stand out and be accentuated.


We understand how important it is to design a home that meets your needs and is truly personal to you. So, if you have your heart set on building a cottage-style home, click here to view our Cottage range, which comprises six unique oak frame designs that have been created with you in mind.

Half tile and weatherboard cladding was chosen for this Kentish cottage

We'll design an oak frame cottage to suit your lifestyle