Book: Perfect English Cottage by Ros Byam Shaw

One of my favorite decorating books to read and reference over and over again is Perfect English Cottage by Ros Byam Shaw. Every page has something to study.

The book has English cottages of all kinds — airy and romantic, gilded and elegant, cozy, rustic, clean, beachy. It’s a treasure trove of ideas and inspiration. My copy has a forest of bookmarks in it — little torn bits of paper so I can remember where my favorite pictures are.

The best part is that each cottage featured is accompanied by a charming story about the home and the owners, giving details about how they found the house and their lives.

Usually I never read these kinds of books, I just look at the pictures. But in this case, I can’t help myself, the stories are so compelling. It’s a rare gift in a decorating book to get a little peek into the lives of the people who own these beautiful houses.

Romantic Somerset Cottage

My favorite section in the book by far is the very first section which is entitled “Romantic” and features three cottages that I am completely in love with. If my home could have the same feel and vibe as these three houses, I would be a happy, happy woman.

The first house is a weekend home for Peter Westcott and his partner Andrew Merron. During the week, Peter works for a design firm in London, and he has a passion for vintage fabrics and kitcsh from the 30’s through the 50’s. It shows in the collected look he’s created in his Somerset getaway.

The dining room is a perfect example. Check out the vintage curtains and table linens!

The living room (or lounge) is one of my favorite rooms in this house. Somehow, he’s managed to make the room colorful and eclectic without feeling crowded or overwhelming. I love it.

As you can see in the staircase, most of the house is painted in white and neutrals, but there are bits of color such as this bright blue “stair runner” that’s been created with paint.

I love this bedroom, too. It’s bright and airy, yet cozy and funky, just what I love!

Romantic Monk’s House

The next house in this section is Monk’s House, the house that Virginia and Leonard Woolf lived in — first as a holiday retreat, and then in the 1940’s, as their permanent home. Some of the greatest minds of the 20th Century were entertained here! The house now belongs to The National Trust, and part of the home is open to the public for show. But the rest of the house is home to tenants Jonathan and Caroline Zoob, and this is the portion featured in the book.

Isn’t this kitchen table amazing?

And of course, who doesn’t love a clawfoot tub?

I love this little vignette, too, with the old quilt top used as a curtain and the wooden cubbies.

Romantic Dorset Cottage

The last house in the “Romantic” section of Perfect English Cottage is this teeny tiny cottage in Dorset village. Originally built as a farm laborer’s cottage, it’s only 12 feet wide! The kitchen is only 8 feet square. It’s compact, but the owner, Sara Mahon, has made every space count.

I love the little floral details in this tiny kitchen nook, as well as the plastered rock wall.

In her bedroom is a wee craft nook. Lovely light comes in the window.

With the palest of blues on the wall, the guest bedroom is a cheery mix of vintage fabrics and patterns.

And that’s just the first three cottages in the book! The section finishes off with details about how to get that romantic look.

From Rustic to Elegant

The rest of the book has cottages in different styles. Some are really rustic, some are very elegant. There’s loads to look though. I admit I tend to re-read these first three stories over and over, but at least every few times through the book I go through and read some of the other sections, especially Holiday and Simplicity. One of my favorite kitchens later in the book is this one in the story, “Unfinished Business.” Again, the plastered rock wall, the painted stair runner, the bright white walls and mix of textures. It’s fantastic.


While I especially love the Somerset home that’s featured first in the Romantic section, the entire book is fantastic. I’ve examined every square inch of every picture the book and read every story.

If you check out the book, let me know what you think!! Leave a comment below or come and share with me on Facebook or Instagram!

Updated: Looks like there’s a new edition with my favorite bedroom on the cover! Love it!You can find it here on

Love, Angela



6 responses to “Book: Perfect English Cottage by Ros Byam Shaw”

  1. I just found your new home.I was looking at the same book last night. I am really bad about just using them as picture books . After reading your comments, I know I now need to go back and read the stories.

    1. I know! I am the same way, I almost never read the words in these books. But in this case I couldn’t stop reading! 🙂 Let me know what you think if you go back and read it. I’m curious if I’m the only one who felt that way! ~Angela~

  2. Oh I love that book!!!!! I need to get my hands on a copy, it’s right up my alley.Thanks for the “tour”xox

    1. The rest of the book has a different style — there’s rustic places, and beachy places and all kinds of places. But even still, I love love love this book! ~Angela~

  3. This is an awesome book. I love using stacks of books in my decor…and loads of throw pillows! Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll look for it! Hugs

    1. Thanks! I really love this book. I think it’s my favorite of all the books in my collection! ~Angela~

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