In modern usage, a cottage is a dwelling, typically in a rural, or semi-rural location (although there are cottage-style dwellings in cities). In the United Kingdom, the term cottage tends to denote a rurally- (sometimes village-) located one and a half storey 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 cozy dwelling, and small size is integral to the description, but in other places such as Canada, the term exists with no connotation of size at all (cf. vicarage or hermitage). In 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 Labrador, a "chalet" in Quebec, and a camp in Northern Ontario, New Brunswick and the adjacent US states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Northern New York.
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" (Lat. "cotagium") seems to have meant not just a dwelling, but have 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).
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.
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.
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 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 Ontario, Canada, parts of which have come to be known as cottage country. This term typically refers to the north and south shores of Georgian Bay, Ontario, Muskoka, Ontario, Haliburton, Ontario, and the Kawartha Lakes, Ontario, 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 England, and Northern New York a summer house near a body of water is known as a camp.
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" . Traditional Finnish cottages are built of logs and they are usually situated by water.
There are 474,277 cottages in Finland (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 Kuusamo (6,196 cottages on January 1st, 2006), Kuopio (5,194), Ekenäs (Tammisaari - 5,053), Mikkeli (4,649) and Mäntyharju (4,630).
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.
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 1950's and 60's, many families were able to retain their old farmhouses and fisherman cabins and convert them into vacation houses. Former vacation houses near the large cities has 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. As a result of the friggebod reform in 1979, many cottage owners have built additional guesthouses on their lots.
Cottages are commonly found in the New Territories region of Hong Kong. City dwellers flock to these cottages during holidays and summer months to get away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. 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.