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Rustic Design 101: How to Give Your Living Space Some Country Charm
As manifest destiny unfolded and the Homestead Act of 1862 led American settlers to head west, seeking their fortune and free land in the untamed areas of a growing nation, the idea of what made a house into a home naturally evolved.
During that time, pioneers left the conveniences of city life behind and created homes with what little they could carry, relying on the available resources at their new locations.
This led to the birth of rustic homes made with natural materials and filled with homemade furnishings, striking a stark contrast to stately colonial craftsmanship and the excess of historical European architecture. Gone were the overstuffed furnishings, intricate carvings, columns, and other markers of wealth and civilization.
In the American West, pioneers made do with what they had, and the rustic style — born of necessity — became an American institution that lives on today.
How can you imbue your living space with the charm of this warm and inviting style? Here are a few hallmarks you’ll want to observe.
This is an absolute must. You don’t have to make your walls from mud bricks or live in a log cabin, but design choices need to account for the natural elements that lend this style its unpretentious, down-home aesthetic.
Natural materials suitable for rustic homes could include:
- Metal (especially wrought iron)
- Leather/animal hides
If you’re averse to using animal products, modern sensibilities allow for the use of synthetic substitutes, as well as sustainable and cruelty-free products like wool. You’ll also want to make sure you create opportunities for lots of natural light, as well as views of the natural surroundings, if possible.
Warm, Neutral Colors
When you’re shooting for natural appeal, you’ll want to try to stick with a neutral palette of colors found in nature. This includes warm, earthy, sandy brown shades, creamy (rather than bright) whites, and beiges and warm grays, along with a combination known as greiges.
Depending on where you live, you might also draw in natural hues like terra cotta for a touch of color.
Rustic design is not about perfection. It’s about using natural elements in their natural form, which means you’ll see a lot of rough-hewn wood that displays natural graining, stonework that hasn’t been cut, shaped, or polished, and materials like woven textiles, leather, and hides.
What this style lacks in bold color options, it more than makes up for in rich texture that adds a ton of visual appeal.
Pioneers may have been used to hard living, but that didn’t mean they lacked a desire for beauty in the home. This is where handmade arts, crafts, and furnishings came in. Modern rustic décor often includes items like hand-woven textiles and rugs, hand-thrown ceramics, and artwork depicting nature, animals, or Old West living.
Elements with Substance
The rustic design style imbues your space with a lot of visual weight, offering pieces that feel heavy and substantial. This starts with robust, exposed ceiling beams, continues with bulky, stone fireplaces and thick, handmade furniture pieces, and culminates in a rich palette of wood, leather, stone, iron, wool, and similarly heavy materials.
The overall effect is a solid aesthetic that lends your home an air of age, old-world charm, and permanence.
With natural materials, a warm, subdued color palette, handmade décor, and a down-home aesthetic, you can create a simple, welcoming home interior that reflects a pioneer heritage that has been enhanced by modern touches.