Nothing offers down home, hospitality and charm like a good old rustic country home decor! But country decor has changed significantly in recent years, evolving from gingham check fabrics and rusted farm tools on the wall towards a much cleaner, more modern and sleek style that tends more to the simple styles of Shaker or Quaker design.
Natural materials like stone and wood characterize the country decor, along with handmade crafts. In America, what we often think of as “country style” comes from the heritage and crafting skills of pioneer settlers, farmers and ranchers who settled the Western Frontier states of America during the 19th century.
Handmade crafts, authentic antiques and country style are still mainstay decorative elements, but modern design trends and changing tastes have given the traditional country decor some new twists as well.
Since most settlers to the American West came from Western Europe or the Eastern states, American country decor borrows many elements from the country traditions of France, England, Ireland, Germany and Scandinavia.
Simple, eloquent and a bit coarse, country decor makes heavy use of natural woods with rough, aged surfaces and simpler forms. A country style home should feel modest, comfortable, and natural. The exterior is crafted from materials like natural logs, cedar or another natural siding material, and will often have stone facades.
Flooring was traditionally constructed with bare wood planks, which were hand-polished or waxed, without varnishes or lacquers, which were not available. In some cases, floor boards would have been painted in a light color or white washed. Wood flooring of uneven planks made from pine or oak is a definite country decor cue.
Exposed wood beams are another hallmark of the country home. This style of interior architecture lends itself well to country decor and wood beams make an excellent display from which to hang any kind of country items like cook pots, barn tools, cowboy hats, or bouquets of dried wildflowers to add a little color and natural beauty indoors.
Every country home will have a good mud room. The ranch house my family had and where I spent summers as a child, had a great mud room, with plenty of hooks to hang outer clothing and racks for boots. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of coming in from the range and taking off boots and outerwear in that old mud room.
Even if you don’t have a true mud room, put a simple wood bench with open storage below near your main entry and a real boot jack to add a bit of that mud room feel.
The parlor or living room would be where a wealthier ranch owner would entertain guests; though many pioneers could not have dreamed of having that much space in their home. If it had a parlor, this was typically the most formal room in the house.
You might have found an ornate clock or a Victorian object in this room, which would have been either family heirlooms brought across the prairie at great personal sacrifice or else imported from the East or from Europe by an established and wealthier country family.
Country furniture is typically made from pine or oak, sometimes hand painted with country scenes, trees, flowers and leaves, birds or other animals.
You will want to appoint your modern country living room sofas and arm chairs in quality leather, chamois leather, suede or rich, darker colored fabrics for comfort, durability and the feeling of a true country gentleman’s parlor.
A stylish rocking chair will make the perfect accent piece. Use quilts, throws and pillows to add comfort and accent colors.
Kitchen and Dining Room
In the dining room, you will want to use bench seating, ladder back or Windsor chairs, which are classic country style chair styles.
A large pine table, rectangular and plain in shape makes for a great country dining room table. One popular finish is rubbed paint, often white in color, giving it a nice weathered look.
The Amish style pine table we bought just after we were married still adorns our kitchen nook today, having grown more appealing through the years with the dents and scratches of daily use.
A country kitchen will feature open shelving and a hutch or buffet to display dish ware. Items like stoneware pots, glass jars and earthenware pots display nicely on your kitchen shelves.
Cast iron or copper pots in plain, large shapes give a country feel in the kitchen. Naturally finished wood or antique white paint make the best cabinet choices in a modern country kitchen. Add a large butcher’s block to give your kitchen an authentic feel.
Frilly laces in white or neutral colors are best for your window treatments and will invite light into your kitchen and dining room spaces.
Try a big brass bed, adorned with traditional hand-crafted quilt in the bedroom to give it that country touch. A large trunk or chest makes the perfect accent at the foot of your country bed.
You can use modern cellulose, vertical or wood blinds to make your window treatments functional. If you like brighter colors for your curtains, that’s fine also to give your window treatment a more modern feeling. You won’t lose the country feeling and there’s no need to sacrifice modern convenience just to make your country bedroom look completely authentic to the period!
A good method to introduce modern design elements into your country decor is to blend traditional antique furnishings with a few more modern pieces.
Selecting a couple of pieces with modern lines won’t hurt your country decorative elements as long as you have something that ties them together; theme, color and shape will be the best ways to keep things from becoming too disparate. Try looking in magazines, local shops or online for ideas.
Country decor in the bathroom is a bit frivolous since many traditional country homes had no indoor plumbing, but using neutral tones on your walls, with antique or reproduction wood vanities and cabinets will extend your country decor to the bathroom.
A claw foot tub and pedestal sinks with antique brass faucets will complete the country bathroom decor, making it a place to rejuvenate body and spirit.
Towels in simple white would be typical of country decor and give your bathroom a modern touch. Wicker baskets are great to hold your bath sponges, soaps and shampoos.
Pine, wicker or woven wood are also great for a potpourri of pine cones, wild flowers and other naturally scented items.
Lighting Your Country Decor
Use recessed ceiling fixtures, and a brass or wrought iron chandelier to give adequate ambient lighting.
For accent lighting you can use wall sconces, tin lanterns or hurricane lamps to complete your country lighting design.
Candle holders with a brass finish, kerosene or oil lamps are other good accent light sources your country room decor.
Use of Color and Reducing Clutter
Country decor colors tend toward more neutral tones; white to bone white and earthier tones predominate. Highlight and accent colors will usually be blues, greens or barn red to add contrast and drama.
Try to simplify use of color and keep things consistent with a room or adjoining rooms that are open to each other. By keeping your walls and fabrics more neutral rather than adding a lot of color and patterns, your accent colors will have greater visual impact.
A red vase with simple curves, a subtle blue checker pattern in the curtain fabric or a white rocking chair with simple hand painted wildflowers will do; you don’t want overpower your decor with lots of colored wallpapers and fabrics with disjointed and conflicting patterns.
In any decor, country or modern, it is best to focus on keeping things simple rather than overcrowding spaces. Find things you really love and remove others that just don’t feel right.
Openness and a feeling of space will make any room in your home more inviting, which is a basic rule of modern design. You can give your home a country feeling without sacrificing the convenience and aesthetics of modern design.
Select your decorative elements with care, just a early American settlers, farmers and ranchers did out of necessity and you will create a country home decor with a modern sense of aesthetics; something that is uniquely your own!