What do you think of when you hear the phrase “country decor”? Do gingham curtains, homespun fabrics and lots of handmade items come to mind? Or do you think of the floral chintz slipcovers and antiques so often found in English country decor? Perhaps French country is more to your liking with its whimsical mix of colorful patterns and rustic furniture pieces. As you can see, country decor can mean different things to different people but there are certain elements common to all types of country decorating.
In any country setting, furniture must be functional. Tables, chairs and other wood pieces are often hand-made and feature a rustic and natural finish that may be distressed as a result of many years of use. Comfort is key so upholstered items are over-scaled and over-stuffed. Antique mix with newer pieces to create an inviting and eclectic space with a sense of history.
As with any decorating style, fabric often sets the tone. In a country setting fabrics can range from simple muslin curtains that have been hand stenciled with a design to aged leather on the sofa or chairs that invite you to sit and stay awhile.
When choosing fabrics, fancy and high maintenance items like linen, silk, and satin will not do. You will want to look for durable weaves that have an inviting texture such as chenille, corduroy, suede, denim, embossed leather, even velvet. Popular patterns include plaid, gingham checks, tea stained florals, and mini-prints.
Based on the style of country decor you prefer, most colors can be used in your fabric and paint choices. For example,
- American country style often utilizes a red, white and blue Americana theme. Traditional colors are also common. This might include cranberry red, forest green or the ever popular combination of blue and white.
- French country is known for its use of bright primary colors that reflect the colors found in the French countryside. This includes sunflower yellow and the bright blues of the sea and sky combined with a warm and earthy shade of red.
- Western country is a bit more rustic and utilizes earth tones of brown, rust and tan that complement iron accessories commonly found in this design.
- Modern country combines cool shades of gray and tan to coordinate with the natural wood tones of the furniture.
- Primitive country is an austere style that uses very little color and pattern. Natural shades of brown, tan, gray and white that are present in the furniture and natural fiber fabrics are common.
- English country employs the use of ivory and cream along with watered down shades of pink, red, green and blue to create a well-worn and comfortable space.
Displayed collections are a big part of country decorating. Accessories run the gamut from a cluttered collection of old bottles, antique dolls or wooden spools often found in American country decor to the wonderful baskets, beautiful earthenware, and cultural figurines and, of course, roosters, common to French country design. Enter a home decorated in a western country style and you are likely to find a collection of rusty horseshoes hung on the wall along with an old saddle that has been turned into a footstool. A ragged riding blanket may now act as a throw tossed across the back of the sofa. Even primitive country design has accessories, albeit functional ones. The wall decor may include rustic pitchforks and axes used in the fields or an antiquated spinning wheel sitting in the corner. Pewter candlesticks may sit on the mantel alongside a ceramic jug. Of course, personal framed photographs gathered together on top of a table or mantel are the best accessories to have!
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and artwork is certainly a very personal choice. It can be something as simple as an old quilt hung on the wall to something more elaborate such as an original oil painting done by a local artist. You may be the lucky owner of a collection of signed letters that date back to the Civil War or the proud owner of original “artwork” created by your own kids. What you choose to hang on your walls or display in your home should reflect the personality of you and your family. It does not have to “match” the decor. A modern painting can look beautiful hung over the mantel in a country home, as will a traditional landscape. This is one area where you can really let your personality shine.
Regardless of whether you prefer the rustic simplicity of modern country, the elegant but comfortable English country look or the cluttered and friendly style of American country design, they all share these design elements: they are warm, friendly, welcoming and comfortable.