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  • Writer's pictureThe PJ Team

Your Guide to Rustic Style

Discover the colors, materials and furnishings that design pros use to evoke the feeling of a mountain retreat

Whether you’re sharing your ideas with a designer or buying furnishings yourself, having a solid grasp of your favorite style can be a big help. If you love the rugged beauty of natural materials — like rough-hewn wood beams and stone — and comfortable spaces that reference the great outdoors, rustic style might be right in your decorating sweet spot. Read on for the need-to-know details about this popular style, including key elements, color palettes, furniture and accessories.

What Is Rustic Style?

Rustic style wholeheartedly embraces the natural beauty of the outdoors. Materials are left as raw and unadulterated as possible, with exposed wood beams, brick and stone; big, comfy furniture; and warm, cozy textiles. Inspired by woods, plains, rivers and lakes, rustic style can be as simple and pared-back as a one-room log cabin or as jaw-dropping as a ski lodge perched on a mountainside. And while rustic style is inspired by the past, today’s interpretation can lean contemporary with more streamlined furnishings, depending on your personal design sensibility.

Rustic style is:

  • Natural. Materials are raw and organic. Think of live-edge wood, heavy beams, leather, stone, brick, copper, soapstone and slate.

  • Rugged. Furnishings are hardy and made to stand up to heavy wear. Materials are tough and weathered — pieces that look better with age fit right in.

  • Cozy. Rustic style embraces the home comforts we crave after a day spent outdoors, including fireplaces, overstuffed armchairs and warming textiles.

Rustic style is not:

  • Complicated. Rustic style is about getting away from it all, not complicating life with fussy decor. Keep it simple and straightforward.

  • Trendy. Tradition and heritage are rustic style’s strong suits. Leave the passing fads in favor of pieces that will stand the test of time.

  • Polished. Think softly gleaming wood, not highly polished chrome, and you’ll be on the right track.

Key Element: Rough-Hewn Wood

In rustic spaces, wood is a key ingredient, not an afterthought. Whether you opt for wood beams, wall paneling, floors, counters, furniture or all the above, you can’t go wrong with natural wood in a rustic home.

Key Element: Natural Hues

Rustic homes tend toward colors pulled directly from nature — think of the rusty red of a fallen autumn leaf, not glossy fire-engine red. Echo the hues of natural materials like stone and warm woods with paint colors and accents in similar shades for a rich, cozy look.

Great shades for rustic-style spaces:

  • Neutrals. Buttermilk, cream, straw, wheat, stone

  • Earth tones: Chestnut, mushroom, umber, terra-cotta, sepia

  • Spicy hues. Cinnamon, saffron, pumpkin, chile pepper, baked apple

Key Element: Hefty Furniture

Furniture that looks as strong as an ox will feel right at home in a rustic space. Look for solid wood coffee tables and leather armchairs and sofas. Solids make up the bulk of upholstery, with texture playing a larger role than pattern — think of buttery leather, soft velvet, nubby linen or even burlap, with classic details like tufts and nailhead trim.

Design Detail: Chandeliers

A chandelier offers just the right balance of big statement and soft glow for a rustic space, whether it’s a classic candelabra fixture, a wood wagon wheel or a naturally shed or resin antler fixture. For maximum ambiance, be sure to include a dimmer switch.

Finishing Touches: Cozy and Outdoorsy

Express a love and respect for nature and the outdoors through carefully chosen art, textiles and accessories that bring to mind the creatures, landscapes and traditions of your region and envelop you in cozy comfort.

Classic accessories for rustic spaces:

  • Pendleton blankets

  • Kilim rugs

  • Nature art or photography

  • Fake fur or sheepskin pillows and throws

  • Naturally shed or resin antlers

Do You Have to Live in the Mountains to Make Rustic Style Work?

No way. Rustic style is about embracing the beauty of the outdoors, no matter where you live. In fact, incorporating a rustic look into a suburban or urban home can be a wonderful way to feel connected to nature, even if you can’t get away to the mountains as often as you would like. Case in point, this inviting rustic-style space is far from the mountains in Austin, Texas.

Rustic Kitchen Design

With a tumbled slate backsplash, a copper farmhouse sink, a live-edge counter and lots of knotty lumber, this room is a spot-on example of a rustic kitchen done right. Rich with natural materials and exuding comfort and warmth, a rustic kitchen has wide appeal.

Features of rustic kitchens:

  • Brick and stone. Natural materials are a must, and the less polished the better. Consider slate, soapstone, brick, stone veneer or even a brick oven or kitchen fireplace.

  • Natural wood. Exposed wood beams, wood flooring, knotty wood cabinetry, a farm table, butcher block and other wood accents bring warmth to a rustic kitchen.

  • Soft lighting. Of course you need good, bright task lights over your work surface. But in a rustic kitchen, it’s also nice to have the option to turn down the dimmer a bit and bask in a warm glow.

  • Weathered hardware. Go for cabinet pulls in antiqued brass, hammered copper or oil-rubbed bronze. Or opt for something more whimsical like twig- or stone-shaped hardware.

  • Cast-iron and copper pots. Rustic kitchen accessories should be practical as well as beautiful, and cast-iron and copper pots and pans fit the bill. Put them on display on shelving or a hanging rack.

Rustic Bathroom Design

Many of the same features that give rustic kitchens their warm, welcoming look work well in the bathroom too. Consider a wood or wood-look vanity and wall paneling, stone or pebble tile floors, weathered metal hardware and lighting with a soft glow.

Laura Gaskill June 26, 2019

Houzz Contributor. I cover decorating ideas, Houzz tours & the monthly home maintenance checklist. My favorite pieces to write center around the emotional aspects of home and savoring life's simple pleasures. Get my bi-weekly email:


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