Rustic Style Defined

Get inspired by these rustic decorating ideas.

By Lisa Frederick

There's a misconception that rustic design is clunky and antiquated, a throwback to a less style-savvy era. But that's not at all what the rustic look is about. Rather, it emphasizes free-form shapes, natural materials, and the art of repurposing. Most importantly, it brings a sense of practicality and purpose that is beautiful in and of itself. (View 100s of rustic rooms.)

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Open Country/Rustic Living Room by Jerry Locati
Jerry Locati

The Basics

Rustic interiors derive their warmth and heart from the sense of history and simplicity they evoke. They have a rough-hewn charm that appeals to us in this era of slick technology and manufactured materials. That's not to say they lack innovation, though—the make-do spirit that spawned rustic style persists, resulting in one-of-a-kind objects repurposed in delightful ways.

These designer rooms display rustic interiors:

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Elmwood Nesting Tables
Pfeifer Studio

Weathered woods.
 No machine-polished shine or imitation lumber here; rustic woods have an appealing roughness around the edges. Sturdy species such as oak, hickory, and beech suit the rugged feel of this style. Leave them to develop a natural patina or give them a coat of matte paint, scuffed and sanded around the edges. You might even choose a chair or stool made of branches still wearing their bark.

Cozy colors and patterns.
 Forest green, denim blue, faded khaki, oxblood red—rustic colors look as though they might have been appropriate in pioneer days. That's not to say that you can't update the palette with a few lighter and brighter touches, but they should be the exception. Patterns should be traditional, from plaid to patchwork to calico.

Llama Plaid Throw
Schoolhouse Electric

Hand-stitched fabrics. Nothing conveys the simple beauty of the rustic look like a handmade quilt thrown over a bed or hung on the wall. Embroidered samplers and needlepoint pillows also whisper of textile traditions.

Distressed metals. Go for heavy, warm metals with a hint of wear and tear, such as a hammered finish or a touch of rust. Bronze, copper, pewter, and iron fit the bill perfectly in the form of bedsteads, baker's racks, side tables, lighting, and fixtures. Avoid shiny finishes and cool metals such as chrome and stainless steel, which can feel too contemporary.

Found objects. Necessity is the mother of rustic chic. In the old days, homeowners found inspired ways to make use of whatever they had or were able to get, from crates turned into shelves and tables to lamps fashioned from empty jugs and bottles. Sprinkle in a few quirky displays of unusual treasures from antiques stores or flea markets to top off your interior with a flourish.

Explore More Rustic Style

Jøtul F 602 CB Woodstove by Jøtul on
View other rustic spaces, room by room:
If you like Rustic style, you may love Southwestern and Country style design, as well. 

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