Home is where the heart is, so it’s been said. And if your heart belongs in the country, then it’s time that your home reflected it. Unfortunately, many people don’t have room in their budget to hire an interior decorator, and the chances of being lucky enough to be a winner on a home makeover television show are slim to none.
Redecorating your home doesn’t have to be an expensive, wallet-busting ordeal. Some great bargains can be had at flea markets, garage sales, antique stores and online sites. Then, of course, there is always doing it yourself. A can of paint can do wonders to give a room new life and an injection of warmth. Old furniture can be refurbished or even built by hand. Quilts can be sewn and afghans can be crocheted. With a little bit of creativity and time, any house can become a country home.
But what is that country style? How does one define it? The answer is as diverse as the people who embrace it. It’s a style that transports you to another time and another place, away from the hustle and bustle of the modern day world, where the atmosphere is warm and inviting. It could be reminiscent of a lakeside cabin, log cabin retreat, a farmhouse in the Midwest or an adobe home in the deserts of New Mexico. All of these styles are vastly different in appearance, but what they have in common is simplicity and a humble, down-to-earth charm.
Some people make the mistake of believing that you have to live in these regions of the country in order to embrace the country style, but even a suburban home or downtown apartment can have a country flair to it. You don’t need a rustic log cabin, a farmhouse or a brick Colonial house to foster those nostalgic feelings that the country style can invoke. A few touches here and there can make all the difference.
If you have the time, talent or budget, pay some attention to the walls, flooring and architecture of your home. Many new homes are built like cracker boxes, with the same beige carpeting and drab, white walls. Consider putting in more natural materials, like hardwood flooring (or flooring that looks like hardwood), stone tiles or ceramic tile accents. While paint is an inexpensive and vastly useful way to freshen up a dull room, installing new flooring can be pricey. If your budget is on the tighter side, work on one room at a time, rather than trying to tackle the entire house all at once. Creating the perfect home is often a project that takes years, and some people consider it a journey that never has a destination.
When it comes to choosing furnishings for your home, it helps to have a rough idea of how you want the room to look when you’re all finished with it. Once you have an idea, search for pieces that will fit in with that vision. There are many places to search for furniture: flea markets, garage sales, Internet companies and large furniture stores. Trying to find just the right chair or table can turn into a treasure hunt, and for a lot of people, that’s a great part of the appeal of redecorating.
Quality is important. If you buy cheap, it will look cheap. That’s not to say that you have to spend a lot of money in order to get high quality. It means that if you go out to the big corporate-owned furniture store and buy a cheap copy of a knock-off of a quality piece of furniture, it will look like it, and you’ll likely end up spending more money in the long run because you need to replace it after a couple of years.
Make sure that you have the space for each piece that you buy. Not only will your new table, chair or cabinet take up the immediate space it occupies, but it will also take up some space around it. Be sure you have the space to position your furniture in a way that won’t make it an obstacle. You need to be able to move around freely while still being able to use it on a daily basis.
Characterized by its unfinished appearance, rustic furniture is a wildly popular choice for hunting lodges and lakeside cabins. It incorporates natural elements into its design, especially wood, twigs and logs. Paint is never used, as this would give the wood a more finished look than rustic demands, but lacquers and stains are perfectly acceptable, as they protect the wood without ruining the beauty of the grain.
One fantastic example of rustic furniture is the Wallace Rocker, offered by The Rocking Chair Company. The oak hardwood is accentuated by bent branches of hickory for a look that would make a stunning accent for a living room or front porch.
The history of wicker is a long and fascinating one. Pieces of wicker furniture have been discovered in Ancient Egyptian tombs as well as in Pompeii and all throughout Europe. The usage of wicker furniture experienced a resurgence in popularity during Victorian times, when it was believed to be more hygienic than other types of furniture, and so it was used both indoors and out.
Although these days most wicker furniture is made from synthetic materials for extra durability, it retains a naturalistic beauty that makes it quite popular for the country home. Wicker is not only available as baskets or hampers; it makes wonderful rocking chairs, chaise lounges and tables.
Often, the table is just as important an accent as the lamp, pottery or sculptures sitting on top of it. Coffee tables and dining tables are especially important, often serving as the central hub for family gatherings. The dining room table is often where meals are served and homework gets done.
A high-quality table can often become a family heirloom, especially with matching chairs and good, quality construction. If you find a beautiful table, show it off. Leave it uncovered except for some cloth runners, candlesticks or a seasonal centerpiece. If you’re not as fortunate, however, even a beat-up, second-hand table can be given a dash of country charm with a good-quality tablecloth.
Just what sort of table you want for your home will depend on what style of country décor you want. Mission-style tables have a durable construction from wood, featuring a solid, heavy style that makes them a great complement to the adobe home. Other homes might incorporate Shaker furniture, or solid, plain farmhouse furniture.
Wood is the most common, most popular material for a table, and just about any style of wooden table will make a beautiful addition. But don’t be restricted by convention or tradition. Marble-topped bistro tables or 1930s iron-wrought tables would be right at home in a country house, too.
In many homes, the bedroom is an intimate place where only the family and very close friends ever go. It’s a place to sleep and relax, a place to curl up with a good book late at night before drifting off to sleep. In the bedroom of the country home, as with any other décor scheme, practicality should be blended with decorative. Choose a room with ample sources of natural light which will allow the morning sun to shine through the curtains, or sheers to ease you out of sleep and into wakefulness. Studies have shown that the human circadian clock evolved with the natural light and dark cycles, and exposure to natural light promotes healthier sleep patterns.
When it comes to the furniture in the bedroom, it’s the bed that takes center stage. In addition to a wonderful set of linens, the eye will instantly be drawn to the head and footboards of the bed. Here is where your individual sense of style will really shine through. Many different types of bed frames are suitable for a country home, from wrought-iron beds to rustic, wood-log beds. These all invoke a sense of simplicity and humble origins, while the more ornate, four-poster beds with draping canopies are reminiscent of days gone by on a Southern plantation.
If you go with a cast-iron bed, the frame can be painted white to accentuate a room with a paler color scheme. Wooden bed frames can be painted or, for a much more naturalistic look, given a coating of lacquer or stain. In all cases, don’t skimp on a good mattress. Our forefathers may have had to do with straw ticks, but you, your family and your guests will sleep much better on a modern mattress.
In the country kitchen, the cabinets can make all the difference between dull and awe-inspiring. Nothing beats hand-crafted carpentry, but even if your budget won’t allow for a full renovation, there are still little things that you can do—easily and cheaply—to spruce up your cabinets.
Overhead cabinets can be given a fresh coating of paint in a new color if you’re giving your kitchen a makeover. Hardware stores also carry a wide supply of knobs, which can be installed or swapped out for existing knobs and handles. With both new paint and new knobs, any set of cabinetry can look entirely different and brand new. Stenciling can provide further accents, allowing you to apply paint in different colors to establish a pattern or pictures across cabinet doors.
If your cabinets are in poor shape and need to be replaced, but you haven’t got the funds for new ones, shelving is a cheaper and easier alternative. Shelves placed along the walls of the kitchen allow you to display your kitchenware, and they’re extremely useful in helping to weed out any unwanted clutter. Many country kitchens are going for a look that embraces simplicity, and keeping everything front and center prevents an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.
It’s often said that it’s the little things that matter. When it comes to decorating your home —unless you want a simplistic, humble décor that pays homage to the Shakers— you will want to fill the empty spaces with accessories.
If you have a collection, don’t be afraid to put it out prominently on display, be it china, baskets, wooden decoy ducks or old bottles. The country home should not be a soulless reflection of what would look good on the pages of a magazine or catalogue. It should be a reflection of the loves and interests of the people who live in the home. It should be comfortable, relaxing and inviting, a place where you and your family can retreat from a modern, hectic world and be surrounded by the things that make you happy.
What country home would be without a quilt? They are as iconic as the rocking chair or Grandma’s apple pie, and the beauty of quilts is that they can be made from anything and still look beautiful. They have been elevated from a mere blanket to an art form.
While there are quilts that have been sewn by professionals, available at craft fairs, art shows and from online sites, even a novice can sew together a quilt. There are myriads of different quilt styles, so many that it would take an entire book to describe them all in detail. Some quilts use specific types of fabrics in patterns, such as cathedral quilts. While other styles of quilts use whatever is on hand, such as scrap quilts or crazy quilts.
In the country home, quilts make a fine addition to a bed, and not just as ornamentation. If well-made, they can be extremely warm, especially when paired with down comforters. They can be hung up on the walls like artwork, or they can be draped across a sofa or chair, breathing new life into old, shabby furniture.
Pottery and Crockery
In many country homes, the focus of life revolves on the most important room: the kitchen. Traditionally, the kitchen is where all of the meals were prepared. It’s where canning and preserving took place during harvest time. Without the kitchen, without the family meals, life stopped.
Unsurprisingly, a country house will not feel like a country home without the crockery and the pottery. Whether you go with earthenware, fine china or faience, look for pieces that will accentuate and blend in with your décor. If your dining room has a mahogany china cabinet, then it’s a perfect place to set delicate porcelain that your grandmother would have been proud to show off during holiday meals. A more rustic kitchen might favor the earthenware crockery, which is solid, durable and practical for everyday use.
Pottery need not be relegated only to the dining room or the kitchen. A vase full of fresh-cut flowers would look splendid on a side table or on a fireplace mantel. When set among leather-bound or antique books, a glazed pot can hold plants or a clutch of pine cones. Don’t shy away from sculptures or jars either. Even the humble mason jar or colored glass bottle can find new life and new purpose when filled with dried or fresh flowers and set out on display.
Always keep your eye open for just the right piece. You never know when you’ll find something that would be perfect for your home. While good crockery can be found online or acquired in antique stores, the flea markets and garage sales often have hidden gems for reasonable prices.
Paintings and Photographs
As personal as crockery or quilts, choosing the right sort of artwork to adorn your walls can seem a daunting task. There are often a lot of questions from people as to what they should put on their walls. What colors should they look for? What subjects? The answer is quite simple: whatever is a pleasure for you to look at.
Finding the right painting can be a challenge, as much as finding the right place to hang that painting. Whenever you bring home a new painting, you’re changing the dynamic of your room. It will impact the furniture and any other accessories already in there. Don’t be afraid to hang your pictures wherever you like, be it in the living room, the kitchen or in the bathroom. There are no set rules about what has to go where. There is only your preference.
That said, those who favor a country, down-home atmosphere often turn to halcyonic paintings of American landscapes, folk art or photographs and portraits of family and friends. If finding works from local artists interests you, search through the local art galleries or keep an eye open for any art fairs that your city might host. As always, prints and paintings are readily available online, or you might just find a cast-off treasure hiding away at a flea market or garage sale.
Almost as much a part of the country home as the floor and the walls, a knick-knack is defined as an ornament or a trinket. It’s a great catch-all term for all of those little things that can be set out on the shelves or on the tables which have no real way of being classified. Bottles, brooms, figurines, carved spoons, vintage toys, cages or clocks can all fit as knick-knacks, and what you choose to display is as personal and as unique as anything else in your home.
In a modern country home, you’re likely to find upcycled knick-knacks, where the old is made new again with an artistic purpose. For example, globes have been turned into bowls to hold potpourri, old suitcases can be refurbished and stacked for a display and old drawers have been repainted and hung on the wall to act as cabinetry in a bathroom. The possibilities for upcycling projects that you can do yourself are endless.
The Farm and the Forest
Once upon a time, our foremothers and forefathers in America ran small family farms. They tended vegetable gardens and their crops, and they raised their livestock. In fact, without their animals, the pioneers would not have survived. There is much that is owed to our animal companions.
For that reason, and for many others, many country homes feature a collection of some sort that reflects our love for animals. Chickens, cows and other domesticated farm animals are both highly popular subjects for collection, found on plates, crockery, statues, paintings and clocks. A more rustic hunting lodge with a country flair might go for wild animals, like deer, boars or game birds.
From furnishings to accessories, the country home is made to be comfortable and relaxed. Whether you favor simplicity or collections of all your favorite things, the most important concept is that your home be a reflection of all you hold dear. The country home is not a setting for stiffly formal occasions. It’s a place where friends and family can gather and be themselves, and the décor should reflect this.
When decorating, don’t be afraid to go with your gut. Ultimately, you are decorating for your own enjoyment, not to get on the pages of a magazine or a book.