When one hears the term “rustic interior,” images of log cabins, forest retreats, and cozy armchairs near a roaring fire often spring to mind. Rustic interior design is hallmarked by these feelings of comfort, nostalgia, and connection to nature. The interiors of mountain lodges and alpine resorts are typically furnished with exceptionally crafted wood furniture, accented by beautiful exposed beams and finished with chunky knits and handmade quilts. These types of interiors elicit a feeling of home because they rely so heavily on nature. As such — when decorating a rustic home –, organic elements should always come first. From the color palette to the furniture style and from the window treatments to the lighting, rustic interior design is all about comfort and connection to nature. Follow below for ten tips for decorating your rustic cabin or designing a rustic interior at home.
What is Rustic Interior Design?
Many people assume that rustic interiors are only at home in log cabins, but this assumption could not be further from the truth. Rustic interiors can be found all around the world in every type of home — from contemporary concrete mansions to tiny A-frame cabins. In her article “Everything You Need To Know About Rustic Design” for House Beautiful, Sienna Livermore outlines the characteristics of rustic design and explains how to make rustic decor work for your space. Livermore explains that “in its [sic] most basic definition, rustic describes a design that’s natural, rough, aged, and casual, so there are many styles—each drastically different from the other—that can be rustic.” A few of these rustic interior design styles include “Tuscan, coastal, cottage, or what you might traditionally think of as rustic—lodge.” Pretty much anything goes with rustic interior design as long as it meshes well with the surrounding decor, emphasizes comfort, and references nature. Given this, the bright, cold, industrial, and stark elements of contemporary design are rarely found in rustic interiors. When choosing furniture — no matter the type of rustic design you settle on — Livermore recommends opting for pieces that are handmade, oversized, and
substantial. For the color palette, homeowners would do best to stick with neutrals, adding in darker and more saturated earth tones when a bit of depth is desired. Continue for additional tips for creating the perfect rustic interior.
5 Rustic Decor Styles That Are In Right Now
Generally speaking, cottagecore is a sweet mix of rustic decor and “grandma chic.” Jennifer Ebert explains in her article “The cottagecore trend – here’s how to get the look in your home” for Homes & Gardens. Hallmarked by simple patterns, “warm, organic textures” and touches of the outdoors — e.g. a jungle of houseplants or a stack of split firewood –, cottagecore is as much a lifestyle as a design style. Ebert writes that cottagecore is all about “embracing simplicity and encouraging people to enjoy being in the comfort of their own homes.” One might find handcrafted furniture, hand-knit blankets, and loom-woven tablecloths in a cottagecore interior. Traditional patterns that evoke nostalgia — like gingham, plaid, and chevron — are common in cottagecore decor. All in all, cottagecore asks homeowners to simplify their lives and create in their homes a “romanticized western agricultural life.”
#2 Spanish or Mediterranean
Rustic Mediterranean interiors often share elements with coastal and bohemian interiors — filled with antique furniture, natural fiber rugs, exposed beams, and ceramic tiles. In her article “What is Mediterranean-Style Interior Design?” for The Spruce, Kristin Hohenadel writes that the term “Mediterranean interior design” has become a bit of a catch-all. Hohenadel explains that “the best Mediterranean-style interior design focuses on indoor-outdoor living.” It includes a variety of “natural materials and finishes; and an effortless, minimalist-chic approach to decorating that is rooted in centuries of life along the beautiful Mediterranean coast.” Homeowners considering a rustic Mediterranean interior might “opt for shades of white or cream on the walls” and “incorporate natural materials for furniture and decorative objects, such as rattan, wicker, straw, rope, jute, linen, cotton, and wool.”
#3 French Country
Homeowners hoping for an elevated interior that still feels warm and welcoming — and not at all ostentatious –, might consider French Country design. Sienna Livermore explains in her article “Everything You Need To Know About French Country Design” for House Beautiful. First, Livermore notes that homeowners should not confuse farmhouse design with French country design — though they do share some aesthetic and thematic elements. Livermore writes that “they are totally different things,” which French country interiors embody “a soft, airy, feminine, and refined elegance’” while farmhouse interiors reflect “a cleaner look, more defined lines, and a more casual style.’” French country design is ideal for the homeowner who loves handmade pieces with a history — e.g. antiques, furniture, provenanced art, and luxurious vintage silks. All in all, French country design “strikes a balance between rustic and elegant.”
Rustic Bohemian interiors are carefree and highly textural. They often feature natural materials — just like the other styles outlined above — in tones more common in Scandinavian interiors. Tropical elements are often found in rustic Bohemian interiors — including bold patterns, leafy houseplants, woven furniture, and bright colors. The rustic Bohemian style is perfect for homeowners seeking a bit more personality and punch for their space.
#5 Mountain Lodge
Mountain lodge rustic design — sometimes referred to as “ski chalet” or “retreat” rustic design — is what most people think of when they imagine a rustic interior. Interiors inspired by a cozy alpine lodge typically boast a roaring fire in a stone fireplace, enormous exposed beams, deep suede or leather armchairs, a roughly hewn dining room table, and an enormous iron or antler chandelier. The color palette in a mountain lodge aesthetic is often darker and earthier than those of French country, coastal, modern rustic, and Mediterranean spaces, and lights are kept low to maintain ambiance.
10 Tips for Creating the Rustic Home Interior of Your Dreams
#1 Include Heritage Pieces
Adding family heirlooms to your space will provide that feeling of nostalgia many people aim for when decorating a rustic interior. We recommend pulling out quilts, collectibles, and art pieces that mean something to your friends and family. Placing one or more in each room will also help blend the old with the new and establish a more layered interior.
#2 Opt for Handmade Furniture
One of the best ways in which to create a successful rustic interior is to opt for handmade pieces. Purchasing furniture carefully crafted by local or regional artisans will also offer your home a sense of place, rooting it in the surrounding landscape. Furniture made by artisans and craftsmen also lasts much longer than the fast furniture found at big box retailers. Perhaps best of all, handmade furniture purchased for your rustic cabin could become heritage pieces for future generations of your family! We love the Willow Coffee Table from the Log Cabin Rustics pictured above.
#3 Make the Fireplace a Focal Point
In her article “Make Your Fireplace the Focal Point: 17 Ways to Light Up Your Fireplace with Wall Treatments, Artwork, and More” for Houzz, Shawn Gauthier writes that “the main function of a fireplace is to provide warmth, but it’s also a great spot to punch up a room’s style” and encourage guests to gather. To ensure your fireplace remains the hearth of the home, place a set of deep-seated armchairs, a rug, and a coffee table nearby.
#4 Embrace Unfinished Wood
Your rustic interior might already feature exposed wooden beams or original wood floors — two hallmarks of rustic design. However, if your home lacks innate features such as these, consider poring through the forest around your property or heading to a salvage yard. Barnwood is an especially effective way to add texture and depth to your space because it ages beautifully. The Homedit article “35 Homely Elements To Include In A Rustic Décor” notes that “there’s something about a piece of wood being roughened up over the years by natural elements – rain, wind, sun, snow – that is inspiring and comforting.” According to the Homedit, “barn wood, in particular, tends to show its age in a humbly chic way,” so homeowners should try to find “a way to incorporate reclaimed barn wood (or driftwood, or similar) into [their] space.”
#5 Consider Oversized Lighting
Rustic interiors are all about coziness and comfort, but that does not mean style and drama should be sacrificed. Homeowners can add a bit of excitement to their space by choosing an oversized lighting fixture like an antler chandelier or vintage floor lamp with a metal shade. Oversized lighting is especially effective in homes lacking a fireplace and searching for a natural focal point.
#6 Work in a Few Matte Metals
Rustic interior design focuses on incorporating natural, organic elements within the space to emphasize a connection with the surrounding area. This offers a sense of peace and tranquility by grounding residents of the home in the landscape. Though amateur decorators will typically limit themselves to wool, wood, and grasses, metals are also perfectly acceptable. Copper and iron are two metals that work well in rustic interiors, especially when they have developed a patina over time.
#7 Mix Textures Throughout
Rustic interiors filled to the brim with unfinished wood can feel flat and uninspired without enough variety. The Modsy article “Our 9 Best Tips for Acing the Rustic Decor Look in Your Space” recommends “mixing textures [to] add visual interest and depth to rustic spaces.” If one combines rough textures with others that are soft and silky, a wonderful warmth can come through in the space. The Modsy editorial team suggests combining unexpected elements like an “iron bed frame paired with a weathered-wood dresser, a woven basket [to] contrast with the faded rug and white curtains, a brass mirror [to] offset barn-white walls.” Mixing different textures within a single space makes the room “feel curated and decorated.”
#8 Add Greenery
As mentioned above, incorporating natural elements is key to successful rustic interior design. Though different types of wood, local stone, and other found materials add texture to a space, interiors can feel a bit cold and stifled without a touch of greenery. Consider adding houseplants, wildflowers, and a kitchen herb garden to your rustic interior to keep it bright and fresh all year long.
#9 Stick to a Neutral Color Scheme
Neutral color palettes are versatile — not boring! They calm residents and visitors by setting a soft tone for the space and offering a blank slate for additional decor items. In her article “These 10 Paint Colors Are Perfect for Rustic-Style Decorating” for The Spruce, Diana Hathaway Timmons recommends a color palette that “swings heavily towards neutral, and rich earthy tones like greens, browns, and grays.” Combining these colors “with the right room elements [ensures] the room’s vibe is warm, relaxed, and welcoming.” Timmons suggests paint colors like Sherwin-Williams Warm Stone, Behr Paints Hazelnut Cream, and Glidden Spiced Cinnamon for rustic interiors.
#10 Keep it Functional
Above all, a rustic interior should be welcoming. To create a welcoming rustic interior for family and friends, homeowners should ensure each element within the home is functional. Decorative items that speak to the aesthetic or the owner’s heritage are perfectly fine — and quite necessary. However, large decorative pieces that simply get in the way do not belong in a rustic interior. In this vein, homeowners should also ensure that each piece of furniture is usable — not too delicate — and that each pathway is clear at all times.