Rustic Furniture July 02 2013, 0 Comments

What is “rustic furniture”?? Put simply, rustic furniture is charming and unsophisticated. It has a somewhat natural look and may be made of materials such as twigs or logs. It may also seem coarse, rough and/or lacking elegance or refinement. 

Places where one might expect to see rustic furniture would be in a mountain cabin or hunting and fishing lodge at lakes edge. In these environments, the furniture is often bold and hearty in proportions. It invokes feelings of bringing the great outdoors in.

As I'll explain in this post, the look that can be achieved along the urban-rust continuum is quite deliberate and quite personal.

Historically speaking, rustic furniture came from the country or from rural areas, and was made from the materials that were indigenous to the area, as well as abundant. These rustic furnishings were not only used by the individual craftsman, but also used as items of trade for other products and services. The furniture itself was used to barter.

Two of the most well known styles of rustic furniture are French Provincial and Gustavian. Both styles were born in rural regions of their respective countries. They were attempts to create the more sophisticated neo-classical furniture being produced in the larger cities like Paris and Versailles. However, these areas often lacked the skill and means to copy the intricate designs.

The features typically associated with French Provincial furniture are simple scalloped carvings and cabriole legs.  Wheat pattern carving reflecting the country surroundings of the maker were often found on these furnishings. The typical French Provincial dining chair is the ladder-back chair with a woven rush seat. Finishes vary though common to all colors is the accumulation of polish or grime in the carving over time resulting in an aged patina and emphasis on the carving regardless of whether the furniture is painted or stained.

The Gustavian style is a restrained version of the more flamboyant French Louis XV and Louis XVI styles.  Initially, Gustavian furniture was produced only for royal palaces. However, the style soon gained popularity with the average citizen. While only the palaces were adorned with the gilded furniture, the rustic interpretations were painted with soft greys and creams or whitewashed. Light painted finishes were chosen because they provided a reflective quality that was desirable during the long dark winters.

In present time, the term rustic brings to mind furnishings of the past more than any particular style or materials. I feel that rustic furniture has an important place in today’s décor. Rustic details can add a touch of charm and splash of warmth to any room. 

Soaring ceilings, log walls and woodsy views are just the start of creating a lodge that has the right balance of rustic and modern. When the architecture itself has rustic elements, it is not necessary to follow suit with all rustic furnishings. Large, overstuffed upholstered pieces with sleek lined tables can produce an amazing mix of rustic and modern. 

The same effect can be created in a coastal home where the rustic elements could come in the form of a driftwood coffee table base and a side table made from an old steamer trunk, or in an urban lofted space to keep it from being too cold or sterile. I believe the key to successful use of rustic furniture in most decors is knowing when less is just right.

A little bit of rustic furniture can go a long way.

One of my favorite dining room combinations is to use a dining table that has been made from old raw house beams.  The dents and dings from wear and living are all present, and if we can capture a live edge on the table – even better!  Now add some tightly upholstered straight-line modern chairs and you have the bones of a stunning room. 

Your end results will vary according to the degree that you employ the various rustic elements that you choose to use.

If you have questions or need advice about a project that you're working on or planning, please leave a comment below!