Interior Design: Country Style Home Decorating Ideas And Tips

Country-style decorating can draw its inspiration from French, English, Swedish, American, and other cultural influences. However, comfort is the main ingredient.

The country style of home decorating remains popular because the suggestion of rural life can seem to offer simplicity and a refuge from urban pressures. Country-style decorating can draw its inspiration from French, English, Swedish, American, and other cultural influences. However, pieces from different periods and traditions can be blended in one home as long as comfort is the principle ingredient. No country-style room should be too studied, for it is meant to be lived in. The beauty of country-style decorating is that you may have inherited some great heirlooms that can give you the impetus to start a collection of appropriate pieces. You may have a flair for picking up great flea-market bargains or for crafting quality items that can be incorporated into your scheme.

Start a notebook or file to help organize your search. Remember that the journey is often the best part. Where is all the fun when you completely finish decorating your home's interior? Be patient and let the furnishings, and decorative objects accumulate over time. Be prepared to make some structural changes, paint some walls and prep some floors. You do not need a country-style exterior to create an authentic interior. An apartment in the city can be transformed into a rural oasis.

In your notebook or file, list the items you already have that you know you want to keep. Collect magazine pictures of room interiors that you love. Determine color schemes. Collect paint chips and fabric swatches. Place these items and a tape-measure in a zippered notebook-pencil-pouch, so that you can remove them when you head out on shopping excursions. If necessary, develop a budget and stick to it. If you are saving for a large, wonderful armoire, don't fritter your money away on so-called bargains that you don't really love.

Cultural Influences

It may be surprising, but you could find country-style decorating inspiration from every country in the world that has a rural population. This article was inspired by the traditions of France, England, Sweden and America.

The French-country style is casual with the occasional tilted shutter and items that aren't freshly painted. If you think of cracked flower pots, peeling paint on the window trim and faded slipcovers as adding a certain, casual charm, then you won't exhaust yourself trying to make everything perfect. So, keep your shabby, comfortable sofa, but drape a beautiful antique quilt over the back of it and relax.

Much of the French-country influence comes from the southern region, known as Provence. The Provencal farmhouses are made of stone or red clay, with red-clay tile roofs. The interiors are filled with charm, but not clutter. Provencal decor may include:

* bright turquoise shutters

* bent-wood chairs

* an apricot-colored settee

* walnut buffet

* rush-seated chairs

* a giant stove set into an old stone fireplace

* hanging copper pots, copper jelly moulds and bunches of thyme

* a long table in the middle of the room

* box-framed beds with lace-trimmed linens

* a Gallé faience cat on the mantel

Another decidedly French influence is scenting your home with lavender. Small bowls or sachets of lavender in the closets or drawers will help deter mildew and add a fresh scent that isn't as overbearing as commercial potpourri can be. You can add a few drops of lavender oil to perk up the dried lavender after the scent has faded. Also, add a few drops of lavender oil in the rinse cycle of your bed linens to induce a restful night's sleep.

You can add old, wooden beams to the ceiling of a newer building to suggest the look of antiquity. Then hang straw hats from the beams. Stenciled floors can appear aged if you are willing to do some distressing before you stencil. Bruise new floorboards with a screwdriver and hammer, then use a medium stain that is lighter than the value (darkness) of the paint you will be using. Mix powdered paint with varnish until it reaches a thick consistency. Lay the stencil on the floor and paint with a stencil brush. Apply several coats of clear varnish when the paint has dried.

For a maritime-French look, (think seaside-fisherman's cottage) for your den or guest house, you can use:

* dark-stained wooden wall units built into alcoves (These units are reminiscent of the panelling in old-time sailing ships.)

* models of masted schooners that sit on the fireplace mantel

* a 19th century mahogany desk and chair or a slant-top desk and wooden-slat folding chairs

* blue and white couch fabric and rag rugs

* framed nautical maps and fish prints

* a porthole-shaped mirror

* scrimshaw

* a brass telescope

The English-country style is quite different from the French style in that the charming look is created with cosy clutter. The rooms often look like they are filled with furniture that came from a much bigger house. Fabric patterns are mixed and busy, though the colors are coordinated. The English also enjoy a sense of humor. They like to take very formal pieces, such as a classical marble bust, and add clothing items to it to avoid too much classical allusion. The bust could be in a niche in the entrance hallway and have hats stacked upon it. Hats are hard to store, but in their unique location, they remain uncrushed and handy to grab before dashing out the door.

The Cotswald English-cottage look is made idyllic with stone walls that are covered in climbing roses. The roofs are red-tiled or thatched.

English-country decor may include:

Entrance

* an umbrella stand in the front entranceway with riding crops, walking sticks, umbrellas, canes and shooting sticks

* a pair of wellington boots by the front door

* a wooden curtain rod over the front door that holds a velvet curtain (This is pulled at night to thwart drafts.)

Living-room and Dining Area

* a rush basket holding logs near the fireplace

* roses stenciled around the fireplace

* an elaborately-framed family portrait that dwarfs all other objects in the room

* deep-cushioned armchairs, covered in mixed patterns of faded English chintz, damasks, silks

* the walls may be plastered, then lime-washed in a soft pastel shade

* the walls are busy with paintings, brass candle sconces, collections of pewter plates and photograph clusters

* the floors have busy-patterned rugs from Persia, rag rugs or simple sisal matting

* a green 18th century grandfather's clock

* a patchwork quilt as a table cloth for a round table

* latch-hook rugs

* sycamore dining table

* old pine dresser (hutch) with porcelain knobs

* 19th century pine sideboard

* inglenook brick fireplace

* window seats covered in rose-chintz with storage space underneath

* tasseled cord drapery tiebacks

* a library of books in built-in bookcases

* more library shelves on stair landings

* decoratively-painted, child-sized furniture mixed with adult furniture

Kitchen

* coal-fired range

* brick or flagstone kitchen floor

* wall-mounted wooden plate racks (serve as storage and drying)

* delft tiles

* oil or gas-fired Aga stove with four ovens

* baskets of fruit on a marble-topped table, in front of lace curtains

Bedroom and Bath

* ornate beds with hanging draperies (18th century beds used to double as receiving rooms, so the drapes were needed for privacy, as well as prevention of drafts.)

* a chaise at the foot of the bed

* child's bedroom with an animal collection on a white-laced table

* a ewer and basin upon a washstand with matching seat

* the toilet and sink plumbing can be hidden by white-painted, tongue-and-groove boards

* mahogany-throne commode, complete with arms and a rattan lid

* claw-foot tub

Side Door to Garden

* ornate 18th century Chinese urns sit on either side of the French doors

* the conservatory provides a natural setting for parties (Mix a crystal candelabra with hothouse plants and a green table and chairs.)

The Swedish-country style evolved in a land with cold, dark winters. This gave the Swedes time to work on handicrafts. While the aristocracy imported marble, the rural population applied folk-art talents to their crafts. Their home interiors were designed to capitalize on the available light. Mirrors were placed so as to reflect that light. The rooms were open and uncluttered. Swedish craftsmen preferred light-colored woods: pine and beech for country cabinets, and birch and alder-wood for formal designs. The multi-purpose kitchen might contain the spare bed. The living room might have bed cubbies recessed into the walls.



Swedish-country decor may include:

* built-into-the-wall beds with a cupboard between them (Curtains hide the beds during the day time.)

* painted free-standing cupboards

* light-colored furnishings (used to offset the dark months in Sweden)

* neoclassical painted wooden furniture (The designs were inspired from the drama of the outdoors with flowers, animals and fruits.)

* the kõksoffa or Swedish-kitchen sofa ( This was used as a sofa by day and a bed at night. Today, these pieces are used in guest bedrooms or to store linens. The back frame has an ornate top.)

* the Gungstol or Swedish rocking chair (These were originally painted black with gold trim. Nature or angelic scenes were painted on the head and seat areas. The Gungstol originally had six legs; two smaller ones rested on the back part of the rocker curves.)

* wrought-iron chandelier

* ceramic-tiled stove

* sometimes floors were bleached or pickled pine, and sometimes they were painted a cream-color

* sisal matting covered the floors inexpensively

* classic Swedish ticking colors for side chairs included: blue/white, grey/white or red/white

* windows might have no curtains or only sheer curtains.

Crafts

* carved spoons, trays and oblong bowls

* wooden folk-painted horses

* colorful quilts

* rag rugs

* Swedish porcelain (Pieces were glazed in blue and white with floral designs painted inside and out.)

* hand-woven white bed-linens used to be part of every bride's trousseau

* linens would have cross-stitching and embroidery

* the wreath that the bride wore on her wedding day was hung on the bedpost for decoration

* candles (Candles were lit in December when most of the day is dark. Outdoors, ice candles were set in snow to brighten walkways. Ice candles can be made by partially freezing five gallon buckets of water and turning them into the snow when almost solid. A hole occurs and is used to insert the candle.)

The American-country style began with the settlers who brought their traditions with them. They adapted their craftsmanship to the materials they had on hand. The Dutch and the Germans settled in Pennsylvania and created iron-forged latches and punched-tin cupboard doors with folk-art designs. They imitated the interiors of wealthy homes by stenciling walls, chairs and chests. New Englanders marked out their small territories with white-picket fences. They painted their homes with milk-based paints and designed simple furniture, such as bow-backed Windsor chairs or huge wardrobes. Southerners tried to keep cool on languorous porches, in open rooms with sleek floors and cooly-colored walls. Their furnishings included rattan chairs and simple rocking chairs.

Shaker home interiors had to be as uncluttered as possible, so that they could double as meeting places. Their small items were packed out of sight in round, wooden boxes that were color-coded to identify the contents. Their ladder-back chairs provided sturdy support and were light enough to hang up, out of the way, on pegs.

Rustic American-country furnishings (the Adirondack style) featured applied-bark headboards, deer-hoof footstools and twig rocking chairs. Wall decorations included mounted deer heads and woven snow shoes. Accessories included crazy-patch quilts, rag rugs, brass kerosene lamps and the necessary ewer and basin.

American-country decor may include:

Entry

* a milk painted bench with two wooden houses on it to give a country welcome

* wooden pegs to hold guests' coats, ladder-back chairs or dried flower bunches

Living-room

* display a decoy collection (include "flatties" and shorebirds)

* alternate stoneware jugs and baskets on a shelf for a balanced collection

* miniature wooden houses displayed across the hearth mantel as a town

* stenciled staircase (Stencil the alphabet on the risers, two or three letters to a step.)

* framed antique game boards, alphabet cross stitching, antique photos

* a school-house-quilt-block pillow

* a red, wing-back chair with a red and black buffalo-plaid throw on it

* a small, wooden stepladder, painted or left weatherworn to hold plants

* a couch or chair covered in homespun fabric (Homespun fabric was of linen, cotton or wool in check, plaid and striped patterns. Indigo blue was the favored color, as it resisted fading.)

* a tromp l'oeil depiction of a cylindrical wood stove

* hooked rugs

Kitchen/Dining Room

* homespun checkered curtains

* wooden knife caddies, mortars and pestles, spoons

* clusters of cinnamon sticks tied with gingham in a bowl

* knotty-pine cabinets

* wagon-wheel chandelier

* baskets hanging from the ceiling rafters

* copper kettle on the stove

* ladder-back chairs with woven seats and homespun chair pads

* primitive, wide-plank farm table

* Queen Anne's lace in a pitcher

* antique high chair

* rag rugs

* pie safe with punched, tin doors (Store antique linens or pretty jars of jam here.)

Bedroom

* lace-trimmed pillow cases, sheets and duvet covers

* linens stored in an antique wicker sewing basket

* a chair with peeling paint used as a night table

* a rustic window frame turned into a mirror

* quilts on the bed (one to cover the bed, another folded at the end)

Putting It All Together

The one key element that expresses the country-style is a quilt. Try to have at least one quilt in each room. If you can't find antique ones in good condition, quality department stores sell hand-quilted, mass-produced quilts that are quite lovely. If you decide to make your own quilt, start with a wall hanging first. You are more likely to finish that piece and then you'll know how to proceed to the bigger project.

You may decide to borrow from several styles while creating your own. The English-country style could inspire what is needed to cozy up a large, empty room. A love seat and some wing-back chairs, covered in a variety of prints and different materials could be just what the room needs. For fun, you could add an oversized oil portrait of your pet in an ornate, golden frame. Contract an artist to make the piece for you.

On the other hand, you may have an awfully small space for your dining area. Here you may decide to use the French-country look with a beautiful, long, wooden table in the middle of the room surrounded by some rush-seated chairs. A wooden bowl, filled with lemons, adds some brightness. Stenciled floor boards add some color.

For your den/guest bedroom, you may decide to go with the nautical look. A trip to the souvenir shops of a little seaside town will offer you all the nautical accessories you could desire. However, keep the guest room as practical and uncluttered as possible. Provide wall pegs for hanging up clothes and limit the number of knickknacks, so that guests have a place to put personal items.

The Swedish influence would be charming in a child's room. What child could resist a cozy bed built into an alcove? Light-colored furniture with painted designs would be very cheery.

Interspersed in these and other rooms could be influences from the American-country style. Soon, your decorating savvy will create the country-style home you've always dreamed of.

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