MCA-Rustic Design Elements in Modern Interiors-1

Incorporating “rustic” elements in interior design is a hot, new trend. But if you dig deeper and get the real story, you’ll find that they’re not really “rustic” or a “trend” in the true sense of the words.

“Rustic” literally means “of, relating to, or suitable for the country or people who live in the country.” But today’s rustic design umbrella covers a lot more than rural style. Today, in addition to barn siding and beams, it includes old brick and stone; vintage furniture parts and doors; weathered light fixtures and metal works that can be reimagined, reconfigured and repurposed. When you think “rustic,” think of things that look their age.

As for the “trend” part of it, I prefer to think of it as a rediscovery. For decades, people have been delighted to find old brick interior walls hidden behind the sheetrock of a previous renovation or discovering oak hardwood floors under the sculpted carpets of the 1950’s. Today, it’s a new generation’s turn to realize that old, quality, artifacts are better made. They were more personally made. Handmade. They have an authenticity to them. A warmth.

The patina, dings, dents and scratches; the worn layers of paint and stain look like a history book where we imagine the story. Where was this? What has it been through? What has it seen?

And, these old relics look really cool.

Especially when juxtaposed against the mass-produced, crisp and clean products that go into our homes today. It’s the reclaimed butcher block next to the stainless steel appliances. It’s the antique tin ceiling tile hanging on the wall near the 4K television. It’s the contemporary legs against the reclaimed wood tabletop.

But I prefer to think of it not as a “rustic design trend,” but as a “texture trend,” where we’re finding as many marvelous textures from the past as we are in the present.

It’s ironic, because the largest trend in the world is whatever the latest electronic device is. And they, like much of the modern world have little or no texture at all! It makes you long for the feel of burnished wood or the coolness of a classic tile. Riding that mental wave back to those days when slow, deliberated craftsmanship was admired and revered can have a calming effect at a very basic level, as explained by this recent Wall Street Journal article about the new wave of Japanese handmade decor in Western design.

There are some other soul-satisfying aspects to implementing these vintage components. Resurrecting an old piece and putting it to good use is rewarding. It’s like rescuing a puppy that won’t soil your carpet. Furthermore, these “oldies but goodies” beg for experimentation, for mixing and matching, for having fun. Everyone who visits will feel it, too.

And since using them is a “trend” that has ebbed and flowed for decades, you don’t have to worry about them going out of style. Now that repurposing is in a “flow” stage there is a wealth of antique shops, auctions and architectural salvage stores you can search. Just for fun, I put “reclaimed lumber” into ebay today and got 6,299 results!

Texture is one of the seven fundamentals of great interior design. Adding great textures to your designs – textures with an added dimension of quality, craftsmanship and history – is as easy as turning around and looking into the past.

Gotta run. I have to check my watch list on ebay!

Mary Cook & Josh Kassing

Written By

Mary Cook & Josh Kassing

Founder and President of Mary Cook Associates (MCA)