A warm, inviting farmhouse nestled in the woods, sunlight-filled rooms and fresh green plants framing the windows… scrolling through your favourite social media platform, you have most likely come across posts celebrating such places labelled #cottagecore. A term that describes rural aesthetics, cottagecore also often features hanging plants and a variety of natural textures like wicker, rattan and jute. A rustic cottage paradise, really.
Does that appeal to you? If it does, you’re in exactly the right place, for we’re going to explain how to create the perfect rustic interior style, home to earthy tones and plenty of natural textures and wood. When I was little, even my dream house (when asked, as this was a very beloved subject of conversation when trying to make new friends in middle school) was a beautiful, snug cottage in the countryside exclusively for me and my future dogs, so it’s rustic for me all the way!
Whether you’re in a studio, apartment or villa, you can achieve this style – it’s thankfully not exclusive to cabins or farmhouses. Now, to begin the journey…
“Rustic design describes any design that is natural, aged, rough and casual,” says Sara Hossam, engineer and interior designer at Oh Woodworks, a UAE-based carpentry manufacturing and interior-design company.
She explains that the style is actually a very broad category – encompassing even coastal-style homes that capture the seaside aesthetic using distressed wood, and natural materials; and Tuscan rustic – named after Tuscany in Italy, and featuring a sun-baked look of stone patios, terra-cotta tiles and textured wall finishes. At its base though, it’s all about using natural materials.
Rustic style in 2022
In today’s world, rustic has evolved to form additions to even modern, contemporary homes in apartments and villas. This style, termed modern or contemporary rustic, infuses raw wood elements into sleek contemporary homes to give it a rustic, nature-inspired feel.
Some on-screen examples of rustic are – the snug Hobbit hole in 'The Hobbit', the living room of Kate Winslet’s cottage in the 2006 movie 'Holiday', 'Under the Tuscan Sun' (Tuscan rustic with terracotta flooring, and wooden beams on the ceiling), the old stone farmhouse dating back to the 1830s in 2008 movie 'Marley & Me'.
One of the famous examples of rustic design here in UAE is the Gold Souq in Dubai, which is covered with a large wooden gate that gives the rustic and traditional look.
And, in the UAE? Hossam says, “One of the famous examples of rustic design here in UAE is the Gold Souq in Dubai, which is covered with a large wooden gate that gives the rustic and traditional look. Another example is a Mediterranean restaurant called Terra Eatery in Jumeirah. This place has taken things back to basics with its rustic structure and natural stone finishings.”
“These homes were vastly different from the traditional European and North-eastern styles, the rustic design had its own charm.” The style then became popular in the 20th century after many camps were built in the wilderness, such as Camp Uncas, now a more than a 120-year old National Historic Landmark in New York.
Camp Uncas, pictured below, is actually part of the Adirondack Great Camps – a set of large, luxurious rustic cabins and summerhouses built in the Adirondack forest, the largest National Historic Landmark in the US, bigger than most famous national parks in the US (such as Yellowstone and Yosemite) combined. America’s wealthy industrialists and magnates such as the Rockefellers and Vanderbilt had built them as summer escapes.
A famous rustic-style chair that you’ve probably seen at a beach are Adirondack chairs.
A step-by-step guide to your perfect rustic home
1. Earthy colour palette
Hossam says, “First thing I think about is the colour palette. It is important to make use of earthy colours like brown, grey, green, and red. This colour scheme will give the space a comforting feeling.”
The journey begins by visualising and choosing the colours that are going to surround you in your dream rustic home. The options range from dark, with woods such as mahogany or dark stone walls, to lighter, more open look using light woods such as balsa, cedar and bamboo with neutrals. Even though rustic is all about muted colours, bold colours can also be used as long as they look natural. Coastal-style emphasizes whites and colours of the sea, and Tuscan – warm brown.
If you’re going for a dark look with lots of dark wood on the walls, ceiling, for example, you will need to add neutrals to bring relief so that the space doesn’t feel heavy . For a light wood look, light neutrals such as white and beige are suitable. To plan this, you can also make a colour mood board.
2. Nature’s range of texture options
Once you have the colours, it’s time to plan the materials through which they will be expressed. And for rustic, you must walk the path of Nature.
Hossam says, ”Second comes the materials - using a variety of shapes, textures from natural materials gives the pieces a unique look.“
• Furniture: Wood, wood and more wood in raw forms, stone, cast-iron or copper accents, jute or, leather, wicker, macramé
• Fabric: Linen, jute, rattan, burlap, wool, cotton, coir and sometimes even faux fur
• Further natural textures: Glass, dried flowers in vases like dried flax bunch, dried heather, dried lavender for vases
Hossam adds, “Also, usage of animal hide rugs in the rooms gives you the feeling that you relate to the environment.”
3. Wooden flooring and ceiling beams
Now that you have the base, it’s time to decide on the outer edges, the frames holding your dream interior in. Wooden flooring such as wide plank is ideal, but natural stone flooring can also be used. If you have outdoor space, consider a crumbling stone patio as an option as well. In the Tuscan rustic style, warm brown terracotta flooring is the standard.
Wooden ceiling beams and girders, of woods such as timber are the perfect addition if you have a villa, and can be seen in many rustic cabins. A barn door can also be added for a rustic feel. Finally, exposed brick or stone – whether on an accent wall on a fireplace can add rough texture and depth to your rustic look.
If you’re in rented apartment and the tiling and ceiling cannot be changed, fret not! A neutral area rug, perhaps made of jute or in tones such as beige, sage green, for example can be used in the living room and smaller such rugs in the rooms.
Rustic loves sunlight so plenty of windows!
4. Distressed, woven furniture
Now, it’s time to fill the space in.
Wood or raw wood works well for the furniture, whether dining tables, accent tables or chairs – and if you find vintage pieces that look a bit weathered from a flea market, for example, all the better. Furniture with aged patina – which refers to a layer of oxidation that forms on metals like brass, bronze, copper and other such metals – is also perfect for that vintage, shabby chic look, especially for a side table. Driftwood finishes will also give a look of farmhouse décor.
On the sofa, which can be neutral toned, of leather – add lots of cushions. Wicker chairs, a jute pouf and woven wicker baskets are great ways to add more natural texture to your seating area. You can also use woven tablemats.
Traditionally, it should not be sleek and geometrical, but you can add some touches of that if you’re going for a more contemporary rustic style.
5. Prints or patterns?
Subtle accents of print can be added – for example, plaid, gingham or a few bohemian-style prints such as warm Aztec print. This can be as a chair cover, or cushion. Touches of animal prints can also be added if you’re going for hunting cabin vibes.
In Tuscan style interiors, mosaic inlay and painted ceramic objects are used, and in Coastal – cabana stripes of blue and white, or red and white sometimes.
6. Flowers, creepers, houseplants, hanging plants…
Vines across your wall, a profusion of houseplants (ideally in rustic pots covered with a natural fibre like jute), hanging plants in macramé holders and a selection of your favourite flowers in vases are the best natural textures in rustic. Go green!
7. Warm, cosy ambient lighting
Hossam says, “When it comes to the lighting it is important to use warm light that will give a warm ambience to the room, building a fireplace or even lighting a candle will also bring the feeling of Nature into the space.”
You can use lamps with lampshades on side tables, understated cast-iron chandeliers and candles for a cozy feel.
8. Wooden framed paintings and other artworks
Classic paintings (not abstract) or pictures framed in wood, maybe for a gallery wall works well under this style. In Tuscan style, murals and trompe l’oeil art, which is visual art that appears three-dimensional through a visual illusion are used.
Finally, if you love books, pretty, old hardbound books are a nice addition to your rustic interiors.
Of course, not all of this needs to be perfectly planned – you may go to a vintage market and find a lovely macramé hanging or coffee table, and then design around that. It’s up to you, but if you prioritise your favourite natural textures and shades, you’ll eventually reach your own cozy, dream rustic interiors.
Note: This article was first published in September, 2022