A Mixing of Minds: Rustic & Clean, Country & Modern


If you’re like me, completely white, minimalist interiors are beautiful and inspiring, but are too cold and impersonal for my personal style.

That’s why I love clean, contemporary furniture as a starting point for a space (think Design Within Reach), with the incorporation of warmer, more comforting items or pieces to add a hint of rustic or country.

While modern design is typically characterized by the use of smooth, sleek materials in a uniform shade of white, a contrast through texture, pattern, or color are the perfect way to break up the monotony. This can happen through design choices large and small, so let’s take a look at some great decorating examples!


Usually when I think of traditional rustic spaces, I imagine dark, heavy spaces covered with wood paneling, thick fur rugs, maybe even an animal head or two hanging above a crackling fireplace. But more contemporary takes on a rustic and country feel move towards a lighter, airier version of the style, a la HGTV star Joanna Gaines’ furniture line.

Consider keeping original wood beams and columns, but removing wood paneling or painting it a light color for a contrast in color and texture.

From http://rsassoc.com/project/pedernales/



If you don’t have exposed wood beams and columns, another way to bring in texture that might already exist in your home is by exposing a brick wall. Most older apartment buildings were built with brick party walls (the shared wall between two separate buildings), and exposing even just a small section of the wall can add personality, color, and texture to a space.

Pairing the exposed brick with stainless steel appliances and white cabinets, like in the kitchen below, create a contemporary kitchen with a touch of French country.

From http://cocolapinedesign.com/2015/10/20/cozy-home-with-a-brick-wall/


I know I said that contemporary rustic style avoids wood paneling and animal heads hung on the wall, but you can use both of those things and still make the space work so that it doesn’t feel like a man-cave (not that I have anything against them!).

Painting the paneling keeps the rhythmic pattern of the beadboard joints, but reduces the visual impact of the wall. The presence of animal heads are diminished because of their size, particularly in comparison to the exposed ceramic white sink.

Again, the natural texture and color of the wood vanity provide warmth, and are tied back into the space with the white and wood light fixture.

From http://decor8blog.com/2016/07/04/modern-clean-rustic-lodge-style/



Also, remember that a single piece of furniture can indeed transform a space.

The console table below has a concrete tabletop, rendering the piece contemporary, but the thick wooden legs and bracing give it a heftier, rustic flair. The gray of the concrete is a subtle departure from a lot of the white we’ve been seeing, but its matte finish and tactility mean that it still adds character and warmness.


 From https://furnituremaison.com/products/vega-concrete-console-table

In general, if you’re trying to mix contemporary with rustic or country, I’d recommend shying away from accessories or pieces that sparkle, metallic or jewel tones, or items with floral or retro geometric prints.

Ultimately, you can add a touch of rustic with anything from texture on a wall to exposed structure to even a single piece of rustic furniture like a textured carpet or table. It doesn’t have to be over the top to be contemporary and country, and you can even keep your animal heads if you want!

 Until next time!

Kate R.

Kate is a New York-based architect and preservationist, with a love for all things design! 


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