Country Decorating

Q: I was having a recent discussion with a friend who tried to tell me that country decorating is out. Is she right? I really love the Country style and would like to do my dining room in this style. Please tell me it isn't passé, and can you give me a few ways to make it look less run-of-the-mill?

A.: Well if Country décor is out, someone better tell the publishers of both Country Living and Country Home magazine, not to mention their millions of subscribers. Not only is Country not "out" but it is hugely popular. Have you ever watched the HGTV show Decorating Cents? At the end of each show, they do a "trash to treasures" segment, showing you how you can turn ordinary objects into works of art. Well, almost all of the works they create are perfectly suited to a country style. I don't know which came first in rising popularity but in America, interestingly Country music, Country décor and all things made in the Heartland are enjoying meteoric success. I can also hypothesize that the tragic events of 9/11 strengthened people's feelings of patriotism. Flags and other symbols of Americana are a natural fit in Country décor. So fear not, the decorating police will not soon be raiding your home if you move forward with Country décor.

Maybe your friend was thinking of the Holly Hobby styles of the 70's (have I dated myself?). Certainly that country look-along with multitudes of geese-is a little passé today. But today, there are very striking incarnations of country style. The three that immediately come to mind are Country Primitive, Contemporary Country and French Country. I refer you to the above mentioned magazines for a real feast of all things Country. For now, let me tell you how I translated a French Country look recently to a client's dining room.

This client, perhaps like you, wanted to avoid a run of the mill country look in her kitchen. The rest of her home is fairly eclectic and funky, but she felt, because of the oak cabinets in the adjoining kitchen, she needed to keep a country feel. She liked the whimsy and color of French Country but didn't want to commit fully to the French Provincial look of many busy, small prints (a la Pierre Deux fabrics). She knew she wanted a warm palette of butternut, toffee and burgundy to tie in to the adjoining living room. Here is where I didn't do the expected: I did not pick out a braided rug. Instead, I picked out a hook rug that had all the colors she wanted displayed in beautiful lush flowers. I then found a delightful and fanciful French butternut wallpaper with a big swirly burgundy curlicue design that was not typically French Provincial. For an unexpected twist, I brought in seat cushions found at one of my long standing favorite discount home stores, Pier One. The cushions are actually an Indian style with little mirrors on the sides. They work in the space because the Indian fabric was a casual stripe (not a shiny silk that is also characteristic of Indian style). A more expected move would have been to bring in gingham or plaid seat cushions. What distinguishes a room from being nice or being spectacular or truly unique are these choices. I counsel my clients to be more eclectic when making the individual décor decisions of a room.

We finished the room with a fun array of country symbols such as the omnipresent rooster, an antique watering can and an old bean crock. The end result was colorful, playful, upbeat and anything but run of the mill Country. When a male neighbor saw her kitchen and proclaimed "wow, it's a party every day in this room," she considered the room a supreme success.

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