Achieving Rustic Appeal

by | Jul 9, 2021 | Designing, Entire Home, How-To, Room-By-Room

If there’s one thing that homeowners have learned from TV shows like Property Brothers, Fixer Upper, and Extreme Makeover, it’s that infusing rustic appeal into a new or existing home helps to create a warm, inviting atmosphere where people enjoy hanging out. From exposed ceiling beams to wide-plank floors to shiplap, the types of materials used to create this effect have proliferated over the last few years, making the end goal that much more attainable.

Because they assume several different identities at any given point, great rooms—which integrate living room, dining room, and/or family room features into one expansive space—are a particularly good place to incorporate rustic design elements, furnishings, and décor. It’s there that weathered materials, earthy colors, textural fabrics, and raw wood and stone all come together to create a true focal point for a log cabin home.

With their raised ceilings, large windows, and location at the center of the home, great rooms aren’t always easy to transform and/or design due to their size and scope. “The key to a modern rustic space is an open floorplan, modern furniture, and preserved and exposed natural architectural elements,” Whitney Wood writes in Defining Elements of the Modern Rustic Home. “The color scheme is very simple with large windows bringing the outdoors in. This style has an informal elegance—comfortable and modern living at its best.”

Stephanie Janczak, interior designer at Wisconsin Log Homes in Green Bay, Wisconsin, says most new log home owners want their great rooms to be a “stylish focal point of the home while still achieving a comfortable and cozy feel.” She says the firm’s rustic log homes typically include great rooms that feature hand-peeled logs on the walls and custom-crafted log ceiling trusses.

Photo by RogerWade

Other key features include floor-to-ceiling fireplaces that are typically outfitted with natural stone and a handcrafted mantel that’s been customized for the space. “In our log homes, you’ll typically see a soaring ceiling and impressive window wall to take advantage of the property views,” Janczak adds.

When it comes to timber style and custom wood homes, she says the great rooms typically feature either painted or stained “rustic shiplap” on the walls and ceilings with handcrafted ceiling beams (plus the floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace and handcrafted mantel). Increasingly, homeowners are asking for expansive glass patio doors that help them “connect to some type of outdoor living space,” Janczak says, “like a screened-in porch.”

“For the most part, owners are going off the DIY shows, so we’re seeing a lot of shiplap and distressed wood incorporated into great rooms,” says Kris Still-Arnold, a sales rep with Coventry Log Homes in Woodsville, New Hampshire. “And even for wood that isn’t distressed, people are looking for ways to distress it and to give it that ‘worn’ appearance.”

Still-Arnold has firsthand experience with taking great rooms and turning them into rustic living spaces. In her own timber frame home, for example, she used gray stain that makes all of the structure’s window and door trim—plus its pine doors—look like old barn wood. “It looks so neat because it makes the space look old and rustic,” Still-Arnold says. “You can do that with pickling or white wash, or use gray stain like I did. It’s a pretty simple process—you just buy the stain at any home improvement center and then use it to distress the wood.”

Photo by Perry Mastrovito

Using truss-and-purlin that incorporates post and beam construction, Coventry Log Homes leaves some of the fundamentals up to its customers, many of whom watch channels like HGTV and, as such, are looking to emulate the rustic styles featured on those shows. “A lot of people are asking us to not run the logs through the planer; they’re asking for a rough cut,” says Still-Arnold. “This creates a very rustic looking finish versus one that’s smooth and soft. Then the stain gets into the grooves and makes the wood look even more authentic and worn.”

More log & timber home owners are also asking for luxury vinyl wood planking, which over the last few years has come a long way in terms of look, feel, and longevity. Add vinyl driftwood flooring to a large great room, for example, and suddenly you feel like you’re living in a space that’s part modern and part rustic. Vinyl planking is also functional, durable, and easy to clean.

“If your log home is on a lake or if you have pets, laminates really are a good choice. And they come in so many different varieties, many of which can add a very rustic touch to a great room,” says Still-Arnold. For an even more authentic feel, she suggests pine flooring (or some other softwood), which will actually show any mars and scratches. “The harder woods aren’t going to look as rustic,” Arnold points out, “because they’re not going to show the imperfections as much as a pine or a softwood floor would.”

Farm sinks with aprons (“apron sinks”), creamy white or gray cabinets, shiplap, and color contrasting (i.e., a kitchen island that’s black in a space where the cabinets are white Shaker) can also add to a home’s rustic appeal. In many cases, these elements don’t have to cost a lot of money, says Still-Arnold, and can be repurposed from other uses or acquired at garage sales.

“People are finding these items at thrift and resale shops, distressing them or painting them white, and then adding them to their homes,” says Still-Arnold. “That’s a great way to create a unique space that’s like nothing else.”