Rustic Modern Makes Perfect Sense

by | Jul 9, 2021 | Designing, How-To

Modern is probably not the first decorating style that comes to mind for a log or timber frame home. But what exactly does modern mean? Primarily, it means clean lines and simplicity. Modern décor tends to reflect straight lines and square corners—no ornate curves or corners. The modern home is relatively plain but it looks warm and lived in. One of the keys to a successful melding of home and décor style is contrast. If you start with a base of natural wood or timbers, a simpler style of furniture and accessories will do nothing but enhance the rustic nature of your home.

There are many branches of modern design: midcentury modern, retro, transitional, and contemporary. Each of these styles puts a slightly different spin on modernism, but all are based on simplicity and clean lines. Today, modern rustic style is gaining in popularity. Old and new and natural and manufactured join to form a cohesive home. Whether they are termed modern or not, current decorating trends reflect a love of nature and history, so rustic modern makes perfect sense.

Photo by Karl Neumann

Setting the Stage

Given the linear nature of modernism, you might think that logs don’t lend themselves to the style. But there are many types of logs! Selecting a D-log (round on the outside and flat on the inside) will give you flat interior walls with a subtle linear pattern. A square log will put that same linear pattern on the exterior as well. If you decide to chink the interior walls, that linear pattern will become more obvious, almost like striped wallpaper. Another option is an insulated half-log wall. You can have any style of log on both the interior and exterior, or you can add some drywall or paneling into the mix.

There are no limitations to the type of walls you can have in a timber frame or post and beam home. The basic structure brings the natural beauty of wood, while the SIPs (structural insulated panels) can be covered with any material inside and out. Vertical or horizontal paneling, drywall, plaster, and stone are all possible with SIPs.

The fireplace is the central feature of any home. You can put a modern spin on it using stacked natural stone or cultured stone; choose a style with squared off stones rather than rounded ones. Brick or tile is also appropriate to modern design. If the bricks or tiles are stacked one on top of the other instead of set in a brick pattern, you’ll achieve the signature clean, straight lines. Also consider cladding the fireplace in concrete; it can be textured and tinted to your specifications and gives the great room a sleek start. A metal covering, perhaps of stainless or natural steel, will also increase the fireplace’s modern appeal. A final modern touch might be a raised hearth that extends the full width of the fireplace; it can also serve as extra seating.

Photo by Karl Neumann

Your choice of windows and doors will hint at your modern interior and serve as an intriguing contrast to your home’s wood structure. Most of the premier manufacturers produce windows and doors to complement any style. In general, avoid windows with divided lites or grilles, which are more traditional. Consider the trim on the window, no matter the material. Do you want a dark or light trim to create contrast, or do you want the trim to disappear? A black, dark gray, blue, green, or teal trim will make the windows stand out and accentuate their squared shapes. The windows can take on an almost industrial appearance. Also stay away from divided lites on your sliding glass or French doors; this will also keep your line of vision to the outdoors clear of any obstructions. Sliding glass doors that fold up compactly and disappear into the wall are becoming increasingly popular.

To build your modern style, look at flat-panel or slab doors made of wood, metal, or glass. Hundreds of variations are available, from wood with vertical or horizontal panels to metal or glass inserts or seams to solid natural or stainless steel. If you choose wood or steel, consider painting the door to either pop on or blend with your walls. Look at the same simple styles for interior doors as well. Another option is barn-style doors that hang from exposed metal hardware. The doors themselves can be made of reclaimed wood, metal and glass, and various other materials.

The Kitchen Goes Modern

Even if you’re not ready to embrace modern design for your entire home, you may want to dip your toes in with the kitchen. Since kitchens are fully visible from all points in the home in an open floorplan, a sleek, uncluttered layout and design will help you keep it looking great. Stainless steel appliances are all the rage now and are a good starting point for a modern kitchen, but you needn’t confine your choices to shiny metal. Black, bronze, even red can be used just as effectively. Several companies manufacture high-end ranges in myriad colors, making this appliance the focal point of the room. Like your interior and exterior doors, flat-panel cabinets with a minimum of detail will best serve modern décor. Cabinets constructed or walnut, cherry, or bamboo will add some texture to the room. If you prefer to add some color, go big with some shiny Italian cabinets in a bright shade. You don’t have to stick with one material; it adds interest to use a contrasting material on an island or peninsula.

Snow Country Construction/photo by Roger Wade

To top off your sleek cabinetry you’ll need some great countertops. Granite is a popular choice, but for a modern kitchen keep the pattern to a minimum or opt for a black stone. Both Caesarstone and Silestone quartz countertops are available in myriad beautiful colors and are a practical option for the kitchen. Concrete counters are also a good option; they can be tinted to any shade you desire and smoothed to perfection. Popular “green” choices include compacted paper and resin embellished with recycled glass. Whatever your choice, be sure your cabinets and countertops don’t fight with each other in terms of color and style. The right backsplash, whether it is glass tile, stainless steel tile, or some other material, will help to blend the two surfaces.

Putting on the Final Touches

Once you have completed your rustic modern backdrop, the real fun begins with choosing furniture, art, and accessories. You’ll want to keep your color palette relatively neutral and add splashes of color for maximum impact. Consider painting an accent wall, choosing dramatic artwork for the fireplace, or placing a bright area rug in the center of a room. A lot of modern furniture features straight lines and a low profile, but don’t feel limited to this style if it doesn’t speak to you. There’s no reason you can’t mix in some more traditional pieces, including antiques or recycled items. You want your home to be comfortable and warm, so adding in some items with personal meaning can make all the difference.

Lighting is key to any home, no matter the style. In a great room with soaring ceilings you’ll want a large chandelier that shows off the structure. Choices range from retro classic glass to a modern spin on a lantern in metal. Hanging pendants in the kitchen will illuminate the work surface and add either color or texture to the room. So many styles in various materials are available that you’re sure to find one that complements your décor.

One of the best things about rustic modern style is that it is adaptable and eclectic.