Exploring 'Country' Styling
Exploring 'Country' Styling
Like so many terms nowadays, 'Country Style' means different things to different people. At its core, country style is an interior design style that prioritises practicality, simplicity, and rustic charm. It takes literal inspiration from the rural landscape and evokes feelings of calm and sanctuary, of a tree change or a weekend getaway you can enjoy seven days a week.
The Progression of Country Style
A timeless and classic choice, Country style is a nostalgic, humble, and cosy aesthetic that reminds us of the way we used to live before the internet, smart homes, and a globalised world. Country style is warm, cosy, full of character and, above all, practical. Everything in the space should be durable and long-lasting, which also lends to its rustic, lived-in feel.
Country styling has undergone a long-awaited transformation in recent times, and gone are the days when country living was associated with grandma's florals, rooster motifs and knitted tea cosies. Now, the look isn't just a style reserved for those living in the countryside; it's a popular interior trend that works beautifully for most homes, including suburban and city dwellings.
There are many different names given to Country styling, the most common including English Country, French Country and more recently, Modern Country. At Pieces of Joy, we focus on a version we call Australian Country because, as we hope this article illustrates, we believe Australia has an approach to Country that is increasingly popular. While countryside surroundings inspire all versions of Country styling, each has a history and appeal often intrinsically linked to the geography of a specific location.
Now considered a classic decorating approach, the English country style is inspired by the layered interiors of old manor houses in the English countryside.
English Country style rooms should look as if they've been loved and lived in by generations of family. The concept is easy to adopt - surround an essential piece with comfortable upholstered furniture, add cheery chintz and patterned cushions and some greenery from the garden.
English Country rooms are often pastel or floral, but bold colours can also feature: grass green and teal, crimson, burgundy red and dark hunter green, deep blues, and gold. Pattern is embraced, with different designs used on wallpaper, rugs, curtains and upholstery in the same room.
Liveable, comfortable, layered, and imperfect are words used for this approach patterned after old houses where collections accumulated over generations. English Country is informal and toned down, embracing signs of age and wear. In English Country styling, sophisticated clutter results in colourful rooms with bookcases overflowing, framed art hung on the walls, and treasured collectibles on display en masse.
It's probably no surprise that French country design is inspired by the actual French countryside, specifically Provence. If you can picture yourself wandering through the lavender fields and into a charming French country home, you're halfway there.
French decor in and of itself can be highly ornate, elegant, and often over-the-top. Still, Provencal homes incorporate traditional elements in a far more relaxed, distressed, and subdued way. The essence of French Country styling is a refined elegance that also brings in aspects of nature, such as weathered and whitewashed wood and neutral colour palettes.
In this decorating style, classic French elegance merges with a rustic, country aesthetic, which creates a balance between beauty and comfort. French Country homes feel lived-in and welcoming but still impeccable – less 'lived in' than their English Country counterparts.
If you used one word to describe a French country colour palette, it's warm. Though the foundations are usually neutral, colour and pattern are also used to accent and add character. This combination helps to create a welcoming, inviting aesthetic. Darker colours, such as blacks and greys, have a place, but more minimally and are usually used to break up and add contrast to bold colours.
French county furniture differs from traditionally rustic furniture thanks to upholstery. Comfort is the goal, so seating must be plush and cosy, and most wooden chairs will have an upholstered cushion.
Traditional Country vs Modern Country
While Modern Country and Traditional Country share some similarities, the overall look of Modern Country décor is much less 'fussy' than Traditional Country. In the past, the words 'Country Style décor' conjured images of fabrics printed with roosters, gingham checks, overly distressed paint finishes, frills, bunches of wheat and solid pine furniture. Modern Country, by comparison, eliminates most of these elements, making them appear kitsch.
Modern country style is a beautiful blend of modern and Country elements, which involves a bit of the unexpected. This style combines rustic, found and industrial pieces with traditional country decorating materials such as wood, iron and natural objects. No matter what first comes to mind, the modern country cottage style is a place of unpretentious simplicity.
Modern Country is a contemporary variation of Traditional Country pared back to practical simplicity. It uses the clean lines of modern design and accentuates it with countryside finishes, making it homey with just a little rustic.
Modern Country décor is a stylised approach to comfort with a simple design, suggesting a warm and inviting spirit even though you may be nowhere near a farm.
Then what is Australian Country?
While we love each of the country styles for their merits, at Pieces of Joy, we think Australian Country style is the perfect mix of them all. Think of it as the Goldilocks approach to country styling. Critical elements of each style are subtly blended to create a look that's not too heavy on clutter and not too bright on prints, with just the right amount of found and reclaimed objects to inject heaps of character.
As a new nation, Australian history pales in comparison to Europe. While we can turn to other regions for inspiration, no Aussie home will ever replicate a Provencal cottage from the 18th century! Instead, authentic Australian Country style should reflect the best of our landscape and embrace the basic country concepts of simple, natural and sophisticated, with a nostalgic and purposeful edge.