What Is Rustic Design?

Rustic dining table with reclaimed wood

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You've probably heard "rustic" a million or more times when describing home decor, but it's one of those styles that can be hard to pin down. Whether you're looking at a lovely shabby chic farmhouse or a remote cabin in the woods, how do you know what actually makes something rustic? There are a few key elements you need to make your home fit the bill, but once you have it down it's pretty easy to spot.

What Is Rustic Decor?

In short, rustic decor can cover many different design styles. Rustic describes a type of design that's natural, aged, organic, and maybe even a little rough around the edges. Other popular design styles, such as farmhouse, Tuscan, or coastal can also be described as rustic, but to embrace this approach you can easily mix in aspects of each.

To have a rustic home, you don't need to live in a log cabin—you just need to put emphasis on the natural and the organic. Most rustic pieces are made from real wood, sometimes only lightly treated or entirely natural. Think reclaimed wood, raw materials, and elements that come directly from the earth.

Rustic decor also feels completely unpretentious or stuffy. It's a type of design that is incredibly approachable and relaxed. It should feel welcoming and easy, with a color palette that's calming and traditional. Natural, neutral colors such as beiges, whites, browns, and grays are all key, but opt for the warmer tints. You won't find many splashes of bold paint in a rustic home, so keep it monochrome and muted.

Rustic beans and dining table
goldenfoxcottage / Instagram

Key Features

Real Wood: When designing your rustic home, opt for real wood over fake. From wide-planked wood floors to reclaimed wood farmhouse tables, rustic design often puts the material itself at the forefront of the design. Don't be afraid to choose pieces that are a little weathered or beat up—rustic decor is rarely perfect, and instead thrives on imperfection and grittiness.

Texture: Speaking of gritty, since rustic decor utilizes a lot of natural materials, expect it to have a lot of textural variety. Rough woods with obvious grain, rugs made of jute or animal hide, or raw stone fireplaces are all common elements of rustic decor. Avoid anything with an obvious sheen—you want to be able to see and feel the texture in a rustic space.

Handmade: Elements of rustic decor are often unique and unlike any other piece, so opt for handmade pieces if you can swing it. This doesn't mean you can't pick up a few accessories or accents from the big box store, but when it comes to the centerpieces of your house, try to find something with a little bit of character.

Heavy: Unlike other trendy decor styles like modern and mid-century, rustic design is often described as heavy. Think wooden kitchen tables with large square legs, or couches with deep, dark leathers.

Simple: The focus of rustic should be on the material, not the design, so many pieces are incredibly simple. Streamlined tables and chairs allow the eye to focus on the material rather than the shape it takes.

Beams: If you have exposed beams, keep them that way. Whether it's a rustic farmhouse in the country or a coastal Tuscan home, exposed beams scream rustic design.

Common Materials

Rustic design is all about materials that come from the earth. Real, unprocessed woods, heavy stone, and real brick are all common elements of rustic decor. On the textile side, you will find a lot of jute, burlap, and canvas throughout the home in rugs and accent pieces.

In the bedroom, consider bedding made of linen or organic cotton, all in neutral colors that aren't overly dyed or designed.

Where to Find It

While we suggest splurging for a handmade dining or coffee table, there are a few retailers you can find rustic home decor to help furnish your home.

  • Magnolia: Joanna Gaines is the queen of rustic farmhouse chic, and her collection can be found at retailers such as Target and Anthropologie
  • Restoration Hardware
  • West Elm
  • World Market
  • Pottery Barn

Your local flea market may have a few vendors who can make custom rustic pieces that often cost the same or less than what you'll find in big box stores. Also, check out sites like Etsy if you want to find or commission a few one-of-a-kind pieces.

Rustic decor is one of the easiest design styles to recreate. Just go for natural, earthy tones and materials, and you can make this style your own without too much legwork.