A rustic house is most at home in a rustic environment. You'll find them perched on the edge of a mountain stream, skirting a national park, or nestled among a forest of aspens. If you can't pick your surroundings, you can certainly pick wide-plank wood floors, weathered ceiling beams, and paneled walls. These architectural features go a long way toward creating a pleasing rustic shell. Avoid painting wood surfaces. This decorating style prizes wood in its natural state, mixing the textures of knotty pine with quarter-sawn oak and rough birch bark, for example, to emulate the feeling of living in a tree house.
Because the wood-clad shell of a rustic home has such drama and presence, dainty or precious furniture can get lost. Instead, choose furnishings that are large in scale and in visual weight. This is the place for an ebony leather sectional, a canopied four-poster, or a dining table that seats 12. Look for elements that use rough-and-tumble materials, such as rugs made from braided rags, a kitchen island with a butcher-block top, or light fixtures with punched-tin shades. Layers of fussy patterns can makes these interiors feel too busy, so go for bold, simple designs in textiles, such as the buffalo plaids and mattress-ticking stripes that derive from the wagon-train era.
A rustic home wouldn't be complete without a fireplace. Hefty river rocks, polished and stacked from floor to ceiling, make just the right statement. But you can achieve other nature-made looks by incorporating a mantel of hand-planed wood, a hearth of slate tiles, or a painting that depicts a wooded glen. Gain the element of fire in other ways, too: Amass candles inside the firebox, or gather chairs around a patio fire pit, for example.
Rustic decorating can be easy on the pocketbook. Suitable decorative elements might be found (or appear to be found) on a walk in the woods. Twigs, tree stumps, dried leaves, nuts, acorns, and strips of bark can be used as accents, centerpiece materials, or focal-point details. Snip fern fronds from the garden and fill a vase with them. Mound pinecones in a bowl. On the other hand, some natural finds can be tricky or even illegal to collect, such as antlers and some seashells, so look for good look-alikes. Faux cowhide rugs are just as impressive as the real thing, and they're easier to obtain.