I understand that having a country home is a dream for a lot of folks. But why does country home decor often look like a 4-H fair run amok? I’m talking about coffee tables built from wagon wheels, bar stools made from old tractor seats, or sheaves of wheat standing at attention in every corner.
Few of us actually till the land for a living, so there’s no way in the world we need upright sheaves of wheat at every corner. As charming as country home decor can be in small doses, it’s all too easy to go overboard.
So in case you’re planning to decamp to a country home in the near future or just thinking of renovating in this style, here’s a bit of advice. Use some restraint—and avoid going overboard in the following areas.
1. American flags
Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for patriotism and I love a joyful, small-town Memorial Day parade as much as the next country bumpkin. But too many flag-themed pieces and throw pillows with fireworks can kill a cottage look. Make like the rest of America, and hang your flag on a pole and leave it at that.
2. Wagon wheels
Photo by Allison Ramsey Architects
Did that wooden wheel come from your own covered wagon out back? Unless your name is Laura Ingalls Wilder, don’t go near wagon wheel artwork, coffee tables, or chandeliers. These pieces pretty much telegraph the fact that there are no new ideas under the country sun that you can find to decorate your home with.
3. Trite signs
Tired phrases about how peaceful and pretty it is to live on a country road don’t belong in any home, period. Ditto for signs that advertise the price of eggs, milk, and fresh produce (you didn’t grow it, so don’t try to sell it).
4. Metal milk cans
These aren’t going to be good stools since you can’t sit on them for more than 90 seconds. You might use one to hold a plant (outside, on the deck), but that’s it. Move on from galvanized metal overload.
5. Rusty bits
Distressed looks are one thing, and rusty, beat-up pieces of furniture are another. But when the two are combined to supposedly channel casual country living, I’m not buying it.
The fix: an hour with a piece of sandpaper and a fresh coat of paint. You’re welcome.
Are you really raising chickens on your property? Some folks are, but the rest of us are living in fantasy land. One set of rooster dish towels or a platter with a turkey on it per family, please. And then put those chicken plates, salt and pepper cellars shaped like birds, and every other avian tchotchke you own in the giveaway pile.
7. Wire baskets
Baskets in general are the bane of many a country home. They’re used in every room for every kind of purpose: to hold towels in the bathroom, boots in the mudroom, and dog leashes by the front door. But those made from wire are somehow worse because they aren’t even utilitarian.
Most of these designs have holes that are way too big to contain much of anything, which means you’re likely leaving this item on a shelf somewhere to rust. (See above—no rusty bits!)
A stuffed man like this is permissible only on Halloween—not as an everyday design element in your yard or by the front light post. He’s not scaring anyone except your neighbors, who mutter to themselves about how you’ve really gone ’round the bend since you bought the old Johnston home.
9. Cowboy elements
Sure, hats as decor are fine, but the lasso addition makes this tableau truly unrealistic. Hang up your Stetson if you must (one, only), and then take off your Keds and enter the house. You’re not a cowboy in real life.
10. Farmhouse equipment
Really—a spinning wheel? A butter churn? A scythe or other iron farm tool? If you’ll really learn how to spin yarn or make your own dairy products, we’ll allow one of these elements in the home. Think carefully about your answer.