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How Rustic Architectural Finishes Came Back into Style

If you've been reading the Worthington Millwork blog for a while, you know some architectural design trends come and go. Like Icarus (the son of a designer in Greek mythology), some fads rise rapidly. They get so hot they burst into flame before falling to a flaming death. Other trends, like our favorite rustic styles, are more durable and likely to last for decades.

We're thrilled that rustic architectural finishes are back in style. This makes us happy because we LOVE the rustic look!

Rustic design has a long history in the US. Here we'll cover the origins of rustic style architecture and interior design, discuss it's renewed popularity, and note some areas of the nation where it's favored most. We'll talk about where to look for design inspiration, and give you some advice if you're looking to revamp either the interior or exterior of your home.

As always, don't hesitate to contact us if you're looking for rustic architectural finishes. We're proud to carry only the most excellent American-made products!

The Origins of Rustic Styles in America

The United States was built with rustic style! Two centuries ago, adventurous pioneers lived off the land. Some were born here, millions of others emigrated from Europe, through New York. As these adventurers made their way westwards, they used whatever materials they found in nature to build their homes, craft their furnishings and create homesteads to be proud of.

Basic materials, like raw woods, clays and stone were abundant.

But the real pioneers often tried to import architectural or interior elements from their origins. Some pioneer families owned a cherished piece of furniture from their home country, which makes authentic rustic design flow well with antique furniture or heirloom machinery (think sewing machines and sausage makers).

Today's rustic styles embrace the raw, rugged feel of pioneer days.
The modern look can be more or less "chunky" or "blocky" depending on your taste.
Rustic styles don't need to be "all or nothing." We can incorporate European styles, like French Country, Scottish Highland, or Western for instance, and remain authentic.

Rustic styles, particularly "rustic-chic," have made a massive comeback in the past five or six years. But why?

Rustic Reborn

After the housing market crash in 2008, interior and exterior design industries suffered, as did landscaping, construction and other related businesses. It wasn't until around 2012 or so that rustic was truly reborn.

Rustic looks came into favor quickly because:

They're generally affordable, making them a great choice for first-time home-buyers, landlords, and families looking to remodel on a budget.
Both families and corporations could get behind the green-minded ideals of using reclaimed woods, antique hardware finishes, and swap meet findings.
New developments in manufacturing made new architectural materials look every bit as authentic as reclaimed wood.
Rustic styles gel well with many other design elements, particularly hardwood floors, or the laminate-wood-for-all craze of the early 2000s.

We think this 2014 blog by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) says it well: "From a trendy New York studio to a ranch house deep in cowboy country, rustic chic is now the predominant tool for designers who want to offer an elegant and comfortable ambiance to their clients..."

And while it's impossible to qualify, we have a niggling feeling that the "Doomsday Prepper" trends of recent years have something to do with the rebirth of rustic too. If you've suddenly developed an interest in canning fruits and reloading munitions, you might lean towards the rustic look out of, well, principle!

But rustic doesn't mean redneck! Nor should it be ascribed only to individuals of certain genders or colors. ASID went on to say that rustic design "blends in with all kinds of décor, does not need a high-end look or finish since shabby chic is the target, and can be coupled with all kinds of upholsteries and accessories to make them look instantly rich and inviting."

The high-end designer's clientele loved it immediately because rustic does not need a uniform look. It's easy (and FUN) for families and designers to seek unique items to create a unique, yet cozy, out-of-the-box home. Finishing a house with a rustic look can be a blast!

Key Elements of Rustic Styles

Unlike some other modern styles, the rustic look is all about age. The goal is to make your home feel like a pioneer palace! Let's look at some exterior and interior design elements to get your creative juices flowing!

Exterior Elements

The quintessential rustic exterior would be a log cabin. Most of us aren't lucky enough to live in one, so check out these exterior architectural elements instead:

Rustic Columns - Worthington Millwork's "wood look" columns have the texture of rough sawn cedar, but the strength of a WorthingtonCast fiberglass column. Experience the beauty of wood without its inherent issues like termite infestation, splintering, and continual upkeep.
Rustic front doors - they're available online, at thrift stores and swap meets everywhere!
Wood or aluminum railings - in black or neutral tones.
Stone facades - whether genuine or faux, stone facades can make your home look centuries-old. We mean that in a good way!

Now that we've addressed the exterior, let's head inside.

Interior Elements & Accessories

As we've mentioned above, rustic styles go great with your family heirlooms. Consider adding these to your space:

Rustic brackets - or other architectural finishing touches by Worthington Millwork.
Fireplaces - whether faux or real, gas or wood-burning, nothing has more rustic appeal!
Well worn, even slightly tattered soft goods like homemade quilts, crocheted blankets, plaid placemats and cloth napkins.
Finish the project with copper or cast iron pots and pans, campy coffee pots, and add antlers anywhere!

Now, wait just a minute. Did we miss something? Did you notice the glaring omission? We left something out of our list of interior design requirements on purpose. A huge trend in the rustic arena is the passion for reclaimed / salvage / barn wood. It's been popularized by various DIY television shows and antique hunters.

We've got a lot to say about the reclaimed wood movement.

On Reclaimed and Salvaged Woods

This blog, titled Rustic Style 101 says it all: "Nothing screams rustic like exposed beams made from raw or salvaged wood. Rough-hewn wood gives off the rugged charm of the frontier, while the beams themselves serve to architecturally frame ceilings, doors, fireplaces, or windows. Rectangular beams provide strong, clean lines while rounded logs infuse a cozy cottage charm."

What that article fails to mention, however, is that procuring genuine salvaged woods or reclaimed barn wood can get extremely expensive, dare we say incredibly expensive, depending on where you live.

This author has personally seen antique cedar beams selling for as much as $3,000 each, per 12-foot beam. Yes, they were beautiful and genuine, but we cringe at the thought of a $30,000 ceiling remodel, especially when the whole point of a rustic redesign is a cozy, woodsy, hunting camp feel.

To research our point further, we did some searches on eBay, and found some cool reclaimed logs from an old jailhouse available, to the tune of $28,000.

The rustic resurgence has caused a dramatic price increase in these materials, which were once affordable backyard-barn finds. 

Prices vary by location, but reclaimed woods cost about 30-50% more now than in 2010. Hopefully these prices have plateaued, but we're not expecting reclaimed timbers to be any cheaper, any time soon.
After installation, reclaimed wood floors, beams and architectural elements will require ongoing maintenance.
If you're looking for the warm, natural look of genuine reclaimed / salvaged woods, check out Worthington Millwork's gorgeous line of Rustic Beams for interiors.

By the way, we'd like to throw a shout out here to Habitat for Humanity thrift stores. If there's one in your area, check it out for genuine "reclaim-ables" like rustic interior doors, mantle pieces, bookshelves, and other well-used but well-loved interior elements.

In specific locations throughout the US, you might have access to reclaimed woods and genuine interior accessories at considerably rock bottom prices. If so, feel free to leave us a comment below, our readers would love to hear about it!

Areas of the Rustic Revolution

We've already noted that rustic themes are cropping up everywhere, from rural communities to urban lofts. Rustic has become a rule-breaker, you're welcome to try this style anywhere you see fit. We did find this entertaining map of the most popular design trends by state. Check it out! Rustic themes aren't overwhelming any state by majority, so you can rest assured that your new look will be unique in your neighborhood.

Regardless of your location, rustic styles have always been an obvious choice for:

man caves
hunting camps
ski lodges
historic locations
and log cabins

No surprises there! But in recent years it's becoming more fashionable in:

whole home remodels and renovations
small offices
children and adult bedrooms
family rooms, dens and living rooms
dining rooms
craft and hobby rooms

If you'd like to get into the rustic scheme of things, we'd suggest tackling a bedroom or living room first. The cozy, natural feel of rustic designs work well in the rooms you relax, snuggle and snooze in.

Going Rustic: Inspiration on a Budget

Home design is an art form. Like any other art there is a process involved. Whether you're renovating your home completely, or simply redesigning a single room for that matter, it all begins with inspiration.

One can perform a simple internet search for rustic architectural elements and rustic interiors to get started. But to get a real feel for the style, we suggest checking out some other sources too. Consider:

checking out some old Pioneer themed movies and TV shows (now you've got a reason to binge-watch Little House on the Prairie!)
reading some related novels
exploring some genuine pioneer days recipes and dishes, focusing on game, game birds, fish and pork

All artists need a muse, after all!

Once you've made renovations to your home's facade, front door and ceiling beams, the rustic look is easy to accomplish on a modest budget. You may already own several pieces that can merge into the new scheme easily. Taking a look around your home, identify which elements can stay:

Rustic style generally favors larger, substantial pieces of furniture that look solid, not dainty or overly ornate.
Sturdy wooden chests, tables, benches, and chairs are perfect for a dining room.
Rustic living room furniture will combine durable wood frames with simple (but homey) cushions and fabrics.
Beds may boast substantial wooden headboards, or very simple black iron frames, covered with traditional patchwork quilts.

Once you've imagined your dream design, don't hesitate to call in the cavalry!

Worthington Millwork: We're Experts in Rustic Themed Exterior and Interior Architectural Finishes

Worthington Millwork has been serving homeowners and builders nationwide for three decades. We've built our success by providing outstanding customer service, excellent lead times, and a range of architectural finishes and products to accommodate any design style you can imagine. We even carry a specific line of rustic architectural finishes, our Rustic Line.

Our staff is dedicated to fulfilling our customers' millwork needs. We know that the smallest details matter to our customers! That's why we strive to be industry experts on everything from the artistic perspectives of interior and exterior design, to the gritty reality of regulatory codes.

To ensure that you can select the perfect items for your project, we're proud to provide an incomparable selections of:

ceiling medallions
window heads
and a host of other architectural details

We're sure that you'll be able to find the ideal items to complement your favorite design style, be it rustic or minimalist. So get in touch with us today! We'd love to make your rural design dream a reality!