Country Decorating Ideas


©York Wallcoverings Wallpaper that mimics log walls can transform any room into a cozy cabin. Shallow, canvas-lined wicker baskets make clever and good-looking under-bed storage.

Fresh country style is a natural fit for to­day's busy lifestyles. It's casual and comforting, just what we long for at the end of the day. Yet, at the same time, it's savvy and sophisticated. After all, we've been around and it shows. The allure of other times and other places ...? Well, that's just a bonus.

You will find fresh country style easy to spot. It's clean without that cutting-edge chill, chic without being fashion-obsessed, and warmhearted without being banal. It's in tune with nature, but unlike the country style of decades back, "nature" doesn't mean dried strawflowers and mauve ducks or bunnies.

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Instead, it's likely to mean a few dramatic sunflowers or a bountiful bouquet of old-fashioned roses, and a hand-carved frog or heron, infused with the artisan's personality. Intelligent, organic, and sometimes a bit off-beat, fresh country is definitely right for the times.

Today's fresh country style is kid-friendly, but, at the same time, it reminds you that you have an interest in art history. It's a quilt used for architectural impact as well as for cuddling, wood plank floors chosen for texture as well as comfort for the stand-up cook, and a cedar-lined hope chest that stashes board games as easily as it once did wedding linens.

Country furnishings vary, but they have this in common: They're never around just to impress the neighbors or fill up space.

Fresh country style means fewer things to dust and dry-clean, fuss with or have fall over, but they're better pieces, carefully chosen to meet our needs, both physical and emotional.

Originally, country homes were furnished with whatever was practical and at hand. If you're looking at a bureau from your grandmother's house, a table from your parents' first apartment, and a pair of flea market side chairs you bought years ago, you will realize things haven't changed all that much.

If a piece still works, there's a tendency to hang onto it. What is different is that today we have the luxury of combining practicality with choices influenced by an educated eye and personal flair. Where you've been tells part of your story, but so does the way you mix up heirlooms and hand-me-downs with your own favorite finds, new or old.

This article will show you several variations of fresh country style, and explain how to incorporate the right furnishings, textures, and accessories to create the fresh country look of your dreams. First, we'll give an overview of the types of fresh country style in the next section of this article.

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Types of Country Decor

©Ballard Designs This antique reproduction tin gains a bright new use as the base of a table lamp.

Country decor has been around for centuries, a fact that adds to its charm and appeal. In this section, we'll discuss different types of country decor in detail.

In With the Old: Antiques and Reproductions

Where do we look for decorating inspiration? Our romantic side loves to recall the mythical "good old days," a time of rough-hewn goods and tender sentiments. Heir­looms that work as well today as they did "way back when" include quilts (with their surprisingly contemporary geometric shapes and colors), heavy cutwork table runners, pewter candlesticks, copper pots, and real wood furniture, from budget-friendly pine and oak to elegant maple and cherry.

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For a lighter look, don't forget wicker and rattan; they've been front-porch favorites since breezes were the only air-conditioning.

When you're looking for special pieces to complete your fresh country rooms, don't rule out real antiques: Depending on their rarity, they may be no more costly than modern reproductions. What's more, many are not nearly as fragile as people think, since they were made by hand to last for generations.

Even factory-made Industrial Age pieces from the mid-1800s to the 1930s have earned the patina of age and can cost much less than you'd expect. You won't find a modern queen- or king-size bed among antiques, and you will want to choose a reproduction high chair or crib for safety's sake, but otherwise antiques deserve a second look.

Another option: Search out beloved icons as reproductions from Colonial Williams­burg, Jefferson's Monticello, and many other sources. But remember: The goal is not a period-perfect room; it's one that resonates with the soul-restoring warmth of history, updated for life today.

Alluring Artifacts From Many Lands

What if you crave a little more exotic inspiration? We cherish the colorful heritage of "the old country"-- whether it's from our own family's country of origin or not. Our enduring affection for European country style is part of that romantic perspective. So is our love of furnishings from other cultures around the globe, from Eastern Europe to the Far East.

©Ballard Designs Charming exotic touches give a worldly air to any room.

Since the days of sailing ships, American homes have been enriched with rugs from the Orient, porcelain from China, silver from Mexico, and so on. Since the 1960s, our modern outlook has placed new value on "primitive" artifacts, so intricate baskets, dazzling silks, wood carvings, and woven rugs from developing countries have also found a home with us.

So what's the new difference? Careful editing that keeps the warmth and leaves the clutter behind. That's the essence of country decor!

One thing you will appreciate is that country pieces from various cultures tend to go surprisingly well together. A reproduction French armoire from the local furniture store, a pretty mix of odd-lot English teacups from a neighborhood flea market, and an old print from your college trip to Italy can be charming to­gether.

For a look that's a bit more eclectic, try a bold, carved mask from Africa instead of the print from Italy and a cinnabar box from China instead of porcelain from England.

Pieces from different eras can be a bit trickier to mix, but you can balance smooth and rough, opulent and simple for exciting results. For example, a 1940s fruit-motif tablecloth can keep company with a Della Robbia-style still-life if it's displayed in an unpretentious frame, and an ornate, gold frame can dazzle, empty, on a simple white mantel.

And, since we're talking country here, remember that a genuine bird's nest, shell, or piece of driftwood has a natural grace that's worth displaying in any decor. When it comes to fresh country style, it's all in the mix.

And, chances are, the mix is already a factor, since you probably aren't starting with an empty house or apartment. If you've inherited or found pieces that you love, they may already go together, since the things people like usually share certain consistencies.

If your current mix doesn't quite mesh, relax. In this article, you will see ways to use color, visual balance, and other design strategies to create a coherent, pleasing look, using furnishings you already own.

Once you've decided on a general look that appeals to you and fits your lifestyle, you can shop intelligently for necessary pieces and collectible accents that work. And here's a nice bonus: Knowing your style means that you will be able to spot the bargains and the one-of-a-kind treasures.

Let Your Rooms Evolve With Genuine Finds

When you're out there shopping, do remember that "fresh" isn't often found in stale, mass-produced attempts to replicate nostalgic, rustic finds. Fresh country may be a bit sentimental, but it's not corny. Some new retail or craft-fair accessories designed to summon a country feeling miss their mark, because the cute or rustic effect is too calculated.

©Santos Furniture Eleven impressive feet tall, this china cabinet is made of hand-carved alder wood with juniper trim.

Choose carefully, or pass them by and take your time collecting genuine old items or handmade artifacts that show some artisanship and are meaningful to you.

Before you shop, make room for a fresh start. Sell or give away nonessential items that you don't like, and make a list of the key, big pieces you will need to replace before unloading major furniture items you no longer want to live with. You may find a perfect pair of candlesticks while you're still searching for the right dining table, but what if you have the table first? Fresh country says, resist the temptation to buy ho-hum accessories.

While you're waiting to find the accents you love, you don't have to live with a bare-bones environment. Paint the walls a rich, eye-filling color. Line a craft-store basket with a colorful napkin (look for leftover singles at bargain prices), and fill it with supermarket apples or oranges. Stand a few fresh flowers in a plain water glass about a third as tall as the flowers. And stack up some bargain-pile hardbound books you always meant to read. Result? Instant, inviting style, without compromise!

Express Your Personal Vision

Which fresh country approach appeals to you? You can blend different styles with a practiced hand, but for the easiest success, base your decorating scheme on one of the new classics you will find in these pages. And don't worry; you won't be pigeonholed. Even within a certain style category, you will see a wide range of looks and the furnishings that make them happen.

New Traditional

Do you love golf or tennis in a beautifully maintained setting? Do you enjoy the symphony, opera, or historical museums? Do you think meals at home are worth using the good silver and china once a week or more, even if you're dining on carry-out? Do you love Oriental rugs because they're not only elegant, but also because they're a smart way to disguise the mishaps of daily life with kids? Would a visit to Jefferson's Monticello or Washington's Mount Vernon inspire you? If you think laid-back and gracious can go together, welcome to new traditional style.

©Ballard Designs This elegant 18th-century-style stool gets a kick from a leopard-print cushion.

New traditional style is symmetrical, graceful, and elegant but not excessively formal. Georgian and Federal styles popular around the time of the Revolutionary War serve as the foundations of new traditional style, and they still deliver a pedigreed look today. The look took a hit after the uptight 1950s version fell from favor, but today's liberated approach has brought Federal style back in a big way.

Our fresh version pairs traditional wood pieces with cushy, comfortable upholstery and replaces yesterday's small tea table with today's more hospitable coffee table.

Neoclassical, white-painted trim looks fresh and unstuffy when paired with bright turquoise, jade, coral, and cranberry walls (tones that, surprisingly, are historically accurate). Rich colors such as these create a vibrant background for heirloom-style furniture, crisp white linens, and the sparkle of brass, glass, and silver. For an airy, more contemporary look that's in subtle contrast to white trim, paint the walls cream, peach, or celadon (pale gray-green).

Eighteenth-century style furniture is key to the new traditional look, but genuine Queen Anne, Sheraton, Hepplewhite, Duncan Phyfe, and Chippendale pieces carry stratospheric prices today. Luckily, the popularity of this look means that beautiful reproductions abound at all price points.

And don't forget Oriental rugs, Chinese porcelain, and other finds from the Far East that are as close as your nearest ethnic shop. Now, as in days of yore, these treasures add depth and resonance to your rooms and your lifestyle.

American Rustic

Do you love camping, hiking, and a fast game of touch football in the backyard when you're supposed to be raking leaves? Do you enjoy watching old movies with old friends? Do you make eating dinner as a family a priority several times a week, whether it's made-from-scratch chicken and biscuits or the quickie version? Would you love to visit Old Deerfield, Green­field Village, or just about any re-creation of the Old West? If you savor the simple pleasures, the heartfelt and homespun, grab hold of American rustic style.

Friendly and down-to-earth, American rustic style has been popular ever since pioneer ranchers and farmers carted their few, handmade possessions into new territories. Today, American rustic style can be found in cozy cabins, massive log ski lodges, spreading prairie farmhouses, and South-west adobe pueblos -- or suburban houses that you want to look like any of the above.

Pine or oak furniture in Shaker or Arts and Crafts style, simple cotton or wool fabrics, and rustic implements of weathered brass, copper, pewter, and tin create an invigorating, no-fuss atmosphere that's perfect for rough-and-tumble family life.

European Country

Do you love gardening and long, brisk walks? Do you enjoy exploring art museums and touring old cathedrals and houses? Will you read anything with an English setting, from new mysteries to 19th-century classics? Do you try new wines and recipes now and then to make everyday dinners a romantic adventure? Do you think a French or Northern Italian restaurant is a great place to broaden the kids' horizons? Is your most cherished dream to visit Europe (for the first or fifth time)? If you adore the romance and culture of European life, bring it home with European country style.

©Ballard Designs Nothing grounds a refined European-style room like a traditional styled area rug.

England's Victorian country homes gave us casual flowered chintz (originally from British India but inspired by England's lavish gardens), dogs in the living room, fine porcelain, and books everywhere. The Italian and French countryside gave us colorful Provençal fabrics, wondrous art, and a whole new approach to food that pairs passion with freshness.

These are all world-class looks, but pull them out of the predictable, and make room for cultural accents from your own native land or favorite travels, whether that's Ireland or India, Poland or Puerto Rico. In the global village, country rules.

Vintage Charm

Do you love an endless stroll down the streets of old towns or a leisurely swim at a vintage resort? Is your idea of fun browsing flea markets and antique shops? Do you collect old cookbooks or make Grandma's favorite recipes around the holidays, no matter how frantic things get? Would you rather eat in a retro roadside diner or an old country inn than a swanky four-star restaurant? Do you adore old vanity sets, quirky vases, sentimental children's books, and funky kitchenware? Do you love the cottage look of whitewashed wood and painted wicker furniture even if your mother says they're a bit on the shabby side? If you love to mix the funky, sentimental, pretty, and whimsical, come home to vintage charm.

Once-loved old furniture, cookware and dishes, knickknacks and fabrics from the 1920s to the 1950s are still fairly plentiful and affordable, so if you didn't inherit them, check out the resale shops and estate sales. Pastel-colored quilts and chenille bedspreads from the 1930s, bits of old lace, crystal-drop chandeliers and sconces, and maple and walnut dressing tables and dining room groups can give your home a look that's chic, fun, and familiar.

Some old favorites, such as pastel Depression glass, can be expensive, but you can pick up some wonderful bargains. If you find furniture that's still sturdy but the finish is worn, that's part of its charm. If you want a cooler, more unified look, swath everything in white paint, and when it's dry, use fine-grit sandpaper to "distress" the new finish and give it the patina of age. (This trick works with new, unfinished furniture, too.)

Modern manufacturers now offer many vintage-look items at retail, which can help you fill in major pieces in sync with the look you love.

Contemporary Country

Do you love racquetball or tennis but dream of hang gliding? Are you energized by the latest night spots and modern art exhibits, but are just as happy with a pick-up ball game in the park? Were you quick to rediscover retro comfort food along with the latest ethnic fare, and do you make time now and then to create a dish or two yourself? Do you love serene neutral tones sparked with strong colors and have no problem weeding out clutter? If this is your scene, take a look at contemporary country.

Forward-looking and flexible, contemporary country makes a statement that's at home anywhere. This free-spirited look is just as suited to urban pioneers as to those in the wide-open spaces. Contemp­orary country thrives on a variety of designs with strong, simple lines and great colors. Check out African or Native American handicrafts, Shaker furniture, and handmade, one-of-a-kind ceramics and art furniture.

Warmth matters: Where modern style may be steel and black with a jolt of red, contemporary country is more likely to be brass and deep chocolate or taupe, accented with coral, cranberry, or other off-red hue.

While it's most dramatic in a modern architectural setting with lots of windows on the great outdoors, contemporary country can also thrive in a vintage walk-up or a loft with exposed brick walls. The secret is to pare down to the essentials, then add back the dramatic finds that speak to you.

Contemporary country is inspired by low-slung prairie style and mid-century modern style. But any design with strong and simple lines works fine. Antique Shaker-style or hearty Arts and Crafts-style furniture are great examples of the unity of form and function modernists prize. (Luckily, you can easily find affordable reproductions of these two popular styles.)

Other sure bets are your favorite finds such as old farm implements, baskets, and strongly patterned Native American weavings. Mix them in with modern upholstery for a look you can live with anywhere.

Eclectic Country

Do you love soccer, yoga, or just about any kind of dance? Do you appreciate Asian art, old French furniture, early American wrought iron, and modern-design fabrics? Do you enjoy fusion cuisine, down-home cooking, and ethnic fare of all kinds? Is your dream trip an international cruise with many ports of call? If this sounds intriguing to you, explore eclectic country style.

Eclectic country style may be the freshest take on country yet. Not since the 1960s has America been so tuned in to the cultural richness of the world. Today's eclectic country style borrows freely from a wealth of exotic, organic influences.

©Ballard Designs Made in the United Kingdom but based on a 1920s French clock, this appealing replica recalls the flower markets of Paris.

Sure, American style has always included elements from afar brought back by seafaring ships. Paisley shawls, Oriental rugs, Chinese porcelains, and African mahogany and jewels are just some of the treasures of the East that have long embellished Western life. However, unlike in the Victorian era, today's eclectic style isn't about acquisition and clutter. Instead, it's about carefully selecting pieces you love from several eras and cultures and using them in a livable, balanced way.

In this way, pottery from Asia, basketry from Africa, and sari-silk pillows and a dhurrie rug from India look exciting with an antique armoire, a modern serpentine sectional, and a plain Shaker table. Worldly yet never too serious, eclectic country's deft diversity invites the world inside.

Look Ahead

Whichever style you choose, look through these pages to get great decorating ideas for your fresh country home. Let's start our discussion of fresh country decor with a fresh take on traditional styling. Continue to the next section for detailed decorating advice.

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Throw Traditional a Curve

©John A. Buscarallo A plain kitchen stool and a classic American farm table seem perfectly at home with more formal French chairs. The unique stained-glass windows have an early-modern feel.

Can you have a fresh country style decorating scheme that's both pared down and pampered? This kitchen makes it look easy.

Art nouveau, 18th-century French, and 19th-century modern elements add a captivating spirit of fun to this predominantly traditional kitchen. The unusual mix captures attention without being jarring, thanks to the soothing palette of neutral and natural tones used throughout.

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©Ballard Designs Cabinets with an antiqued pecan finish lend a warm glow to areas housing modern, brushed-stainless appliances. The old-fashioned goose-neck faucet and cross-style taps enhance the vintage atmosphere.

Cabinets are a carefully balanced mix of antiqued honey, taupe, and brown wood that flow gently from one to another, and the fresh white backgrounds (subway tiles on the wall, limestone on the floor) let the decorative elements star.

©John A. Buscarello A buffet and china hutch like these, long available in furniture stores and antique shops, are also offered by some kitchen cabinet companies these days.

The rich look is enhanced by discreet use of ornate carvings -- too much, and they would lose their special appeal. Curvy, art nouveau-inspired chandeliers focus attention on the casual dining table and sink island, grace notes that manage to be both grand and lighthearted.

A pretty flower garden can be an inspiration for decorating with country style. Read the next section to learn how to incorporate nature's motifs into your home.

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Fresh-Picked and Pretty

©FSC Wallcoverings Red plus white, black, and natural wood tones make a lively scheme for this inviting dining area.

When you're stuck for a way to easily create a fresh country style kitchen or dining area, turn to inspirations from the orchard and garden. These rooms are unabashedly sentimental, but they're grounded in nature's own motifs for timeless appeal.

To capture the look, start with an appetizing color or two to put family and friends in a cheerful mood any time of day. To further the theme, pick wallcoverings or wall art that sports your favorite fruits or flowers.

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If you like highly realistic images, botanical prints depicting natural subjects in various stages of life and in close-up detail are as popular today as they were in the 1700s.

©FSC Wallcoverings Curvy French chairs, a plain, round trestle table, and an antique dresser with novelty carvings create an interesting mix. However, it's the appealing wallcovering and cushion fabric printed with botanical-inspired oranges that makes the look.

If you prefer a looser look, traditional designs are widely available, including designs that look like old-fashioned roller prints. Complete your scheme with matching or coordinating fabrics in the same colors, and put on the kettle!

New traditional style combines 18th-century-style furniture with light, bright colors and casual, down-to-earth romantic accents. In the next section, get great tips for achieving this look.

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Treasures from the Past

©Plow & Hearth If you can't find an antique wood lamp in a style you like, consider today's budget-wise, lightweight lamps of wood-look resin. This one mimics mahogany, and the handsome leaf motif is classically inspired.

You've got a lot of leeway in furnishing a fresh country style home that's alive with new traditional style. More elegant than most other country-inspired schemes, new traditional style appreciates the historic patina of fine antiques and the dignity of beautifully crafted reproductions.

At the same time, new traditional isn't held hostage to the stuffier aspects of the past. Hearkening back to the late Colonial (Georgian) and Federal periods of the nation's founders, new traditional style mixes 18th-century-style furniture with light, bright upholstery fabrics and wall treatments plus a lighthearted array of more casual, romantic accents that bring the look cheerfully down to earth.

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©Ballard Designs An antique reproduction console in a weathered gray finish adds traditional French-inspired elegance to a foyer or other small area.

Simple ticking stripes look fine with luxurious kilim rugs, united by their soft palettes.

©Ballard Designs Pretty and elegant, this hand-woven, pure wool kilim rug adds a rich yet delicate look to any traditional setting.

Pretty little tables keep company with massive, impressive china cabinets as long as they share fanciful detailing. For a surefire accent, anything tastefully suggesting the Stars and Stripes is a classic winner.

©Plow & Hearth Pewter, silver, copper, and brass add timeless beauty and a festive gleam to any traditional home. This graceful goblet and pitcher are of a modern alloy with the look of pewter.

There are many more country decorating ideas for your home. In the next section of this article, learn how to create a simple, rustic style reminiscent of pioneer days.

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Little House in the Big Woods

©Leo Conklin A hitchcock traditional, gold-embellished black paint, a roomy leather club chair, and an early American settle bench designed to keep away drafts are all from different eras.

This simple cabin is very close to what many pioneer homes looked like. Hewn from the forests around them, furnished with the basics, and decorated with only a few simple accessories, early American cabins were clearly the inspiration for this fresh country style getaway. Even if you don't have a real log home, many of the ideas shown here are worth adapting.

To give yourself a fresh start, do what interior designers often advise: Start with empty rooms, and put back only what you need. As shown in this comfortable living room, things don't need to be from the same era to work nicely together.

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©Leo Conklin Red-and-white spatterware, soft red window swags, and a red-flecked rag rug are all the color this rustic room needs.

A rustic home doesn't have to mean roughing it, either. In this cabin, the heater-fireplace and state-of-the-art gas stove take advantage of modern technology, but they're carefully designed to recall their rustic forebears. This house proves that sometimes "getting away from it all" is an inside job.

©Leo Conklin Any bed under the eaves is cozy, but a bed carved from the same wood as the surrounding walls is even more so.

You can also transform your home into an outdoorsy retreat by using elegant natural materials. Get more decorating details in the next section.

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Quiet Retreats

©Irene M. Facciolo This pueblo-style hearth evokes the simple dignity of Southwest style.

Fresh country style comes in many versions, influenced by climate, history, and other fascinating factors. This room illustrates a bit of that variety.

For a handsome lodge look, elegant natural materials -- heirloom wood furniture, slate, and stone flooring -- create a fuss-free foundation for an outdoorsy, elegant lifestyle.

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Southwest style, with its cool-white adobe walls, seems surprisingly modern with its gently curved architecture. Against this pale, sculpted background, dark wood and jewel-toned accents stand out. If you don't have real adobe walls, use textured white plaster and add more accessories, such as colorfully striped Mexican serapes and punched-tin accents.

Study the key elements for the particular look you want to achieve: With rustic style, it doesn't take a lot to make it happen.

Whether you live in an apartment or house, in the city or the suburbs, you can easily bring rustic ambiance to your home. In the next section, we'll show you how to add a few key touches to your decor.

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All in the Details

©New West High, horizontal windows above built-in bookcases flanking a fireplace are typical of bungalow style, a rather citified version of cabin style.

If your dream is fresh country style but your reality is a conventional house or apartment in the city or suburbs, you can still bring home rustic style. These rooms show how a few key touches can be used to suggest the mood. These touches constitute an easy shopping list for creating a rustic ambiance without going overboard.

For starters, checks and plaids say "rustic country" better than any other patterns. In the cozy bungalow, a sun-bleached animal's skull, hand-painted pottery, and a few other choice accessories create a country cabin mood.

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In the small powder room, Native American motifs on the vintage light and medicine cabinet are all it takes to communicate the owners' interests.

©New West Above the sink, a nostalgic light fixture features silhouettes of a Native American buffalo hunt and recalls 19th-century "magic lantern" lights.

In the next section, learn how to use Mission-style furnishings and leather accents to bring fresh country style to any room.

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Natural Wonders

©Santos Furniture Eleven impressive feet tall, this china cabinet is made of hand-carved alder wood with juniper trim. Hand-painted panels depict sandhill cranes.

From early American log cabins to Old West ranches, American fresh country style draws on an array of warmhearted options.

Mission furniture, an expression of the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 1900s, is a mainstay of this style, since it recaptures the straight-lined, honest, handmade furniture of early settler days. (You'll find mission style works well in several other Fresh Country Style signatures, too; a nice bonus if your family has differing tastes.)

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Other options include pieces made from casual, open-grain woods such as pine and oak; twig furniture; and peeled log furniture.

©Santos Furniture A hand-painted wine cabinet/end table features a top of natural speckled granite and expressively gnarled juniper wood legs. The coordinating chair wears deep brown leather with a subtly aged look.

Leather is a classic upholstery choice for this style; woven fabrics with Native American and other timeless motifs are handsome, too. Look for little touches such as whipstitched trim on leather lamp shades: A few great details make the look with simplicity.

Want to create a garden-inspired bedroom everyone can enjoy? The next section has fresh country decorating ideas for a flowering boudoir.

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Boudoirs in Bloom

©Stroheim & Romann This cheerful bedroom is filled with rich sunflower-yellows and poppy-reds. Simple white muslin with snappy plaid trim makes a charming curtain.

Around the world and in every era, flowers have been the most common inspiration for beautiful fabrics and wallcoverings. Flowers work well with fresh country style decorating.

Bedrooms seem especially suited to the lovely, lighthearted influence of garden blooms, but you don't have to be knee-deep in pink to create a flowery bower. These three rooms show just some of the variety possible with sophisticated floral treatments.

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To create a garden-inspired bedroom everyone can enjoy, cut the sweet effect with numerous contrasting elements such as rough wood floors and sisal rugs.

©Stroheim & Romann Muted gray-green makes a quietly elegant background for sprays of roses, and crisp plaid and solid fabrics keeps the florals from looking too sweet.

Balance a floral print with tailored plaids, stripes, or checks, and choose gender-neutral but restful solid colors such as gray, cream, or gold. Best of all, take a tip from nature and pair your floral prints with a coordinating green.

©Stroheim & Romann Timeless celadon green makes a sophisticated background for botanical-style blooms. A plaid chair and tailored bed skirt add zip.

To enhance the breezy spirit of your floral room, choose simple, airy window treatments. Add a restrained canopy for the ultimate in grown-up romance.

Poised, chic, and somewhat exotic, the next country fresh style is sure to stir your imagination. Read on to learn more.

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A Certain Savoir Faire

©Stroheim & Romann Dusty violet and oyster-white make an unusual and sophisticated color scheme for this restrained boudoir. Walls and window treatments in quintessential French toile set the scene; pencil-striped and diamond-patterned fabrics provide crisp contrast.

Poised and feminine but never too sweet, these fresh country style rooms are refined yet easy to live with. Fabrics with formal polish set the tone, but the muted pastel colors give these rooms a young, chic spirit.

Grayed tints of plum, green, and blue are sophisticated yet lighthearted; paired with buttercream and white , they're fresh. You could achieve similar results with peach and dove gray, celadon and cream, or pale aqua and light taupe.

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©Strohheim & Romann This French-inspired room is a mix of elegant and playful touches. A formal damask sofa lightens up with subtle striped welting in the same cream and French-blue tints.

Unique and subtly playful touches give these rooms special charm and confidence that express the owner's personal style. In the bedroom, an old white iron architectural fragment adds presence above the headboard.

©Stroheim & Romann Green willow leaves create a lush yet serene background for this peaceful breakfast nook.

In the breakfast room, bamboo and cane-inset antiques lend a fresh, slightly exotic air; and in the sitting room, sprightly ball fringe decks a whimsical pouf. Simple window treatments and casually arranged flowers continue the relaxed look.

Give your home a European flair by decorating in English, French, Pennsylvania Dutch (German), or Swedish country styles. The next section of this article will show you how to do it.

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European Accents

©Ballard Designs There's always space for a distinctive occasional chair like this one. Graceful lines are soothing, and elegant rosette medallions add panache.

English, French, Pennsylvania Dutch (German), and Swedish fresh country styles are some of the most perennially appealing looks in America. That's no surprise; many of the earliest settlers came from these lands.

Even if your ancestors hearken from elsewhere, you can adopt these popular looks and, even fresher, adapt them to your family's culture and your own personal taste. European country is relaxed, so mix and match to your heart's content.

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©Ballard Designs Boldly colored in jewel tones or quietly tinted in soft shades, nothing grounds a refined European-style room like a traditionally styled area rug. Tthis one is hand-knotted in pure wool.

Try a palette of celadon green, antique-white, and berry for an English garden look or a trio of gallant red, yellow, and blue for a French country feeling.

©Ballard Designs This little stool has a French toile cushion cover in pure wool needlepoint with nailhead trim and hand-turned legs with carved rosettes in genuine cherry wood with a walnut finish.

Blue and white china is common to all these styles; toile, once French, works everywhere and so do pretty chairs and traditional needlepoint. Mix florals plus stripes or plaids for a look that's irrepressibly romantic.

Hungry for more fresh country style ideas? In the next section, we'll show you how to use vintage accents to create a style that evokes memories of times gone by.

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Gentle Memories

©York Wallcoverings New floral fabric with a weathered blue background works nicely with white matelassé, a vintage fabric that's back in style. An old dresser gets a new life with a fresh coat of white paint.

With their soft, aged colors and smooth, timeworn textures, these pretty, fresh country style rooms remind us of gentle moments of times gone by. Vintage-style wallcovering and related fabrics go a long way toward creating an old-fashioned, whimsical look.

Floral prints are obviously on target, but today's manufacturers have also come up with designs that evoke a vintage look with a bit of tongue-in-cheek cleverness. So you can create a setting that reminds you of Grandma's house without taking it all too literally.

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©York Wallcoverings Witty wallcovering with a chicken-wire design is topped with a border of delicately illustrated hens. Simple, open-wall shelves make a great display, and cabinets with gently arched door panels are traditional without being formal.

To further the gentle retro look, enlist fuzzy chenille trims, matelassé, and other fabrics popular in the '30s and '40s. If you didn't inherit Grandma's heirloom furniture, scout the resale shops, flea markets, and estate sales (find them in the classifieds and get there early with cash in hand).

If you can't find just the piece you want, don't overlook reproductions sold in conventional furniture stores. Vintage style is hot, and it's everywhere.

If you can't get enough of floral motifs, continue to the next section for more flowery -- and fruitful -- country decorating ideas.

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Fruits and Flowers

©FSC Wallcoverings A plain vanilla room is transformed with a clever trio of country wallcoverings. An airy pattern of wildflowers is grounded by a hearty plaid and accented with a dense border of sunflowers.

These vintage, fresh country style kitchens and dining room take naturally to the timeless appeal of floral and fruit motifs.

The right wallcoverings can enliven a small kitchen or dining room, make up for any lack of elements, and add charm to workaday pieces. Fruit- and flower-motif wallcoverings are so popular that they're available in every style: contemporary '40s retro, American folk-art primitive, opulent English Victorian, and more.

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©FSC Wallcoverings A dense, Victorian-inspired pattern of apples and apple blossoms gives this vintage dining room depth and interest. Chair cushions carry out the orchard theme; green, aqua, and white wood furniture lighten the mood.

These rooms illustrate the variety and the charm of the world's most popular motifs. Add an array of cabinets, tables, and chairs in a mix of white and colorfully painted and natural wood finishes for even more interest.

©FSC Wallcoverings A mix of green, white, and natural wood finished pieces enhance the heirloom look, but the metal-and-wicker stool with its skirted cushion is a contemporary touch.

If your kitchen is complete but showing its age, consider refinishing existing cabinets in two or three colors, perhaps white above, wood below, and a painted color on a china hutch or island. These rooms all use soft greens, but an antiqued apple red would be appetizing, too.

In the next section, we'll show you more ways to work with nostalgic palettes to create a fresh country decor in your home.

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Colorful Sentiments

©Ballard Designs Made in the United Kingdom but based on a 1920s French clock, this appealing replica recalls the flower markets of Paris.

Sentimental but never stuffy, rooms furnished with fresh country style and vintage accents evoke our most reassuring, tender memories. Like a beloved patchwork quilt handed down for generations, a decorating scheme based on vintage charm is a pastiche of many appealing elements.

Establish a lighthearted, nostalgic palette with mint green, cheery jonquil yellow, old-fashioned lilac, and other tender garden tints that were popular from the 1920s through the 1950s.

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©Swedish Blonde Grandma would have loved this pretty little dresser. All decked out in fresh, soft white with charming, old-fashioned details, it features plenty of storage drawers for practicality.

Pick up on old favorites such as white-painted iron bedsteads and open cabinets. Cupboards, armoires, and other cabinets with bead-board interiors boost the cottage feeling; you can also apply bead board to walls below the chair-rail level.

©Ballard Designs This armoire features large louvered doors, recalling the shutters on grand old homes in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Embellish the setting with soft chenille, charming appliqués, hand-pieced quilts, and braided rugs.

©Ballard Designs This antique reproduction tin gains a bright new use as the base of a table lamp. A red gingham shade adds a cheery top note.

Indulge in nostalgically styled lamps and plump pillows with farm-fresh motifs for a lighthearted look. Group a few treasured old family photos, and enjoy the memories.

©Maine Cottage A sweetly scalloped apron gives this charming "Nellie" desk vintage appeal.

To give country styling a free-spirited, contemporary twist, try the practical decorating advice in the next section of this article.

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Contemporary Country

©Plow & Hearth Oversized and overstuffed, this chair surrounds you with comfort but doesn't sacrifice good looks. Arching, art deco-inspired curves and splayed saber legs deliver dramatic contemporary style.

If you like warmth but not clutter, this fresh country style is made for you. It pairs the heirloom character of the past with today's easygoing lifestyle. The result? A look that's as free-spirited as the wide-open spaces: one that's grounded in the beauty of handicrafts and natural materials, the elegance of strong and simple lines, the appeal of rich colors, and lots of windows on the great outdoors.

Contemporary country is inspired by low-slung prairie style and mid-century modern style. But any design with strong and simple lines works well. Antique Shaker-style furniture is a great example of the unity of form and function modernists prize.

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Other sure bets are your favorite finds mixed with modern upholstery for a look you can easily live with, anywhere. (A look this clean and uncluttered is as much at home in a city apartment as in a mountain lodge.) So pick contemporary, and feel free. There's nothing more American than that.

Next, learn how the owners of a lakeside retreat achieved a look of timeless livability in their home's country styling.

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Lakeside Idyll

©Davis Frame Co., Inc. Beautifully crafted ceiling beams have an artful appeal that has all the grace of old barn beams plus the excitement of modern architecture.

Anyone would envy these homeowners' wonderful location right on the water. But inside, there's a lot to like that has little to do with the exterior. The architecture and furnishings work together to create an fresh country style that's casual and modern -- and, at the same time, familiar and comforting.

While the location is a rare treasure, interior elements can be found in every part of the country. First, the plain white walls and barnlike exposed beams are timeless. The white kitchen is enlivened by interesting counter stools and playful lighting. In the larger dining area, oak furniture is sleekly styled yet enduringly warm.

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©Davis Frame Co., Inc. A very traditional white kitchen looks fresh and modern with the simple, exposed-beam ceiling and frisky metal-and-wicker counter stools.

The romantic living area pairs conventional easy chairs with a big, modern sectional and glass-topped porch tables. To get this look, find modern pieces with warmth and sleek simplicity. The result? Timeless livability.

©Davis Frame Co., Inc. An easygoing modern great room encompasses kitchen, living room, and dining room in one flowing space. The large curving sectional in the living room is modern style at its most relaxed.

Like a country style that's cool, clean, and fresh? Then you'll love the decorating ideas in the next section of this article.

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Simply Fresh

©Directions, Inc. A minimalist setting demands furniture with sculptural presence, and this sofa fills the bill. Sleek and simple, but with unmistakable flair, this very modern sofa brings cool, good looks to a contemporary country room.

Fresh country style finds common ground between the simplicity of earlier times and the simplicity of modern design. Both are rigorous about following the modernist dictum, "form follows function." That means few or no extraneous details or embellishments, but it doesn't mean cold or skimpy.

Contemporary country features a wonderful range of furniture styles with sculptural presence, whether the pieces were designed in the 1790s or the 1990s. Early American Shaker style is a classic that spans all eras; hearty, handsome mission, prairie, and Arts and Crafts styles from the early 1900s have a timeless drama of their own.

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©Directions, Inc. A "Stillwood" cocktail table gives a nod to sophisticated '30s art moderne style, bringing special pizzazz to any room. The saber legs and divided top with oval cutouts provide subtle interest.

Sleek art moderne and art deco designs from the 1920s and 1930s add a spirit of glamour without clutter. Keep backgrounds cool and clean, and you're all set!

Take advantage of the cultural richness of today's world by adding global elements to your home's decor. The next section has practical decorating advice for an eclectic style.

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Eclectic Country

©Ballard Designs Eclectic style comes to life in an intricately hand-painted, handwoven bamboo basket.

For a really fresh country style, look to the eclectic. Not since the 1960s has America been so tuned in to the cultural richness of the world, and today's eclectic country style borrows freely from a wealth of exotic influences.

Sure, American style has always included elements from afar brought back by seafaring ships. Paisley shawls, Oriental rugs, Chinese porcelains, and African mahogany and jewels are just some of the treasures that have long embellished Western life.

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But unlike in the Victorian era, today's eclectic style isn't about acquisition and clutter. Instead, it's about carefully selecting pieces you really love from several eras and cultures and using them in a livable, balanced way.

Eclectic country style takes pottery from Asia, basketry from Africa, and sari-silk pillows and a dhurrie rug from India and makes them look exciting with an antique armoire, a modern serpentine sectional, and a plain Shaker table. Worldly yet whimsical, eclectic country style can help make the global village feel like home.

More globally inspired decorating ideas are in the next section, along with advice on mixing and matching country styles.

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In the Mix

©Ballard Designs Certain prints and stripes and animal skin designs transcend eras and styles. This elegant 18th-century-style stool gets a kick from a leopard-print cushion in pure wool needlepoint.

Fresh country style is subject to different interpretations around the world, but everywhere "country" means simple, relaxed, close to nature, and in touch with the basic rhythms of life.

To achieve eclectic country style, combine country favorites from several eras and several cultures. Once called "worldly," this look has evolved to something we might call "globally aware design." To get there, venture into dramatic, well-edited combinations.

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©Ballard Designs Inspired by Caribbean colonial images, this pillow makes a sophisticated, fun accent for today's beach house decorating.

Dark, elaborate colonial Caribbean style is a rich, romantic take on 18th-century elegance; handsome Arts and Crafts style also provides a great decorating basis. Enhance the exotic ambience with wicker and rattan furniture plus Asian artifacts and accents.

For a chic touch, go for sophisticated modern fabrics, timeless stripes, or faux-animal prints on classic furniture pieces. Add a few select pieces of colorful art furniture and bright handcrafted accessories to create a world you'll love to live in.

In this article, we've presented a bounty of different ways to create a fresh country style. Base your decorating scheme on one of these ideas, or use them as inspiration for your own personalized country decor.

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New Traditional

This rush-seat chair is a replica of a traditional French chair. It's obvious that it was handcrafted by skilled artisans because of the attention to details. The chair is sure to look elegant on its own or with an equally classy dining-room table.

Love of the land ran deep in the hearts of our nation's founders, so it's no surprise that one face of fresh country style is symmetrical, graceful, and elegant. Georgian and Federal styles popular around the time of the Revolutionary War still resonate in our hearts today. They're truly classics, based on styles born in the ancient democracy of Greece.

Styles from the 18th century (Queen Anne, Sheraton, Hepplewhite, Chippen­dale, and Duncan Phyfe) in deep cherry and mahogany woods, damask and velvet fabrics, silver tea sets, gilt-framed mirrors, and handsome, white-painted trim deliver an air of restrained luxury and good breeding. But elegant doesn't mean stuffy.

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With heirloom-style pieces, this dining room is fit for our great-grandparents. But the cream-colored walls, bright windows, and furniture placement remove the dust of yesterday and give the space room to breathe. Short gasps of color in the dark green and red accents stay true to the old and add touches of interest that are fashionable today.

Historically accurate, bright pastel walls or jewel-toned walls create a vibrant background for beautiful, heirloom-inspired furniture. The effect? Both exciting and timeless, neoclassical and classical. But that's not really surprising, because the spirit of '76 is forever.

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Gracious Impressions

As much the symbol of education and breeding in the 1700s as it is today, a precious home library was given its own room whenever possible. This one boasts elegant shelving with neoclassical columns, dentil molding, and bull-nosed corner blocks. A rustic oak library table with Jacobean-style chairs recalls old England.

Fresh county style, while casual and comforting, can also be quite sophisticated and elegant. In the late Colonial and Federal periods of America's history, people with land and education had the leisure to cultivate a highly civilized lifestyle. Once the smoke from the Revolution cleared, Franklin, Jefferson, and other early leaders traveled back to Europe and brought many old-world influences to their fine homes in America.

The rooms shown here owe much to those rich and elegant influences. Handsome architecture is key: Arched alcoves and cabinet openings create a graceful mood in several rooms, while a coffered ceiling establishes classic dignity in the other.

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An elegantly arched ceiling elevates this lovely vanity alcove to a work of art. Wrought-iron and antiqued brass hardware and overscaled stone floor tiles add a sense of rustic romance to the room's frankly feminine elements.

Carved plasterwork, limestone and hardwood floors, and flawlessly crafted cabinetry in the finest woods add up to a beautifully timeless impression. With exquisiteness like this, the grand country house appears to have a future as impressive as its past.

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American Rustic

A custom painting of mountains above the stove niche evokes the warm nostalgia of early American wanderlust. Traveling westward, silhouettes of bears and pine trees like the ones shown on the pot rack here were seen in the distance. When the time came to stop and settle the land, surrounding materials such as trees were crafted into homes.

Pioneers in a new land had to build their own homes and forge their own destinies to such a degree, they continue to inspire fresh country style in modern times. Even as the boundaries of the wilderness moved (from western Massachusetts to Michigan, from Colorado to California), the image of the ranchers and farmers who settled the land evolved from region to region.

Today, lovers of American rustic style can forge their own image by choosing from cozy log homes; spreading prairie farmhouses with big, welcoming porches; and rooms inspired by the old Southwest or Native American motifs. White­washed walls, rough pine furniture, cheerful fabrics, and heirloom artifacts create a reassuring feeling just about anywhere.

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©Whispering Pines A lamp like this one really brings a nostalgic, rustic room to life. A rough cedar column makes the base; the vintage-looking shade is embellished with bird illustrations and Western-inspired whipstitch trim.

One thing's sure: The inherent drama and dignity of early Americans' simple lifestyles make us feel proud today. And that's a feeling that will never go out of style.

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Big Sky Country

Cozy and handsome, this spacious home in ski country has a lot to love. Red and black buffalo plaid upholstery is bold enough to stand up to the strong lines of stone and wood. A Victorian-inspired, custom chandelier and a sofa table with a curvy apron add a bit of romance.

Whether your home is in the Rockies or the Appalachians (or you just wish it were), you can create rooms with rustic warmth and fresh country style. The ones here share common features that add up to a rich, outdoorsy feeling.

Strong, simple window treatments or none at all keep the focus on the view. A fireplace is important: While a wood-burning one is ideal, you can make do with a gas model or even a decorative shell in which you burn an array of sizable pillar candles in varying heights. (Be sure to keep an eye on any source of live flame.)

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Keeping the focus on a spectacular view, this great room takes its color scheme of barn-red, sage-green, and gold from timeworn Oriental rugs. The overall effect is subdued and rich. If your room is big enough for two conversation groups, one around the hearth and one around the window is ideal.

Exposed overhead beams don't have to be real supporting members; get the look with today's decorative, lightweight fiberglass beams. Furniture in strong-grained oak or pine is basic, but don't overlook the appeal of unpeeled pole or rattan.

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The Golden West

Rough-hewn stone and mellow cedar wood logs make a handsome fireplace. Decorative marks on the peeled-cedar furniture were burned in with authentic branding irons. A coffee table inspired by Native American drums is a cleverly in-character accent.

This inviting California-ranch­-style room brings back the best spirit of the Old West, but is updated for today's fresh country style. It's actually a pool house, part of a larger estate, but the decorating plan would work just as well in a suburban family room or a getaway cabin.

What makes it work? A vigorous yet understated design scheme that manages to be respectful of tradition and cheerfully lighthearted at the same time. Peeled-cedar furniture is made distinctive by branded accents, but the look is subtle and not over-the-top.

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A semicircular bar with a copper-look laminate top is ringed with stools that have saddle seats. Coarsely peeled-cedar seating and a custom, wrought-iron chandelier with a cactus motif turn the basics into dramatic statements.

A few, simple wrought-iron accents, scaled right for the spaces they occupy, add punch. Because the overall look is restrained, a life-size Native American and a tom-tom coffee table are delightful, not kitschy.

An array of entertaining accents -- antique, custom-made, or simply found -- pay lighthearted homage to the spirit of the Old West. A carved, life-size "cigar-store Indian" stands guard next to the French doors. Laser-cut and wrought-iron accents join natural finds such as shed antlers, gourds, and pinecones.

Tourist areas abound with tasteless "rustic" accessories, but these owners were clearly not tempted. The result is a room full of real style and personality.

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Set in Stone

Near-invisible mortar gives this beguiling fireplace wall the look of loosely piled stones. The wood dining chairs are simply scalloped in a charming, mountaineer style that resonates from Mexico to Switzerland.

Fieldstones, naturally rounded and smoothed by the forces of nature over thousands of years, have always been appealing. Found in New England and other parts of the country, fieldstones (unlike quarried stones) have been used in even the most modest cottages, as well as grand country houses, for fresh country style.

The rooms shown here demonstrate the lure of this fireproof, literally timeless material. In the novel bathroom, fieldstones are embedded almost to mortar level for a nearly flat platform surface around the tub. The fireplace in the dining room has nearly invisible mortar, so the dimensions of the stones really stand out.

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Fieldstones make a dramatic yet smooth platform surround for a built-in tub. The mirror is framed with loosely woven branches for a romantically rustic look.

In both of these rooms, the subtly varying tones of gray, tan, and violet look wonderful against honey-brown natural wood. For a stronger contrast, use fieldstone against painted plaster walls. Either way, stone delivers natural drama.

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European Country

The flowery accents send kisses of European romance to the room. The rich chocolate-brown chair is inviting in any language. Details on the wooden pieces add a touch of old-world charm.

If you like your fresh country style with a bit of an accent, consider European style. European roots go deep into American soil as immigrants from the continent brought their cultures here. Just as influential, the experience of wealthy Americans who enjoyed "Grand Tours" in England, France, and Italy was translated into romantic decorating ideas back home.

Today, America's love affair with European country style continues as passionately as ever. English country style dovetails nicely with America's love of flower gardening: Floral chintz fabrics on curl-up cozy chairs and sofas, needlepoint pillows, and Victorian-era porcelain capture the look with charm.

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Farther south, the sunny, primary-color prints of Provence bring French country ambiance home, just as the sunset tones of old frescoes recreate Tuscan Italian style. If your style is casual yet sophisticated, there's a look here for you.

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Blue Plate Special

A walnut-stained island looks rich against the all-white cabinets on this kitchen's perimeter walls. Beveled, diamond-shaped leaded glass in the adjoining door lends a charming storybook touch.

The fresh country style elements of England, Scandinavia, and France combine to make this kitchen modern, warm, and inviting. This room has today's most-wanted features, including a commercial-quality range and granite-topped island with traditional beveled edges. But it's the canny use of architecture that makes this space habitable, not just impressive to look at.

A chief source of delight is the big bay window near enough to the work area for the chef to enjoy. Maximizing the window's importance, the owners had a comfortable banquette built in for an informal eating nook, flanked by open shelving.

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A comfortable window seat makes banquette seating for two or three around a pint-size pedestal table. A side chair is cushioned in blue-and-white toile, a classic French fabric that's in vogue again today.

For an engaging personal touch, the owners' collection of blue-and-white pottery is on display throughout the room. For example, the area above the industrial-strength stainless-steel range hood is softened with a simple plate rack and two blue-and-white plates. Angled, open racks and wicker baskets beneath the island are timeless and practical.

Built-in, open shelving lets these homeowners display their prized blue-and-white ceramics without taking up floor space. The cozy window seat makes the most of a pretty bay window.

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Specialty of the House

A commercial-quality cooktop fits nicely between two graceful windows (uncurtained for safety code's sake). Wicker pull-out baskets and farmyard accents evoke a casual country spirit that's somehow in tune with the elegant cabinetry.

Inspired by the country villas of France and Italy, this kitchen combines the warmth of fresh country style with gracious sophistication. While kitchens on country estates weren't nearly this attractive or functional in the days of servants, today's most popular kitchen styles are inspired by Mediterranean estates. The look is muted, aged, and antique.

It starts with soft whites that look mellowed by the years into pale bisque, linen, or oyster. If the budget allows, a taupe or chocolate glaze is hand-rubbed into the wood and the pieces are hand-distressed for an undeniable look of antiquity.

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An extra-long two-tiered island holds the sink and work area and lets four diners snack and visit with the cook in comfort. Airy metal counter stools don't block the view of the island's pretty bead-board surface. Columns on the island are repeated throughout the room for a freestanding furniture look.

Limestone floors, granite counters, and lustrous porcelain tiles all recall the heritage of Italian stoneworkers that have beguiled viewers since ancient times. If real stone is not in the budget, today's matte-finished porcelain tiles look wonderfully like granite, marble, limestone, and slate. Use them on floors and countertops, too.

A beautiful fruitwood-finished china buffet contrasts subtly with bisque-colored cabinets in this elegant old house. The combination of open and closed cabinets gives the buffet country-style appeal.

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Personal Comforts

A collection of pretty blue-and-white porcelain could be languishing in some cupboard, but this canny owner gave it star treatment over the bed instead. A graceful antique chair and a collection of pillows embellished with primroses, tea roses, and other English flowers make this room even more inviting.

When putting together a bedroom for yourself, your child, or a guest, fresh country style can make it as inviting as these French- and English-inspired rooms are. While attractive color schemes and fascinating accessories are what catch your eye, you will be happiest with the results if you put comfort first, as these owners did.

Start with a good-quality mattress that's less than a decade old, pillows as soft or firm as the user likes (keep a stash of both on hand for guests), adequate reading lamps positioned so they can be turned off from the bed, night-lights near doors, and window treatments to control light and privacy. A bedside chest or low bookcase can do double-duty as a nightstand.

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Sunflower-gold and royal blue fabrics in the traditional patterns of Provence brighten this comfortable French-inspired bedroom. An ordinary chest of drawers gets a second life with a distressed white finish and new white ceramic knobs. A chair with its own lamp at just the right height creates a perfect spot to curl up with a book.

Now for the fun part: A color scheme made up of the occupant's two or three favorite hues and fabrics in patterns that suggest the country inspirations you like best.

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Vintage Charm

Charming appliqués of bleeding hearts and peonies, two old-fashioned perennial garden favorites, give these vintage-style pillows special appeal. The sage and violet color scheme is romantic, too.

Grandma's house is a cherished memory for many, a romantic ideal for many more. And when it comes to fresh country style, the unabashedly sentimental, cozy feeling of "the old homestead" is undeniably appealing. Charming old furniture, kitchen implements, knickknacks, and fabrics are still plentiful and affordable, so if you didn't inherit them, haunt the resale shops.

Quilts, needlepoint and embroidery pieces, bits of old lace, ivorine (faux ivory) vanity sets, maple and walnut armoires, chests, and dining room groups can give your home a warmly memorable look. If you like your vintage charm with a bit more edginess, dip into the '20s, '30s, '40s, and '50s for a funky take on an old favorite.

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Chenille bedspreads with ball fringe, tea towels trimmed in rickrack, novelty salt-and-pepper sets, pastel-tinted Depression glass, and roadside signs from the not-so-long-ago all help recreate those bygone days when America was a young consumer culture. Nostalgic? No doubt. But who can resist?

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A New Perspective

Exposed beams and a two-story fireplace are rustic elements that have made country houses comfortable for centuries. The dramatic architectural lines are modern, but the rustic textures and natural materials are timeless and perfect for a sophisticated country home. A combination of contemporary and traditional furniture, including a leather club chair and roll-arm sofa, mix country comfort and impressive good looks.

The rallying cry of modernism, "form follows function," was a radical notion to a world in which the ideal was to cover up function with as much decorative overlay as possible. This spacious, secluded house is designed with the most freeing aspects of modern style, but with all the warmth and dignity we associate with fresh country style in any era.

The vaulted cathedral ceiling is a showstopper, and the rustic stone fireplace surround has an almost sculptural drama of its own. Some of the upholstered furniture is modern, and the handsome area rugs are contemporary foliage patterns that owe some inspiration to William Morris.

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Dark, rustic furniture and a low ceiling give a cozy, country look to the dining room. The adjoining living room ceiling soars two stories, but the overall feeling is outdoorsy and casual.

The bath, inherently modern because of its fixtures, has a clean-lined warmth thanks to its stunning overhead architecture and contemporary wood cabinets.

Exposing a building's structure for the beauty of functional form is a modern approach that is also simple enough to fit right in to a contemporary country decorating scheme. If your lot requires more privacy than this, opt for country-canvas Roman shades or neutral pleated shades that don't disturb the room's tailored lines.

The overall look is rich yet serene and informal: Modern style at its best.

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Home Again

Craftsman-style furniture from the designs of Arts and Crafts-icon Gustav Stickley                                            look as fresh and exciting today as they did so long ago. Area rugs depicting                                            foliage, botanical-style fruit prints, and simple, burnt-bamboo shades carry                                            out the natural yet sophisticated scheme.
Craftsman-style furniture from the designs of Arts and Crafts-icon Gustav Stickley look as fresh and exciting today as they did so long ago. Area rugs depicting foliage, botanical-style fruit prints, and simple, burnt-bamboo shades carry out the natural yet sophisticated scheme.

Arts and Crafts-style furnishings are often associated with the rustic lodge look, but this early modern signature is equally adept at expressing contemporary fresh country style. Simple but not skimpy, furniture pieces are designed for human comfort. Their quietly dramatic shapes are handsome in coarse-grained oak and attain a lustrous, elegant beauty in smooth-grained maple or cherry.

While this look is a natural for genuine leather upholstery, fabrics captivate with rich, stylized images of nature. Handmade pottery and ceramics add functional sparkle.

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A fanciful custom rug depicting woodland animals in a rich mix of garnet-red, brown, and beige reflects the rosy glow from the surrounding tiles and bricks. You could create a similar effect with deep garnet paint, sponged in two tones for depth, and finished with a clear, glossy glaze.

In a brick or wood-paneled room, Arts and Crafts-style furnishings take on a rich, timeless character; in a white modern room, they take on an almost startling contemporary feeling. Paint the walls ruby, goldenrod, or cantaloupe, and the furniture takes on a quality that seems to be inspired by an artist's studio.

Dramatically shaped furniture from original designs by Gustav Stickley give this prairie-style living room great presence. The architecture is modern, but the ambiance is one of timeless, reassuring warmth. The mellow jewel tones of the Oriental rug perfectly complement the rich wood tones.

When pieces have this much character, you never outgrow them.

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A Personal Haven

Architecture inspired by 19th-century lighthouse design helps, of course, but the                                            savvy mix of furnishings would work anywhere. Uncurtained windows, graceful                                            wicker porch chairs, a plain white modern sofa, and an early American-inspired                                            coffee table make an unlikely but charming mix.
Architecture inspired by 19th-century lighthouse design helps, of course, but the savvy mix of furnishings would work anywhere. Uncurtained windows, graceful wicker porch chairs, a plain white modern sofa, and an early American-inspired coffee table make an unlikely but charming mix.

Contemporary fresh country style is one of the hottest looks around, and it's going to be a durable one. That's because we want it all: The warm richness of traditional country style and the serene freedom of modern style.

The rooms here do a great job of combining unlikely elements into something very inviting. One key is the easy-to-live-with color schemes: quiet naturals in the living areas, softened red, white, and blue in a child's bedroom.

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This sunny child's bedroom looks modern with all its streamlined built-ins, but the design actually hearkens back to shipboard storage compartments and the cozy alcove storage-beds built into Scandinavian cottages.

Another key is the use of timeless natural materials such as woven rush, wicker, soapstone, and real wood. Even when they are formed into obviously modern designs, such as the roomy pass-through counter, they retain their natural warmth.

A sweep of curved stone, something you would never have seen in the olden days, makes a pleasing, dramatic countertop for a pass-through. White, traditional cabinets and rush-seated stools add warmth.
A sweep of curved stone, something you would never have seen in the olden days, makes a pleasing, dramatic countertop for a pass-through. White, traditional cabinets and rush-seated stools add warmth.

But the most important way to make your country modern is the simplest: Weed out the clutter and keep only what is functional or personally meaningful to you. Now, that's freedom.

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Sparkling Drama

A sinuous run of counters provides ample storage plus eye-catching design. The ovens and a cabinet/counter section as well as the industrial-size refrigerator are all built in for a smooth line.

Modern style is easy to achieve in the kitchen since so much of it is technological anyway, but it's more of a challenge to create a modern-style kitchen with the appeal of fresh country style.

This design does the job with a masterful use of natural and industrial materials. The result is witty and sophisticated, but much warmer than you might expect.

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Smoked glass in a free-form, curved shape makes a gleaming, practical countertop in exciting contrast to the warm wood counter base. Textured glass doors on lighted wall cabinets boost the sparkle quotient.

Stainless steel that covers the state-of-the-art appliances is brushed for a diffused glow. In contrast, the black granite countertops are highly polished to a mirror finish, and the natural mica chips inherent in the stone give a pearly gleam to the surface.

The gleam of a dramatically arched gooseneck faucet is reflected in the mirror-polished black granite countertop that sparkles with natural mica chips.

Shaker-inspired, deceptively simple wood cabinets carry the smooth scheme along, but their sinuous design curves like a meandering stream around the room. Cabinets are finished in a range of natural wood tones, from dark ebony to tawny maple to pale birch: proof that nature-lovers and modernists can be one.

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A Pared-Down Asthetic

This room is free from white-box plainness because of modern, dramatic wall art, a sexy coral love seat, and a bureau with a past. If you don't have fabulous views,substitute oversized art work, a go-anywhere fireplace, or an aquarium to create a lively focal point on the wall opposite the bed.

The owners of this high-rise home overlooking the mountains love modern style, but that doesn't mean they want to live in a chilly, high-tech environment. To give their space warmth, they've combined clean, contemporary lines with fresh country style.

Against an unembellished white wall, a highly detailed wood antique delivers dramatic warmth and interest. Warm colors make the contemporary country space inviting, too: In the bedroom, a coral-red love seat and a piece of wall art with the same hue catch the eye.

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Country style pays homage to beautiful woods, and the dark-and-light patterns of polished, natural burlwood create subtle interest throughout this room. Burlwood pairs with shiny black lacquer on timeless furniture for a look that's serene and sophisticated.

The dining room is modern and neutral in color, but burlwood makes it have country style because it is one of nature's extraordinary beauties. To create a similar effect, choose simple modern pieces in genuine woods and soft natural fabrics.

An antique bureau-desk with dramatic lines makes a sculptural statement against a plain white wall. A stacked trio of windows opposite the bed makes an intriguing frame for the vista beyond.

Work with a specialty closet installer to design as much customized, compartmentalized storage as you can into your rooms, so you can keep the clutter under wraps. Then, warm it all up with accents rich in texture, pattern, and hot color.

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Pure Craftsmanship

A plain sideboard with a separate wall shelf for plates helps elevate everyday necessities to the realm of art. The dining chairs wear the characteristic Stickley curve along the seat; the table's sections are held with butterfly pegs used since ancient days.

When the Industrial Revolution made ornate traditional furnishings affordable to people outside the upper classes, a counter-movement arose protesting the shoddy, overly ornamented pieces flooding the market. The fresh country style of the Arts and Crafts movement celebrated the simple elegance of handmade furnishings, from sideboards to the serving bowls displayed upon them.

One of the most important practitioners of this movement was Gustav Stickley, whose original designs are being produced by the family firm for a whole new era of consumers. Simply styled of solid wood, with only a few geometric flourishes as ornamentation, Craftsman-style furniture appeals to those who love natural materials as well as those who love clean-lined modernity.

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A simple, pencil-post bed in Craftsman style recalls the pristine qualities of even earlier Shaker style. The fretwork on the oak armoire is a key Craftsman characteristic, as is the geometric form of the bedside lamp.
A simple, pencil-post bed in Craftsman style recalls the pristine qualities of even earlier Shaker style. The fretwork on the oak armoire is a key Craftsman characteristic, as is the geometric form of the bedside lamp.

Craftsman style has become so popular that it's easy to find accessories as well as furniture and fabrics in this style. Many are reproductions of the original artists' works, and they look as fresh and free as they did when they were new.

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Clean and Serene

Spare and simple, the cabinetry in this modern country bathroom relies on the sleek warmth of finished wood to create the best of both worlds. Shallow glass bowls sparkle like pools of water atop each of the twin vanities.

When seeking inspiration for fresh country style that's a bit more eclectic, consider the Asian aesthetic. Deceptively simple yet deeply resonant with the currents of nature, Asian style is as much philosophy as it is a decorative approach.

Since the 1950s, modern style in the West has borrowed from Eastern design principles. The result is a look that's timeless, graceful, and natural and, at the same time, rigorously geometric and simple.

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Branching quartzite tiles on the floor of this bathroom flow into a shower stall floor of naturally rounded pebbles. Frosted and clear glass define space unobtrusively.

The bath shown here is a great example. Inherently interesting natural materials, from exotic branched quartzite to common river pebbles, are used where waterproof elements are needed. Matte-finished wood and brushed metal are juxtaposed for a marriage of natural and industrial elements.

Sleek, polished countertops and drawer fronts gleam like jewels against their quiet, natural wood counterparts, creating an attractive interplay. A collection of acid-pitted metal bottles looks like ancient artifacts yet fits the modern aesthetic of the space.

Frosted, textured, and clear glass is used to define space and create soothing watery effects so appealing in a bath. The final Asian-inspired grace note? One perfect flower, poised for contemplation.

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Impressions from Afar

At first glance, the sailboat on the mantel, the rustic coffee table, and the Craftsman-style chair with red-checked upholstery look like today's take on all-American style. But the tall rattan chair, bead-dangling lampshade, African and Asian accessories, and matchstick blinds all point to a more exotic sensibility.

Eclectic style has been around as long as one generation passed on its treasures to the next and ever since one culture traded with another. Today in America, fresh country style offers more choices than in times past, both in the range of products available and in the acceptance of decorating for personal expression rather than for the neighbors' approval.

The rooms shown here are comfortable and functional, but they're also rich in personal details and eclectic points of view. In the bath, rustic Asian and country French influences mix in a setting both dramatic and playful.

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An exceptional antique table is fitted with a standing brass bowl sink, ancient in style yet one of the newest looks in bath fixtures. Asian and French country influences are united by a color scheme of blue, white, and neutrals and the timeless, countrified appeal of common farm animals and flowers.

The family room takes rustic American elements and shakes them up with Asian and African accents. Craftsman chairs and beaded lamps, together? Eclectic style says, why not?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Mary Wynn Ryan is the author of numerous interior design books including The Ultimate Kitchen, The Ultimate Bath, Cottage Style, Fresh Country Style and Garden Style. She has written about home furnishings and interior design for various magazines and served as Midwest editor of Design Times magazine. She was also the director of consumer and trade marketing for the Chicago Merchandise Mart's residential design center. She is president of Winning Ways Marketing, an editorial and marketing consulting firm that specializes in home design and decorating.