What is the Difference Between Rustic and Contemporary Decorating Styles?

Contemporary Decor

There are as many decorating styles as there are people decorating their home. It is hard to pin down or define exactly what a particular style looks like because everyone who embraces a style sees it differently. Creativity is a good thing because it makes each of us an individual. Two styles that are at opposite ends of the spectrum are the rustic style and the contemporary style.

The differences between two diametrically opposed styles can best be illustrated by the chandelier. The rustic chandelier usually reflects the historic period of the Nineteenth Century in either the Old West; rural, farm country; or woodsy. Two common motifs of this time are the wagon wheel and the candle.

The most common materials are those that were available in that historic era: wood, iron, and brass or pewter. The wagon wheel motif would be most common for the Old West style rather than the rural or woodsy style. It is used often because the round shape works well as the basic structure to distribute the lights over the area to be lighted.

The candle is the obvious choice for the lights themselves since real candles would have been used in the original versions of this type of chandelier. However, nowadays, flame-shaped light bulbs are used instead of actual candle flames. The contemporary chandelier is the opposite of the rustic. The most noticeable characteristic of the contemporary style is simplicity and clean lines. The most commonly used materials are glass and chrome or brass.


But chandeliers are not the only decorative objects that define the rustic versus contemporary decorating style. End tables and coffee tables also reflect the style. Again, it is the materials and the lines that set the two styles apart. Rustic tables appear most frequently in maple, oak, or pine. The legs and tabletops are chunky and can have some carving. Pine, especially knotty pine, is probably the most rustic wood for this style. If you want to feel as if you live in the woods or by a lake, knotty pine will give you this feeling.

Oak is more suited to the western or rural version of the rustic style. Again, the contemporary table is pretty much the opposite of the rustic. Glass is popular for tables of this style, along with brushed or polished metal. As with the chandeliers, the lines are clean and open. Some contemporary tables remind us of space flight and futuristic decorating.

Even more important are the seating arrangements, consisting of sofas, loveseats, and chairs. While the two styles are opposite, there is one material that is common to both. That material is leather. Rustic sofas and chairs are more likely to have wood as a part of the decoration.

As with the tables, this wood is most often maple, oak, or pine. Wooden arms are popular and attractive, but they can be uncomfortable when people are sitting for a period of time. Soft arms are a better choice. Contemporary sofas and chairs have the same characteristics as the other pieces–clean lines and smooth surfaces. These pieces may be rounded or boxy, smooth or round and cushiony.

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