Modern rustic spaces tell stories with texture, color, and accent pieces in ways brand-new furniture simply can’t. If modern style is chock-full of clean and simple lines, think of rustic home décor as the ideal middle ground between that and cottage-chic. In other words, rustic home décor is one of our favorite ways to make a room look lived-in, while still exuding a collected vibe without feeling overdecorated.
This style brings together elements of polish, distress, texture, and character in a way that feels effortless. And, with a little consideration, the modern rustic look can work well in almost any room, from the living room to the bedroom, and bathroom.
What is Modern Rustic Style?
Modern rustic style is characterized by a clean, modern aesthetic balanced by softer, natural textures that highlight the art of mixing high and low, with old and new.
Here, learn 15 tips from design and style experts to create a home with rustic home décor and modern touches.
Retain Original Elements
Well-worn wood beams are an enviable architectural detail that creates a rich, rustic vibe by adding a bit of necessary roughness to balance out cleaner lines and polished finishes. And even if you're not working with original elements, working to expose architectural details "like brick walls and concrete columns," notes fashion and culture blogger, Joe Flanagan, can still achieve the modern rustic look.
Incorporate Reclaimed Materials
Salvaged, built-in shelves in the photo above playoff a perfectly imperfect messy bed to give the room an undone vibe. Paired with a cool palette of grays and blues, the look is both chic yet relaxed. "You can create a rustic vibe in a modern room by using wood elements such as reclaimed wood beams and stone and keeping all finishes natural," says Allison Babcock, an interior designer based in Sag Harbor, New York. "If you want to create this effect in a more traditional home, you can make it feel modern by juxtapositioning natural finishes with clean architectural details," Babcock adds. For example, choose wood-paneled walls, field stones, black iron, and/or brick. "An unexpected touch can be a blackened wood finish on either paneled ceilings or walls to give it a punch. There is a charring process that gives the wood a ton of age and character and yet is a modern aesthetic," Babcock says.
Mix Styles, Shapes, and Forms
"Modern rustic design is a play on natural materials and clean lines," says Michelle Harrison-McAllister, a San Diego-based interior designer. In the photo above, for example, a defining feature, like a rustic farm table is classic, casual, and laid-back. A medley of matching vintage chairs adds visual interest. Industrial pendant lighting, simple lines, and a sparsely decorated space add a modern touch. The overall look feels layered without being overdressed.
The modern rustic look also favors functionality as much as it aims to make a space feel clean and cozy. Aim to have each piece serve a purpose—even better if it offers a few. For example, in the photo above patterned throw pillows add whimsy while offering lumbar support. A wooden bowl beneath the sleek coffee table adds rustic flair and provides storage space for cozy throw blankets. "Choose modern or rustic where it makes sense in the design and functionality of the room, but make all of the choices work cohesively in terms of color palette," says Indiana-based Susan Young, an interior designer and home stager of Color Joy Interiors.
Look to the Past
Vintage pieces of antique furniture play well with curated, well-worn textures and modern patterns, such as the solid wood mantel and trendy chevron pattern beneath it. "Rustic accessories with a contemporary couch, or a vintage side chair reupholstered with modern fabric," Young suggests, updates the farmhouse look.
Too much white can make a place look sterile. Use texture and an earthy color palette to soften the look.
Keep It Neutral
Neutral doesn't have to mean boring. Choose whites and creams to let more natural elements pop, and to keep the space feeling clean and bright (aka, totally modern). An earthy color palette works here too—weave in terracotta, sandstone, and olive tones. And when in doubt, go monochromatic. Gray is a great foundational color that's equally sleek and casual. "White walls can provide a high contrast backdrop for furniture and vintage accessories to stand out in a modern rustic design. However, too much white tends to make the ambiance feel sterile. Adding color with a mural or a wooden feature wall and painted wooden chairs can make the space more inviting and interesting and completes a modern rustic setting," says Ashley Spencer, Principal, and designer of Casart Coverings.
Select Hardy Furniture
Anchor a room with a few pieces with heft, like a heavy wooden dining table. Next, an earthy combination of rattan lighting and textural pillows add natural, visual interest. Matching, modern dining chairs and hung rectangular frames keep the space current.
Be Inspired by the Outdoors
Take a cue from modern homes, which favor openness and lots of natural light when possible, as well as from rustic homes, which aim to align their interior worlds with their surroundings. Opt for windows with a clear line of sight to the outdoors, and in cases where your window options are fixed (in a rental apartment, for example), keep curtains pulled back or opt for sheer window treatments to let in the light.
Update Classic Structures With Contemporary Colors
Juxtapose trending colors (modern!) with classic structures (rustic!). For example, what would it look like if you painted your brick fireplace a matte or glossy black? Or, could your traditional cabinets use a wash of color, like aqua blue, or sage? In the photo above, classic shiplap contrasts nicely with jewel-toned blue cabinetry. Keep in mind, "While one bright element can be a compelling focal point, the modern rustic look benefits from a neutral color palette of white paired with earthy hues," advises Tatiana Machado-Rosas, Senior Interior Designer at Jackson Design and Remodeling.
Choose Natural Materials
Organic is the name of the game when it comes to modern rustic style. That means materials like stone and wood (reclaimed, unfinished), and elemental fabrics like canvas and burlap. Consider thinking beyond walls and floors to include utilizing natural materials in linens, rugs, and upholstery.
Embrace Mismatched Furniture
Mismatched furniture leans into the rustic look and gives a space a lived-in feel. Don't be afraid to pair antiques or heirlooms with more modern shapes. The key is balance. For example, if you have a set of antique chairs, considering pairing them with a midcentury modern dining table.
Soften bold lines with color, texture, and accents. A throw pillow or blanket can work wonders. Or, as in the photo above, a comfy leather couch in the living room offsets bright white walls and the kitchen's trendy, chevron-pattern backsplash. If you think a space feels too staged, see where you can make it feel more lived-in.
Accent With Plants
Again, bringing in the outdoors in the form of a few, strategically placed plants is a great way to liven up a space without cluttering it. "Use baskets in place of traditional pots. Antique brushed brass, wood tones, ivory, decorative baskets are all affordable and interchangeable pieces for achieving this look," says McAllister.
Balance clean, simple lines with well-worn or weathered elements to achieve the modern rustic look.
Think Raw and Polished Vibes
Modern rustic style is all about finding the equilibrium between undone and curated. That said, think about which elements make more sense in the raw, and which elements could use more polish. For example, think about pairing organic materials with man-made finishings (a concrete sink with a wood-paneled backsplash?), streamlined furniture with a space's original features (like a stone fireplace), or unfinished floors or countertops with fashion-forward lighting.
Balance out modern furniture, lines, and finishings with feel-good (and most importantly, natural) fabrics for a cozy look. Think linen throw pillows or slipcovers, or sisal, jute, and hides for earthy appeal. Or, use woven baskets, hammered bowls, or canvas plant holders as a great way to keep things clutter-free and balanced. McAllister makes texture a go-to for a modern rustic look, incorporating "linen, cotton, mud cloth accent pillows, [a] sisal area rug, [or] jug style vase filled with branches and anything that has a reclaimed finish."
Ready to embrace this trend? Check out some of our favorite modern rustic finds to bring this style to your home, from an antique bed to exposed beams, and industrial lighting.