Saturday, March 29, 2008


(image from an Armstrong flooring ad.)

I've been thinking about a name for my style since SCB's wonderful post about George). And, some eye-candy is long over due. No matter how tidy or clean, the basement is still the basement: pretty boring, visually speaking.

I have long loved a classical English type look. High ceilings, breakfronts, books, polished gleaming wood, faded floral rugs, soft walls washed with distemper, you understand. I also love the sleek interiors of "contemporary." Strong contrast between dark and light, an emphasis on texture, shade and light.

A long, long time ago I decided my style was "country." But not the "country" I ever saw in shelter magazines: it was too busy, too cliched. But I loved the concept: old, honoured things given pride of place, lots of textures in quilts, weathered wood. My budget was more "garage sale" than any of the above: and I love bright colour.

But that's not style, ladies and gentlemen, that's an undisciplined mish-mash.

Until recently, I haven't found anything which I might possibly embrace. Nothing to emulate, nothing to guide me. For one of the things "naming your style" does is give you direction.

Naming the style also adds to our vocabulary so we can discuss it with others; it's a reference point for other, similar combinations and permutations of the elements of style. The name creates a boundary, too. This sort of thing is allowed and this excluded. This is why "eclectic" is hardly helpful. It includes too much.

I was totally captivated by an article on "Modern Euro Country" decor8 posted many moons ago. As I recall it was like a colourful shabby chic. The magazine (Canadian Home and Country) published a book called Canadian Country Style, and while they don't feature "modern Euro country" they do have a chapter on something called "Urban Country."

photo by Martin Tessler

Isn't that perfect?
Light and dark.
The lamp is the perfect mix of a modern material (steel) juxtaposed with a "country" texture (basketry)
Natural objects highlighting the "modern" black and white photography.
Clean, clean lines.

It gets a little trickier, the more objects you introduce:

photo by Debra Thier

Modern: artwork, sofa, vase, lamp base (same lamp!), the shiny pillows.
Country: trunk as coffee table, wicker shade, wicker chair, oversized pillows, magazine holder? Whatever that big thing is. Country pitcher in a modern shape.
The palette is muted, the scale is cosy.

For me, however, this is not as successful:

photo by Debra Thier

As an expression of the style, I'm sure it meets its parameters:
The look of urban country is fresh, unfussy, and intriguing. It combines modern design with traditional materials, mixes warm country elements with cool urban architecture and modern furnishings, and marries minimal features to gracefully aged surroundings. (p. 108)
But in this picture, the style is entirely too modern for my taste. Likewise, the interiors they featured for the bedrooms and kitchens seem altogether "too country" --they rely on the absence of all clutter, minimal colour, and a streamlined look to express the modern component--and in my house, that just wouldn't fly.

My take:
1. Keep it functional and useful at all times.
2. Keep it simple. "Clutter" must be of the functional and useful sort.
3. Contrast modern materials with ancient lines.
4. Add colour.
5. Have something unusual or unexpected.

I have chairs to figure out what to do with, the trunk to paint and the faux fireplace facelift to finish. Perhaps this can give me some direction.

By the by, there's also a book by the name "Urban Country."

It focuses on the style more as a architectural concept than a decorating one; for example, the authors suggest pairing a rubber floor with a porcelain "farmhouse sink" in the kitchen. It hasn't been all that useful to me, so far, (though I do love that coffee table on casters!) but, if you're interested, this article explains it briefly.


drwende said...

Fascinating... "urban country" is starting to look like a genericized version of what used to be regional styles, where one had certain "old" indicators of one's regional history (tansu chest = San Francisco) mixed with more contemporary pieces.

Will keep an eye out for the book and similar at the library, just because inquiring minds want to know.

Alana in Canada said...

That is interesting. I hadn't heard of "regional Style" except as it pertains to exteriors and architecture, not decor.

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