Q: The interior of my recently built, Northwest-style home is furnished in a mostly contemporary manner. I'm tempted, however, to redo the kitchen and the family room in an informal, country-type decor. Do you think the country look would be appropriate for this kind of house?
A: Why not? I think of modern Northwestern architecture as being casual and expressive of the region's environment, with lots of wood and natural surfaces. That kind of space seems well-suited for so-called country furnishings.
I say "so-called" because country styles can vary a great deal. The possibilities range from the highly decorative and not-so-rustic French country to the more angular and primitive American country. There are several in-between options as well.
Since the rest of your home is furnished with contemporary pieces, I advise that you bridge the two styles by using simple contemporary seating along with countrylike objects in both the kitchen and family room. You can achieve an attractive effect by introducing cabinets, tables and accessories in the more relaxed vTC American or English country designs.
The photo shows a contemporary home whose interior has been given a decidedly country treatment. This particular setting is a family room. Note the absence of window coverings and the stark white walls and bleached pine flooring.
Baltimore designer James Peterson enhanced the desired effect adding a collection of antique English and American country objects, such as ship models, pipe racks, stitchery and naive-style paintings. Tinware, vintage ceramics and other handcrafted bits and pieces once used in a more humble environment seem right at home against this pristine and modern background.
The two major seating pieces were covered with a contemporary patterned fabric reminiscent of an Ikat weave. Its striped motif and color blend well with a flat-patterned and decorative antique kilim rug.
The fireplace mantel is an unusual but very effective addition to this assemblage of comfortable and familiar furnishings. Made of scrubbed pine, the mantel previously graced a Rhode Island home. It is the sensitive work of a carpenter who sought to emulate the then-fashionable dentil moldings of the elegant homes of Newport.
As you can see, it is indeed possible to use rustic and informal furnishings in a house built within the last 30 years. I would caution, however, that you keep the colors relatively simple and stay away from pastels in fabrics and floor covering. Light-colored walls would be my choice, along with the most minimal amount of window covering needed to ensure privacy.