Country interiors tailored to tastes

The Baltimore Sun

While we often enjoy being a guest in a home with country styling, most of us associate the country look with nostalgia for hand-hewn items and for small rooms cluttered with knickknacks.

But many of us will adjust our attitudes after reading a book titled Shades of Country: Designing a Life of Comfort. It's written by Chippy Irvine and published by the Taunton Press.

Country-style interiors aren't all the same, Irvine points out. She identifies a variety of looks, including "Grand Country," which is said to be similar to the stately American Colonial style. "Cozy Cottage" is another of Irvine's categories, consisting of rooms that are cluttered but have clean lines and exude what she calls "storybook charm."

Then there's "Farmhouse" - a practical, high-functioning style based on the design of rural New England interiors. "Rusticators," Irvine adds, are those who live in romantic retreats, usually in mountain settings, notable for their massive stone fireplaces and rugged-looking furniture.

Shades of Country may well prove helpful to homeowners who like the rural look but haven't decided how to tailor it to their specific tastes.

We recently bought a small house in the country that we plan to use on weekends and for vacations. A bedroom to be reserved for guests measures 10 feet by 10 feet, with a door in the middle of one wall and a 36-inch window directly opposite it in the center of another wall.

Can you offer some suggestions for bedding and for furniture arrangement? We want to keep the setting simple while giving it a stylistic flair that wouldn't be out of place in a rural environment.

Thanks for providing such exact dimensions and for pinpointing the placement of openings. It does seem that whoever built your house was highly devoted to symmetry.

You should consider a few space-planning factors as a prelude to designing your guest bedroom.

Sleeping arrangements will do much to determine the layout and look of the room, with the safest approach being to place twin-sized beds at a discreet distance from one another. I specifically suggest you put them on opposite sides of the window. That will leave enough room between the beds for a small chest of drawers that can also function as a night table.

A stylistic direction you may find appealing is a melding of old and new highlighted in Shades of Country. In a section of her book called "Clean and Simple," Irvine discusses country styles derived from Shaker and Swedish designs. Anyone fond of contemporary minimalist styling would feel comfortable in this sort of setting.

Rita St. Clair is a Baltimore-based interior designer. Readers with general interior design questions can e-mail her at

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