Wood adds a touch of "country" to modern rooms

July 09, 2005|by ROSE BENNETT GILBERT /Copley News Service

Q: Our country house has turned out to be more contemporary than country. We were after a "converted barn" look, but we put in cathedral ceilings with double-height windows, and now there's an awful lot of glass. What kind of curtains should we use? We don't want to block the view in the daytime, but at night we feel too exposed.

A: Natural materials are always the most charming way to say "country" in a room. But before you can decide what form those materials should take, you have to settle on the style you want to cultivate.

Has the room really gone contemporary or do you still want a more casual, rustic look? In that case, think naturals, such as cotton and linen in tall tieback curtains. Another country-flavored option would be simple woven wood roll-up shades. Or - easier to operate - long wooden Venetian blinds that can control light and privacy at the twist of a wand. The wider the slats of the blinds, the more the overlap, the more light you can block out. And you will have a choice of wood stains and colors for the tapes on the blinds.


The room in this photo sounds like yours, with its lofty ceiling and two-story windows. This room, however, is all about being "country." It is relaxed and easily lived in, warm with natural wood tones from floor to ceiling, and in between, the wood blinds blend into the walls to become part of the architecture. The blinds are "Country Woods" from Hunter Douglas; Closed, they guard against heat/cold, glare and stares from outside, in. They even eliminate the usual pinholes of light that come in around most blinds' cord-holes, thanks to a unique feature called "De-Light."

In spaces this gracious, you need other dramatic gestures to cozy up the height and bring it down to more human size. The traditional pewter "candelier" is an inspired surprise, swinging from its two-story-long chain over the dining table below. The quilt tossed over an upper railing also adds texture and visual warmth of its own.

From now on, if you concentrate on furniture and accessories that celebrate natural materials, folk art idioms, and vigorous textures, like braided rugs and handmade crockery, you should be able to reclaim your "converted barn" from the clutches of contemporary. You just need to set your vision and keep focused on it.

Q: We are planning our new kitchen and have chosen cherry cabinets. We would really like a wood floor, but have been told it would be "too much wood." We don't know the best choice of wood or color. We aren't sure if we should choose something close to the color of the cabinets or go for more contrast. We would prefer a more formal look. Can you help?

A: Boy, can I! Good for you, first of all, for ignoring all that bad advice. What do they mean, it would be "too much wood?" I submit that there's no such thing as too much of a good thing when it's something as naturally good, beautiful and alluring as real wood.

The best news I can offer comes from the Hardwood Information Center, where the experts stress time and time again that trying to match wood tones is old-think. As you have a more formal look in mind, consider staining your hardwood floors - whatever species of wood you choose - much darker than your cherry cabinets and then give them a brilliant, shining finish. The contrast will be exhilarating, the sparkle will feel formal and grand. To preview the effect, explore the Hardwood Web site at You'll be able to compare wood species, see them wearing different intensities of stain colors, and learn more about the properties and personalities of each kind of wood.

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Hampton Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas. Please send your questions to her at Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112-0190, or online at

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