Rustic style makes a comeback in a complex world

September 02, 2006|by ROSE BENNETT GILBERT / Copley News Service

Q: We want to put a great room addition onto our house, which is a 1920s-vintage center-hall colonial. Our problem is we'd like a less formal, more relaxed atmosphere in the new addition - not contemporary, but with more natural materials, like a stone fireplace. How would that work with the rest of the house, which is pretty much 18th century and a little on the formal side?

A: The transition is not as difficult as you might think. Just be careful to cross-reference enough elements to keep the new room from coming as a shock when you step through its doorway.

In the photo we show here, there's a comfortable blend of the rustic - in the stone fireplace - and the traditional - especially the windows with their almost mission-style wooden framing. The furnishings (by Bob Timberlake,; 800-481-1995) are an easygoing blend of the casual - like the wicker on the seating pieces - and the traditional - like the classic mantel, wooden cocktail table and gathered, full-length draperies.


The amalgamation creates an atmosphere you could call "rustic on good behavior," naturally warm and inviting but not downright casual.

Rusticity, by the way, seems to be rising in popularity as a style of home decorating. The reason, according to a Trendease Report from International Furnishings and Design Association, New York, is what's known as the "new economics of information," the fact that we now have access to a bewilderment of local, national and international events and interests at the stroke of a computer keyboard or the push of a cable remote control.

With all the outside world coming in on us at a scary rate, some of us are "embracing things that are familiar and comforting," such as rustic designs and products, says Trendease.

That includes those of us who are scared of technology and those of us who work with technology all day and want to come home to "anything but another modern gizmo."

Q: We have an Arts and Crafts-style bungalow with a small window on each side of the fireplace. I'd love to replace them with stained glass, but don't have the resources. I've seen gels you can apply to glass. Would faux stained glass be just too awful?

A: Although you often see old windows with simple squares of stained glass rather than pictorial renditions, you'd be walking a very thin line between traditional and tacky.

Before you give in to an impulse you're already uncomfortable with, consider an affordable alternative to actually replacing the windows: hang panels of stained glass over your plain windows. You might be lucky enough to find a couple of windows at an architectural salvage yard, or a glass artist's studio.

There are also modern manufacturers of traditional stained glass designs. One to investigate is Meyda Tiffany (; 800-222-4099), which hand-cuts and handcrafts stained glass windows, following Louis Comfort Tiffany's traditional techniques.

Q: Is one born to the "manor" or "to the manner"?

A: I'd have sworn that the expression is "to the manor born." But erudite reader Arlette Ballew has taught me better. She points out that sources as reliable as William Shakespeare maintain that the phrase was originally "to the manner born." To wit, Hamlet's complaint about the manner in which his fellow countrymen quaffed their wine. Never mind that he'd been to that "manner born" himself, guzzling was still declasse, he said (or something close to that).

In this column, we may be more about manors, but from here on, we promise to mind our manners, too.

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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