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Primitive, rustic & country: what's the difference?

Primitive, rustic and country are three distinct interior design styles. You might think they're synonyms, but think again! Let’s learn how to tell them apart.

27 March 2018 144 0

If you are confused by these three words, don’t feel embarrassed! The truth is, everyone is: people tend to think that antything with a slightly bucolic, homemade and handcrafted look must fall under the umbrella term “country”. In reality, although it is easy for some furniture to belong to more than one category, each word stands for a different style with its own specific criteria. Are you dying to learn the difference? Read the article!


Let’s start with the least known one. As much as some rustic or country home décor pieces might also be defined as “primitive”, there are certain rules that a truly “primitive” piece must follow. First of all, it needs to look like it was crafted by a non-professional. Ideally, it doesn’t look perfect, precisely because it was created by an inexpert person who did not care too much about its exterior appearance: they made this object to be functional and serve a specific purpose, rather than to please the eye.


We love the functional & essential nature of the designs by Ygg&Lyng: you can find them here

A primitive piece lacks all pretense: it’s the first of its kind and it might even look like its creator put it together almost at random! Meaning that it might be composed of parts you normally wouldn’t think to combine. These stools and bar stools are an example. Take a look at the seats: they look precisely like those simple wooden seats you’d normally see in an old-time school; we can assume this from the slightly ergonomic shape and from the bolts, that are left in plain sight. It’s the type of seats we’d expect to see on a school chair, rather than perched on a bar stool's long and black steel legs.


Take a look at more primitive designs by Bent Hansen here!

Finally, a primitive piece is really utilitarian in nature, and it was assembled with old and new materials together alike, which gives it simple and functional appearance. This table lamp couldn’t be a better example: a nude bulb that probably used to hang from the ceiling has been placed on a structure so that it could serve its new purpose as a source of light for a desk. The two wooden sticks that support it are neither particularly striking nor elaborate; still, their overall simplicity manages to bring out and enhance the nudity of the light bulb.


Don't you just love the simplicity of this lamp? You can see more creations by Noyer here


Again, it’s not impossible for a country-style object to also be classifiable as “rustic”, and vice versa. Still, there’s a few guidelines we can follow to find our way. For instance, a rustic piece is characterized by an overall lack of artificial colors; if wood is being employed, it is neither lacquered, nor painted. Monotony is avoided by combining different types of wood: a light and dark mix adds depth and definition; in particular, red wood is one of the most popular shades for rustic-styled environments. Other materials like terracotta tiles might be employed, but then again, the colors will be kept nice and neutral. Unlike primitive items, rustic items do not require to be handmade: a rustic piece might have been made industrially, with an artificially worn and distressed appearance.


The rustic vibe is strong in a Marchi Cucine kitchen! Click here to find out more about this Italian brand

Another fundamental characteristic is that rustic pieces have a strong tie with nature, and not just wood: stones and crystals may all be employed in the making of the product. However, these raw materials must be left, well, raw: raw edges and rough, irregular surfaces are the first indicators we’re standing in front of a rustic rather than a primitive/country home décor piece. Take a look at these washbasins and bathroom counter: the basins have been polished only where absolutely necessary; moreover, the pine wood panels haven’t even been treated with a glossy finish: the feeling is that of an unrefined but still somehow perfect piece that was borrowed from the natural world.


Take a look at more rustic Arxe furniture here!

The tie with nature is so strong that even wooden flooring planks are left as raw as possible. Of course, a polishing process must take place here: nobody would walk on chipped timber. However, even though this floor has clearly been smoothed off, it’s been kept with a natural matte finish in order to give importance to every tiny detail of the grain. It’s needless to say that rustic pieces work wonders when combined with each other: try mixing unrefined wooden planks with rattan and stone items! The final atmosphere is guaranteed to feel warm and cozy. Tip: don’t forget to throw some greenery in the mix! Plants in unrefined, terracotta-colored pots will make even an apartment in the city center feel like a mini-farm.


More Tilo flooring solutions here!


A country-styled home might employ elements of both primitive and rustic design, but there are still a few ways to tell the difference. First of all, country is not just one style, but many! Different states have their own country style, as after all the word itself -- “country” -- suggests. There can be English country, French, Italian, and in the United States the number of differences increases, because we must take into consideration that Alabama country will for sure present strong differences from, say, Maine country, and so on. So in a way, country gives you more freedom: you can virtually style your home after any part of the world.


Check out more bathroom designs by Cerasa here!

Another general rule of thumb for telling country from primitive and rustic is that these last two tend to employ a natural color palette, as we mentioned before: mainly lots of brown, in any shade. The country color palette is a lot wider than just natural shades: almost any color can be employed. But careful! Black, as well as very dark colors in general are a big no-no, and there’s a strong preference for pastel colors. A country piece often looks old and worn, but that’s not always the case. For instance, this children bedroom has a strong country vibe to it despite looking fresh and new, since white and pink wooden planks have been assembled in order to give it the resemblance of a funny cartoon barn; the bookcase shaped like a cartoon tree reinforces this feeling.


Looking for creative and colorful children bedroom ideas? Then Mathy Bols is the brand for you!

Because the color palette is so much wider, unlike rustic and primitive furniture, country gives you the chance to style a warm and cozy atmosphere also by employing a range of basic but warm colors. In fact, country might be the best option if you’d love your house to have a casual, unfinished air, but with lots of color to brighten it up! You can always choose to opt for a combination of the three styles, though: a rough but comfy and colorful single sofa casually lying directly on a natural and rustic timber floor, with a functional and essential primitive fireplace in the background.


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