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Primitive decor

Photo: Chai65

When my old college buddy walked into my house ten years ago, her face lit up with a smile. “You’re into primitive decorating!” she exclaimed. “I just knew you would be! When I pictured your house, this is what I saw in my head!”

Oddly enough, that was the first time I had heard a name put to the decorating style that include old washtubs, a beaten-up table, lots of antique furniture and quilts on the walls. It was simply a home filled with things that reminded me of the old farmhouse I grew up in. But that is exactly the idea behind primitive decorating: To recreate a time gone by, when life was slower and much simpl

Decorating in the primitive style

The primitive style is warm, inviting and lived-in. It’s the kind of place where you aren’t afraid to kick back and put your feet up. It’s the type of home where a guest will feel as welcome as if they had always lived there. Primitive decorating is a feast for the eyes, but it’s also a treat for your state of mind. It forces you to slow down, look around, and settle into a comfortable chair as you sip your favorite beverage from a handsome pottery mug.

Here are some of the basics of the primitive style. You can incorporate these delights into your home, and that gets you started. Once you have figured out what you really love, creating primitive style will become much easier.

Distressed Furniture

Primitive furniture is often well-worn and well-loved. Look for furniture that isn’t just modern distressed, but that actually has the age required to create those natural scrapes, dents and dings. Old pie safes, cupboards, highboys and armoires are perfect for primitive design. Look for weathered benches for the porch, old wingback chairs for the house and a long, lovely farmhouse table that has seen better days.

Deep, Rich Colors

Primitive decorating harkens back to a time when women dyed their own fabrics with the natural dyes they had on hand. This means muted, lovely colors that showcase all the hues of nature. Choose a long, low sofa in grey with needlepoint pillows thrown on it. Look for throws that stack neatly in the weathered bookcase and show off their unique colors.

Exposed Wood

The original primitive style included plenty of wood, since the furniture was often made from the trees right outside the door. Look for side tables that were obviously handmade, headboards that used to be doors and old windows with mirrored inserts for a pretty addition to your wall. If you are lucky enough to live in a home with exposed beams, don’t cover them up! Adorn them with old baskets or tins instead.

Signs, Washboards and Shutters

One of the most homey things you can do to create the primitive look is an old sign on the wall, advertising a place or item that is no longer available.

You can also use washboards as backdrops for handsome still life designs, or hang a series of old washboards above the modern washer and dryer to help soften the look. Shutters are also a great addition, as they provide an appealing backdrop for other decorating elements or look great on either side of a mirror.

Antiques Galore

Finally, don’t forget the antiques! Something as simple as a cast iron skillet that has been handed down over the generations can breathe primitive life into your kitchen. An old dough bowl, tools from yesteryear and antique clocks or radios form a bridge from this modern world to that old one, and that can make you appreciate your primitive treasures even more.

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.