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Primitive Decor Style Guide

What primitive decor is all about

You don’t need to live in a barn to embrace primitive charm. The culture and history of primitive decor has become a source of inspiration for DIY’ers, country-chic enthusiasts, and design brands who want to add a simple, welcoming feel to their space.

Primitive decorating is an entirely personal. There is no cookie-cutter way to do it! Here, we’ll go over primitive decor best practices from themes to colors and design inspiration, so you can get that livable, warm, and comfortable feel anywhere your home.

What makes primitive unique

  • Simplicity

    Primitive decorating is reminiscent of an earlier time when reducing, recycling, and repurposing were a part of everyday life.

  • Authenticity

    Authenticity is achieved by including items that are exactly what they appear to be, and serve functions beyond the purely aesthetic.

  • Comfort

    Design to give guests (and yourself!) a big hug every time you step in the room. Always decide on comfort over authenticity, we don’t want our home to feel like a museum!

  • Practical

    Choose purpose over aesthetic. By decorating with only the essentials in your home, you capture the warm and welcoming spirit of early American decor. For example, present a floral arrangement in an aged metal jug instead of a vase for a touch of practical aesthetic.

  • Natural

    Weathered and worn is the cornerstone of primitive styling. Muted earth-toned colors and patina surfaces give your that down-home, cozy feel you look for on Pinterest.

  • Craft

    Whether a reproduced Windsor wing-back or comfy throw pillow for the couch, primitive pieces are often handmade. Think craft over mass-produced goods.

Primitive color palettes

Color plays an important role in conveying primitive style. Typically, these colors are dark, muted, warm, and earthy colors that highlight familiarity and weathered beauty.

Popular tones on the primitive spectrum are: black, barn red, navy blue, cream, putty, tan, umber, walnut, mustard, sage, and burgundy.

Textiles and materials

  • Fabrics:

    • Burlap-Coarse, woven canvas. Used for sacking
    • Linen-Strong, lightweight. Good for cooling
    • Cotton-Soft, insulating. Popular fabric
    • Muslin-Lightweight cotton. Plain weave
    • Gauze-Thin, transluscent. Open weave
  • Materials:

    • Reclaimed wood
    • Tarnished metals
    • Vintage glass
    • Patina surfaces
  • Patterns:

    • Plaid
    • Gingham
    • Striped

What primitive decor is all about

The best part of primitive decor is that there is so much to explore! If you’re stuck on what to do, jump back in time and discovery different legacies and heritages that inspire with you.

For example: Kari Cameron focuses on the Waukesha legacy and New England heritage. Decorating with 18-19th century New England furnishings is her speciality.

Primitive Design Tips

  • Have fun! Primitive decor is about functionality, but it’s also about beauty. Although an antique skeleton key won’t open any doors today, it’ll make a conversation piece when placed in gathering spaces.

  • Combine neutral paint colors with primitive furniture pieces to create a warm space and give your home a comforting feel.

  • Design a room with your favorite rug as the focal point. This minimizes visual competition between accent pillows, curtains, and chairs.

  • Use neutral paint colors on walls. This creates a clean backdrop for furnishings and decor that appeals to the eye.

  • Get crafty. Custom-paint or distress a five-point barn star. Tea-stain and sand down a painted watering can. Give decor a worn and weathered look.

  • Don’t be afraid to dig through mother's attic and discover old-world antiques and reproductions. These pieces serve multiple purposes around the home.

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Where to find primitive furnishings

Primitive furnishings tend to be older, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find pieces in great condition at an affordable price. We like to hunt through places like:

  • Thrift Shops
  • Antique Sales
  • Flea Markets
  • Estate Sales
  • Etsy

Take your time. Uncover the pieces that truly speak to you. After all, you’re going to have to tell their story when someone asks about it!

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