Stylish, Primitive Decor for Every Space

Handmade, utilitarian artifacts and antiques find new life as decidedly cool decor.

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January 12, 2018
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Bird is the Word

The use of primitive art, such as these colorful bird prints, adds to the charm and rustic feel of this kitchen. Look for prints like these at thrift shops and yard sales to create a similar style in your space. Birds and botanical images are especially popular and can often be found in vintage books and framed inexpensively.

A Masculine Mantel

Designer Brian Patrick Flynn shows how primitive decor is easy to mix with most any style. To create this rustic-industrial scene, primitive pieces are incorporated to keep the look simple, yet impactful, with a masculine feel. Vintage oil cans, metal boxes and wooden cogs work together for a truly one-of-a-kind result.

A Cultured Touch

Adding a primitive piece, like this beautiful temple bell, to a tabletop, shelf or mantel is an easy way to celebrate the style. Displayed with other objects, such as the silvered-glass votive shown here, the temple bell adds global appeal and a sense of history to a vignette.

Pottery Perfect

Glazed pottery pieces boast a brilliant shine and bring another element of primitive style to this antique tabletop. An elegant orchid is a fresh and fanciful counterpoint to the handmade pieces. An artsy print in a basic wood frame finishes this tasteful display.

Prints Charming

Sometimes, primitive decor is all about the print. Taking inspiration from early geometric designs, this primitive-looking herringbone print covers a chair and details the edges of a basic woven rug. Paired together, the resulting look is a statement-maker in a room.

From: Barry Dixon

Crate Expectations

Ingenuity is a big part of primitive decor. Whether deciding to simply display it or using it as a starting point for something new, there's a way to work it into any decor. Here, four old soda crates are attached to create this unique shadow-box coffee table. The crates are attached to an old table base, then a piece of tempered glass is laid on top.

Gray Buffet Table With Woven Basket Art

Handwoven baskets are nestled above the sideboard in this dining room, bringing a simple, well-traveled look to the space.

Lucky Finds

How charming are these horseshoe shelves created by Modern Mountain Life's Katie Nathey? Inspired by a wine rack spotted online, Katie upcycled horseshoes and used reclaimed wood from her wedding venue to create the four-shelf unit.

Katie says, "We love using materials that add character and history into a space. These pieces help weave a story throughout a home, and that’s our favorite part about decorating. Not only does it add character to our RV, but it’s super functional too!"

A Gate Way

This clean-lined and über-efficient laundry room gets a touch of rustic charm thanks to the salvaged metal gate that decorates the wall. Its simple, open-work design and humble beginning bring both a decorative and grounding touch to the room.

Hoop It Up

Cleverly crafted from embroidery hoops, this DIY light fixture adds an element of primitive grace to this eclectic space. Finding a new way to use or display old utilitarian pieces is the heart of primitive decor, and this delightfully dimensional chandelier is a prime example.

Wheel Appeal

Hung above a vintage rolling bar cart, a wooden wagon wheel brings a down-home sensibility to this otherwise sleek space. Edison pendant lights add to the found-decor feeling without seeming kitschy or overdone.

The Simple Things

A mix of rustic, primitive and midcentury modern touches gives this bedroom its unique personality. Among shades of surf and sky, the simple, handmade elements both ground the design and add unmatched character to the scene.

Take the Stairs

What could be more rustic and primitive than a sturdy rope? Designer Chip Wade of HGTV's Elbow Room cleverly devised a whole new take on the bannister. He attached the rope to the wall with metal ring fasteners to create a most unexpected and unique bannister alongside the reclaimed wood staircase.

A Little Bit Country

The addition of a primitive dough bowl to this otherwise neutral space brings a touch of rustic country charm to the scene. A large glass vessel filled with fresh sunflowers brings a pop of color and the painted wood paneling provides a feeling of warmth to the room.

Take a Step

"A little touch of something rustic, aged or primitive brings a well-rounded aesthetic to a room," says designer Erinn Valencich. "For polished decor, contrast is key."

"Most people have enough glamour, elegance or comfortable elements to their homes," Erinn says, "something like an old stone bowl for a plant or a chipped-wood bench that feels handmade brings that warmth and contrast that most homes need to look their best." Here, rustic garden steps add charm while creating space for display next to the bed.

Rack It Up

"The wood, rustic and earthy textures and colors found in primitive decor can help strike a beautiful balance between modern and casual in a space," says designer Regan Baker.

"The wooden ladder gives the bathroom a primitive and natural element through its light-colored, rustic wood," Regan says. "This helped us add more warmth when paired with the bathroom’s modern design elements, such as the custom patterned floor tile and freestanding tub with brass fixtures."

A Contemporary Twist

"I love the beautiful craftsmanship of primitive decor," says Lauren Rubin of Lauren Rubin Architecture referring the introduction of primitive details, such as the table and seating in this contemporary space. "Each piece was created and designed by an artist specializing in their trade. The material of each piece is expressed, accenting the beauty of the material’s origins."

Lauren continues, "The live-edge wood of the counter beautifully articulated the knots and nature of the living tree. This one piece informed the rest of the [room's] design and decor."

A Cozy Nook

Turn an under-utilized corner into a welcoming nook with primitive pieces. In this little space, a primitive pine chair with a hand-braided rope seat welcomes guests, while a repurposed vintage work ladder acts as a small shelving unit.

A Welcoming Seat

Sarah Macklem of The Yellow Cape Cod shares some primitive decor from her mother's porch and gardens, nestled in the rustic woodlands of Michigan. "My mom has always decorated both indoors and outdoors with primitive items. Her decorating emits a lot of emotion, and every item she incorporates into her home tells a story," Sarah says.

Alongside the handcrafted twig chair and antique shovel is a rustic barrel turned table. "On top of the barrel are heart-shaped stones [Mom] has collected over the years. She says that each stone represents one of her grandchildren," says Sarah.

A Place for Plants

"Whether it's something [Mom] has handmade, or a vintage piece that she has collected, it is unique and heartwarming. I'm drawn to this style of decorating because it reminds me of her and the home I grew up in," Sarah says. Here, an old metal toolbox finds new life as a rustic planter.

It's in the Bag

"Mom has always enjoyed a simplistic, homespun, primitive decorating style, and this approach fits right in to [her] home's remote, wooded setting," Sarah says.

"She loves to reuse items and repurpose collected or thrifted treasures. She can turn just about anything into a beautiful planter," she says, as evidenced by this wonderful woven bag-turned-planter hung on a nearby post.

Pallets, Please

A perfect pile-up of pallets takes the place of a more traditional console and lends this space its primitive touch. A wonderful complement to the texture of the brick wall and the rustic flair of the cowhide rug, the repurposed pallets add depth and character to become the room's focal point.

Purposeful Pieces

The repurposed pieces that add storage space to the bar area in this kitchen wonderfully exemplify how clever primitive decor can be. A vintage barn shutter is remade into a wall-hung shelving unit while vintage metal rakes on either side of the shelves are not only conversation pieces but rustic stand-ins for wine glass racks.

Get Hooked

Would you ever believe that this artsy light fixture is crafted from old roofing hooks? We love the ingenuity — and the result! A quintet of Edison bulbs are suspended from the paired-up hooks creating a one-of-a-kind rustic remix that really defines primitive decor.

A Mantel Moment

A neutral-hued bathroom with a stand-alone tub gets a large dose of primitive charm from the striking salvaged mantelpiece set alongside it. With its richly-carved details and distressed glass mirror, it not only brings handcrafted appeal, but becomes the focal point of this shabby-chic design.

Wine O'Clock

Newly made items inspired by primitive pieces can be just as impactful as the real thing. This wine rack, made from reclaimed lumber and wooden dowels, has the rough-hewn look and no-frills appeal that define much primitive decor. Even better, this new creation is more likely to stand up to today's high-traffic spaces and frequent usage than a more worn and delicate original would.

Book Bloom

"Primitive decor appeals to me in that it's all about repurposing well-loved pieces in new and interesting ways," says Amy Dowling of My Life From Home. "I enjoy the hunt for finding something that can be recycled and given new life."

Inspired by her love of reading, Amy created the dimensional floral decor on her wall from the pages of old books. "Using a copy of one of my favorite books that I picked up at a thrift store, I was able to recycle it in a brand-new way."

An Inspired Idea

"As someone who loves vintage and antique pieces, I am drawn to primitive decor because [these] treasures fit into the style naturally and organically," says Sarah Norton Ramberg of Sadie Seasongoods.

Sarah's windmill decor is actually crafted from an old ceiling fan and cut and painted to give the look of a true primitive piece. "Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper inspired the project. I just don't have a huge house that can accommodate a genuine windmill, nor do I have a huge budget to purchase one," Sarah says.

Newfound Frame

Sarah's eye for primitive decor led her to see promise in an old washboard frame. "Since the actual washboard was missing, I wanted to fill the area with something that still said 'primitive,' so chicken wire was perfect," she says.

"Plus, I knew I could clip things to the chicken wire, like notes or photos and give the washboard frame an entirely new purpose."

On the Edge

Adding a natural, primitive feel to this otherwise colorful, contemporary space, this live-edge coffee table becomes a grounding element. Acting as a statement piece in the eclectic living room, the table is topped simply with a tray, artsy bird sculpture and fresh blooms.

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