Natural Materials Make a Home Inviting

Interior spaces that are too fussy make me uncomfortable. I think when you really live in a home, there needs to be a bit or disorder. A messy stack of books next to your reading chair. A cat asleep on the duvet at the bottom of your bed. A piece of furniture with a story to tell, like a chest with chipping paint or an ottoman upholstered in a worn old rug.

Maybe that’s why I love to weave natural materials into my home. They provide Mother Nature’s restorative palette of cream, tan and brown, are beautifully imperfect, and are a wonderful backdrop for more refined treasures you want to spotlight. In the photo above, I used a stack of wicker suitcases to build a side table in our study, adding to the earthy warmth of this snugly room.

Here are the same baskets, but in a new home: my little lake cottage. The stack of baskets adds to the cottage’s casual look in our family room and gives us some much-needed storage space.

In the dining room of my lake cottage, these mismatched wicker chairs, with their worn paint, were exactly what I was looking for to make the room feel casual and homey. Since then, they have found a new home on my patio.

My historic home in Atchison was a bit grand and called for more formal furnishings. But I didn’t ever want it to feel pretentious. That is so not me. So I tempered the spaces with strategically placed natural pieces. For example, in my entry, I pushed a trunk basket under the elegant console table to filled in the empty space underneath.

Sometimes people get confused about the difference between wicker and rattan. The quick answer is that wicker is not a material but an ancient technique for weaving natural materials like willow, rattan and bamboo into furniture or baskets or whatever. Wicker furniture can be made out of any sort of natural or synthetic material.

Rattan, a vine that grows in the shape of a pole about three inches in diameter, is a strong wood and can be used to construct furniture, from outdoor chairs to hutches and bed frames. Bamboo looks similar but has a hollow core so is not as strong and durable as rattan.

I love them both. They are at home anywhere, from a seaside cottage to a mountain lodge, in formal spaces and in those that are more relaxed. In the photo above, my friend Julie used a rattan chest to hold dishes in her formal dining room.

Woven wooden blinds also add delicious texture to a room. When she was decorating her little cottage in Atchison, my friend Cynthia used bamboo shades to bring a bit of rustic charm to the spaces. I like how they contrast with the more formal furnishings in the room.

I adore lovely old oriental rugs and have a patchwork quilt of them in my home. But underneath it all, natural fiber rugs like sisal or sea grass are a must-have. They wear like iron, are forgiving when stained and provide a lovely base for a room. A common mistake people make when buying area rugs is to get a size that’s too small. Understandable when you consider how much a really good rug costs. But natural fiber rugs are so affordable you can use them to cover the entire room without breaking the bank.

Next week … Wingback chairs have been adding charm to homes for centuries, but are still fresh and fun.