Trend Watch: Rustic Utilitarian


Blame it on the last decade’s rocky economy or the waste-not-want-not mentality of the environmentalist movement, but we’ve witnessed a surge in people’s desire for pared-down, beautiful designs that are unfussy and functional. These “rustic utilitarian” interiors feature items handpicked with longevity in mind—both in terms of construction and style. With the outside world seeming as uncertain as ever, these styles echo similarly trying times in the world’s history. Times when heartiness, self-sufficiency, and the handmade trumped frivolous, temporary fashions. Look for natural, un-doctored materials and an emphasis on quality construction and handicraft. These styles, made for the long haul, don’t seem to be going anywhere. Here are 14 interiors + 8 Products that display Rustic Utilitarianism at its best. —Max


1. Kitchen Prep Counter | 2. Pocket Apron | 3. Enamel Plates | 4. Pendant Lamp | 5. Wood Serving Spoon | 6. Chambray Work Shirt | 7. Soap With Brush | 8. Trash Can

1. Kelli & Sam Larson

2. Graham & Co

3. Elise Joseph

4. Camilla Ebdrup.

5. Jason Gnewikow & Jeff Madelena

6. Tara Mangini & Percy Bright

7. 4. Tara Mangini & Percy Bright

8. Jessie Webster

9. Phil & Ruth de Vos

10. Marte Marie Forsberg

11. Cassandra Ellis

12. Heather Jorde

13. Evan & Oliver Haslegrave

14. Ariele Alasko

  1. Gretchen says:

    Love this. Our rent house has everything painted white…EVERYTHING. So we went with it. I just replaced the cabinetry hardware. Our breakfast nook looks similar to #3.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I love the rustic simplicity here. The touches of black and white add crispness to the reclaimed wood. By the way, # 2 is marked #1, and is in Phoenecia NY not CA.

  3. I’m so on board with this trend. There is something so beautiful about the pairing of raw textures and utilitarian materials.

  4. iris says:

    Yes. So much. I love this trend. Still a little high on the bric-a-brac, but not too bad!

  5. … you’re kidding, right ? I’ve just spent HOURS building an inspiration board featuring those exact colors and texture. Black, white, linen, wood, glass, leather… it doesn’t get better than this !

  6. It is the likes of New York’s Ariele Alasko and Topher Després ( that inspired me to start a California blog featuring the found, foraged, & photographed:
    Waste not, want not is spot on…. and so is dumpster diving!! :)

  7. Casey says:

    I love this style: lived in but clean. Also, I’m a sucker for wire baskets. Every time I see them in the antique stores I feel compelled to snatch them up. Old-timey with a modern appeal. Very nice collection!

  8. Lizabeth says:

    Is there a link to the opening photo? I remember seeing it before on Design Sponge but not where :(

    1. Lizabeth– the link is at the bottom. It’s Ariele Alasko’s studio. Sorry for the confusion!

  9. I love a space where natural woods are allowed to be the star of the show. I think that is what makes this style warm, even with stark white walls.

  10. Love. My new apartment has black floors, and “rustic utilitarian” definitely would make it homey. I love the mix and matching of wood tones, then dressing it up with all sorts of art.

  11. susie says:

    Love this trend! All the rooms have this sense of warmth that comes with utility pieces.

  12. amanda says:

    looooooove ariele alasko’s work/aesthetic so much.

  13. Hotel Gault says:

    And I just love them all. So unique and trendy. Simple yet stunning!

  14. Carrie says:

    Love this trend. Something about the rustic and simplistic texture of these rooms, just make it feel so homey and comforting. Great post!

  15. emily says:

    black, white and warm wood. such a lovely color palette.

  16. Gina C. says:

    I am thrilled that this trend is here to stay. Having just moved into to my first apartment I’m starved for ideas on how to make the space both functional and beautiful. My room mates and I spent 2 days at the Nashville Flea Market and it was like hitting a rustic utilitarian gold mine. I found items that are not only less expensive than store bought furniture but more authentic to the trend. Three of my favorite buys of the weekend were tall metal lockers (great storage), a wire bike basket and a beautiful old green trunk. I think the rustic utilitarian style is more than a trend- it’s a lifestyle.

  17. andy says:

    Yes. So much. I love this trend. And I just love them all. So unique and trendy. Simple yet stunning!Love this trend. Something about the rustic and simplistic texture of these rooms, just make it feel so homey and comforting.

  18. I love this trend! Simple but sophisticated in every way. What could be better? Thank you for sharing!


  19. Savage Seeds says:

    IN LOVE! This is exactly the space I hope to have one day. Rustic, modern, clean = Perfection! Well done!

  20. TRACE BLOG says:

    Yes, lately I’ve been feeling exactly this way. I’ve been re-decorating my place and have been favoring more minimal and practical solutions with bits of things I love here and there (over super fussy design). I love the copper pendant #4. I have been crushing on a similar fixture from Rejuvenation for my entry foyer.


Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.