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Trend Watch: Rustic Utilitarian

by Maxwell Tielman


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

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • … 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 !

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

  • 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!

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

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.