Rustic style meets refined elegance for a touch of sophistication

Though warm and welcoming are at the core of quintessential country interiors, this classic category can rise to a higher level with a more polished take on the original.

To understand how to pull this off without a hitch, we turned to Shana Smith, interior designer and owner of S.L. Smith Design in Oakland Township, who likes to add a little sophistication to her laidback look. She describes her 100-plus-year-old recently renovated farmhouse as “a little bit country and a little glam.”

The pairing offers the perfect contrast. In this case, Smith gets to rev up the rustic touches while respecting the original architecture of the home. “I like something old that looks like it was dragged behind a truck with a more refined element like a chandelier that has more sparkle,” Smith says.

Another way to create a more sophisticated space without losing the charm is to update existing features, as Smith did with her dramatic black and white staircase. “I love old wood floors, so I stained the ones downstairs black and painted the upstairs floors white, and incorporated both colors on the railing,” she says.

Unique pieces also help to define the country style. “I like to tell people, ‘find what you love and figure out where to put it,’” says the designer, who turned an old trunk from a garage sale into a TV stand.

You can also kick your country digs up a notch by giving found objects a new purpose. For instance, Smith reclaimed the wood from an old picnic table on her property and installed it on a wall in the foyer.

Vintage signs are a staple of country living, like the one in Smith’s home that says ROOMS. Though weathered, the black lettering against the white backdrop gives it a graphic feel that’s downright chic.

The same can be said about the railroad crossing sign she found at a flea market that is flanked by a pair of MUMS signs in the kitchen. When paired with new pieces like the chandelier and the dining table, the setting feels a bit more modern. Other charming details include the shiplap ceiling and the white cabinets that brighten the space.

Fabric can lend another layer of detail, as it does in the dining/music room where a pair of slipcovered chairs replace the standard bench at the piano. As this designer demonstrates, it’s all about the mix. “You can’t have everything be old or new. It has to be a combination to get that character,” she says.

Creative placement adds even more visual interest. Whether it’s the sliding barn door that hung on a wall in her previous home or some mirrored stars that started as Christmas décor before becoming permanent fixtures, these arrangements provide the right blend of shabby meets chic.

Since rustic style rarely takes itself too seriously, a little humor fits the bill with a SANITATION sign that Smith had custom framed to hang above the bathroom door. White walls provide the perfect backdrop for fun finds such as these. “I like that canvas. It puts the spotlight on my things,” she says.

Collections play a major role in any country-style home. Limiting the theme by color tone or type of item helps keep the look deliberate. Smith opted for a cleaner look by sticking with a limited color scheme of black, white, and green.

For those who want to add a touch of sophistication to their well-worn interiors, she suggests a sparkly chandelier or some hardware with bling. You can also update a focal point like a mantel with a shiny finish like shellac for a modern twist.

For a balanced look, Smith recommends authentic antiques to anyone with a more sophisticated aesthetic looking to add a little rustic in their lives. “Even if they’re old and beat up, they’re better than a reproduction,” she says.

Lastly, you can always breathe new life into family heirlooms, which is what Smith has done by painting her old rocking chair black for a stylish update that better suits her taste. It’s that fresh interpretation that makes country décor more current, for the best of both worlds.