Decorating in the “Rustic” Style

What exactly comes to mind when you hear someone talk about rustic style decorating?  Maybe frilly country curtains, crocheted doilies on tables and dressers or baskets of large fake flowers scattered around the tops of cabinets? Or perhaps you immediately imagine a mountain cabin complete with black bear knick-knacks and southwest style faabrics and accessories? That’s not at all what I see.  For me, in decorating 1800’s log cabins I strive for anything but the expected.  I mix contemporary pieces with antiques, and classic pieces with rustic pieces. I use natural finishes and elements and combine them with handcrafted up-cycled furniture and accents.  When looked at separately, these things seem totally unrelated but when combined together, they give an eclectic, time worn look, with a warm and inviting atmosphere that screams “home”.  Because the log cabin itself is such an incredible structure, a work of art, my approach to decorating is to compliment but not compete with these beauties.

When renovating log cabins, we are saving a piece of history. Each cabin tells its own unique story.  Many times we must peel away other layers of history to get to the original beauty of the logs.  These layers are all part of each cabin’s story so anytime possible, I salvage everything and I recycle, reuse, reinvent, and repurpose every piece to become a part of the next chapter. Old boards once used to cover log walls to prevent drafty winters can become a beautiful floor.

Old beams too short for reconstruction could become cool light fixtures and table legs. Other old framing timbers from a reclaimed barn can be planed and joined to make an amazing farm table.

The log below a window turned into a large doorway can be recycled into a custom hand hewn mantle that would be a focal point in any room.  And a few old barn boards combined together a statement piece add some photos and an old tailgate complete with the antique tag and you have a great piece of art.

Even down to the cut off pieces of some old replacement logs, everything finds a new purpose in my decorating.  A custom bed gives 3 different logs with partial damage brand new life.  Small remnants of some beams can be joined together to create a one of a kind chandelier with some bought light fixtures. And with the addition of a few rusty old chains and an old wood and steel pulley… voila you have a masterpiece!

A really big part of my design style is thinking outside the box, or in my case, outside the cabin pen;) To achieve this look in your own home, you need to look at materials that would normally be tossed into the dumpster during a renovation and see the potential for a second chance.  Don’t be locked into the expected or conceived idea about what something should look like.  You can even redesign things so that they are no longer used for their intended purpose.  Restoring the history and charm of these old log cabins and being surrounded by the stories that the old log walls hold is priceless.  Bringing in unexpected elements that add beauty and interest and give new life to old salvage items adds that WOW factor that we all so want to achieve in our homes. This is what gives my cabins that eclectic, well-worn feeling of a home that has been loved for hundreds of years…that is my design style, Rustic Chic.


Designer | Karen Tillery

I am a Christ-following wife and mom of four, a log cabin loving– designer and decorator, and the crazy queen of up-cycling everything possible. I am a Birmingham born southern girl and an Auburn University graduate in Graphic Design. My career has spanned the gamut from an illustrator and designer with Oxmoor House Publishing, to a full time stay-at home mom and part time art teacher to owner of Restoration Log Cabin Rentals in North Alabama. My business combines my passion for history and construction with my design skills by renovating and restoring 1800’s log cabins. My formal training in regards to color, balance and space partnered with 24 years of renovation and construction experience and 12 plus years of reinventing 1800’s log cabins, have given me a special insight into designing living spaces that are not only functional but comfortable and inviting. My fine art and illustration skills have given me the ability to draw the concepts of my designs so that other people can see my vision before it is even a reality. When you love your job as much as I do it hardly even seems like work!