Interior spaces that are too fussy make me uncomfortable. I think when you really live in a home, there needs to be a bit of disorder. A messy stack of books next to your reading chair in the living room floor. 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; they’re beautifully imperfect and a wonderful backdrop for more refined treasures you want to spotlight.
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 3 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.
Woven wooden blinds also add delicious texture to a room. When she was decorating her little cottage in Atchison, Kansas, 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.
This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at nellhills.com.