Style & Design
Give Your Tree, Mantel & Dining Table a Farmhouse Holiday Touch
The farmhouse look is incredibly popular, and with the variety of products available, you can easily decorate your home for the holidays with farmhouse flair. We’ll show you how to bring this rustic style to three key areas for the season.
By Susan Wagner, Editor, Country Sampler Farmhouse Style
Although it's been years since farmhouse style first hit the decorating scene, this popular look is still sought after by homeowners. And why not? Farmhouse blends well with other furnishing styles and provides a casual comfort to the home. During the holidays, you can add farmhouse touches to your traditional Christmas decorations, or you can go all out and create a full rustic look. Here are a few tips and suggestions for giving your holiday decorating farmhouse flair.
Trim the Tree
For many homeowners, Christmas decorating starts with the tree. Decorators fall into two camps: those who prefer the look and smell of a live pine, and those who like the ease and tidiness of an artificial tree. If you start with a real tree, you have natural rusticity built in, but even if you set up an artificial tree, you can give it that country look.
Today's artificial trees have come a long way from your grandma's setup. With lifelike materials and multi-hued branches, many faux pines look almost real. One growing trend is the return of flocked trees. You could flock your own (but what a mess!) or you could purchase a pre-flocked tree. Flocked trees range from lightly frosted to full-on white designs. You can choose among white-on-white, white-on-cream and white-on-green trees.
For a classic farmhouse look, go for white on green; you want the tree to look natural. A lightly flocked white-on-green tree will work well with a traditional farmhouse mix of ornaments, especially those with bright pops of red or green and more woodsy designs. A white flocked pine is a great base for a vintage-style Christmas tree. Accents of cream, ecru and silver will look lovely against the white. If you just want to try out the flocked look rather than going all the way, consider buying a lightly flocked green garland and winding it among your tree's branches. Another real boon of today's artificial trees is that many come pre-lit. No more reaching in among the prickly branches to position the lights! For a farmhouse look, choose a tree with smaller white lights. Or consider what many designers do nowadays, and leave your tree unlit and au naturel.
Now that you've decided on a tree, try out these easy decorating ideas:
- Choose a color scheme. Decide if you like the white-and-cream subdued farmhouse look or if you prefer a tree with more color. For the latter, pops of red strike a merry farmhouse tone. Insert berry sprigs among the branches, or loosely wrap the tree with red plaid ribbon or a berry garland. You could even tuck small red trucks among the boughs. Mix it up with black-and-white buffalo-check ornaments. If you prefer the creamier, lighter look of farmhouse, coordinate your trimmings so they stay within subdued and neutral shades. Try natural muslin ribbon or matte-finish white or cream ball ornaments.
- Think texture for garlands. Burlap ribbon comes in different colors, and the utilitarian fabric works well as a garland. Some even feature striped grain-sack designs. Wood bead strands are another popular garland option. They come in various colors and styles, so you could choose natural wood for a tone-on-tone tree or matte red, blue or green for a color-accented tree. No matter which you select, keep it simple to blend in the farmhouse look. A third option, especially for a creamy white tree, would be a chunky knit garland. It will add a soft touch and texture to your tree.
- Explore the variety in ornaments. Some popular farmhouse decorations include twine-wrapped or buffalo-checked balls, simple wood cutouts or faux turned-wood designs. You could keep natural wood ornaments in their original state, or dry brush them with white or cream paint. Copper cookie cutters are a fun household item that can act as a farmhouse ornament; simply tie on a piece of jute or strip of muslin to use as a hanger. For a more natural look, go with wood slices stamped with simple designs or sentiments, dried orange slices, or gingerbread men.
- Consider a creative tree base. Position your tree in a wood crate or box, set it in a metal tub or wide bucket, or place a shorter tree in a wheelbarrow or on a runner sled. For more traditional tree bases and skirts, look for basic cotton or muslin designs or plaid or checked fabrics. You could even wrap a chunky throw around your tree base for a cozy look.
- A final note on trees. Nowadays, families often decorate more than one tree. Smaller trees are popular to place in bedrooms, on side tables, next to fireplaces and on patios or porches. Luckily, small artificial trees store easily and can be set up in minutes.
Make Over Your Mantel
The fireplace mantel is the perfect staging area for creative holiday displays. This is often a focal point in a living room, and the mantel and hearth provide spots for arranging displays at different heights. When designing your mantelscape, keep in mind several basic principles: include elements at varying heights, choose a cohesive color scheme, and designate a central focal point.
The best part of putting together a mantel display is picking a theme from the endless array of possibilities—a wintry white and silvery snowscape with shimmering accents, a nostalgic vintage Christmas motif with feather trees and antique toys, a rustic cabin look with naturals and woodland animals, or a weathered barn theme. With the right pieces and color tones, any of those schemes could carry a farmhouse look. Consider the following key points and ideas when designing your mantelscape.
- Go bold with your focal point. You want something that will catch people's attention and set your display's tone. A large canvas art print with a farmhouse theme such as a wintry barn setting or an old red truck dressed in a festive wreath will give a nice focus to your display. An oversize slat-wood sign featuring a holiday sentiment is another great option. One popular focal-point trend is to display a framed chalkboard with a graphic design and scripted phrase; you could use chalk markers and freehand your own design, or search online for examples, stencils or downloads. A similar trending option is a large brown paper scroll with a sentiment, poem or song lyrics written on it. Even an old red sled hung above your fireplace can act as the focal point. If you have a favorite wreath or picture you always place in this spot, give it farmhouse flair by positioning it in front of a blank slat sign, vintage shutters or an old paned window.
- Plan for varying heights. Candlesticks, especially turned-wood versions in a weathered or dry-brushed finish, are an easy option for creating a multilevel display. Group several together in different heights to create flow. As for the candles themselves, white pillar candles are the classic pick for farmhouse design. You could also add height with candle lanterns or small pine trees. If your candlesticks or trees are all the same size, place one atop a wooden box or on top of a stack of books. (Turn the spines backwards or paint the covers white or cream for a farmhouse look.) For a more vintage feel, consider old lanterns, feather trees, or mixed-metal angels or snowflakes.
- Set up a farmhouse-style village. If you display Christmas houses or a village scene above your fireplace, give it that farmhouse touch by placing rustic trees among the buildings. Cut out basic pine tree shapes from wood, purchase spindly mini trees, or insert real pine branches into wood slices. If you're on the lookout for a new Christmas village this year, choose simple cut-wood house designs or little galvanized-metal structures, and group them together on your mantel. Tuck in greenery around the buildings, but keep the street scene simple. Or, consider a design that includes several simple house shapes already grouped together in one piece for a quick and easy village display.
- Drape the mantel in texture. When it comes to holiday fireplace designs, most people will hang a garland or stockings from the mantel. Texture is key in farmhouse-style decorating, so choose garlands and stockings that feature rich, touchable textures. A traditional evergreen garland could work well, but to give it farmhouse flair, tie on small wood or metal shapes or tuck in matte-finish white metal stars or snowflakes. Beaded garlands, a farmhouse favorite, also work well here. Drape the beaded garlands by themselves, or layer them along a pine garland. For stockings, think natural materials, such as cotton, muslin, burlap or feed-sack material. Brown burlap or creamy muslin stockings beautifully accent a white-on-white display, while gingham or plaid stockings are perfect for mantelscapes with more color and look sweet topped with a white knit cuff. You could even take on a trendier farmhouse design and add a fur collar to the top of your stockings.
- Don't forget the hearth. The beauty of fireplace decorating is that you often have several levels to work with. So, while the mantel might take the top spot, you can get creative with the hearth or even the firebox itself. For the hearth, group several large rustic lanterns together, place brown-paper wrapped presents in a basket or metal tub, set out a pair of rosemary topiaries, or place birch branches upright in an old crock. If you have an out-of-service fireplace or just a freestanding mantel surround, decorate the inside with a crate of greens, lights and birch branches; or fill the firebox area with a collage of log slices or stacks of books placed with their spines to the back.
Set a Festive Table
Christmas dinner is a treasured tradition for many families. You can set a festive table that still displays a farmhouse aesthetic by mixing everyday pieces with more holiday-themed designs. Consider whether you will be setting serving pieces on the table itself or on a sideboard. If you're placing serving dishes on the table, you'll need to make sure you choose a centerpiece that's easy to remove and that you leave sufficient space for the serving pieces. When it comes to decorating a tablescape, concentrate on the centerpiece, table linens and place settings.
If you want to go beyond these three areas, you could also decorate the chair backs, the chandelier above the table, or a side table where you might have appetizers or desserts. For a farmhouse look, you can keep your Christmas dinner decorations to a simple rustic theme or go for a more layered look. Follow these tips to set a stunning table with a farmhouse theme.
- Begin with a tablecloth, runner or place mats as a base. For table linens, think textured natural materials. If you like runners, choose a burlap or sack-cloth material. There are many designs available for purchase, or you could create your own by stenciling a word like "Believe" or "Family" on the overhanging end of a fabric runner. A solid-white or cream tablecloth creates a nice base for a beautiful table arrangement, but if you'd like something a little different, maybe stamp some pine trees or house shapes along the edge, sew a burlap ribbon down the center, or paint stripes to replicate a flour-sack design. Farmhouse-style place mats can be simple rectangular burlap or cotton designs. Plaid or buffalo-check fabric accents also add farmhouse flair.
- Create the centerpiece. You can purchase a premade centerpiece design, such as a greens and candlestick arrangement, and add to it for a farmhouse look, or you can group accents together yourself. If you're starting with a premade centerpiece, give it a farmhouse touch by winding a beaded garland through the greens or nestling wood or metal cutouts among the branches. If you're starting from scratch, choose a solid piece like a wood platter, dough bowl, fruit crate or other such item as the base. Set wood candlesticks, white ironstone pitchers, or simple vases inside. Place twigs, berry branches or cotton bolls inside the vases or pitchers. Tuck cut greens around the bases of your candlesticks or pitchers, or wind a wispy garland around them. Or, consider placing a galvanized-metal tiered tray among some greenery and filling it with oranges, pomegranates or pears as a farmhouse centerpiece.
- Start with chargers for farmhouse place settings. A popular charger option is a large wood slice, or you could choose a hammered-metal or copper charger. For dishes, mix a solid color (white or cream always looks great on a farmhouse table) with a patterned design. For the patterned dishes, you could choose a plaid design, something with a vintage feel, a vintage and rustic combination, or a simple farmhouse design. For motifs, woodland animals are a strong choice or simple scripted sentiments. If you go with barnyard animals, stick to simpler, more folk-art-style designs. Cloth napkins are always a beautiful choice, especially when accented with a sweet holiday touch. Tie the napkin together with jute and a small wood cutout, or place a berry sprig and greenery together atop the napkin. You could even craft small wreaths out of rosemary stems to wrap around the napkins. Another simple rustic option is to tie the napkins with a muslin strip and a few cinnamon sticks.
- Enhance your chairs. If you want to move beyond the table, dress up your chair backs with a few easy touches. Hang a muslin or burlap stocking on each chair. Cut a simple garland into shorter pieces and use them to make small wreaths to hang on the chair backs. Or, tie several pinecones together as a quick natural swag.
As you can see, you can easily add a farmhouse touch to your holiday decorations by just bringing in a few rustic or natural-looking pieces and mingling them with your existing decor. Or, you can choose some wow items to really amp up your farmhouse holiday decorating. To get started, browse The Holiday Shop at Riverbend Home.Country Sampler Farmhouse Style is produced four times a year. Issues are available for sale at newsstands or at SamplerMagazines.com. To learn more about the magazine, or to sign up for a subscription, visit FarmhouseStyleMag.com.