Guide to Creating a Country Kitchen

Featuring natural materials, handcrafted furniture and timeless accessories, the country kitchen is a warm, inviting space for the family.

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When choosing wood finishes for the country kitchen, look for interesting carvings and craftsmanship. Design by Sue Adams.

Down Home

If you want your kitchen to say country, you'll probably need to reinvent a few things in the space. That's sort of a requirement for the style meant to embody warmth and nostalgia, says Kathy Hoffman, an interior designer who works from Michigan with the Chicago-based Susan Fredman Design Group.

In other words, Formica's out and distressed wood salvaged from an old farmhouse is in. You can use it to create a great kitchen table or island and shelves. For lighting, there's probably an artist out there somewhere who can fashion a chandelier out of twigs, suggests Lori Dennis of Dennis Design Group, Los Angeles.

You can't go wrong with roosters, ducks or geese at a country home. But no need to have them squawking in the backyard. For a style that also brings nature indoors, look for them glazed on platters or painted on coffee mugs. Then display them on wooden shelves coated in milk-paint.

Organic is key, says Dennis, "When I think of country, I think of Americana. It's a design that is comfortable and natural looking."

Antique Icons

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Leave shelves open to display your favorite antique bowls and dishware. Design by Lori Dennis.

Shelly Riehl David of Riehl Designs Inc. says country is a style "with multiple layers, materials and antiques." The kitchen is a great place to honor this style, as it’s the center of the home, the space where families gather, she says.

Featuring natural materials, handcrafted furniture and timeless accessories, the style is easily recognizable. Think of these touches: Copper pots hanging from a wrought iron rack; a trio of old milk bottles sitting on a shelf; an image of the American flag gracing the front of an old tin lamp; an arrangement of antique cooking appliances on the wall. And if you can imagine a large wagon wheel with a glass tabletop surrounded by wooden chairs, you’ll get a good idea of what the country style could look like in the kitchen.

"Expose the rustic," says Dennis. And include "found" pieces in the space, says Hoffman, who once turned a miner's cart into a small table. If the cabinetry is made of knotty pine, the hardware is a tarnished brass, the floors are wide-planked wood, the backsplash is made of beadboard or tumbled tiles, and a quilt or afghan is tossed over a rocking chair sitting by a wood-burning stove, you have a good idea of what a county kitchen can look like.

Getting the Look

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Choose printed fabrics in toile, gingham or stripes for your window treatments. Design by Sue Adams.

Paint bead-board furniture and cabinetry with milk paint in pastel hues such as blue, cream or pale yellow.
To evoke an Old English feel, remove the door panel below the sink and add a drape with a big floral pattern to cover the open space. This style of country is more ornate than others and incorporates rose, purple and green hues, bringing in anything that you’d find in nature. For a French Country feel, use smaller scale patterns in lavender, cobalt blue and other Impressionistic-inspired shades.
For the California country look, think of the beach and choose colors that blend in well with the ocean such as cream. Fill the room with exposed woods and avoid clutter.
Pick natural surfaces for use on furniture, cabinetry, countertops and flooring. For wood finishes, look for interesting carvings and craftsmanship. For surfaces to be covered in stone, consider tumbled and hand-painted tiles.
Avoid using artificial materials, such as plastic.
Don't overload the cabinets with greenery. Use them, instead, to display antique bowls with color. And for a cozy feel in the room, leave some of the shelves open, or cover the doors with chicken wire or stained glass. Then add lighting to expose what's inside.
If granite is used on the countertops, pick a honed rather than a polished surface. The matte finish looks more natural. Or go for concrete. It can be stained any color. Both require less maintenance.
Add a lighthearted or whimsical feature to the room, use materials in an unexpected way: a chandelier made out of twigs, for example, or copper for the backsplash.

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