Maryland area has its own country look

DESIGN LINE

March 07, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

Anyone wishing to become a capable interior designer, even on an amateur level, must acquire some basic knowledge of various styles. It isn't necessary to be familiar with each element that makes up a certain look, but it is essential to understand the principles behind a particular design.

Let's consider the country style, which has become very popular in the last few years.

One difficulty right at the outset is that the term has many applications. Not only does every nation have its own "country" look, but it varies according to regions and cultural groupings. A French country interior in Normandy differs greatly from a French country interior in Provence. In the United States, "country" doesn't look the same in the Southwest as it does in New England or in the mid-Atlantic states.

So, for purposes of illustration, let's focus briefly on the country look distinctive to Virginia and Maryland.

Here, a country interior is characterized by shabby elegance, which Anglophiles in the United States have long sought to emulate. This look features worn and not-so-perfectly fitted slipcovers, threadbare Oriental rugs, lots of chintz and eclectic but simply designed furniture. What separates it from its model, the English country interior, is the virtual absence of inherited antiques and wonderful architectural details. The ceilings in a Virginia-Maryland country home are also generally much lower than in an English manor.

Elsewhere in America, "country" usually means natural or painted pine furniture of ruggedly rustic construction. Rag rugs and homespun fabrics in checks, plaids and tiny prints are other mainstays. And quilts, of course, are everywhere.

Furniture for this version of American country is not easy to come by. One of the problems is the small scale of the pieces used for seating, dining and storage. With luck, some appropriate items may be discovered in an antique shop, but I doubt that the shopper's luck will extend to the price tag as well.

Fortunately, because of the enormous popularity of this look, manufacturers are starting to turn out collections of reproduction furniture adapted to late 20th-century dimensions and preferences. The best of these pieces are closely modeled on antique originals, albeit with consumer-pleasing modifications.

The two-part chest in the photo is an example of such work. When the 56-inch-wide and 20-inch-deep components are stacked together, the piece stands almost 7 feet tall, which is plenty big enough for it to be used as a storage armoire and as an entertainment unit containing a TV set and other electronic equipment. This English-style cupboard from Milling Road Furniture is available in antique pine.

Most American devotees of the country look will be quick to choose furnishings in a scrubbed or bleached pine finish. However, antique pine pieces were usually painted. Another often-overlooked factor in selecting a finish is how it will appear in a given interior. Is the piece meant to blend with other furnishings in the room, or is it meant to serve as an accent? Answers to those kinds of questions should certainly influence the choice of size, color and finish.

/ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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