- Associated Press - Sunday, April 10, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Refined rustic. Rustic chic. Rustic revival.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1SwNv7j ) reports that whatever the name, this popular design aesthetic juxtaposes sleek, elegant, updated furnishings with accessories or furnishings that show a little wear and tear. Items such as a weathered farm table or an exterior-window shutter, its century-old paint peeling, transformed into wall art. Or maybe, a sturdy old crate functioning as planter or side table. How about unpainted, rough-hewn boards cladding a wall or beam?

Some, like the folks at HGTV, call it “the Fixer Upper treatment.” That’s Fixer Upper as in the network’s popular show, featuring contractor-decorator couple Chip and Joanna Gaines of Waco, Texas. Via their company, Magnolia Homes, the friendly, funny, easygoing couple work magic each week with what they call the worst houses in the best neighborhoods. On behalf of featured clients, the Gaineses transform shacks into showplaces. They feature the rustic touches Joanna Gaines added to open, light, clean-lined spaces that also incorporate traditional, modern, contemporary and industrial elements.

In Arkansas, retailers of rustic decor pieces are quite familiar with Fixer Upper, even if they don’t watch the show.

Once in a while people will come in the store and reference it, says Tony Thomas with Southern Creek Rustic Furnishings in Pleasant Plains. Or, at least, they come in wanting pieces to add a rustic accent. The store caters to such customers with inventory that includes items in reclaimed barn wood, teak, aspen log and hickory log.

“Often our customers are looking for a single piece to add a touch of warmth to their modern home,” Thomas says. “I think nostalgia plays a large part in this. Many of us have rural roots. While people may not want to completely return to the lifestyle of their grandparents … they do long for things like simplicity, durability and natural beauty. Rustic furnishings, especially the reclaimed stuff, give you that. It gives you a little window in your home that lets your thoughts? escape to a simpler time.”

What are the store’s most popular pieces? “A lot of times they use our teak pieces,” Thomas says - for instance, a free-form, teak root coffee table made from salvaged teak roots and stumps.

“A lot of these pieces are using reclaimed farm implements,” as well as such items as wagon wheels, Thomas adds. “We see that going a lot of the time into those types of settings where someone’s trying to accent a more modern home.

“We refer to it as a rustic-chic look.”

Crystal Blake, who with husband Brad owns Rustic Charm in Jonesboro, hasn’t seen the Gaineses’ show. But, she says, “I’ve had several people come in and say, ‘I saw it on Fixer Upper and I think I can do it!’”

This store, too, offers reclaimed and handcrafted items and custom-built furniture. Things, she says, “you would have seen in your grandmother’s house 50 years ago.” Many customers come in looking for buffets, hutches and dining pieces.

One common practice when it comes to incorporating rustic touches into one’s decor: repurposing found items for new uses, or simply for aesthetics. Blake describes what she did with some metal plant-hanging baskets, both sporting chipping paint. “I flipped them upside down, put a light bulb through them (and now they’re) actually two light fixtures in our bedroom.

“We’ve repurposed crates into footstools,” she says. “You can turn them into coffee tables. You can flip them upside down and turn them into little. … coffee tables or end tables. Pallets - we’ve (taken) those apart and made planters at the house. … I actually have a whole deck full of pallet furniture. … I took those pallets and I painted them all and I just threw them together. One piece is just a big bed - it’s actually got a twin bed for the seat. Then I’ve got two chairs that I made out of them.”

They’ve also taken an old door, turned it on its side, and made a headboard. A smaller, closet-size door was turned into a foot board. “You can leave the hardware on; you can take the hardware off,” Blake says.

A major advantage of using rustic decor pieces: the money saved.

Beverly Beem of Clinton, a self-taught amateur decorator, incorporated a number of rustic elements into the Uniq store she decorated for owners John and Kim Treece at Outlets of Little Rock. “We were on a tight, tight budget down there,” she says. She remembers the steady arrivals of upscale decor to be used in the other stores as they prepared for the mall’s Oct. 16 opening. “And I was telling my husband … ‘Mine kind of looks like a homemade dress,’ because everybody else was so fancy. They were bringing in all this Italian marble.”

While workmen created the other store interiors, “I was out in the dumpster trying to make pallet walls with no money,” Beem says, referring to the wooden platforms used for moving freight. “I just tried to work with what I had.

“I was in barns,” including her father’s. She also raided the workshop of John Treece’s father, who once owned a concrete company. “I got the tables out of there (that) he used to use for fixing old diesel engines. Wherever I could find something, we just used it. … It all seemed to work together.”

One of the most distinctive looks Beem created: store dressing rooms made from flooring on sale at a home store. The doors are panels that came from Mexico. The store even sports an old horse-drawn buggy (minus the horse). “We had to disassemble the whole thing and walk it in piece by piece and then reassemble it,” she says.

Beem says her decor decisions were not inspired by Joanna Gaines’ work but Corey Gillum and Mike Cavallo acknowledge Gaines’ influence. They’re co-owners of Painted Tree Vintage Market near Alexander - a mall whose vendors decorate their booths in styles that, in many cases, look as though they would be at home in a Fixer Upper dwelling.

“That show’s popular and we get a lot of inspiration from it,” Gillum says. “And so do our shoppers.”


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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