Top 8 Tips for Creating a Modern Rustic Interior Design

Updated: Jul 15

One of the things we try to do at ShizenStyle is promote the balance of a modern rustic approach to lifestyle. It’s easy to fall into the trap of leaning too hard to one side or another, which is easy to do because the majority of design concepts out there are cookie-cutter follow along themes.

There are many concrete examples of modern architecture or modern furniture, as well as rustic design and country living. However, when creating a modern-rustic combination you have to think a little bit more about how the various items will work together. So we have created a starter package of the Top 8 Tips for Creating a Modern Rustic Interior Design.


Natural Lighting – One of the major elements about interior design that often gets overlooked is the use of natural lighting. Recessed lighting and having dimmers on the light switches lets you control the amount of light in a room in a non-conspicuous way, which can be very useful at nighttime but can also become over used. The overly bright white walled art gallery look is not what we are going for. There is an old concept of the negative highlighting the positive. Without the dark there would be no light. You can create beautiful calming scenes even with a plain wall if you have enough windows, sliders, skylights etc. that let the light in.

At one of our restaurants in the city, SATO, we have a row of windows in the dining room that are frosted. This still lights up the whole room when the sun hits it, but we’ve blocked the view of the very close neighbor’s wall. There is also ivy growing up the sides of the glass outside so you can still get a silhouette of bright green coming in. If you are really interested in the concept of shadows and light we highly recommend reading “In Praise of Shadows” by Junichiro Tanizaki. It’s a little bit older but is still an influential book on the importance of shadows and creating an atmosphere.

Large Windows – Following on the natural lighting theme you should aim to have large windows to let in the light. The outside view also becomes part of the interior as it sets the mood. If you are in the city then you could possibly have the city lights or a close wall that you can landscape in front of it and light it up at night as well. If you have a nature view let that scene become part of the home décor.

The quality of glass and insulation is light years away from where we were even 20 years ago. I’m in a colder area and you are starting to even see triple pained glass. Design wise a large 4’ x 8’ picture window with no screens really brings the outside in. If possible, replace a choppy window with numerous grids (muntins) as these only distract you from having a clear view and clean, uncluttered modern look.

Functional Minimalism – Japanese aesthetics tend to take minimalism to an extreme that frankly doesn’t allow modern day life to co-exist very well. The underlying theme is what is called “Ma (間),” or the space between objects. It is an appreciation of the negative space, instead of highlighting an object. This is a wonderful idea that we should keep in mind, but I know that I’ve visited many Japanese homes and it can tend to feel a bit sterile if there are no objects of personal significance around. You don’t want to clutter the place with too many things or try to display too many items at one time, but your personality should come through as well.


Natural Colors – Natural colors make for a great backdrop on your walls. Earth tones tend to create a calming atmosphere as well solid color walls. You can have a bold accent color with trim etc. that can work really well if the base wall color is somewhat muted.Many rustic homes or cabins go way overboard with the pine and log cabin look. One idea for a makeover is to merely sand it down and add a white wood stain to the wood. That overwhelming orange and red wall-to-wall feeling can instantly be redone and brightened up. A lighter color on the wood is also going to make the room feel much larger than it is.

Open Floor Plan – An open floor plan is a very popular concept nowadays. I think utilizing the larger windows like we mentioned earlier also really opens the room up if you can now see out the window from across the room. This is usually done between the kitchen, dining, room, and family room. One thing to keep in mind though is that with higher ceilings sounds and television can echo much more. I have had multiple bedrooms on a second floor that sort of open up to a hallway overlooking the open room, this tends to make it quite loud upstairs as well as all of the sounds bounce off of the high ceilings.

Wood – When possible make use of natural wood, re-used wood, or wood with a stain that you can still see the grain on it. Natural wood tabletops, chairs, ceiling beams etc. create a very unique and natural feeling. The key to using wood is to use it in combination with other materials like steel, solid wall colors etc. Re-used wood panels can be quite artistic and pleasing to the eye with a variety of earth tone colors coming through. I would suggest keeping it all on one wall or in a particular area as opposed to doing every wall that way. It can be better highlighted as a feature if you don’t over use it.

Check out my recommendations for the DIYer if you are somebody who likes to get their hands dirty and tackle projects themselves.

Steel – Steel and metal can be great for a modern and rustic look as well. Steel brings in a raw and solid feeling, but also has an underlying connection to people to it. Someone, possibly by hand, made that piece of metal. In a way it is raw and natural but isn’t actually scene in nature in that way or form. Matte metal or brushed metals tends to work better than a shiny metal does because it harmonizes with the wood more naturally. For our restaurant/brewery, Sato Brewpub, we used a great combination of live slab hardwood maple for the table tops and matte black metal frame for the tables and chairs. The chairs have a slightly elongated back two legs so it gives it a modern look with natural elements.

Elements of Nature Inside – If your home or apartment is leaning toward the modern or just on the basic side you can add elements of nature to it to bring some life in. A few strategically placed indoor plants can make the world of difference, but don’t turn you house into a tropical jungle as my parents tend to do! A live plant or something seasonal as the main focal point can replace pictures on the walls, vases, trinkets etc. Having a large vase that you decorate with seasonal branch cuttings and flowers can create all the atmosphere you need. If you have harsh winters dried flowers or more things like pine branches and juniper can add a touch of warmth in the colder month.

Our modern rustic interior design ideas are meant to be for both the house, apartment, or loft in the city that may need to bring touches of something more rustic into their lifestyle, or oppositely a more rural home that needs to modernize a bit and have a balanced space for the necessary tech that has entered our lives. If you are interested in seeing some detailed apartment ideas for creating a modern rustic style then check out this article.



ShizenStyle aims to find that perfect balance between the two, wherever your home or apartment may be. I hope these Top 8 Tips for Creating a Modern Rustic Interior Design have helped you on your way to designing your own modern rustic décor.

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