How to Decorate a Primitive Living Room


"Primitive" decorating is a style that aims to evoke feelings of relaxation, comfort, and respect for an older, simpler way of life that revolved around hearth and home. In primitive living rooms of the past, decorations and furnishings incorporated items that homeowners could readily acquire or make that would welcome guests and invite family and friends to sit back and enjoy each other's company. Today's primitive style is a reflection of that comfortable, cozy and simple past. Here are several ideas for decorating a living room in primitive style.

Things You'll Need

  • Braided or hooked rugsMilk paint in primitive colorsAntique quilts and pillowsFlour sack linens
  • Begin with the living room floor. If possible, choose a dull (non-shiny) hardwood floor such as walnut. There are many companies that offer reclaimed hardwood boards to use as flooring, which adds authenticity and patina to primitive decorating. If hardwood floors are not an option, select a neutral carpeting that has a coarse, dull texture (such as Berber). Stay away from plush carpeting, which takes away from a primitive, worn look. Scatter braided or hand-hooked rugs over the hardwood or carpeting to add softness. Scour secondhand stores for shabby-style braided or hooked rugs that will give you that "lived-in" feeling.

  • Paint your living room walls using specialized milk paint in primitive colors such as light cream, buttermilk, sage green, colonial blue, mustard yellow and slate gray. Accent trim with coordinating milk paint colors in barn red, tavern green, Federal blue or black. Milk paint is available via many online stores and home improvement retailers.

  • Select furniture that is simple and functional. Use antique benches as end tables and old crates or wooden chests as coffee tables. Choose cabinets that contain distressed, dull paint finishes, such as antique pie safes, highboys with double doors and hutches with open shelves. Cover existing sofas and chairs with primitive slipcovers made from homespun checks or pink or blue ticking fabric. Many antique dealers and specialized retailers offer primitive furniture that is one-of-a-kind.

  • Choose lighting that reflects a primitive past. Many online and storefront primitive shops offer candelabras, lamps and chandeliers that feature distressed paint finishes and tin accents.

  • Use simple window treatments that are not fussy or flowery. Hang simple valances, side panels or cafe curtains made from homespun cotton or lightweight burlap. If you are hanging side panels, use twine as your tie-backs.

  • Add softness to the room by draping antique quilts on the backs of chairs or deacon-style benches. Place primitive pillows made from homespun cottons or quilt remnants on the sides of your sofa and chairs. Stack flour sack linens and quilts in piles on pie safe or hutch shelving.

Tips & Warnings

  • Less is more when it comes to primitive decorating.

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