Room for Rustic
Harkening back to nature and peaceful tranquility, rustic décor has always been a staple of lodges and cabins. It’s making surprising inroads in places you wouldn’t really expect.
Bringing the outdoors in, whether in the form of an animal- or landscape-themed wall print, throw pillow, figurine or even clothing or snack item, is a trend Kylee White sees among customers at the Bozeman, MT shop she helps manage.
Specifically, these shoppers are eyeing—and buying—items that are tied to the natural areas they’re visiting and enjoying.
“When people travel to Bozeman, it’s not like anywhere else,” says White, who also serves as a buyer for the shop, Montana Gift Corral, which has locations in downtown and at the Bozeman airport. “So they gravitate toward these items because they’re not things you see everywhere. They say, ‘This would be great for my cabin,’ or they have a rustic house and it would be perfect for it.”
Whether you call it rustic, lodge or cabin, these styles have one thing in common: they highlight and celebrate the natural surroundings of a specific place, say those who make and sell such products that run the gamut of small gifts and souvenirs to home décor and furnishings.
The look and feel of these products can vary, not only because of regional preferences, but also based on the creators’ individual approach and style. For example, DEMDACO’s line known as Big Sky Carvers features “more rustic lodge items” which sell well in the north and northwest “mountain resort” areas of the United States, says Michele Thomas, brand team member.
“Our brand encompasses products that speak to a lifestyle, such as the outdoors,” Thomas says. “We have products for someone who has a passion for hunting and fishing, or who has a cabin or lake house. We have different types of products from gallery all the way to giftables, sculptures of wildlife and wall art of wildlife and fishing. It also extends out to western lifestyle.”
One product line that sells especially well for DEMDACO’s Big Sky Carvers: a shotgun shell-themed collection of home décor, ranging in price from $22 to $59.99. “What makes the wall art really nice is we have a shadow-box effect,” she says. “We also always have the artist biography on the back. There’s a serialized number on the back and a nice presentation.”
“I think people who are passionate about living that lifestyle—they may live somewhere else and they were on vacation and they love to spend time in the outdoors, or they love to go hunting and fishing and they have a vacation home and they want to bring that reminder back into their home and remember their time in the outdoors, whether it’s a men’s study or in their primary home,” she adds.
These products have gained momentum in recent time. Consider that in 2012, wholesale marketplace Dallas Market Center’s western home accents neighborhood known as The Range debuted four showrooms featuring western-inspired home accent lines.
“The Range provides western-inspired home accent lines to buyers that add a unique aesthetic to any home or store,” Cindy Morris, COO, Dallas Market Center, said at the time. “We are thrilled to see more exhibitors taking permanent spaces in this growing neighborhood.”
Montana Gift Corral’s White, who says “all things huckleberry” also sell well at her store because the fruit is widely available in the area, calls her outdoors-y products “rustic.” It’s the look and feel of an up north cabin or lodge, she says.
“Being in Montana, it’s more about the moose and the bear and the wildlife we see here—we’re close to Yellowstone [National Park]. What people see in the park, they want to take home. We have a buffalo statue and when they see that, they want to take that home. We carry the whimsical figurines to the realistic figurines, to large sculptures, wildlife lamps, and wall art.”
At The Woods Gifts in Minnesota, meanwhile, bear- and moose-focused items are not as popular as they once were, says longtime storeowner Dave Looney. “We created a real heavy northwoods lodge feel to it,” Looney says of his Maple Grove, MN store’s original intent. What is selling consistently well, he says, is more general nature-inspired items, such as those that feature birds and pine cones. Christmas-outdoor themes also are popular with shoppers.
“We’re sticking with the woods theme, “ Looney says, “but you have to find things that are more natural and middle-of-the-road—it might be more earth tones and naturals. A new twist on something that would fit in a home or a lodge.”
Celebrating a specific lifestyle is the philosophy behind Lake Girl, a northern Minnesota-based creator of items ranging from hats and hoodies to tumblers and candles. Summer 2014 lines include the Surf & Lime Collection, Surf & Navy Collection, and Sky & Ivory Collection, among others. These feature clothing and giftables in nature hues. Products include the embroidered Jeanie Hat, retailing for $25, and Lakeside Stripe Hoodie retailing for $59-$61.
Products that have year-round appeal are indeed big sellers when it comes to lodge-cabin-rustic products, says Brianne Skien, marketing coordinator at Melrose International, a Quincy, IL-based manufacturer.
“With the nature and natural collections that go with everyday décor, you can keep them out longer,” Skien says. “A lot of the stuff you can put up in October—a lot of the natural trees and things that can go up and be accent pieces—and these can be out until summer … it’s nature, it comes easy. You can put it in your house—there’s simplicity to it. With that rustic, even if your color scheme is red and white in your kitchen, a natural brown goes with it. You don’t have to worry, ‘Does it match?’”
Among their best-selling items are pillows embroidered with trees. These are gray with white contrasting stitching, and can be used as an everyday piece, Skien says. A set of two (one is 14-inches and another is 16-inches in size) retails for about $55.
Melrose International also has candleholders that customers have used for, well, candles as well as for holding fruit like apples and oranges. “It’s a basic everyday staple piece and they look rustic—there’s a brown metal scroll base. You can do a lot of things with them—you could use them for anything,” she says.
Artistic home furnishings
“Our products are from natural sources,” Bev McDowell says.
One of Cripple Creek’s mainstays: antler art, made from antlers that have naturally shed by animals. These items may be adorned with fur and leather. “You can display them on the wall, you can display them on tables,” she says. “The size varies—there are long, skinny ones and an elk one can be close to 40 inches long with shoots of antlers off it. It’s all kinds of fun.”
“We try not to do the same thing that everyone else does,” McDowell says. “We try to make things that people haven’t seen—sometimes it’s a little far out, but not always.”
Ron Feldkamp, designer and owner of Blue River Traders, a Manhattan, KS manufacturer, offers home furnishings that are made with a variety of materials.
Blue River Traders creates some items that are “western” in style, such as a desk retailing for $4,500. A buffet table with black finish and embossed leather doors is especially popular, he says. This retails for about $1,900.
For a more “lodge” look, Blue River Traders creates juniper log beds—“massive log beds” with logs 14 to 15-inches in diameter on the post. “They’re very different,” he says of the beds that retail for about $3,000. “I think when you talk about the lodge look it’s more either in the northern part of the country or around the lake areas,” he says. “Even in Texas, Oklahoma, we do well because they have a lot of lakes in certain areas. But then in the northern woods, in the mountains, the lodge look is very popular, especially with people who have log cabin houses.”
Karen Breslin, designer and owner of Karen Kreek Camp Design in Bozeman, MT, says customers tend to collect her pieces, all of which are made from reclaimed beetle wood.
“Why I decided to reclaim that wood is there is there are thousands of acres of Montana and Colorado that were eaten by this beetle, and after the tree has fallen, they leave. They leave these fabulous holes and patina you can’t create. It gives this incredible wood texture that I love, an old-aged look,” Breslin says.
Karen Kreek Camp Design adds hardware and artwork to this reclaimed wood, “enhancing the whole piece,” she says. “I get a lot of orders from the same customer,” she says. “I get comments all the time from customers and interior designers I work with, that [her pieces] bring a lot of life into a room. It’s the art piece on the corner that shines. It has a lot of character.”
The artistic story behind Breslin’s home furnishings—cabinets and tables, among other items—helps them sell, she says. For example, there are benches from wood originating in Yellowstone. “You’re buying a story of some place. It’s happy furniture—it makes you smile. It’s the story that makes you smile,” she says.
The Sun Valley server buffet table, at 50 inches wide, 20-inches deep and 40 inches high, includes three drawers and a two-door bottom. It features naturally fallen antler handles and is part of the Rustic Alpine Collection. A smaller table—known as Cricket Table—has a hand-painted motif on top and a log base.
“Why I came into this business and what drove me to design these pieces is more of the rustic alpine collection,” she says. “That’s really where I started. That to me has most of the stories to it. It looks like old lodge. I’m definitely not into your new mountain look that they’re calling it—that’s more hard- edged and glass and tin. My pieces really reflect an old rustic, they almost look like antiques and like they’ve been handed down.”