When tying to explain that I like “country” style (because people ask me that aaaall the time in everyday life. OK, no they don’t. But I’ve had the conversation a handful of times.), it’s hard to express what country style means to me. Because in my mind it is not your stereotypical “country” (tons of plaid, roosters, sunflowers, or cow print, for example). I like a clean, neutral, more modern approach to country that is largely void of kitsch and clutter and anything related to the country trends of the 90’s.
But I think there’s room for a little kitsch. For example, one of my favourite country home inspiration pictures is from this New York farmhouse featured in Country Living:
(photo by Michael Lupino for Country Living)
What do I like about it? The bead board wainscoting, the neutral colour scheme, the weathered wooden table, the white dishes… but I reeeally like that vintage cow poster. It’s kind of charming, and cool, even if it is a little theme-y and kitschy.
I kind of want to feature something similar in our farmhouse - maybe in the dining room. I think the key is to present it in a modern way (i.e. a simple, minimal picture frame, or a modern arrangement of the artwork), and to stay away from anything too “theme-y” elsewhere in the room.
So, lets turn to Etsy, shall we?
I love the look of vintage illustrations, and one (usually) cheap and easy way to get these is to find old children’s storybooks:
Vintage Lithograph Farming Posters from beanandbag on Etsy
Large Book Plate Print circa 1930s from Totally Old School on Etsy
Antique Linen 2-Sided Book Page from Totally Old School on Etsy
Antique book from on Little Beach Designs on Etsy
Since most of these illustrations tend to be small they would work well for a salon-style or gallery arrangement of pictures in different sizes of frames. (I did this in Little M’s nursery with a vintage Smokey the Bear storybook.) You could cut out pages from the books, or if the covers are really pretty, like the green one above, you could feature a group of storybooks in shadow boxes. Or you could use just a few small illustrations framed with oversized mattes to create a bigger piece of art. (See an example of this below)
You could also expand your search to other educational materials, such as posters or flashcards:
1913 Vintage American Agriculture Print - Wheat from Holcroft on Etsy
(*Side note: this shop also has plenty of great vintage fruit and flower botanical prints if you want to replicate the look of Sarah Richardson’s farmhouse master bedroom!)
Design by Sarah Richardson, photograph by Stacey Brandford
Vintage Educational Classroom Poster circa 1966 from Luv Me Two Times on Etsy
French and Spanish Vocabulary Flash Cards from Totally Old School on Etsy
Vintage Playing Cards from 30one on Etsy
If you find a large educational poster you could hang it unframed (like in the inspiration photo from Country Living at the top of this post) or find a simple frame for it.
If you had a set of flashcards they would work well framed in a symmetrical arrangement, like this one by Cameron MacNeil in House & Home, June 2011 issue.
I really like the use of a little vintage valentine in the bottom centre frame. How about this one?
Boy and Cow Vintage Valentine Card from Paper Prizes on Etsy
Another idea for creating a larger piece of art is to frame one, or several pieces of fabric, such as table cloths, tea towels, or - my favourite - old grain sacks.
Vintage Farm Scene Tablecloth from Uncle Bunks Trunk on Etsy
Rare Grandma Moses Barkcloth from Chenille Bliss on Etsy
Vintage Farm Print Novelty Fabric from Thoroughbred Threads on Etsy
Assorted Vintage Grain Sacks from Linens Lace and Lattes on Etsy
Wouldn’t those grain sacks look awesome in plain black frames? I’m going to scrounge through the old barn and some nearby shops to find some of these, I think…
And if you can handle the really kitschy stuff, a needle point or paint by number could look awesome, if presented well, like this cottage from Country Living:
Old paint-by-number paintings displayed on a shelf. (Photo by Aimee Herring for Country Living)
Vintage Paint by Numbers Horses from Lady Libertine Vintage on Etsy
Vintage Needlepoint from Lady Cluck’s Vintage Treasures on Etsy
Vintage Embroidered Pillow Case Set from Patchworkz on Etsy
And my favourite? This set of 6 farm animal puzzles. I imagine them assembled, glued to a white matte, framed, and arranged symmetrically:
Vintage Farm Friends Six Puzzle Set from Jody’s Vintage on Etsy
So, there’s your fill of country kitsch for the day! I think the key to using stuff like this as art is restraint - use simple framing, in a fairly neutral room scheme, without too much else that fits a farm or country theme.