Simple but Stylish Primitive Decor

You know a “primitive” chair or table when you see one—whether an authentic antique or a reproduction fashioned in the style of 19th-century rural furniture, a primitive piece has been handmade with an eye to function instead of form, to clean lines instead of aesthetic acrobatics.


primitive furnishings

Use color and primitive furnishings to dress up a porch.


In their book Passion for Primitives: Folk Décor for Interior Design, Franklin and Esther Schmidt use numerous photographs of homes, rooms and vignettes to explain the nature of primitive pieces and their potential roles in contemporary, country and other design styles. Though primitive furniture is “structurally basic,” the authors assert that “even these most simple furnishings could be elegant in their lines and proportions.”


Stylish Primitive Decor


Use a Primitive as a Counterpoint in a Victorian Room

Simple and unadorned, many primitive pieces at the outset don’t seem ideal candidates for inclusion in a Victorian style home, with its ornately carved table legs, thick crown molding and lavish chandeliers. But the Schmidts explain that a primitive piece’s “accidental art” actually fulfills a vital role in a room’s décor: the need for “a counterpoint—an accent piece—to avoid a sense of sameness and a stagnant quality to the space.” Adding a primitive’s rough texture or warm color to a stylish Victorian room creates a robust 19th-century feel.


primitive pieces

Let primitive pieces create an eye-catching display; use color, function and textures to create interest.


When hunting for the perfect primitive for your Victorian décor, prioritize texture and structure. Arrange a primitive piece with glowing patina—a worn wooden surface you want to reach out and touch—next to an elegant, smooth piece, such as a rustic table between two leather wing chairs for a “European country” look with rich “texture and charm.” Also look for primitive pieces that share structural characteristics with your favorite Victorian ones.


victorian style

Keep it simple: Create an earthy and refined mood by using just a few select, practical pieces.


“Homespun artisans sometimes included their version of a Queen Anne-style foot on a table, a Chippendale-style scroll, an imitation Hepplewhite tapering table leg or just a graduating set of drawers on a bureau because they saw it once,” the authors point out. Choosing a handmade primitive table, chair or decoration that imitates the height of 1800s style infuses a traditional Victorian room with homey comfort, whether high style or country farmhouse.


victorian decoration

“Passion for Primitives: Folk Décor for Interior Design” by Franklin and Esther Schmidt, published by Schiffer Publishing; visit

To buy these types of products visit:


By Elaine K. Phillips

Photography by Franklin and Esther Schmidt, from the book Passion for Primitives




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *