The westward expansion of our country began in earnest after the Revolutionary War ended. Virginia residents migrated into the Carolina's and Tennessee and into Georgia. The next migration was into the "Indian Territory" of Alabama and Mississippi. Shortly thereafter, the western migration entered into Texas and westward. Until the U.S. was settled there was always a western migration. It seems odd that at one time Alabama and Mississippi were the "west". Those are the facts, but today the majority of Americans view "the West" as those states lying westward of the Mississippi River.
In terms of design, Western style brings to mind cowboys and cattle, campfires and chuck wagons, ranches and broncos. Colorful Indian weavings and lodges, buffalo and war parties are also some of the Images that come to mind when speaking of "the West."
A whole generation grew up with westerns featuring John Wayne, the Lone Ranger and Tonto and others where the bad guys always wore black cowboy hats and the good guys wore white.
Today, the American love of the old west is reflected in the style called "Western." Like many styles today there are particular elements that generally set it apart from other styles, and elements that it shares with at least one style or another.
Officially Western style can be called rustic style, cowboy style or cabin style to name a few. While Western and Rustic certainly share many elements, both architecturally as well as with accessories, full-fledged Western style will strongly reflect those elements of the old west to a greater extent than rustic. Western style is not immune to blending; you will often find Western/Contemporary for example. The architecture of Western and rustic often have the same bones. In the following we explore true Western style and the elements that will assist you in achieving it in your own hacienda on the range or downtown.
The natural materials that are a focus of Western style are wood, antlers, birch bark, stone, leather and rustic metal.
Textiles and upholstery are leather, suede, wool, denim, saddle blankets, and woven rugs.
Western motifs are as noted above and can also include long horned steer, deer, bear, moose, fishing, mountains, pine trees, oak trees, acorns and pine cones, leaves, horses, lakes, horseback riding, rodeo cowboys, hunting and etc.
The colors of the Western style are weathered grey stones, black metal and golden wood, brick red, terra cotta, the green of forests and navy blue and the smoky golden of smoke tanned hides. Accent colors are creams and gray, yellow and may include the deeper hued wildflowers of the west.
Walls can contribute to the Western style. If your walls are not wood and must be painted, faux paints provide the opportunity to add more western style using techniques to create the faux effects of leather, suede and stucco.
Flooring is generally wide plank, or reclaimed wood. Area rugs can be animal fur, low pile carpet or flat woven rugs. Large Native American rugs are popular.
A fireplace is essential to western style. A decorative metal screen and iron fireplace tools complete safety and function. The area above the mantel is your opportunity to create an enchanting focal point with turkey bustles spread, the bustle of a Native American dancer and others items as noted in accessories. In the old west, a musket or rifle was a likely item to hang over the fireplace if you prefer something simpler yet authentic to the times.
Accessories may include old saddles, lassos, weathered farm implements, rustic guns, Indian blankets, snowshoes, sculptures of broncos riders, framed prints of cowboys or famous Indians, a spear, tomahawk, bow, a beautifully beaded arrow quiver, old or aged maps.
Above the mantle of a stone fireplace the skull of longhorn cattle, the bustle of a turkey gobblers tail feathers, or the colorful bustle of a Native American dancer make extremely beautiful displays. Many people like taxidermy located here, but the taxidermy is just as effective on a different wall whereas other pieces can provide the focal point of the room when located over the mantel. Another icon for a dramatic wall display is a beaded deer hide ghost shirt and elegant old chaps are equally lovely.
Old worn beaded moccasins also make a colorful and artistic statement on a wall or mantle. The goal of decorating in Western style is to create museum like displays in arrangements of like-minded subjects so as not to overwhelm and clutter the space. Do not cover the walls or use a lot of tiny items; a few groupings of some size are more effective than cluttered walls.
If you like the old saddle accessory, here is an idea to make it even better. Hang a worn canvas canteen from the pommel, and display worn boots with spurs on the floor beside the saddle.
In the Western style there are so much potential you will have to be very careful not to overdo it!
Choose leather furniture, you simply will not get the impact or the western aura with upholstery. I am aware there will be those who disagree, but to achieve elevated class, style and to truly "mesh" with the Western theme, in my opinion there is no better choice than leather.
Other furniture should be large scale wood or log. Many people like twig but wood or log will appear as more substantial. Choose rustic and worn, or irregularly shaped furniture from wood that is burnished and polished with sturdy legs. Reclaimed wood (patina intact or refinished and sealed) will complement the western theme. Choose oak, pine or natural light hickory for furniture.
Lighting can be antler chandeliers, black metal, mission style, or prairie style. Mica glass will add a warm ambience to a room. Many people like the simple circular chandeliers reminiscent of wagon wheels with hurricane globes for a real old west style. Stained glass in shades of cream and trimmed in maroon, brown, gold or green reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie styles will fit right in with Western style for a more cultured finish.
Keep them simple and allow for the view if you are lucky enough to have one. Drapes should not be patterned or colorful. Otherwise use roman shades, wooden shutters or wooden blinds.
The Western style provides the opportunity for a showcase of history, the display of vintage collectibles and icons of an era gone by. It is a design that reflects the beauty of the West, the history, struggles and sacrifice of cultures that clashed and of ranchers and settlers against often hostile climates. Western style is also a testament to the settler's willingness to adventure into the wild and subdue it. It is a tribute of man's success in carving himself a niche in desert land, high mountains and forests, fertile prairies and lonely wild places in the name of adventure, and a place to call home.
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