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modern rustic

Meet the designer behind this naturally cosy yet modern look

Emily Henson quote box
Samantha Gibson

by Samantha Gibson

Trend and Styling Expert

Published: 14/10/2015

Emily Henson

"I love how calming, comforting and inviting this room looks. It makes me want to hunker down on that sofa and get cosy under all the layers. It has a lot of character but in a subtle way that doesn’t overwhelm the senses."

To say that Emily Henson is adept at multi-tasking would be an understatement. As an interior designer, stylist, author and blogger, Emily’s work diary is chock-a-block.  And maybe that’s why she is drawn to creating such calming interiors that deliver a soothing antidote to the hectic pace of modern life.

Luckily for us, Emily found time to chat to us about her restorative Modern Rustic roomset, the inspiration behind her design and the top styling tips she’s picked up during her varied career.  



Emily, why do you think the Modern Rustic look is so popular right now?
Perhaps because it’s quite easy to achieve and can be updated as your taste evolves. By pulling together a few simple elements and materials, the Modern Rustic look quickly emerges.

Which key elements define this look in your view?
The key element is, of course, wood. Wood floors, wood panelled walls, furniture and so on. But to give it the modern twist it’s all about what you combine it with. Contrasting elements are what make this look stand out. So mix your textured woods with sleeker materials like metals, concrete and smooth chalky painted surfaces.

Where did you go for inspiration for your design?
First of all I referenced my book, Modern Rustic which features great homes around the world that represent the Modern Rustic look so beautifully. I then did some Pinterest research, creating a board for ideas relating to this project – from full rooms to individual products I was interested in. Then I chose my Hillarys fabrics and began to build the colour story, settling on textured neutrals with a soft pop of subtle colour.

Why did you choose these particular fabrics for your scheme?
I wanted a subtle print on the blind so I choose a luxurious wool-look with a yellowy-gold stripe, a colour I then picked up in other textiles throughout the room. For the curtains I kept it clean and simple with a soft grey linen-look. For me, a linen look is both timeless and seasonless, something that is important if you are investing in made-to-measure curtains.

And once you’d settled on the fundamentals, how did you bring the look together ?
I knew I wanted a wood-panelled wall so that was my starting point. From there I chose the flooring – sleek whitewashed wooden floorboards to contrast with the roughness of the walls. Then I moved on to the furniture, choosing the sofa first - it’s often better to start with the larger pieces and work down to the smaller details. I chose natural fabrics for the curtains, blinds and cushions in soft neutrals – linen-look and cotton in creams and greys, a subtle stripe, adding a soft pop of pink and citron (one of my favourite colour combinations and perfect if you want to add colour but don’t want to go too bold.)

Why did you choose to layer curtains and Roman blinds in your roomset?
My design for Modern Rustic needed to feel warm and inviting so it was imperative that I have both blinds and curtains to create a nurturing, cosy environment.

What tips would you offer to anyone choosing window dressings for their own interior?
The brilliant thing is there are so many ways you can go. If you want to be bold, you can choose clashing patterns in similar colour palettes for the blinds and curtains. Or for a more calming effect, choose softer neutrals ad focus on texture instead of pattern.

How would you describe your own style?
My personal style has changed over the years, but no matter what particular phase I’m going through, it always retains a sense of eclecticism. As an interior stylist, I am always collecting bits and pieces to use on photo shoots so my own home sometimes gets a bit too eclectic. I’ve pared things back a bit in recent years, and now I’m somewhere between Modern Rustic and cluttered eclectic (‘Cluttered Rustic’?)

What’s the best piece of style advice you’ve ever been given?
When I was a visual merchandiser for retail my employer said you should always consider the negative space in a room, allowing the eye to rest. I’m not sure I follow this advice in my eclectic, sometimes cluttered home, but I certainly consider it when I’m styling photo shoots. It prevents a room from being too visually stimulating which can detract from the overall look.

What one design tip would you give to someone designing a look for their home?
I always say that your home should be a work in progress. People often want to finish a home, but I say it should always be evolving.


One room · Four sensational styles · #IWANTTHATSTYLE

Browse more of Emily's Modern Rustic look