Rustic Interiors--A Little Look at History

I've been working on a fabulous old Tahoe house for several years now. The house, located on Tahoe's west shore, was built around 1880 and because there was no other available mode of transportation at the time, all the materials needed to build it were put on a barge in Tahoe City and floated down the lake to the site's location.

My client is working to restore the house back to it's original English Arts and Crafts roots. The house has a fascinating history and over the years has hosted presidents, governors and even Mark Twain.

Anyway, working on this house has me thinking about how rustic design has changed over the years.

This is an interior photo from Tahoe's Ehrman Mansion. Also built in the late 19th century, the Ehrman mansion was a large luxury mansion with huge porches, outbuildings, and impressively large sloping lawns down to the lake. As you can see in the photo, its surface finishes are refined and elaborate with carved Victorian wood trim details.

Above, is a photo of the main lobby of the Awahnee hotel in Yosemite, built in 1927. I think that the Awahnee is truly the most beautiful rustic interior ever created. Native American references are elegantly mixed with Arts and Crafts and Moorish patterns throughout. In this room, the ceiling is coffered, the beams painted with Indian motifs. The windows are stunning with Arts and Crafts inspired stained glass and leaded panes. The scale and proportions at this hotel are monumental and elegant, and yet rusticity and casual comfort are important elements, too.

Just look at this jaw-dropping ceiling treatment, full-height windows and stone walls in the Awahnee's dining room. Beautiful.

And one of my absolute favorite details at the Awahnee is this amazing floor from the check-in area. This was made entirely out of colored linoleum!!

During the 30's and 40's, cabins were kitted out with pine interiors...knotty pine on the walls and ceilings, pine beams and even pine flooring. It was a lot of wood but the best examples were treated with coat after coat of orange shellac which created a beautiful candle-light glow at night. They are cozy and warm in the winter and cool and dark on warm summer days.

On the other end of the luxury scale we have the affordable A-frame cabin which surged in popularity just after World War II.

Then came the period that haunts me today...the orange shag carpeting, matching formica kitchen counters and black stained beams popular in the 60's and 70's! I can't tell you how
many times I've been asked how to get rid of black stain on beams.  

And today? We still love lots of natural wood, rock and stone, soaring heights, huge fireplaces and wood floors. Many of today's rustic interiors are still greatly influenced by the Awahnee's grandly elegant but rustic American Indian-influenced style, above.

Or are they? No one knows where the future is going, but the influences of green design and natural materials are pulling us in new directions. Is this just a trend that will someday be compareable to the orange shag and black beams of the 60's? We shall see.