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Going Natural: A Complete Guide to Decorating With Natural Materials

Decorating with natural materials is becoming an important call to action in design. More than ever, people are keen on how furniture and decor are made and how design impacts the environment. So it’s no surprise that a new focus on Biophilic Design is one of the top 2021 interior design trends.

From woven natural materials like jute, sisal, and rattan to organic textures, such as driftwood, cowhide, and polished stone, designers and their clients are seeking out natural materials in interior design more and more. And we’re in full support and here for it!

Here, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide (and a primer!) on different types of natural materials and how they can bring texture and an organic touch to your spaces.

 

contemporary style living room with two chairs around a coffee table and sofa

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What are natural materials?

These are organic materials found in nature. Unlike manmade materials, like plastic and resin, natural materials come from different environments around the world. Some commonly found in homes include brick, stone, glass, tiles, wood, cork, bamboo, natural fibers, you name it.

Sophisticated coastal dining room with a round dining table and woven dining chairs

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Are natural materials popular?

The organic and natural materials trend has been going strong for a few years. But it has gained even more popularity in the past year, especially since we were confined to our homes and many people craved nature and brought it indoors in the form of natural material home furnishings. Also, many people started looking for more ways to do good by the world and the environment while staying indoors. All to say, it’s a design movement that’s here to stay!

Learn more about how to decorate with natural materials!

What design styles use natural materials?

Natural materials are used across all styles in a variety of different ways. But here are a few where styles where it’s more common:

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Boho & Eclectic Style:

These ‘earthier’ styles sometimes also have a ‘tropical’ vibe, but they’re always grounded by lots of natural materials, ranging from raw woods and rattan to woven wall hangings and chunky wool rugs. They’re then layered with pops of bright patterns, geometrics, and plenty of vibrant accents.

California casual bedroom in blue with a large woven wool rug

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Coastal Style:

Natural materials and nature motifs are a throughline in this beachy style. After all, where else would you find driftwood if not the coastal beach home? These spaces are rooted in wood and woven elements, including bleached wood, lots of rattan, cane, and jute and seagrass for rugs. Expect to also find sprinklings of seashells and coral throughout.

Minimal rustic entryway with a neutral palette and functional decor

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Farmhouse and Modern Farmhouse:

And speaking of natural and unfinished wood, they’re also often found in rustic-style rooms and farmhouse interiors. It’s what gives these spaces their signature old-timey barn vibe.

Mid-Century style living room with wall to wall bookcases for a library look

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Mid-Century Modern:

While Mid-Century style spaces are often associated with modernity, natural wood is a central—and the most common—material used in Mid-Century furniture. These pieces celebrate the beauty of natural wood grain, often in warm stains or light finishes. Let’s face it: Can you imagine a mid-century living room without a natural wood credenza or coffee table? Neither can we.

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Transitional design living room with an open seating area

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Do natural materials improve your mood?

The short answer: Yes! The long answer: It’s complicated. The truth is there’s no secret formula to interiors that inspire positivity and lift our moods. Some studies have shown that being in nature has a positive affect on people’s moods, and the same results can occur by being in an environment surrounded by natural materials. But it’s uncertain if this is because of the positive associations our brains have with the natural world or if there’s something more in the textures, patterns and organic imperfections of natural materials that stimulate our brains more and result in more positive, happy feelings.

With that in mind, natural materials alone don’t seem to drastically impact our mood, but depending on how it’s used in a space, it can evoke a wide range of feelings—from calming and relaxed to inspired and motivated. Although we know one thing is for certain—“plants make people happy!”

Minimal Rustic dining room with upholstered dining chairs and natural wood dining table

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Are natural materials more sustainable?

Another complicated question, but the short answer is, yes! Much of what is not sustainable today is made from oil, which is a finite resource that uses massive amounts of energy. A prime example of an oil-made item is plastic, which takes thousands of years to decompose so they live in landfills that are harmful to the environment as long they are disposed of.

By contrast, natural materials come from natural sources. So they’re biodegradable and renewable resources over time. It can get complicated with materials, such as wood, that are often treated with chemical sealants or dyes. But more and more, people are doing their homework to research what things are made from and if they’re sustainably sourced. And that’s an important part of living sustainably with natural materials.

Here, a roundup of the most popular natural materials in home decor and how to work them into your home!

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Natural Fibers

From sisal to rattan to bamboo, these fibrous natural materials are often woven into furniture and decor that lend a light, textural look and an organic touch.

Seagrass:

Seagrass is a flowing plant that grows underwater in marine environments. What’s great about seagrass is that it’s durable, stain-resistant, and still soft on the feet—even more than sisal. So it’s a great option for rugs and other furnishings in kids’ rooms or bedrooms. They’re sometimes even used for wallpaper. Seagrass also has an earthiness to it, which makes it a popular material in both coastal and boho-style homes.

Sisal:

Native to Southern Mexico, sisal comes from a flowering plant that yields a stiff fiber that is used to make rope and weavings. It’s a natural material that’s mostly used in rugs for its durability and resistance to the elements. Because of its light natural hue, they blend seamlessly with boho, rustic, and coastal style spaces. Its strength makes it ideal for busy homes and high-traffic areas like the kitchen, family room, and entry.

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Jute:

Another strong and durable fiber, jute has both strength and a bit of shine. It’s popular in home decor, from curtains to chair coverings to area rugs, and is often used in rustic and boho spaces. Jute has longevity also. Even though it’s not the softest rug, it’s the most used style of natural-fiber rug given that it stands up to wear and foot traffic.

Shopping for a natural fiber rug? Read our guide to natural fiber rugs first!

Raffia:

Native to Africa, raffia is often used for basket weaving because it’s strong, malleable, and holds dye beautifully well. Raffia has a soft organic look to it that makes it easy to mix in spaces. You’ll find plenty of decorative accents made from raffia in boho and eclectic interiors, ranging from wall art to table bases and nightstands.

Rattan:

One of several natural materials that are popular in boho and coastal interiors, rattan is made from a strong fibrous plant similar to bamboo but is a bit more flexible. rattan is loved for its bold texture, organic form, and breezy, laid-back appeal. It’s widely used for furnishings big and small—from woven chairs and headboards to trays and pendant lights. Want more? Explore easy rattan decorating ideas.

Tropical entryway with a serena and lily bench and beach themed art

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Bamboo:

Fun fact: Bamboo is the fastest growing grass plant in the world! It’s an elegant natural fiber that’s used in everything from furniture to flooring to tableware because it’s extremely durable (it’s scratch-resistant) and long-lasting. Bamboo furnishings and decor are also lightweight and have a beautiful natural hue, which makes it a favorite material for contemporary and minimalist style spaces.

art gallery wall with stool and credenza

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Cane:

A favorite material for coastal and tropical homes, cane is an ideal material for outdoor furniture, specifically chairs and sofas, given its soft, moisture-resistant, and sweat-wicking properties. Woven cane furniture provides ventilation and since the material itself doesn’t retain body heat, cane pieces have a cooling effect that’s perfect for indoor-outdoor spaces. Cane is a trendy material that’s on the rise, so you’ll find it used in a wide range of interiors, from rustic rooms to modern homes these days.

Find more stylish tips for designing with cane furniture.

Contemporary living room with bold geometric rug and organically shaped wood coffee table

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Woods

One of the world’s most precious natural materials, wood of every type is a foundational element in interiors of any style, providing touches of texture, color, and warmth.

Unfinished or Live-Edge Woods:

These types of woods are usually left raw and untreated or unfinished on purpose. It preserves the wood’s organic look and feel, which artists and designers love to use to craft table tops, side stools, benches, and other large furniture pieces. Unfinished and live-edge wood decor is bold, textured, and sculptural, so they’re popular materials you’ll find in contemporary, industrial, and rustic spaces.

Minimalist Glam living room with biophillic design features in a pastel color scheme

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Burlwood:

The truth about burlwood is that it can be any type of wood. What makes it burl wood is the knot in the wood—the more twisted and bigger the knot, the bigger the burl, which creates textural patterns and rich natural-wood colors. Its dense texture, durability, and spill-resistant nature makes it a quality wood for furniture. Burlwood was popular during the Art Deco period, then went away. It made a comeback in the ’60s and ’70s and has been a staple material in furniture since. Burlwood pieces are statements in any home, so one or two pieces will go a long way to inject flair and a bold look.

Driftwood:

A coastal home staple, driftwood is simply wood that had been salvaged after being washed out to sea, in a river or a lake. Driftwood has an aged rustic look that comes from it having been weathered by sand and water. It’s usually preserved and dried before it’s transformed into furnishings, such as side tables, consoles, benches, stools, and other accent pieces. Some people also like driftwood in its natural jagged form and use it as a decorative piece.

Read This Next: How to Mix Different Wood Tones in a Space.

Small eclectic living room with leather sofa facing a TV

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Leather

Soft, durable, and luxurious, it’s always a good idea to invest in leather and hide decor—be it a hide rug or a set of leather dining chairs. It’s a material that stands up to the test of time.

Genuine Leather:

In terms of natural materials, it doesn’t get more luxe than genuine leather. Crafted from a layer of hide, leather is a durable upholstery material often used for dining chairs, stools, sofas, and headboards. Leather ages slowly but beautifully. Over time it will have a lived-in look, get softer, and remain stain-resistant for a long time with proper care. Whether you’re using sleek leathers in a contemporary room or darker leather in a rustic or traditional space, leather is always a timeless and luxe material.

Contemporary dining room with suede dining chairs, black wood table and a hide rug

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Cowhide:

Cowhide is the natural unbleached skin and hair of a cow, so every hide is different and unique. It’s a luxurious material for a rug, and the organic shape of a cowhide makes it a beautiful accent in any style home, especially rustic, mid-century, and glam interiors. But the best thing about cowhide is that it’s easy to maintain (just a little shake and some light vacuum) and is also long-lasting.

Suede:

Made from the underside of animal skin, suede has a soft and fuzzy texture. It’s a great material for upholstered furniture but it will need to be specially treated to protect from spills and moisture. It’s not the best material to use in a home with small children. In modern or rustic style homes, suede makes for a soft yet durable choice for furnishings.

Get more design ideas for decorating with leather!

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Sheepskin:

The hide of a sheep or a pelt with the fur attached, sheepskin comes in all sizes and is popular accents in boho and rustic-style homes. They’re great as small fluffy throw rugs in a kids’ room or guest rooms, and they can also be draped over benches, sofas, and beds to add a touch of soft texture. Just be sure to keep them clean and dry and away from spill-prone areas in the home.

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Stone

A naturally elegant material, stone of any kind instantly elevates interiors. Whether it’s a marble table, granite tiles, or even ceramics, stone decor offers sleek style, no matter your space.

Travertine:

A natural stone formed in limestone mineral spring deposits, travertine has a striking and luminous look. It’s durable and weather-resistant, making it a popular choice for outdoor patios and kitchens. Indoors, it’s a statement stone that’s often used for tiles, flooring, and backsplashes, but you’ll also find gorgeous dining tables with travertine stone tops. If you’re a fan of contemporary and minimalist spaces, travertine will blend seamlessly into equally sleek spaces.

Marble accent table with ceramic vases and firefly art in the background

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Marble:

With its beautiful veining, varying colors, and smooth touch, it’s easy to see why marble has been loved and used for centuries. A natural stone that has to be mined, there are many variations of marble but they all share a rich, luxurious look. It’s commonly used in everything from tiles and sculptures to entire building facades. But when it comes to marble furniture, it needs a little TLC given that it can chip and stain easily. Nonetheless, marble furniture is an essential element in contemporary, traditional, and modern spaces—whether it’s small nesting rounds or a marble-top dining table.

Ceramics:

Made from clay heated at high temperatures, ceramic accents are versatile and long-lasting home essentials that can be used in any style space, contemporary or rustic or modern. Ceramic can come in many different shapes, textures and sizes, but it’s most widely used in decorative accents and home accessories, such as bowls, vases, candleholders, and tableware, for finishing touches.

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Going Natural: 12 Ways to Decorate With Natural Materials

If you want to give your home more contrast and visual depth, we recommend layering in some natural materials. They’re the secret ingredient every room needs to create a dynamic space that doesn’t fall flat. (Literally and figuratively.)

Natural materials add beautiful texture to your space. But that’s not the only reason to love natural elements. They’re also super versatile, going just as well with modern and glam spaces as with mid-century and coastal interior design. It’s a trend that’s at home in homes of all styles! In fact, the natural materials trend was one of our favorite trends of 2019—and has continued to be well into 2020! But natural home decor, while having a trendy moment, are actually quite timeless. So, even when natural materials are no longer a top trend, they’ll still give your home a timeless and relevant look. We love pieces with staying power!

But decorating with natural materials doesn’t just mean rattan furniture and baskets with a woven texture. Natural home decor is just as varied as it is versatile, which you’ll see later on in this post!

Wondering how to incorporate natural elements and materials into your home decor? Keep reading for a few of our favorite ways!

natural home decorJute Rug

Made of dried plant fibers, jute is a very durable and virtually maintenance-free natural material—making it the perfect choice for a low-maintenance and affordable rug! Most jute or other natural fiber rugs feature a woven texture in neutral colors—some in a more solid-color weave, others woven with stripes and other patterns.

Jute rugs are quite versatile. They’re a perfect style of rug for coastal, boho, rustic, and eclectic spaces. And they’re also great for layering! They create a durable and neutral base, on top of which you can layer a smaller colorful, decorative rug!

And don’t be afraid to use multiple natural elements in a room. The bedroom above not only has a woven jute rug, but also a lounge chair made of braided water hyacinth, a rope-wrapped bench, and hand-carved nightstands!

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Jute Woven Pendant Light

This pendant light, made from woven jute, has a lightweight and airy vibe. It doesn’t feel visually heavy—rather, it’s quite sculptural and texturized. This is a perfect style for bedrooms, as pictured above, as well as dining spaces and entryways. And we love that it’s easy to shake out (no dust build-up here!) and creates a nice glow from within.

Another versatile piece of natural home decor, this style of pendant light is great for eclectic, minimal, coastal, and boho styles. It looks beautiful with neutral colors and decor—but would also pop against a green wall in a tropical boho space.

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Ceramic Pottery Lamps

Here’s an under-the-radar way to add natural elements to your room: through textured ceramics. In the case of this room, ceramic lamps. They’re made from clay and glazed in an earth tone, and feature a beautiful textured patterning. We love the idea of investing in an everyday object that’s a little more out-of-the-ordinary.

The earth tone color scheme makes the ceramic feel more natural in the style—and it could go on an entryway console or in a living room just as well as in a bedroom. These lamps are great pieces for rustic, transitional, minimalist, eclectic, and boho styles.

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Wood + Iron Table

We like mixing wood and metals—a mix of natural and manmade materials—which look great together while still maintaining that natural look.

A natural wood slab table has very rustic vibes. But putting it atop a forged iron base adds an industrial edge to this table. Natural wood is durable and great for a dining table—and it’s a very kid-friendly style.

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Hide Rug

A hide rug adds softness and an amorphous shape to your space—not only adding natural texture but a lot of visual interest. You can go for a real cowhide or a vegan alternative of faux hide, but you’ll still get the same organic look.

This is a great style of rug for spaces with awkward shapes, where a traditional rug just wouldn’t work, but you still want something soft underfoot. It can also be layered with larger, rectangular rugs. This is a great piece for eclectic, mid-century modern, rustic, and boho styles.

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Nature-Themed Art

Natural materials are typically found in nature. But you can also layer in visual nature-inspired materials through nature-themed art. Complement your other natural home decor with an art print or painting of a nature scene, botanicals, or animals, which adds a stylistic and earthy touch to your space.

These pieces, like the painting featured above, look good when paired with rustic and bohemian styles with earthy color palettes.

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Rattan Chair

Looking for some boho interior design ideas? Rattan is a natural material made of dried palm, which is woven together to create a structured piece of furniture. You really can’t get more raw and natural than a rattan chair in a natural color and material!

We love how lightweight rattan furniture is and how it adds texture to a room with such ease. We also highly recommend pairing a rattan chair with some pillows or cushions—which is a great way to add in some color and patterns as well. As mentioned, rattan furniture is great for boho spaces and can be used as indoor or outdoor furniture.

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Woven Baskets

A classic way to add natural elements into your home decor is through baskets. Many decorative baskets are made from a woven material like sisal, seagrass, water hyacinth, and sometimes even rattan.

These baskets are lightweight and have that raw, natural look about them. And woven baskets tend to be very strong and durable. It’s a perfect example of style meeting practicality! Woven baskets go with almost any style—making them a great addition to any space that needs additional storage.

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Plants

Add living natural materials to your home by using plants as home decoration. Whether real or faux, plants make a great room filler and add beautiful organic shapes and colors to your space. If you’re going to use more than one plant in a room, consider varying the shapes, types, and sizes of the plants you choose for some additional texture and visual interest.

Plants are the most versatile of all natural materials and are a lovely addition to any and all spaces and styles. And, bonus: if you go for real plants, they also help purify your air and boost your mood!

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Leather Sofa

A leather upholstered sofa is a timeless piece of furniture—a perfect way to add another layer of natural materials to your space. It’s a great investment, as leather is very durable and develops a beautiful patina over time. And if you get one in a warm color, like the one pictured above, it will work with almost all styles of decor. It also plays quite nicely with other natural materials, like rattan chairs, sheepskin rugs, and woven coffee tables.

Like a hide rug, you can find some beautiful vegan, faux leather options. And leather comes in many different shades and finishes, so you can customize it to your color palette and style!

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Stone Table

A table with a wood frame and stone slab top is a visually interesting way to add natural materials into your home decor. The end table pictured here has a blue stone slate top, which is durable and natural-looking but also very polished. It adds a cool touch to any space. And the reclaimed pine base makes for a very stable piece of furniture.

We love the contrast of wood and stone (which also looks beautiful with natural greenery). It’s a great add for any rustic or traditional space.

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Natural Wood Coffee Table

We love furniture that features wood that’s kept in a very raw form, where you can see the knots, natural weathering, and imperfection of the material.

A coffee table made from natural wood adds warmth and earthiness to any living room. The one featured above is super durable and a great investment piece. And since wood is timeless and versatile, it’s a great piece for all styles!

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Stylist Picks: 11 Pieces That Do The Rattan Trend Right

rattan trendThere’s so much to love when it comes to the rattan trend that’s been making its way into homes all over. We’ve been seeing rattan furnishings go from covered patios and porches into living rooms, dining spaces, and bedrooms, and we just can’t get enough of it.

Whether it’s a small side table or a full-on headboard made in the material, rattan pieces have a way of adding bold natural texture, organic appeal, and a breezy, laid-back vibe in spaces. You probably associate rattan furnishings with beach houses, your grandmother’s timeshare, or even the iconic Golden Girls’ home. But the material is getting a versatile and contemporary facelift for 2019. But what makes rattan one of our favorite materials of the moment is that it’s absolutely timeless – it doesn’t really go out of style ever and it won’t feel dated in a few months.

Still, incorporating the rattan trend into your existing decor can be tricky. So to help you get started (and inspired), our stylists rounded up a few rattan pieces that you can easily work into your home. Read on for their top picks for bringing the rattan trend home in small, medium, and major ways.

rattan trend1. Round Woven Tray with Handles

Pretty and practical, rattan trays are the simplest way to work this 2019 trend into your decor. It goes with practically everything and this design with handles has polished appeal.

2. Kids Rattan Nightstand

This rattan nightstand makes for a small accent piece that’s perfect if you’re looking to ease the material into your space. Not just for trendy tots, try using it as a side table in your living room to add a touch of texture.

3. Mobbi Round End Table

For a slightly more substantial rattan piece, this round table makes for an easy accent that’s stylish and functional. Bookend a white sofa with a pair of these to play up a breezy, casual look.

4. Sarah Bartholomew Octagonal Rattan Mirror

If you’re looking for a statement piece that will be a focal point in your space, this sculptural mirror with a rattan frame will certainly do the trick. Try hanging it in the entry for major impact.

5. Balboa Armchair

Comfy and laid-back, rattan armchairs lend rooms an airy elegance. They’re also super versatile. Place two on a covered porch or pull them into your living room for an instant conversation spot.

rattan trend6. Farmhouse Woven Rattan Baskets

You really can’t go wrong with rattan baskets, which we love as pretty storage bins for throws, blankets, and pillows. Another idea? Try using larger baskets as planters for tall leafy plants.

7. Tejido Dining Stools

To play up a casual, tropical vibe, group comfy rattan stools with your dining table. Not ready to commit to a full suite? Pull up a pair to your kitchen counter – they’ll provide the same relaxed feel.

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8. Headlands Pendant

Among the most captivating uses of rattan we’ve seen, light fixtures are an amazing way to rock this trend. Try hanging multiple rattan pendants in a room for gorgeous accents that will instantly draw the focus upward.

9. Reflect Rattan Credenza

Ready to do rattan in a big way? This show-stopping credenza will add serious visual texture. It also offers plenty of storage and is a perfect display for art and objects. It’s our idea of the ultimate conversation piece.

10. Noelie Rattan Lounge Chair with Cushion

If big comfort is what you’re after, consider a deep cushioned rattan lounge chair in your living or bedroom to give yourself a place to kick back and unwind. We love a rattan lounge chair for the cozy and organic feel it brings to a space.

11. Santa Ana Headboard

There’s something about a neutral-hued rattan headboard that sets a warm, cozy, and inviting tone in a bedroom. It’s the perfect statement piece as it has a way of presenting natural texture without overwhelming a space.

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