The modern folk look is all about layering colour, pattern, embroidered and embellished details in your home – think of it as a glorious mix of Anthropologie's boho buys, crossed with Annie Sloan's painted furniture, with your granny's quilts and the beautiful cushions and bowls you brought back from your holiday, all adding character and charm to your living room ideas or bedroom ideas.
More luxe than the boho home decor trend, modern folk pieces are known for their artful craftsmanship. It's the perfect look if you want to add more personality to your home or instantly brighten up a muted space.
How to get the modern folk look
Folk style brings together the decorative crafts of different cultures to create playful, unique and homely spaces. We asked fabric designer Julia Brendel – who's known for her use of vibrant colours and patterns inspired by the folk costumes of her Polish/Hungarian heritage – to share her tips for creating the modern folk look in your own home.
Julia was born in Poland and studied at the Poznan Academy of Art, before moving to the UK in 1999. Her passion for folk designs, costumes, lace and embroidery can be seen in the fabrics and soft furnishings she produces for her own company.
1. Look for stylised nature motifs
‘Traditionally, folk design was or is created by people living close to nature. It is designed to be functional, using predominantly natural materials, with motifs taken from nature and simplified down, often in primary colours,' explains Julia Brendel.
'For me, the real “must have” components to create the folk look are handpainted ceramics, handpainted or stencilled objects, walls or pieces of furniture; original folk embroidery and lace, or new fabrics in bright colours with simple folk style motifs and simple stripes for balance; wicker baskets and bright colours.’
2. Choose a folk-style piece to base the look around
‘The key to any interior design is to find your starting point – the item or colour around which the whole scheme will orbit,' says Julia. 'If you already own an original folk piece (perhaps an inherited object or a piece bought on holiday or at an antique fair), make this your star piece and build a scheme around it.
'If you don’t own such a piece, you can create the same effect by stencilling a wall, handpainting a piece of furniture or choosing a decorated piece of fabric. You can then draw colours from this piece and complement it with suitable furnishings.’
3. Decide your modern folk colour palette
‘To create a cohesive and charming up-to-date folk interior that reflects your personal style, start by narrowing down your colour palette,' advises Julia.
'Folk art is known for its bright and bold colours. However, using a limited colour palette or toning down the shades can offer a more contemporary twist. Once you have chosen a colour palette from your key piece, use this to tie everything together. Repeat the same colours in a few places. For example, add a plain trim to your cushions in the same colour taken from a ceramic plate.'
4. Create a layered look
‘Mixing folk elements with contemporary design can create an interesting look. For example, a traditional folk pattern on a modern piece of furniture or pairing a modern sofa with a rustic folk sideboard will create an interesting twist,' Julia says.
'To add depth to the scheme, use patterned textiles such as woven blankets, embroidered fabrics and quilted throws and eiderdowns. Mix and match patterns for a layered look or use those based on folk motifs.’
5. Keep it simple for a contemporary feel
‘Folk art often features intricate patterns but to make your scheme more contemporary, simplify the design by using fewer elements,' Julia explains. 'If you are using a very decorative piece, make it the only one in the room and complement it with some simpler, more modern elements.
'Incorporating natural materials such as wood, stone, clay and fresh linen can create a more serene modern “minimalist folk” look and add natural depth. Handmade pieces such as pottery, wood carvings and other decorative objects can give your interior that unique touch.’
What is the modern folk look?
The modern folk look is inspired by stylised animal and plant motifs, used in a contemporary way. There's also an element of craft and artisanship, such as handmade pottery, embroidered details and handpainted patterns or stencilling. Colours are bright and bold but based on a natural palette.
How do I get the modern folk trend at home?
For a look that's stylish layered and vibrant, without being overwhelming, pick a reduced palette of three to four colours. Next, choose a hero piece, such as an item of furniture or some wall art, and base your room design around this. Finally, layer in patterned and embellished elements, such as lampshades, throws, artworks and decorative objects, to bring character and personality.
Will you be taking the modern folk look for a test drive this autumn?
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Holly is one of Ideal Home’s content editors. Starting her career in 2018 as a feature writer and sub-editor for Period Living magazine, she has continued this role also adding regular features for Country Homes & Interiors and the Ideal Home website to her roster. Holly has a passion for traditional and country-inspired interiors – especially kitchen design – and is happiest when exploring the countryside and hills of the Lake District. A keen gardener, she is a strong believer that you can never have too many houseplants.
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