Whether you do actually live on a farm or are based in the middle of a bustling city, you can appreciate the cozy elements of farmhouse style. "Farmhouse style means designing a space that is comfortable, functional, clean, and inviting," designer Amy Leferink explains. Designer Cheryl Rosenberg adds, "For me, farmhouse style makes you feel like cooking a huge meal for gathered friends and family, then cozying up in front of a stone fireplace, wrapped in a hand-knit blanket." And who wouldn't want that? Designers share the origins of farmhouse design, as well as tips for bringing a farmhouse style home to life.
What Is Farmhouse Style?
Farmhouse style is cozy, casual, and welcoming. Vintage accents, refinished furniture pieces, and wooded accents will shine in a farmhouse style home.
Farmhouses made their way to the United States in the 1700s. Built from wood and featuring expansive front porches, they were largely functional and didn't feature many of the aesthetic elements we associate with farmhouse style today. Even their porches were not meant for relaxation but rather provided refuge from the outdoors and ample storage space for work equipment.
"In New England, we have some of the country’s first farmhouses, and my favorite parts are the old wood beams and wide plank floors that show the marks and patina of history," Rosenberg states. "The interiors are simple, approaching utilitarian, because farm life isn’t precious or luxurious." Of course, many homeowners today appreciate farmhouse style regardless of whether they live in a rural area or a small town. Adds Rosenberg, "Today’s farmhouse style means the handknit blanket might be cashmere and the range in the kitchen is a Blue Star!"
Accessibility and functionality is of the utmost importance in a farmhouse style home, designers note. "The idea behind a farmhouse is that it's a central gathering place for family and friends to convene, and so any space that has a farmhouse aesthetic should serve the same purpose," designer Jamie King says. "This style of design does not take itself too seriously," designer Kristin Krason notes, adding that consequently, it's ideal for a young family.
The idea behind a farmhouse is that it's a central gathering place for family and friends to convene.
In terms of architectural and decorative details, King loves using apron sinks and open shelving to bring the farmhouse feel to life. "Features like wood beams on the ceiling, or a rustic dining table add a bit of that 'worn in' charm without being too kitschy," She adds. "Decorating with vintage pieces, such as cutting boards, and interesting artwork can also lend character."
Designer Molly Machmer-Wessels keeps her farmhouse style spaces relaxed, organic, and simple. "I often find myself sourcing furniture or fixtures that have a classic silhouette," she says. "That might be a gooseneck faucet, a spindle leg table, or a milk glass pendant."
Farmhouse design doesn't have to be pricey, and items that err on the shabby chic side are welcome. After all, the aesthetic "features warmth and imperfect pieces that makes a home feel cozy and welcoming," designer Gbeke Omosebi notes. Leferink suggests integrating antique or DIY painted furniture into the home for effect—"something like a vintage chest next to a new bed or an antique club chair with worn in leather," she offers. "This will keep the overall vibe of the space more relaxed."
And don't forget to add color, urges Rosenberg. "I am tired of seeing all-white, gray, or wood farmhouse palettes," she says. "Try rich green or earthy purple on walls, jewel toned sofas, and patterned, colorful rugs." This is even more integral if you happen to be located in a locale with harsh winters, according to Rosenberg. "If you go through New England winters surrounded by snow and bare tree branches for three to four straight months, you’ll understand why embracing color in your home is restorative and life-giving."
Of course, you'll just want to prevent yourself from getting too over the top when decorating." The best way to bring this design to life is to mix it with other, complementary design details and aesthetics, like a bit of industrial, coastal or even mid-century modern," King says. Not sure where to begin? "Look for inspiration in historical homes of the past where life was simple, and design was beautiful yet very functional," Machmer-Wessels suggests.
Lastly, be sure not to go the cheesy route. "Avoid the literal," Leferink advises. "Putting up signs or artwork that screams 'farmhouse' is too on the nose and will lessen the impact of the aesthetic. You don’t want it to feel too forced!"