While it can refer to an architectural style, many people associate the term “farmhouse” with function rather than design or certain type of home decor. Calling a home a farmhouse is more likely to tell where its location and how practical the house will be rather than its specific architectural elements. However, it can also be a house style as well. Here’s what people looking to purchase a farmhouse or those who already own one should know about this architectural style:
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History of Farmhouse Style
Farmhouses, which have also been called “folk houses,” were influenced almost completely by geography. During the 18th century, when these homes first began popping up, farmers needed a place to live that relied on function rather than ornate fixtures or luxury. There wasn’t necessarily any specific design or material that farmhouses used. It often changed based on location, climate, and the availability of local resources.
For instance, a farmhouse built on the East Coast would most likely end up looking wildly different than one built in California with very few similarities in style or farmhouse decor. This is partly due to the fact that the owners built the folk houses themselves rather than relying on an architect.
Only the wealthy could afford to hire an architect, and even skilled labor workers had to rely on what they could scrounge up on their own. Many of the earliest farmhouses were even constructed with stone, mud, or logs.
It was only once the cross-country railroad system was built in the mid-19th century that it was possible for farmers to begin transporting materials across the country. They no longer had to rely on what was in the near vicinity. With this advancement, farmers could begin building their homes out of lumber, quarried stone, or even brick.
Once the design wasn’t limited to local materials, the complexity of farmhouses changed as well. To some extent, farmers and builders could place some emphasis on design rather than just pure function. Wealthy landowners that might have had the resources to hire a team of builders or an architect usually constructed whatever style was more popular at the time.
For instance, while the Greek Revival was popular during the mid-1800s, many farmhouses blended elements of this style into their design. Once the early 1900s came around, many farmhouses began sprouting wraparound porches with Queen Anne railings and posts.
Although farmers only make up a small portion of the population today, farmhouses have retained some popularity. It’s not uncommon for families or homeowners to purchase a classic farmhouse with a piece of land and modernize the house. Even if they don’t find the style necessarily appealing, any homeowner that wants to buy a large strip of land will usually get a farmhouse as well.
It’s important to remember that farmhouses, like many older homes, didn’t have a building code that farmers had to abide by. Not all classic farmhouses might have been built well enough to last for hundreds of years. Some farmhouses might have structural issues, and require plenty of renovation before they’re ready for modern living.
Types of Different Farmhouse Styles
Since a lot of homeowners and wealthy landowners took advantage of bare-bones farmhouses by combining them with other styles, there are a lot of different subcategories out there. What looks like a classic or traditional farmhouse might have specific elements that draw from another house style:
As a popular choice in the present day, a French farmhouse combines a range of different gray tones together. These types of homes usually include warm hardwood flooring, marble countertops in the kitchen, and other rustic accents to make the neutral colors pop. Architects who design a French farmhouse generally aim to make the space feel light and airy. Some of the cabinetry, dining chairs, countertops, or even kitchen island might include reclaimed wood or repurposed materials.
Using distressed wood, vintage accents, and handcrafted decorations and materials, the Rustic farmhouse design usually tries to bring this style back to its roots. The beauty of a Rustic farmhouse usually tries to be subtle, and use furnishings that feel as if they were taken straight out of the 1800s. It’s not uncommon to see repurposed material or furniture in the living room that owners acquire from a flea market.
The “shabby chic” or “country living” look is often the aim of the rustic farmhouse design.
Using minimalist fixtures, lights, and colors, one of the most popular parts of a Scandanavian farmhouse is the kitchen. With modern appliances and a sleek design, cooking in a Scandanavian farmhouse can feel like stepping into the future with the stainless steel appliances, sleek dining table, and open shelving. While there are usually some rustic or traditional elements in this subtype, they tend to feel contemporary.
Designed to be breezy and light, the Coastal farmhouse is usually found in locations close to the beach and gains a lot of its inspiration from the ocean. Rather than feeling stuffy or even cozy, a Coastal farmhouse tries to make its space and design feel as open as possible. Whether it’s open shelving, a metal countertop, or a sleek kitchen design, the Coastal Farmhouse can emulate the country style well.
A modern farmhouse usually tries to combine all the best elements of a Rustic farmhouse and make them feel more sophisticated. Many people associate modern farmhouses with taking a classic or traditional home and updating it to meet the standards of the twenty-first century.
In recent years, modern farmhouses have become incredibly popular among new homeowners or anybody looking to move out of the city and explore a lifestyle that’s more rural.
With elements from the Colonial style, these farmhouses draw on what was popular during the 18th-century. With brick fireplaces, wood flooring, and open rooms, a Colonial farmhouse usually uses a muted color scheme rather than a rich color palette.
With metal fixtures and cooler metals, an Industrial farmhouse usually uses a neutral color scheme and natural wood when it’s possible. Many people consider this to be a “masculine” take on the Farmhouse style, and in recent years, it’s become more popular.
A traditional farmhouse, especially the kitchen of one of these homes, can make homeowners feel as if they’re taking a step into the past. Many traditional farmhouses seek to preserve the original woodwork and furnishings from the original home design while making only minimal updates to the modern era.
Modern Farmhouse vs. Classic Farmhouse
While there are plenty of different nuances in the farmhouse style, some people or even designers can use the terms “classic farmhouse” or “modern farmhouse” interchangeably. While these types of houses can look similar, there are plenty of differences. It’s important to know where they differ, especially for anyone who is looking to invest in a farmhouse.
While a modern and classic farmhouse can look exactly the same on the outside, their interior elements are typically what differ.
When people say traditional, rustic, or classic farmhouse, they’re usually talking about the same home. Whether it’s the earlier days of America or just constructed to mimic this style, a classic farmhouse focuses on key features such as natural wood elements, vintage furniture, traditional fabrics, and even apron sinks. While it might have a cozy or relaxed charm, the classic farmhouse was meant for functionality.
A modern farmhouse, however, takes many of these same elements and adds a more modern touch. With curved, sleeker lines and glossy accents, modern farmhouse plans usually try to include a neutral color scheme.
While it isn’t the case all the time, a modern farmhouse will usually try and update appliances and fixtures inside of a classic farmhouse, so they’re more sustainable. For instance, a new homeowner moving into a traditional farmhouse might do away with outdated appliances and replace them with stainless steel fixtures that require less maintenance.
It’s important to remember that the modern farmhouse isn’t always building a completely new building. A lot of the time, modernizing a farmhouse simply means working with what’s already there and adding a few touches that feel contemporary.
Key Elements of the Farmhouse Style
Regardless of what subcategory or time period it’s from, there are a few key elements of the farmhouse style that many of these homes share. On the inside of the home, most people can find these common elements:
- Wood flooring
- Reclaimed barn wood
- Handmade or handworked decorations
- Exposed wood beams
- Apron sink
- Vintage furniture and decorations
- Furniture that’s arranged in a practical or functional manner
- Muted color scheme
- A formal area in the front of the house
Once they’re outside of the home, most people can usually spot plenty of land or even livestock in the distance. However, they can also typically pick these elements out too:
- A functional porch
- Farmhouses made with wood also usually have clapboards too
- L-shaped floor plan
- Barn located near the home
Common Farmhouse Decorating Ideas
When it comes to decorating a farmhouse, there aren’t tons of specific rules or guidelines to follow. Depending on the furniture that’s already in the house, homeowners might already have an idea of what goes well in their living space and what doesn’t.
When farmhouses first began popping up, the decor was not a primary focus. Farmers either made their own furniture or scrounged up what they could find. Locating furnishings that accented the home wasn’t a concern, although most homeowners did try and make the most of their living space.
Even today, most farmhouse decor is about practicality. Many homeowners find hand-me-down furniture at flea markets, antique shops, or even yard sales. Wooden furniture that looks rustic might fit better in a farmhouse than something designed with a metal or industrial material.
Vintage pieces can often add a lot of value to a farmhouse, even one that buyers are in the process of modernizing. Besides functionality or practicality, farmhouse decor can also mean making the owner’s life a little easier.
For instance, while a coal-burning stove might look attractive in the home, it can also be inconvenient to use. Even if homeowners are looking to keep their home as traditional as possible, updating a few modern appliances doesn’t mean losing the integrity of the home.
What sets the farmhouse style apart from others is that it’s practical. Farmers didn’t give much thought to making their homes aesthetically pleasing, although many modern homeowners have found the classic farmhouse to be appealing. Whether they’re looking to try and bring the farmhouse into the twenty-first century or preserve everything that makes it traditional, the farmhouse style is always evolving.