Apron Sinks, Shiplap Walls, Ruffled Curtains—Oh My! Which Farmhouse Element is Your Favorite?

Farmhouse Front Porch

Wide front porches like this one from Resa Bartlett’s Indiana home, are enjoyable spaces for farmhouse living. See more of Resa’s home in the spring 2019 issue of Farmhouse Style. (Photographed by Gridley + Graves)

Hello again, farmhouse lovers! In my last blog post, I talked about the different versions of farmhouse decor. I loved exploring all the various looks, but even more so, I absolutely loved hearing from all of you about what farmhouse style you are! I heard from people who are more cottage farmhouse, those who prefer a more cabin look, even one woman who was thrilled to find out she favors the French farmhouse style. And yes, I have to agree with another reader—I love gleaming brass pots as well! Keep the comments coming, and if you haven’t read that post, be sure to go back and check it out (and remember, you can hit that Follow This Blog button to make sure you don’t miss a single post).

This time, I want to delve even deeper into what makes farmhouse style … well, farmhouse. Obviously, we can look at the architectural style and history of a home. Original farmhouses tended to have wide porches, easy-to-maintain surfaces and large kitchens. (Where else could you feed those big farm families from the past?) The floors, walls, cabinetry and furnishings often had a can-do attitude to them. They were made out of sturdy, readily available materials, and they needed to last for many years. The furnishings were more functional than beautiful. (Although as many of us will wholeheartedly agree, those old farmhouse furnishings are, indeed, truly beautiful.)

From those early farmhouses came elements like rough plank flooring (perfect for muddy boots to tramp in from the fields), long wooden farm tables with bench seating (easy to squeeze in another person for dinner), sliding barn doors (not always in the house but very functional in the barn), large apron sinks (an ideal design to wash all the veggies from the garden), and those wide open porches (the absolute best for rocking away the summer nights).

farmhouse table and stairs

Resa Bartlett’s dining room includes such typical farmhouse elements as chippy furnishings, repurposed farm pieces, a sliding barn door, tobacco baskets and flowing white fabrics. (Photographed by Gridley + Graves)

As we bring those traditional farmhouse looks into a more modern aesthetic, we’re seeing a mingling of elements, and some old ones used in new ways. Chicken wire, feeders and nesting boxes, once found only in the henhouse, are now enjoying new life as gorgeously revamped farmhouse decor. Want a few simple ways to add these favorites to your home? Replace inside panels of cabinet doors with chicken wire; turn poultry feeders into planters or bases for table arrangements; employ a nesting box as a shoe holder.

Through their successful run on “Fixer Upper,” Chip and Joanna Gaines made shiplap a household word. You know it as the horizontally striped white-painted wood walls found in nearly every farmhouse-style home. But what is shiplap?

Traditional shiplap is a rough-sawn wooden board typically used for exterior siding. It has rabbets, or notches, on the edges to allow the pieces to overlap and make a flush joint. While shiplap is still very popular, there has been a bit of trend-tiredness with it lately. What do you think? Do you still love shiplap or are you ready for something new?

grain sack curtains

Anita Diaz at Far Above Rubies made simple curtains from old vintage feed sacks her grandfather had saved. Visit Anita’s blog to learn more. (Designed and photographed by Anita Diaz)

Grain sacks are another iconic element of farmhouse style. Did you know they originated as a decor item when Depression-era housewives started using the empty flour and feed sacks as an inexpensive material for curtains or dishcloths? Companies got wise and started printing logos and bright designs on the sacks. Today, we see grain-sack table runners, curtains, and even upholstered chairs. Want to get a quick grain-sack look without having to find an original piece? Take a long piece of rough cotton material and paint a few stripes along either side to replicate the look. (Try one thick stripe flanked by two thin stripes for an easily recognizable design.)

What other elements do we see that typically say “farmhouse”? Open shelves filled with large glass jars or canisters are great in kitchens; ruffled white curtains billow beautifully at large windows (even better when the wind from the prairie blows gently through the screens); large beds piled high with plump pillows and snuggle-up quilts are a welcome retreat at the end of a long day. I could name quite a few more—subway tile, cotton-boll arrangements, whitewashed brick, cupboards filled with ironstone, tobacco baskets. I’m sure you could name many more, too. So what are your favorite elements of farmhouse style? Do you favor old baskets? Love chippy white tables? Adore a soft, colorful quilt? Or maybe you have some treasured pieces from your grandparents that brighten your day every time you see them. I’d love to hear about it all! Drop a comment below and tell me about your favorite farmhouse designs.


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farm table with tin place mats

Long wooden farm tables were a necessity for farm families of the past. These ceiling-tin place mats are an easy DIY from our designer. See the Autumn 2018 issue of Farmhouse Style for full instructions.



ironstone in cupboard

How beautiful is an old cupboard filled with white ironstone pieces? (Photographed by Matthew Owen)

sliding door

Sliding barn doors have come along way since their functional duties on the family farm. Here, an Indiana blogger uses the door to separate her closet from the bedroom. See more of her home in the upcoming Autumn 2019 issue of Farmhouse Style. (Photographed by Matthew Owen)

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‘Farmhouse is Not Just All White’—Which Farmhouse Style is for You?

Hello, farmhouse fans! Susan Wagner here, and welcome to our new blog! We’ll be coming to you twice a month, sharing our thoughts on farmhouse decorating, tips on living the farmhouse life, instructions for creating cool DIY projects, behind-the-scenes peeks at the magazine, delicious recipes, nostalgic anecdotes and more. So hit that “Follow This Blog” button at the right to make sure you don’t miss a thing!

So, let’s get to it. We all know the popular whitewashed-walls-and-light-colored-furnishings look of the Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Fixer Upper homes. For many of us, that dreamy, creamy look is the epitome of our favorite farmhouse decorating. But as popular as that style is, it is not the only reflection of farmhouse decor. As one reader pointed out: “Farmhouse is not just all white—bring in some color!”

She is so right! Farmhouse style is more than just white, crisp, clean-lined, simplistic rooms. It is rough-hewn woods, vintage handkerchiefs, painted cabinets, softened denim, Edison bulbs, contrasting hues, woven baskets, corrugated tin, rustic clays, copper pots and many more elements that help fashion its different faces. In fact, farmhouse style is not just one look, but various iterations of a similar style. True, all these farmhouse looks do blur together a bit at the edges and they often share common characteristics, but the distinctions do occur. And as is the case with nearly everything in life, one size does not fit all. So for the reader who likes her farmhouse decorating painted in color and the farmhouse lover who prefers Western ranch-style living, there’s a perfect-fit farmhouse style for each of them as well as a few other farmhouse looks for other decorators, as you’ll see.

Traditional Farmhouse

Photographed and Styled by Gridley + Graves. See more of this home in the Winter 2018 issue of Farmhouse Style.

Sliding barn doors, apron sinks, shiplap walls, mason jars, farm implements—this is the farmhouse style we’ve become so familiar with. It is the one Chip and Joanna so famously popularized. For many, THIS is farmhouse style; nothing else needs to be said. And it certainly does have its wonderful qualities. It’s comfortable, with cushy sofas and piles of pillows. It’s forgiving, with weathered wood floors and chippy chairs. It’s easy, with that mix-and-mingle design aesthetic. Fans of the traditional farmhouse style love the natural materials and rustic pieces used in this look, and they appreciate the can-do functionality of the design. And it’s fun to recreate everyday farm tools, like chicken wire, into new pieces.

Modern Farmhouse

Photographed by Ken Gutmaker. Styled by Sara Syrett. See more of this home in the Spring 2019 issue of Farmhouse Style.

Take the traditional farmhouse style and shine it up a bit. Eliminate some furnishings, focus on just a couple of vintage favorites, bring in a few sleek elements, and add a touch of black here and there, and you have modern farmhouse style. This is a look for those who like the simple nature of traditional farmhouse but want a more refined finish. They like the comfortable, but not the chippy. Yes to the rustic, but no to the ragged. Lovers of modern farmhouse style will often include industrial touches, such as metal pendant lamps or tall, curved faucets. Also popular in this look is subway tile in kitchens or bathrooms; the clean, modular pattern offset by the black lines epitomizes a contemporary look. Any natural materials used are refined, the woods gleaming a bit, the stone polished. Sleek black chairs are paired with a majestic farmhouse table. Bathroom sinks tend toward hammered metal or clean-cut stone. Modern farmhouse style is for those who like some of the aesthetics of farmhouse decor but want a more upscale, contemporary look.

Rustic/Western Farmhouse

Photographed by Mark Lohman. Styled by Fifi O’Neill. See more of this home in the Spring 2019 issue of Farmhouse Style.

Now, if you bring in a lot more rustic, timeworn and hewn pieces, such as heavy wood beams or weathered dark barnwood, and accent them with salvaged farm and ranch tools, live-edge wood slab shelves, images of longhorn steer or horses, and taxidermy wall hangings, you’re veering toward a rustic/Western-ranch style of farmhouse decorating. This look still has many of the basics of traditional farmhouse—you’ll find a nod to the past, cozy furnishings, textured materials—but you won’t get that all-white Fixer Upperlook. The rustic farmhouse style doesn’t have to include Western elements; without them, this look is still different from traditional farmhouse in that the materials are often more weathered and raw, the colors usually darker, the overall feel more connected to the natural environment. A rustic/Western farmhouse style can even be more modern with refined materials, still texturized and natural, but more high-end.

Vintage/Cottage Farmhouse

Photographed by Mark Lohman. Styled by Fifi O’Neill. See more of this home in the Winter 2018 issue of Farmhouse Style.

On the other end of the spectrum from the rustic Western farmhouse look, we have the more vintage cottage farmhouse feel. Again, the bones of this look come from traditional farmhouse decor, but there are a lot more frills and flounce. Ruffled curtains and bedding abound. Old tea towels and aprons become decorative accents. Fabric skirts appear under white cast-iron sinks. You’ll see more architectural trim enhancing rooms and more antiques and vintage pieces decorating tables and shelves. Often, collections are highlighted in this style, and there’s a real yen for using old dishes and pitchers. Colors tend to be lighter, but not all white; you’ll see swashes of pastels and often painted woodwork.

French/European Farmhouse

Photographed by BlackstoneEdge.com. Styled by Donna Pizzi. See more of this home in the Summer 2019 issue of Farmhouse Style, on sale April 16.

There’s still yet another style of farmhouse that has its own niche—a French/European farmhouse look. Cool grays, warm woods, perhaps a bit whitewashed, scrolled edging, lightly painted woods, verdigris metals, maybe a touch of distressed gold here and there—details that bring forth the feeling of the sunny French countryside. Like all the farmhouse looks, it’s casual and comfortable in nature, but not as roughly worn. It has a softer touch and also a bit more of an elegant feel.

As you can see, farmhouse style does not all have to look the same. As with any great room design, you can make it what you want, choosing furnishings and materials that you truly enjoy. So out of all these different farmhouse styles, which do you prefer?



P.S. Do you know you can still buy back issues of Farmhouse Style magazine? Click here to start your collection from the very beginning with the first issue.

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