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