Thanks in large part to HGTV’s wildly popular “Fixer Upper” series starring the married meteorites Chip and Joanna Gaines, the so-called modern farmhouse aesthetic is all the rage. After all, it offers a relaxed, nostalgic appeal while still saying, “I’m sophisticated and current.” But, go too far and it looks like a country cliché, especially when it comes to the interior décor.
What is the modern farmhouse look? Though, it can be one of those know-it-when-you-see-it phenomena, it actually has some basic tenets. At its most fundamental, the exteriors tend to be white with some rustic wood elements like doors, columns and shutters. And roofs? They pretty much have to be black or gray metal standing seam in a gable style. That A-line pitch is a telling hallmark.
A covered front porch — with barn or porch-style lighting, e.g. something with an industrial flavor — are other must-haves, as are carriage-style garage doors. Dark, especially black, front doors look crisp and clean against white siding, while large house numbers sound that modern note. Flanking galvanized metal planters are popular accents.
Inside, white walls predominate within an overall neutral palette, again with some rustic wood elements and lots of texture for interest. The modern farmhouse is fresh not folksy. Key to the look is the ubiquitous open floorplan — especially a large, open kitchen (with a farmhouse sink, of course) — along with lots of windows. Wide plank hardwood or pine floors are practically a must, and wooden mantles and exposed wooden beams are highly desirable. Floating wooden shelves are another popular way to bring the farmhouse into the modern era. And maybe a sliding barn door … but not five.
Besides wood, interior décor runs toward iron and salvaged materials like industrial metal and reclaimed wood or, at any rate, materials with that appearance. Furnishings with a purpose and that suggest a history are right at home in the modern farmhouse. Think vintage pieces and repurposed items. But go easy. Too much of a good thing is, well, too much. Craft your interior in layers: a simple, minimalist structure layered with a mix of wood and upholstered furniture and tactile rugs and blankets for warmth and comfort that is not cloying or cluttered. Other organic materials to consider include stone, wicker, rattan and sisal.
Home décor stores not only make it easy and affordable to achieve this look — with clocks, painted signs and faux-repurposed/vintage items around every corner but they also make it easy and affordable to go way overboard. When possible, I recommend taking the authentic high road: Choose pieces that really do have some age and really did live another life. Choose artisanal over craftsy and, by all means, step away from mason jars, any item that looks like a caterer’s prop — or like it belongs in TGI Fridays — and signage. If it reads as thematic, it will not look subtle and sophisticated.
The modern farmhouse craze is part of a broader cultural movement that favors farm-to-table cooking, farmer’s markets, backyard chickens, walking communities, casual food trucks and the like. It is meant to be an aesthetic reflective of a lifestyle that is genuinely simpler and more relaxed, not a pretty pastiche.
If you need assistance in achieving an authentic and unforced modern farmhouse vibe, please reach out to me at Chris@vbhomesliving.com.
Chris Ettel is founding partner of VB Homes. He serves on the Tidewater Builders Association board of directors, served as past chairman of the TBA Remodelers Council and is a longtime board member of the Virginia Beach Public Schools Education Foundation. For more information, go to www.vbhomesliving.com.