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The Beginner’s Guide to Farmhouse Design
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How to get the cozy and practical country-home vibe right in any space

When it comes to committing to one cohesive style for your home, it can get overwhelming. While there are, of course, tons of benefits to this approach, it also means it pretty easy to make some mistakes.

While I am a human heart-eye emoji about farmhouse decor, I’ve noticed the rules can get a little murky if you’re not careful. So, naturally, I turned to the experts for their thoughts on what mistakes we are all prone to making when it comes to this style.

Underestimating the Importance of the Kitchen

This is true for most homes, but historically speaking, the kitchen is the true heart of the farmhouse. As Dee Campling points out, they “typically have to withstand a lot of heavy use, so the furnishings have to be robust. This has lead to the design of very sturdy, chunky furniture and fittings.”

When you’re fitting out your farmhouse-style kitchen, don’t just focus on the cabinetry. “Think solid wood dining tables, thick open shelves, and heavy-duty wooden worktops,” says Dee.

Overlooking the Beauty of a Well-Worn Piece

The modern farmhouse style evokes a very specific mental image. You’re likely imagining crisp whites and soft neutrals. But true farmhouse style is all about longevity. Dee notes that “the beauty of this [style] is that it’s all long-lasting and picks up lots of wear and character throughout its life. Farmhouse decor is warm, welcoming, hardwearing, and characterful.”

Replacing pieces as they start to show wear or buying “fast furniture” in the farmhouse style ignores the true heart of it. Instead, Dee advises embracing mixing and matching vintage pieces. “You don’t have to be careful with any of it,” Dee says. “You can live freely and the more wear the better!”

Committing to the Look a Little Too Much

Maybe you live in an actual farmhouse on a working farm. If so, diving deep into farmhouse style might be both functional and fashionable. As designer Bobby Berk points out, “There is something to be said about the character that farmhouse design can have when you bring in natural and authentic vintage elements. I love the instant character and warmth that they bring in.”

But if you live in a modern home and you’re just hoping to give it a farmhouse vibe, be wary. Overcommitting might make your home feel more like a theme party than a well-styled space. Don’t worry, there’s an easy solution! Bobby advises, “Pair [authentic vintage elements] with some more modern pieces and you’ve got the perfect mix.”

Mixing in More Than One Other Style

Alternatively, because of how neutral the farmhouse decor style seems, it’s very possible to go overboard with mixing in different styles. People often opt for farmhouse décor because it’s easy to add your own, cozy footprint. As Sam Moseley, co-founder of bespoke furniture company Grain and Frame points out, “It’s a versatile trend that mixes well with other modern styles—you can play around with the amount of country inspiration you want and mix it with other styles such as industrial or traditional, to create a space that’s completely individual to you.”

Where you might get into trouble is mixing too many different styles. Implementing farmhouse details into a modern house can work well, but if you add in a whole other look (think art deco or mid-century), you could end up with a mess.

Preferring a More Formal Vibe

When it comes to farmhouse decor, the general consensus is that we love it because it’s low maintenance and no-fuss. As Sara Combs of The Joshua Tree House points out, farmhouse-style dining rooms are perfectly homey. Something like a strong, reclaimed wooden table is key, but be warned: it pretty much automatically makes “the dining room a place that’s not afraid to be lived in.”

If you’re picturing a house with a more formal vibe, this look might not be your scene.

Assuming You Must Live in the Country to Pull off the Whole Vibe

Some of my favorite farmhouse-inspired feeds aren’t in the Midwest or the English countryside. As George Holland, Bathroom Design Expert at Victorian Plumbing told me, “You don’t necessarily need to live in the countryside to achieve the earthy, rustic look. Those who live in smaller homes or even brand-new city apartments can add elements of this trend to their decor through the clever use of natural fabric and neutral color schemes.”

Best of all, it can be small. George suggested “adding a new shower curtain or Berber-style bathmat to your bathroom.” If your goal is farmhouse-lite, just these small touches “can bring the whole aesthetic together.”

Forcing a Farmhouse-Style Piece Into a Space That Doesn’t Allow for It

While certain elements of farmhouse decor can be added to any home for a rustic nod, consider your space. When London-based interior designer Fleur Ward found a 1930s dresser for the dining room of her own farmhouse-style cottage in West Sussex, she knew it was special because “it was exactly what I was looking for, with the additional detailing of bobbin supports. I couldn’t pull that off in London.”

In some homes, the same piece might not have the desired effect. Instead of evoking a charming, rustic farmhouse, you run the risk that your new piece will effectively highlight the lack of farmhouse elements in the room.

Assuming That Wood Is Only for Floors and Ceiling Beams

Every expert agreed that natural wood is a key element of the farmhouse aesthetic. Liz at Within the Grove pointed out that it’s not limited to one aspect. “One can decide how rustic or how modern the natural wood is in a space,” said Liz. “But not only that, natural wood can be used for decor items, furniture, or countertops.”

“It immediately adds texture and warmth to a space that also happens to go beautifully with the neutral paint color scheme.” Limiting yourself to where and how you add wooden accents is a huge misstep when it comes to the farmhouse aesthetic.

As with any design scheme, there are no hard and fast rules for farmhouse life. But avoiding these common mistakes can help you nail the farmhouse vibe of your dreams.

Blog Courtesy: Ashley Chalmers