Design Ideas

9 Elements of Modern Farmhouse Style

Modern farmhouse style is hugely popular thanks to HGTV shows like Fixer Upper. Whether you’re a fan of the show or not, you can’t help escaping the massive influence it’s had on popularizing modern country style.

What was compelling about the show was seeing the dated older homes transform into sleek livable spaces we’d all love to live in!

Farmhouse modern or “new country” has been around for a while. One of the mass retailers where you can always find a refined modern interpretation of classic traditional designs is Pottery Barn.

What makes the new farmhouse style different from country style we’re familiar with and how do we replicate it in our home?

Comfort and versatility play a big part. Most living spaces and family rooms are open living dining combined. We want to live in one big room because we don’t want to miss a thing. We want to be able to talk and cook, watch TV or play on the computer, do homework and socialize all at the same time.

farmhouse kitchen

With open spaces came the need or demand for furniture to fill them. Large sectionals, over-sized chairs and couches. By blowing away walls in between kitchens, dining and living,  furniture and color needs to flow throughout the space. We’re moving furniture away from walls and getting comfortable with floating it mid room.

On Fixer Upper, we saw homes getting re-invented for the 21st century.

From brick bungalows to two story faux colonials, every home got the fixer upper makeover. As the cameras rolled in for the reveal, we saw the amazing transformations. Urban street or in a transitioning neighborhood didn’t matter. Each home was reincarnated as a modern farmhouse.

What makes modern farmhouse style unique?

The traditional fixtures and materials of country style are still there but they’ve been re-invented in new ways. Just as Pottery Barn takes a traditional shape like a Chippendale chair and softens and blurs the lines of it so that it naturally fits into a modern home, the bones of a kitchen are recreated with subtle changes.

Here’s what I mean!

Outdated – A typical farmhouse or country dining table

Lattice back chairs and the pew style booth are traditional elements that are still in use, but here the golden oak finish and blue paint give this dining booth a dated feel. Stripes and plaids can be contemporary but these soft furnishings and window treatments look tired.

old farmhouse dining room

Updated – A modern farmhouse dining booth

This modern farmhouse dining booth with off white paint and dark wood finish feels very farmhouse modern almost industrial.

Outdated – Country or farmhouse kitchen

Heavily decorated kitchen cabinets in a medium oak finish are a dead giveaway to a past interpretation of country or rustic. This almost has a Tuscan feel. A style that’s definitely had it’s day.

old kitchen lighting

Updated – Country or farmhouse kitchen updated

The giant pendant lights over a kitchen island are a traditional style but their scale and finish make them modern. The overall feel is sleek and monochromatic. The over-sized scale of the kitchen and kitchen island fill this modern open plan living space. There’s contrast between the cool marble counters, neutral backsplash and wood lower cabinets. The upper cabinets almost disappear next to the neutral backsplash and range hood.


Outdated – Traditional farmhouse cabinets

These painted cabinets with antique style pulls says country farmhouse. The small window and curtain treatment makes this kitchen feel closed in. Doesn’t fit our modern love for open and light spaces. To update these Shaker style cabinets swap out for new hardware and marble counters. To get that open spacious feeling, enlarging the windows and removing curtains and shelves would be my recommendation.

old kitchen cabinets

Updated – Modern farmhouse cabinets

These lower cabinets are painted a dark blue and finished with a modern matte gold hardware. The marble countertop and the dark base cabinets create a light dark contrast that really makes this modern farmhouse kitchen pop. Notice how light and neutral the backsplash is again. The wooden range hood and the leaded glass cabinet doors keep this kitchen from feeling too sterile and modern.

Outdated –  Traditional staircase

The railing style and the color of the wood stain make this staircase feel dated. A simple rod baluster paired with dark stained or painted white handrails, would update this staircase for a modern farmhouse look.

Updated –  Traditional staircase updated

This traditional staircase has been given a modern update with white paint and a chevron detail on the stair risers.

Outdated – A traditional farmhouse country fireplace

This traditional fireplace with mantle and marble surround is beautifully balanced but doesn’t fit in a modern farmhouse. To update, I would change the terra cotta marble to slate and replace the mantle surround with a simple mantle shelf. In this room you’d also have to update the bookcase trim to the left of the fireplace to match.

Updated – A modern farmhouse country fireplace

This very simple clean fireplace uses a single mantle shelf instead of a fireplace surround. The fireplace is still a focal point but the materials used don’t dominate the space. In this example the mantle, hearth and materials don’t take over the room.

 9 Design Elements to Create a Modern Farmhouse Look

1. Monochromatic color scheme – use white, off white, gray with small touches of deep color like gray or blue.

2. Wood – should like it was ripped out of a barn but finished and polished. Think neutral grayed reclaimed, not gold or golden brown.

3. Minimal decor – simple acent rugs on the floor and art on the wall allow natural textures like wood floors or shiplap walls to shine

4. Texture – more than pattern. Subtle textures like woven fabrics, wood grain and shiplap create cosy depth and texture.

5. Consistent trim – use simple not ornate molding, crown molding, ceilings and ceiling rosettes in white or off white color palette

6. Metal – with a modern vibe. It’s not rust-ic or country but sleek. Finishes are subdued. No shiny brass but deep gold or soft black.

7. Walls and backsplashes – don’t become focal points but a part of the overall color scheme. Off white subway tile or chevron patterns for example.

8. Vintage – is the finishing touch. A row of old glass jars or a vintage cupboard mounted on the wall. Old windows re-purposed as headboards.

9. Greenery – to give a soft homey feel to each room. Flowers and house plants bring life and the outdoors inside.

Trying to decide if an accessory, rug or lamp will work? Ask yourself three questions.

1. Does it work with your color palette?
2. Does it keep that minimal vibe.
3. Is it a good quality modern version of a traditional style?

The biggest question of course is; do you love it?

I always suggest starting with a color palette and a theme (farmhouse) to you have a “template” to work from when you shop. Ask yourself; does this fit with the theme or feeling I’m trying to create?

Ripping everything out and starting from scratch makes creating your dream farmhouse a lot easier. If that’s not in the plan and you’re on a budget, start to update your look with the walls and floors.

Pick your colors and main textures (wood floors and stone or tile) and repeat them throughout your home. As budget and time allows take out what doesn’t fit and keep adding what does. Use these examples as guidelines.

Choose two main colors and two accent colors. Keep it simple and use these throughout your home. Keeping walls mostly monochromatic or one color throughout will simplify your options and your decisions. You’ll be able to focus on how to bring in texture and your accent colors instead of panicking about what color to paint the walls.

If you need some help or aren’t sure where to start, please get in touch.


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