The modern farmhouse style is one of the biggest design trends of recent years, and we have Joanna Gaines of HGTV”s Fixer Upper to thank, at least in part for that. The hit show featured the Texas designer’s minimalist, industrial spin on farmhouse style when it debuted in 2013, turning it into a chic phenomenon. Today a simple Google search yields more than 240 million results.
Modern farmhouse style is marked by neutral shades with pops of black and muted nature tones, a mix of metals and soft, cozy textures, and the high-low approach to combining slick new pieces with antique finds. It’s the warm, relaxed spirit of the country but with far less kitsch and a lot more sophistication. Perhaps there’s no other style right now where both hand-me-down heirlooms and graphic art can live in perfect harmony.
The best part about modern farmhouse design is that you don’t have to live anywhere near a farm to have it. Its mix of traditional and modern elements is central to its charm, giving it a look that’s at home whether you’re in Beaumont or Brooklyn. If combining classic comfort with modern flair to create low-key luxury is your idea of a winning style, consider these key traits of modern farmhouse design.
Make Wood the Foundation
Shiplap, reclaimed wood, barn doors, wide plank flooring — these are signature farmhouse elements. Turning the architectural salvage into something chic is what puts the modern in modern farmhouse. From exposed wood beams to floating open shelves and butcher-block islands, this natural material is a hallmark of modern farmhouse design — and the more scratches and dents, the better, as together they add a sense of history and authenticity.
Mix Old and New Furnishings
Big, comfy sofas, sectionals, and accent chairs are key to modern farmhouse design, so long as the furniture overall is a balance of old and new. A harvest table found at a flea market flanked on all sides by newly upholstered chairs, for example, is perfectly at home in a modern farmhouse design, but a mix of wood-and-metal chairs would also work well. Combining traditional and modern elements is key to the stylized comfort that has won this design style so many fans. When redoing a kitchen, for example, consider combining an apron sink, shaker cabinets, marble countertops, metal light fixtures, and natural baskets.
Curate Accessories Carefully
Modern farmhouse style is all about showcasing select handcrafted and modern pieces and giving them both room to breathe, not overfilling your space with pictures, mementos, and a slew of other accessories. A more restrained approach to curating accessories brings in a hint of minimalism, even when showing off collections of pottery, for example. Consider an antique typewriter or a collection of three antique typewriters alone on a shelf instead of a shelf filled with a typewriter, a canoe paddle, a vintage sign, and a pint-sized tricycle — a la TGI Friday’s style of decorating.
Try this quick tip the next time you’re accessorizing a room: When you think your space is complete, take another sweep and challenge yourself to remove one or two items until you’re left with only your very favorite pieces and they each have plenty of room to shine.
Rely on Neutral Shades
Creams, blacks, and muted versions of just about any color found in nature — whether it’s a warm or cool tone — are signature to modern farmhouse design. Anything gray or charcoal is particularly a winner as the surge in popularity of modern farmhouse design all but revived this long-neglected neutral. If you love patterns, favor simple geometrics and botanicals over complicated floral or abstract designs.
Mix a Variety of Materials
A combination of wood and metal is a modern farmhouse signature look because it blends wood’s classic timelessness with the industrial spirit of metal. From stone sinks to basket-style chandeliers, anything natural will be right at home with a modern farmhouse design. Lighting and hardware are perfect to weave in modern accents, like metal-and-leather sconces or metal drawer pulls, just make sure they’re not overly shiny. Modern farmhouse design leans towards matte finishes. When it comes to textiles, continue to let nature guide you with cotton, linen, wool, even sisal — anything that has an organic feel to it. Mixing things up in this way gives modern farmhouse design depth and texture, so it doesn’t look boring or flat.
Let Your Space Evolve Over Time
The last thing to remember about modern farmhouse design is that it shouldn’t look like it was pulled together in a week. Part of the charm — and fun— is hunting for old gems that can be reupholstered, painted, or reconfigured in some other way, whether it’s a bar cart, a bookcase, or a bar stool. The next step is figuring out which modern elements they should live next to. Nothing should look overly matched or pulled together, but rather brought together naturally. Take your time finding traditional and modern pieces and both charm and class will come through.
Ana Connery is former content director of Parenting, Babytalk, Pregnancy Planner and Conceive magazines as well as parenting.com.
While editor in chief of Florida Travel & Life magazine from 2006-2009, she covered the state’s real estate and home design market as well as travel destinations.
She’s held senior editorial positions at some of the country’s most celebrated magazines, including Latina, Fitness and Cooking Light, where she oversaw the brand’s “FitHouse” show home.
Ana’s expertise is frequently sought after for appearances on “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America” and CNN. She has interviewed the country’s top experts in a variety of fields, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and First Lady Michelle Obama.