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What is Farmhouse Style?

What is Farmhouse Style?


Chair with vintage cubby and books

What is farmhouse style? It’s warm, cozy and inviting. It’s family-friendly, with areas to hang out together and build relationships. It’s light, bright and airy, yet not overly pretentious.

That’s a lot of adjectives, you might say. What do feelings and vibes have to do with a decor style? Everything! The vision you have for your home is all about feelings and vibes, because your decor will help your home to feel the way you want. Other styles give off vibes that are clean, tech-savvy, vacation-ish or stately. But farmhouse style is all about comfort, invitations to join in and become part of the family.

Is that what you want for your home?

With a variety of textures and a soft, neutral palette, this cozy living room is the perfect spot to relax.
Photograph by Bret Gum; home of Karen Snyder of Sanctuary Home Decor.

If so, you’re in the right place. Here at American Farmhouse Style magazine, our goal is to help you create the home of your dreams: one that’s pretty, but also helps you live out your goals for your life and family.

So what is farmhouse style in practical terms? Take a look.

This is part of our Design Glossary series! Catch the whole series to find out more about the different types of farmhouse style!

Bedroom with vertical shiplap and hats hanging on the wall
This bedroom shows off vertical shiplap that lends itself to this simple yet beautiful farmhouse space. Photograph by Bret Gum; design by Mindy Laven.

Wall Paneling

Shiplap is the most quintessential type of farmhouse wall paneling. Shiplap consists of (usually horizontal) boards covering the wall that have small gaps between them. The result adds texture and charm to the house.

But did you also know there are other types of wall paneling that can help your home fit into what is farmhouse style? These include:

Dramatic staircase with a window and steel handrail in a wood paneled farmhouse
This house has wood paneling in almost every room, including the beautiful entryway and staircase area with shiplap wainscoting. Photograph by Seamus Payne.

Also, with all these options, you can do wainscoting, which means you only cover the lower part of the wall with the wall paneling. Beadboard wainscoting will look more vintage farmhouse, while board and batten will take on a modern farmhouse look.

Rustic what is farmhouse style kitchen with dog in front
This house has great industrial farmhouse style touches, mostly in the form of rustic wood finishes and industrial lighting. The kitchen island also has a reclaimed wood front. Photograph by Bret Gum; design by Mindy Laven.

Wood Finishes

Wood is the meat and potatoes of the farmhouse. In the past, farmhouses were plain and simple homes, built by hand by farmers and their wives. This practice is old—as old as the Western expansion in the early 1800s (think Little House on the Prairie). At that time, the home either kept its natural wood finish, or got a coat of whitewash (white paint) if the family could afford it.

Dining room in modern barn home with wall to wall windows and wood paneling
The living/dining room of this barn home features rustic wood finishes on the walls and ceiling to add to the barn home look. It also has gorgeous wall-to-wall windows that provide a view of the surrounding countryside. Photograph by Joe Fletcher.

In today’s farmhouse, keep wood in the foreground of your home design. This can include:

  • Flooring
  • Farmhouse dining table
  • Kitchen chairs (particularly Windsor chairs)
  • Other furniture with a wood finish
  • Exposed ceiling beams
  • Kitchen cabinets
  • Wall art frames
  • Butcher block countertops
  • Old wood toolboxes to hold decor
  • Wood bookshelves

…plus so much more! What is farmhouse style? It’s wood, wood, wood. And your wood can be painted too—white wood features are gorgeous.

What is farmhouse style kitchen with farmhouse apron front sink
This house has beautiful vintage-inspired farmhouse style, complemented by an apron-front farmhouse sink in the kitchen. It also has another classic farmhouse feature: a subway tile backsplash. Photograph by Chad Mellon; home of Heather Tartaglia.

Farmhouse Sinks and Freestanding Tubs

In your kitchen and bathroom, there’s no better way to get farmhouse style than with your sinks and tubs. For your sink, go with a farmhouse sink. This type of sink is deep, and either has one or two sections. Some farmhouse sinks are apron-front sinks, which means the front of the sink is exposed outside the cabinet. But you can also get a farmhouse sink that doesn’t have an apron front.

Bathtub with vintage farmhouse style and cream walls
This old 100-year old home has a freestanding bathtub as the centerpiece of the primary bathroom. Photograph by Bret Gum.

For the bathroom, the freestanding tub is a perfect focal point and main feature. The shape of the tub you choose will also help further define your farmhouse style. A clawfoot bathtub has vintage vibes, and the tub in the picture above has a traditional and vintage look because of the lips and detailing along the top and bottom (resembling moulding). In contrast, a freestanding bathtub with straight walls (that looks like it has no moulding) gives off modern vibes.

See Also
Open pantry door with wallpaper behind shelves and organized food

chandelier coffered ceiling Victorian dining room
This old Victorian home has farmhouse style with an elegant twist. The furniture in the dining room is vintage, including the 28-light chandelier, which the homeowner found at a yard sale. It needed cleaning and rewiring before it was functional. Photograph by Bret Gum; home of Kelly Wilkniss.

Vintage Collectibles

The farmhouse is the perfect place for all things vintage. Vintage collectibles can be any old thing you find, love, and keep collecting. From jadeite serveware and old scales to vintage wall art, signs and typewriters, the options are endless. Let your own history, nostalgia and tastes dictate the kinds of collectibles you hunt.

chippy hutch with old metal sign above it
This house in California is full of chippy furniture, old vintage collectibles and plenty of imperfections. Photo by Chad Mellon.

Imperfect Details

What is farmhouse style? It’s all about imperfections. That can mean furniture that has some scratches, wood flooring you let wear over time or even rust you let accumulate on some of your vintage collectibles.

Imperfect details are going to be different for every home. Here are a couple ideas for purposeful imperfections you can curate yourself.

  • Chippy furniture (bonus points if it’s vintage!)
  • Rusty signs
  • House plants overflowing from their pots
  • Brushed metal finishes that gain patina over time
  • Galvanized metal in decor and planters
  • Old books with the covers falling off
Farmhouse style kitchen with subway file, rug runner and island
This modern farmhouse has lots of classic farmhouse features, including subway tile, large windows and a natural wood-finished island. It also has features specific to modern farmhouse style, including black metal window frames, brass finishes and marble countertops. Photograph by Andrea Rugg; home of Sarah Pollio of Joinery and Design Co.

Everything Else

There are so many other signature materials and decor pieces that will create gorgeous farmhouse style in your home! But remember: What is farmhouse style? It’s customized to what you love.

To help you further, here’s a list of additional features you can add to your farmhouse style home. And of course, you can always subscribe to American Farmhouse Style to get inspiration directly into your mailbox all year long!

  • Subway tile
  • Neutral color palettes
  • Industrial lighting
  • Sliding barn doors
  • Brick (exposed or white washed)
  • Denim and leather
  • Patterned floor tile
  • Mudroom lockers
  • Chicken coops
  • A kitchen garden
  • She shed
  • Gingham and plaid
  • Wrought iron bed frames
  • Open shelves
  • Two-tone kitchen cabinets

…and so much more! The options are endless.


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