Farmhouse Style may be expressed using a traditional or contemporary visual language. It is this flexibility, combined with intense practicality through the use of robust materials, that ensures its continuing popularity as one of the most enduring, and complex interior design styles.
Here we look at some very stylish examples of the genre:
It may safely be said that successful farmhouse style is acknowledged to be more of an ambience than a style. The result of a harmonious collection of sensory information, brought together in one place to create a comfortable and cosy interior, in which all five of our senses; Sight, Hearing, Taste, Smell and Touch, are fulfilled.
Gérard de Lairesse 1641-1711. Allegory of the Five Senses
According to the popular perception of the farmhouse interior, this ‘collection of sensory information’ is often tempered by a nostalgia for a benevolent past. At the heart of this perception is the kitchen; a place where time moved more slowly and there was always a loaf of freshly baked bread sitting on a scrubbed wooden ‘farmhouse’ table.
A sense of humble nobility pervaded the space, where the floor may be stone slabs or rough-hewn boards but they were always immaculately swept. This nostalgic interpretation of the farmhouse kitchen remains enduringly popular and even aspirational within contemporary society offering the perfect antidote to an over-scheduled, time-poor, connected lifestyle.
Sensory Farmhouse Interiors
Before moving into contemporary interpretations of the farmhouse style, it may be useful at this point to examine what exactly says ‘farmhouse’ to each of the senses:
Informal, robust, homely, relaxed, natural, crafted, layered, artisan, polished pans, scrubbed, coherent, warm, candlelight.
Log fires, bubbling pans, creaking floorboards, singing kettles, leather upholstery.
Bread, fruit, pies, herbs, regional, artisan, home-made, slow.
Polish, beeswax, lavender, wood, flowers, wood smoke, cooking, candles, leather.
Stone, wool, linen, silver, pewter, bone, china, seagrass, logs.
More than Aesthetics
The farmhouse style is not, however, only about aesthetics – far from it. The farmhouse style grew out of the use of necessarily practical materials, surfaces and finishes. These elements had to cope with the tramping in and out of muddy boots, wet and grimy, freshly dug produce, the feeding of farmhands and the demands of pets and other animals.
Indeed, in medieval times, the livestock – cows, horses, chickens – used to sleep in the same room as the farmer’s family both for security and for warmth. This robust aesthetic is very possibly why the look is so popular today, particularly with growing families and pets.
Increasingly, as these practical requirements are diminishing somewhat, the farmhouse style is being refined, morphing into stylish B&Bs or boutique hotels as well as comfortable and well-equipped homes for non-farmers. City dwellers are seeking the romantic notion of a place in the country, whether this is for weekends or a more permanent move in search of a different quality of life than that found in cities.
Innovative ways of re-using and adapting farm spaces are increasingly being found in order to support a new business. ‘Lifestyle’ businesses such as interior or garden design studios, architecture practices, artisan cookery schools or specialist food suppliers to gastropubs and restaurants have led to an evolution, some would say revolution, in the farmhouse aesthetic. No longer concerned with nostalgia, these entrepreneurs and tech-savvy farm dwellers require a more ‘honest’ approach to living in farmhouses.
An eco-sensitive approach that looks forward whilst retaining the roots of the style with the addition of light, air, attention to detail and plenty of unused space.
An airy, triple height ceiling and high-spec appliances make this a hard working kitchen for the 21st century.
All elements of farmhouse are visible in this stylish reworking of the aesthetic. Stone floor, wooden ceiling, steel furniture, wooden table and simple window treatments.
Exposed brickwork fireplace with log-burner, wide plank doors with wrought iron hardware and a stone floor complemented by antique or inherited furniture create a fresh twist on the farmhouse sitting room.
One important fact to remember is that a farmhouse is not a barn. The house was a place of comfort and refuge whereas a barn housed hay, animals or farm implements. Contemporary barn interiors, therefore, can be a good deal more rustic in aesthetic than farmhouse which were sometimes quite grand in the 18th and 19th centuries when the notion of the ‘Gentleman Farmer’ was at its height. French farmhouses in particular are at times almost approaching manor house status with finely finished curtains and parquet floors, crystal and silver tableware.
Staithe House, Norfolk. A former working farmhouse built around 1730.
The elegant drawing room of Staithe House
Stylish French farmhouse bathroom
Some examples of contemporary farmhouse style are shown here, for more examples, why not visit the NDAs Pinterest Board on Farmhouse Style.
A contemporary farmhouse in Santa Lucia by Kristin Rowell of Scavullo Design http://scavullodesign.com/
A new build farmhouse in Portland, exhibiting all the elements of good farmhouse style.
A smart interpretation of rustic French farmhouse style in Provence.
A Spanish rustic farmhouse (Finca) with views of Mount Montserrat near Barcelona by Marta Esteive: http://www.esteveinteriorisme.com/
The popularity of farmhouse style shows no signs of abating. It will be interesting to see how the style evolves as the requirements of modern living change. Farmhouse style has endured for centuries, adapting to changing social climates and diverse functional requirements. It is this ability to adapt and respond to change that will ensure its success for future generations.
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