Give your home the farmhouse look


Signs, both vintage and reproductions, are a hallmark of the farmhouse look. / Loretta Gillespie

Gone are the days of country blue kitchen cabinets or the 90s look when everything was hunter green and mauve. Today’s new looks incorporate the best of a bygone era, a day and time when everything had a purpose and rooms were decorated austerely, from whitewashed walls to plank tabletops, board shelves and open cabinets, everything was simplicity itself.

Today’s bathrooms and kitchens are decorated, but unlike the “country look” of yesterday, in farmhouse décor everything is utilized. Displays are creatively arranged, with things we used to hide in drawers, like Q-tips and cotton balls, prominently displayed in Ball jars, while open cabinetry and plain shelves fitted with wire baskets serve as places to store and display everything from food in a pantry to sheets and towels.  And the predominant color? White, in about 50 shades, from ecru to alabaster and everything in between.

Long before “shiplap” was a buzzword, and everything seemed to go white, some people were finding that “chippy paint” furniture, window panes, mirror frames and rustic farm tables could turn just about any style of décor into an amazingly interesting vignette or work with practically any period or style from traditional to shabby chic, making bold statements or subtle nuances in any room.

Now, everyone seems to be gravitating toward the white and whitewashed look. If you are a real bargain shopper, you can often find the neatest things at flea markets, or yard sales and frequently, just along the side of the road. You know what they say – one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure!

This trend gives any style home a warm and inviting ambiance.  You can work wonders with a dull screened-in porch, transforming it into a bright sunroom filled with family memorabilia, lush plants and favorite collectables – wooden cutting boards and crockery can be changed with the season or on a whim. Those of us who were raised in a real farmhouse probably have a knack for finding things that other people would pass over because they can see what the trinket or piece of furniture might become when painted. By using white or a light, neutral color, almost exclusively, you can use furniture for more than one purpose and in more than one room. This trend often has people painting over the original finish of a vintage piece of furniture, something no one would have dared to do 15 years ago, when “original finish” was an antique dealer’s favorite phrase.

When Lori Black Crumpton got ready to build her dream house she headed straight for the source of the farmhouse look, HGTV’s iconic farmhouse decorators, Chip and Joanna Gaines, who have a thriving remodeling business in Waco, Texas. Their famous home goods store, Magnolia Market, is located in a shopping mecca called the Silos. Magnolia draws people in from all over the world to buy up things we have always taken for granted, like galvanized minnow buckets, tin pales, old metal light fixtures and just about anything you can think of that once spent time in a barn.

“I got inspired when I was in Waco,” Crumpton laughed. “I got so many ideas!”

She has incorporated several of them into her new home’s décor. “I’ve used two white enamel pendent light fixtures above my island, and an old green one that I found is now my bathroom light fixture,” said Crumpton.

She has used the Gaines’ trademark shiplap siding from the mantle all the way up to the vaulted ceiling in her dining area. The mantle is really a salvaged rough-hewn beam with ax marks still showing from an old church near Priceville.

Crumpton’s living areas are open concept, with rooms open to the front door, making them flow into one another unfettered by traditional walls. It gives the space a larger than life atmosphere, and the neutral color scheme gives it even more presence. She used Sherwin Williams “Alabaster” on her interior walls, and “White Dove” on the exterior of the house.

The farmhouse look, made even more popular by the Gaines’ HGTV series, “Fixer Upper,” has replaced the cluttered look that most baby boomers were accustomed to. Now, spaces are used more wisely and with less fuss. Tables that were once filled with picture frames, figurines, old crockery and collections of every description, are now showcases for small vignettes, maybe a few old books, a clock and some greenery, making dusting much easier!

Those old books have mostly been relieved of their covers, letting the spines show, with pages torn and care-worn, then tied with jute or burlap ribbons. Lamps are also changing from sporting elaborate silk shades with fringe that belonged to our grandmothers, to lamps with no shade at all, just naked, oddly-shaped bulbs.

Other elements frequently found in farmhouse décor are old shutters, mirrors of all kinds, old postal scales, rag garlands, farmhouse sinks, wire baskets and boxwood topiaries. Another popular style, the steamboat punk look, utilizes old lamps, cogs, gears and pulleys to make bold statements throughout homes, restaurants and businesses.

Both forms of decorating, farmhouse and steamboat punk, have one thing in common: the use of functional everyday items.

Yet, all of today’s farmhouse rooms are not equal. Some are truly what yesteryear’s farmhouses really looked like. Others are more traditional, with nods to farmhouse whites, or sparing use of farmhouse finds like the blades of windmills or the use of more tailored furniture, like dining room chairs with neutral slipcovers. Blending traditional and vintage looks is another advantage for those opting to decorate in the farmhouse style – you don’t have to wipe your previous slate clean- the farmhouse look can be a unique blend of treasures and flea market finds as well as traditional. Anything goes, except dark and dreary!

For those wanting a fresh white kitchen with modern touches, or to blend farmhouse with Southern style, you are in luck, try using Alabaster paint on a new shiplap wall and kitchen cabinets. This will tie your two looks together, adding simple flea market finds, like old bottles or vintage signs helps to unify the look.

If your kitchen feels outdated, just remove some cabinet doors and store what’s inside in a wire basket or mismatched jars. Give your tired old bathroom a lift with some shutters beside your mirror, and a fresh flower arrangement in a gallon jug tucked into your granddaddy’s old minnow bucket, or use old metal washtubs as lamp shades, they probably have holes in them anyway.

We’ve provided you with plenty of inspiration in this segment, now let your creativity and imagination do the rest!  

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