Clean lines, open spaces, black-framed windows, and natural wood accents combine to create the modern farmhouse that everyone knows. Thanks to the influence of famous designers like Joanna Gaines from HGTV’s “Fixer Upper,” the modern farmhouse aesthetic has skyrocketed in popularity since around 2015, and continues to appear in homes across the United States. In May of this year, wallpaper designer Hobia named modern farmhouse the most popular design style in the United States, and many interior designers, builders, and architects have since chimed in.
It’s a style that emphasizes simplicity in every element, so opinions seem to be divided between those who appreciate modernity and those who dislike it. Fans of the style often describe it as classic and timeless, but some argue that the white, modern elements lack personality. A recent New York Times article argues that the modern farmhouse aesthetic is the defining style of this era and the one that’s here to stay. We asked local designers from Happy Place Interiors, Emily Pullinger Design Studio, and Kate Ruth Design to weigh in on this debate and find out if the modern farmhouse is truly timeless.
Are you surprised by this discussion?
Emily Pullinger (Founder and Designer of Emily Pullinger Design Studio): I think the modern farmhouse style is here to stay because of its versatility and its pervasiveness across all social classes and income levels. Whether you’re looking for a starter home or a million-dollar mansion, there’s a style to fit any size. Its beauty lies in its customizability, allowing you to move beyond the traditional black, white, and gray palette to embrace a wider range of colors. The combination of traditional elements and contemporary clean lines adds a unique charm.
Kate Roos Design, Owner/Kitchen & Bath Designer): I’m not surprised by the New York Times’ assertion. The impression of the modern farmhouse is relaxed and simple, reminding us of farm life with its gentle breeze and freshly baked pies. I think modern farmhouse has become an umbrella term for clean, modern, and approachable design. The simplicity that contrasts with the busyness of everyday life resonates with people.
Do you personally love the modern farmhouse style, or are there specific elements that you appreciate?
EP: Personally, I’m drawn to modern farmhouse styles, especially those with a bit of European influence. I like to call it “Modern Cottage”. I think of modern cottage design as incorporating graceful curved arch elements and intricate moldings to add an extra level of charm and character.
KR: You can clearly understand the sense of groundedness that modern farmers create. However, despite its simplicity, it’s a style that can easily be overdone. Randomly placed dormers, inconsistent roof pitch, lap siding in the same area, black, and wood accents can weaken the effectiveness of the design. Interiors can be overly bleak and conventional, lacking character. In my opinion, the most successful designs are those that maintain clean, modern, and approachable elements.
Melanie Zelic (Happy Place Interiors owner and designer): There are many elements that I appreciate: clean lines, open spaces, black windows, wood and natural elements. These elements are classic and have always been here, so they’re here to stay. Now they are being used in new ways.
Where is this aesthetic most evident?
EP: We’re looking at modern farmhouse exteriors and kitchens, especially with Shaker-style cabinetry and subway tile. However, I have to admit that I don’t particularly like traditional white subway tile with gray grout. Let’s add more color and charm!
KR: We often get requests for modern farmhouse styles, but we’ve found that the real goal is simply a thoughtful design: something warm, inviting, and functional. This is usually required throughout the home, including the kitchen, bathroom, living area, and outdoors.
Do you think the New York Times is right? Is the modern farmhouse really the defining style of an era?
EP: Without a doubt, the modern farmhouse style has established a strong presence in the world of interior design. Given its popularity, I believe it will continue to do so.
KR:While that may be true, I would say that the modern farmhouse is defined more in terms of 21st century lifestyle than beauty itself. Escaping the weight and noise of everyday life, slowing down, simplifying your personal space, and creating ways to gather with loved ones are themes we see in our design requests.
MZ: I agree with the New York Times that the modern farmhouse defines today’s style. Ever since social media has overtaken our lives, trends seem to have a shorter lifespan. Modern farmhouse style is almost saturated, and when it’s saturated enough, people want to see something new. I can’t imagine people cruising Instagram for the next five years looking at 25-100 photos of modern farmhouses every day and not becoming completely exhausted by it. Our attention spans become shorter and our need for novelty grows.
What other styles do you think are here to stay?
MZ: Transitional (or updated traditional) and modern are definitely here to stay. These styles have been around for decades. Although each generation has added its own twist to the styles, such as colors, specific wood types, and pattern types, the essence of these styles is timeless.
So what can we conclude? The modern farmhouse has its place and probably always will. Although not everyone loves this style as a whole, everyone seems to appreciate some of the elements incorporated into other styles. That balance is what makes things interesting. Combining the clean, modern feel of a modern farmhouse with other non-traditional elements and colors gives your home a unique and one-of-a-kind personality. With that in mind, I think it’s safe to say that the modern farmhouse (in some form) is certainly here to stay.