Architectural Profile: Modern Farmhouse Style Living


One of the reasons I love Silicon Valley so much is our richly varied architecture. Whether historical heritage, newly renovated or new constructed, the architectural styles we choose for our homes reflect our very own, individualistic/family styles; they do not create them.

The Classic Farmhouse begins my new blog series on the most popular architectural styles here in Silicon Valley. I hope to highlight elements and insights into what defines each of these styles and offer suggested ways you can customize your home to enhance those styles.

Farmhouse or “folk” house architecture is the embodiment of the term “form and function.” Colonialists in the early 1700’s needed houses that “worked” for their home grown, home made, outdoor-indoor lives. Made with down to earth materials like mud, stones, logs readily available on their land, these settlers constructed houses with their own hands and backs that were large enough, straightforward enough, sturdy enough to accommodate growing families and harvested crops and to endure harsh climates and neighboring clashes.   

Farmhouse architecture also awakens a yearning for simpler, less cluttered life styles, an Americana of family gatherings, “real” food and literally visible, “real time” work. We’ve been re-inventing farmhouse architecture throughout our tenure in this country and we’ll continue to do so whether living urban, suburban, mountain, desert or beach house lives.  

Here are ways to incorporate farmhouse elements into your home:

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Front porches are signature elements of farmhouse style whether or not that porch encases the entire facade or is enclosed on three sides in the front of the house. An overhang from the pitched metal or pre-weathered metal-like roof line (also a key style element) protects the porch from direct sunlight and/or rain for maximum use year-round. Rocking chairs and porch swings welcome all ages to step back in time when people actually talked with each other, rather than posted or texted one another.

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Large, oversized openings (entrances and hallways, windows and doors) enable wide, sweeping views for those inside to keep their eyes on where and what everyone outside is doing and to move food and equipment in and outdoors easily. 

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Large, open kitchens are key.  Designed to work for food preparation and preservation, farmhouse kitchens are classically efficient, clean-lined and painted white with some natural wood accents in countertops, shelving and Shaker style cabinetry. Try mixing glass fronted cabinets, reclaimed wood and raw steel for an old-fashioned, eclectic look. Center islands for additional work space and the hanging racks of pots and pans over them are long time farmhouse staples.

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Exposed, natural looking woodwork from reclaimed beams in vaulted ceilings to tongue and groove paneling, butt boards, board and batten siding and wide plank floorboards are signature farmhouse design/style elements.  (Remember that originally, there was no drywall.) Often these wood elements can be salvaged from old buildings scheduled for demolition.

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Barn doors, whether used as closet and/or sliding doors, are a popular and continuing trend.  A barn door, either salvaged or made, with a giant X on it is particularly sought after.

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Using screened doors and/or chicken wire cabinet doors are ways to mix and match rustic and chic styles.

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Two over two window treatments, just like Shaker cabinetry and furniture, are classic farmhouse style makers. All represent a no-frills, clean-lined, functional look.

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Upcycled tables (old trellis doors), sewing tables, vintage faucets, bathtubs made from livestock feed tanks, shiplap, polished concrete, gooseneck lamps, tractor gears for mirror frames and aged brick walls and fireplaces all enhance the farmhouse look and feel of “everything old is new again” farmhouse style.

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Remember that farmhouses need landscaping and conservation efforts consistent with their made and grown in America mindset. Vegetable gardens,composting areas, wildflowers and native grasses and plants provide such consistency and authenticity.