Farmhouse Interior Design: The Evolution from Classic to Modern

Farmhouse interior design originated when settlers began building large homes to house their farmhands. But this age-old style has taken on many changes since. Public figures like Joanna Gaines popularized the modern farmhouse style, and it’s been one of the most-used interior designs of the last decade.

What is farmhouse style

If you like farmhouse style and are interested in new and old characteristics, here’s how to get the look.

The History of Farmhouse Interior Design

Farmhouse interior design originates in Germany and Scandinavia in the 1700s with the construction of the first farmhouses. Not long after, farmhouses started appearing in the United States. These homes were large and boasted extra bedrooms to house farm help.

Settlers built their farmhouses out of wood because it was an abundant local resource, often right next to their land. Wood also made its way inside the house, used for flooring, tables, cabinetry, shiplap on perimeter walls, and furniture.

The original farmhouse style was about practicality. While it featured a worn-in, rustic look, it wasn’t purposeful. Instead, the decor was essential to farm life. 

In the 1930s, designer Sister Parish brought about a resurgence of farmhouse-style decor. Parish was popular for the interior design she dubbed “American Country Style,” which shared many elements with farmhouse style, including plaid fabrics, painted wood furniture, and a neutral color palette.

While farmhouse-style interior design remained popular in rural areas of America, it had a resurgence in 2013 with the airing of the HGTV show Fixer Upper. Fixer Upper followed interior decorator Joanna Gaines and her husband, Chip, as they remodeled homes for clients, often giving them a modern farmhouse spin. 

The show had enormous success, watched by nearly 4 million people. Joanna’s modern farmhouse style became massively popular, and she was dubbed “the Queen of shiplap.” While there’s been a slight decline in the popularity of modern farmhouse, it remains one of the dominant interior design styles in the United States.

Characteristics of Classic Farmhouse Style Interior Design

The Evolution from Classic to Modern

Classic farmhouse interior design is a rustic and practical style. Here’s how to get the look.

An Abundance of Wood 

Because settlers constructed original farmhouses with local materials, wood which was readily available, was a significant component. Classic farmhouse interior designs feature wide plank wood floors, wood ceiling beams, and wood-paneled walls.

They also used wood to construct their kitchen tables, coffee tables, and cabinetry.

Classic Farmhouse Color Palette

The classic farmhouse color palette is neutral, with creams, beiges, whites, and grays. Consider painting your walls cream or white and opting for neutral furniture and rugs.

Cotton and Linen Fabric

Both cotton and linen are standard fabric and upholstery materials in class farmhouse style. In traditional designs, plaid or buffalo check are common patterns. 

Comfortable Furniture

Oversized and comfortable furniture is a staple of the classic farmhouse style. Rather than sleek or modern silhouettes, go for couches with rounded arms, fluffy cushions, and a worn-in look. Accent chairs often include ones with rolled arms and tufting. You can add throw pillows with plaid or buffalo check accents or those made of burlap as accents.

Classic Farmhouse Kitchens

Classic farmhouse kitchens are spacious. They had to provide room to cook and serve large meals to family members and farm help. Interior design aesthetics include wood cabinetry, wood shelving, large wooden tables, and apron sinks.

Weathered Accents

In traditional farmhouse interior design, the accents had a purpose – like a wire mesh basket for collecting eggs. If you want to imitate the look, go for vintage pieces featuring chippy paint or galvanized metal.

Elements of Modern Farmhouse Interior Design

Elements of Modern Farmhouse Interior Design

Modern farmhouse interior design incorporates classic details but combines them with modern finishes for a sleeker look. While there are many variations to this style, here are some common themes.

Wood Ceiling Beams

Many of today’s modern farmhouse designs boast wooden ceiling beams. These beams add a rustic touch to a space, contrasting the modernity of other finishes. 


Shiplap is synonymous with the modern farmhouse style. It can be an accent or take up much of the ceiling and wall space. You can choose a rustic shiplap, paint it white, or go for a modern color.

Barn Door Silhouettes

Adding a sliding barn door instead of a standard swinging door is typical in a modern farmhouse scheme. And so is the barndoor silhouette – you may see it as trim at the end of cabinetry or on dressers or coffee tables.

Modern Farmhouse Lighting

Modern farmhouse lighting is often constructed of steel or metal and blends a modern and rustic aesthetic. Modern farmhouse lighting is similar to industrial-style lighting.

Modern Farmhouse Color Palette

Like classic farmhouse style, a modern farmhouse color palette is often rife with neutrals. The big difference is there’s more play with colors working in blue, green, and black hues.

A Blend of Modern and Rustic Finishes

The basis of modern farmhouse design is a blend of rustic and modern. For example, a modern farmhouse kitchen may feature wood ceiling beams, wood floors, and a traditional apron sink but have a stone counter, sleek light fixture, and minimal decor.

Modern farmhouse living room furniture can be streamlined or oversized, depending on the look you’re after. There’s a lot of fluidity in the design, and you get to choose the right blend for your home.

Examples of Classic and Modern Farmhouse Interior Design

If you’re torn between classic and modern design, here’s a look at how these designers accomplished each.

Modern Farmhouse Kitchen

White farmhouse kitchen decor
The Fox Group

The designers added traditional elements to this kitchen, including wood floors, open shelving, and ceiling beams. However, the bright white, minimal decor, and sleek styling contrast the rustic for a contemporary design. The lighting is an example of a modern farmhouse light fixture that includes traditional candle-style lights in a streamlined metal shell.

Traditional Farmhouse Kitchen

Old farmhouse interior design
Theresa Fine

Although the cabinetry is updated, the rest of this kitchen exudes traditional farmhouse elements, which include the wide plank floors, wooden ceiling and beams, and butcher block countertop. The kitchen is lived-in rather than stark and minimal.

Modern Farmhouse Bedroom

Farmhouse bedroom with blue wall
Brook Road Photography

The contrasting shiplap colors – white on the main walls and blue on the accent – set the tone for a modern farmhouse bedroom. Different patterns and fabrics give this room a lot of texture, while the wood provides a rustic touch.

Traditional Farmhouse Bedroom

What is farmhouse style
Coyle Carpet One Floor & Home

Traditional farmhouse bedrooms are warm and inviting, featuring neutral walls and comfortable beds. The designers chose classic wide plank flooring for this room with rustic wood accents and simple decor.