10 Easy Steps to Pull off the Farmhouse Style Seamlessly

Call it what you want — farmhouse, shabby chic, country, or cottage style — it’s the interior design trend of the moment. While these are really considered distinct styles, they have gotten merged together recently. In general, the styles focus on a distressed, older look and go toward a rural, rustic quality.

Lavender in glass vase and letters: sweet home on a vintage shelf over pastel wall. Home decoration.

Shabby chic is often traced to British designer Rachel Ashwell. She opened her first store 20 years ago in Santa Monica, CA. She bought furniture from flea markets, garage sales, and other second-hand places. Her focus was on items with imperfections. It was very different than the grandiose style of the 1980s and early 1990s. Ashwell believed a house was a place that was lived-in, and that it should look like it. The style died down for a while but has made a resurgence in recent years.

The farmhouse style has been linked to Chip and Joanna Gaines. The couple had one of the most popular shows on HDTV –Fixer Upper, but they have since branched out. They left the show and have a line prominently displayed at Target stores. Many of their staples were distressed woods like shiplap – which has made a major comeback in interior design. Shiplap was once a material used for barns and sheds, but it’s now popularly used in residences inside of the home.

When trying to decorate a home in farmhouse and shabby chic type décor, here are a few design elements to follow.

Be pragmatic

You have to be flexible with the design. You don’t want the decor to look too planned out and calculated. Farmhouse and shabby chic have a certain unplanned roughness about them. You can find pieces that fit well together at various locations, but each piece is probably very different. Taken as a whole, everything needs to fit well together, but you don’t want to make it look forced. You need to be a little reasonable when putting the theme together and don’t overthink it. Being pragmatic also means playing around with color schemes and patterns in this style but again, don’t over-calculate it.

Don’t get too cliche

Farmhouse style can often run too into the corny realm. You don’t live on a farm. Most people are simply trying to bring rustic and rural decor into a more urban setting, it’s easy to wander down the road of trite and banal. Something doesn’t have to be artificially worn to give it a rustic look. Furthermore, you don’t need rabbit and cow photos to play into the country, outdoors feel. You want to have a more natural flow to the furnishing and decor.

Rough edges

Furniture and decor for the farmhouse style often have rough edges. The wood doesn’t have a fine finish. It’s not sanded and painted to perfection. In many ways, it’s a lot like a farm, where things have been around a while and a look a little bit worn. Everything looks nice; it just has a weathered look.

Light, earth tone colors

The color palette for the farmhouse trend tend to be earth tones of gray, brown and white. Blues and purples also fit well. Shabby chic often has earth tones but some brighter colors can also be applied like greens and reds. Sherman Williams alabaster white and poised taupe fit well with the style.

Butcher block

The butcher block is often the centerpiece of the farmhouse decor in the kitchen. It’s the focal piece of the space and other elements are built around it. The butcher block usually forms an island in the middle of the kitchen and can serve as a place to gather around and socialize or prepare a meal. Stools or chairs are sometimes placed around them. If you really want to step your game up a notch, a butcher block would be a good investment.

Kitchen in luxury home with butcher block island.


Signs with words play a prominent position with farmhouse and shabby chic style. Many stores specifically sell signage, frames, and even wall art that you would see in a barnyard. A sign that says “food” or that has a pig or chicken graphic (very popular) can be displayed in the kitchen, or one that says, “eat” can be hung in the dinning room. The words do an excellent job of bringing the look together.

Vintage inspired accessories

The farmhouse style often gives you a sense of stepping back into the past. Wooden bowls, mason jars, and quilts are all possible accessories with farmhouse decor as they give off a vintage ambiance that makes this style unique. Flea markets and garage sales are the perfect places to locate a lot of these types of items. They often already have a distressed and rustic look and fit well will the farmhouse and shabby chic design. You will be surprised how many unique, vintage-type accessories you can locate when you start looking.

An image of vintage items like a picture frame picture and book sit atop a vintage, distressed wooden table.

Family heirlooms

A great place to start when putting together farmhouse and shabby chic décor is your grandparent’s house or your parent’s place. That old kitchen hutch that your grandma never uses might work perfect with a farmhouse design. Old quilts, buckets, and other items bring an authentic feel to your scheme. Plus, you will feel good knowing that the items have been kept in the family.

Farmhouse kitchen table

Nothing says ‘farmhouse’ like a farmhouse table. Farmhouse tables are extremely different than ornate dining room tables as they have a more rustic design and quality. They have very square edges and are finished with a rough stain – the wood grains clearly show through. These tables tend to be over-sized for the space and often have benched or non-wooden chairs.

Interior of a contemporary suburban home decorated with country style dining table and modern sofa.

Painted furniture

A great way to add some color and texture to a farmhouse and shabby chic look is painted furniture. You can paint the chair legs white or add color to the legs of a table. The color is a nice addition to the dark wood colors that often dominates the décor.

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