What Exactly Is a Modern Farmhouse?


The rise of modern farmhouse — Laura Fenton, writing for Curbed, reported that the term joined the American lexicon in 2016 — coincides with a time of American instability and uncertainty. If the future is unclear, it’s no wonder we might want to recreate an American pastoral where we can wrap ourselves in a flannel throw blanket and sit in a wicker chair on a front porch gazing into the distance like pioneers, even if the view is of suburban New Jersey and not the Great Plains.

This version of the homestead is punctuated with edgy details like Edison bulbs, brass faucets and stark black trim, perhaps a nod to another idealized aesthetic: the Brooklyn loft.

Modern farmhouse gives us license to do the work ourselves, to be homesteaders-lite. Those of us looking for a crafty outlet can express ourselves by refurbishing an old dresser, repurposing discarded window frames or wrapping Mason jars with burlap. Who needs an expensive interior designer when the aisles of home décor stores are packed with whisky-barrel tables and vintage kitchen canisters just begging to be purchased?

The Gaineses “are cool, they’re attractive. They’re raising goats and they’re gardening, their kids all seem well-adjusted,” said Gideon Mendelson, an interior designer in New York. “The look that they’ve marketed, it’s good-looking, it’s easy on the eye, it’s not risky, it feels homey, it touches on a lot of things that we want.”

“Fixer Upper” may be over, but the Gaineses aren’t. Their brand, Magnolia, is now a magazine, a market and a real estate agency. In October 2020, Magnolia will launch a cable network, replacing the DIY Network. “They’re just getting their stride,” Mr. Mendelson said. “They’re going gangbusters.”

But no single look can last forever, even if its biggest champions are ascending and selling a line of housewares at Target. There must be a breaking point, right? “Eventually, everybody always tires of it, that is why a trend is fleeting,” said Michael Amato, the creative director of the Urban Electric Company, a lighting designer. While modern farmhouse has a broad appeal, it can also veer into kitsch. “To me, the moment it goes overboard is the minute you walk into HomeGoods and there’s an explosion of ‘Eat, Live, Laugh, Love, Die, ’” he said.

Designers are noticing subtle shifts. Edison bulbs are losing favor, as homeowners realize that while a raw bulb may look pretty, staring directly at one is not terribly appealing. And color seems to be making a comeback — green kitchens!


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