Refresh Your Home With Farmhouse Touches

Using an inspired blend of old and new can add farmhouse charm to almost any space. All it takes is knowing what to look for and a little decorating savvy.

“Farmhouse design is the thoughtful combining of things past and present,” says Samantha Thomas, designer and owner of Samantha Gale Designs, a vintage farmhouse company formerly located in Canton, now open in Great Barrington, Mass.

“There’s not an air of pretentiousness; it’s not a home designed to impress. It’s a home designed to be lived in, filled with layers of delight for the eye.”

Photo Samantha Gale Designs

Incorporating vintage items into your decor is one way to lend a farmhouse feel to your home, she says. “Warm woods, weathered furniture, collectibles; things that mean something, that have been passed down.”

She also says it’s about layering with textures, fabrics and vintage pieces that work well together.

Photo Samantha Gale Designs

“The beautiful thing about the farmhouse look is there are some gorgeous fabrics that instantly bring a person to that time and essence, one of them being grain sacks.”

Another fabric that can evoke a farmhouse vibe is burlap, which can be used in furniture, pillows and decorative accents. Feed sacks can also be used as chair backs and seat covers.

And vintage clothing, uniforms and tea towels can be framed for wall décor,” Thomas says.

Beyond using textiles, she says that when it comes to decorating, thinking outside the box can help give new life to old items. Furniture and architectural pieces can be repurposed “to function in new and exciting ways,” she says. Vintage fireplace mantels can find new life as headboards, ladders as towel racks and old crates as flower boxes.

Photo Samantha Gale Designs

Incorporating vintage photographs, especially ones with personal significance, is another farmhouse staple.

“When I put things on clients’ walls in farmhouse living, those things need to mean a little bit more,” Thomas says. “Nostalgia and farmhouse decorating go together.”

Joan Osofsky, author of “Love Where You Live: At Home in the Country,” and owner of Hammertown, a furniture and home goods store, recommends shopping smart and keeping it simple.

“If you work with something with old paint, maybe have only one or two pieces and not a lot of tchotchkes around,” she says.

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Photo Courtesy of Hammertown

Furniture with weathered paints adds a feeling of authenticity to farmhouse decor, but it’s best to use sparingly, says Joan Osofsky. Here again, pops of fresh color stand out against neutral walls, and brass candlesticks add to the look.

Hammertown’s designer/stylist Wanda Furman agrees.

“It’s a little more edited, but it still is warm and comfortable; I think keeping the warmth is really important, and it’s very approachable, but very personal too.”

To achieve that warmth Furman suggests using a great blanket or a block-printed Kantha quilt and accessorize with complementing pillows.

bed shot
Photo Courtesy of Hammertown

Collecting old vases and using them to display seasonal flowers or branches can also be an easy way to add farmhouse flavor.

“Flowers always give the look,” says Osofsky, adding that old dishes, vintage rugs, trays and brass candlesticks are all simple and often inexpensive ways to create a farmhouse aesthetic.

“And you can find these at a lot of different antique places.”

Before shopping, however, make sure you have a plan or at least some idea of the look you’re hoping to achieve, then choose items mindfully.

“You really need to know what you’re looking for and where it’s going to fit in your space,” Furman says.

Photo Courtesy of Hammertown

To get ideas, Osofsky and Furman suggest browsing Instagram, Pinterest, books, magazines and internet sites, then keeping a scrapbook or collection of what you like in order to recreate it.

“When you see things that inspire you, collect them,” Osofsky says. “It helps you develop your style.”

Flea markets and antiques shops and shows can all be good places to search for distinctive items. It helps to bring a notebook along with measurements of the rooms you’re shopping for, ensuring that whatever you purchase fits size-wise in addition to stylistically.

The color palate for any given room can also make a difference in creating just the right feel.

“Farmhouse design is built upon a neutral-pallet background with layers of Americana,” says Thomas, who recommends keeping walls a basic color, then adding vibrancy through textures, patterns, material, flooring and furniture.

“Let that be your jewelry in your room,” she says. “Let that do the talking.”

Photo Samantha Gale Designs

Osofsky agrees that a neutral color palate is well-suited to farmhouse style but says bolder paint colors can be used selectively to accentuate things like feature walls, trim, railings and molding — with one caveat.

“You really have to know what you’re doing, because it’s a statement,” she says. “And I also tell people that if you’re thinking of selling your house down the road, be neutral. Colors affect people looking at homes.”

When it comes to adding farmhouse accents, keep in mind that less is often more.

“Don’t go overboard,” Thomas says. “People need to be able to edit; editing in farmhouse design is really important.

“If you’re going to do wall décor in a farmhouse style, don’t have everything be of one material, don’t have everything be photos. Mix paintings with illustrations, with photographs, with vintage plates… and all of those things are usually ‘found’ items, items that you already have. You don’t have to go out and buy them.”

Photo Courtesy Hammertown

Ultimately, it’s about blending old with new and striking the right balance between the two.

“You can have a new couch with an older coffee table, or pillows with vintage fabric on them on a brand-new bed,” Thomas says. “Mix and match together to make that marriage work.”

Osofsky says that, regardless of what style you choose, the most important thing is that you’re happy with it. “The bottom line is, whatever it is, if you love it, you love it.”

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