out with the old modern farmhouse

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

Like all of us, you've probably been stuck in your house for the last 10 months -- and you're itching to add personality to your "modern farmhouse". Me too! I actually love the look, but feel it's a little restrictive and doesn't really represent my personality or my, shall we say, "natural color tendencies". And anything that is that pervasive tends to get old quickly. These days, rustic beams, word art, giant clocks, neutral window dressing, white, black, grey, conservative shades of pink, green, and blue are ubiquitous.

Possibly the best thing about this look is its simplicity and heavy use of black and white -- which makes it perfect as a base for whatever you want to do next. I'll give you a moment to conjure up images of modern Parisian living rooms, jewel-toned Moroccan riads, minimalistic (yet warm and textured) industrial lofts, and cozy British country sitting rooms.

Now, open your eyes:

So how to do you go from this:

To this?:

Without committing to all new paint, wallpaper and buying heaps of new art?


If you look carefully, the two pictures above are quite similar in some respects.

Hear me out: both rooms have spectacular beams in the ceiling, white walls, large windows with natural lighting.

There are a few shortcuts to adding character to your humble abode -- especially if, like myself, you live in a tract home community.

The first shortcut? Lighting, something relatively inexpensive compared to ripping out walls and kitchens.

You can swap this out:

with this these:

See? Instant design change! The best thing about all of these alternative chandelier/pendants is that there are so many options.

Next up: door knobs. Door knobs might not be the star (like a Murano pink glass chandelier), but they can transform a room subtly, like a different shade of blush. Needless to say, knobs are even less expensive to swap out than a chandelier!

Here are some great options to replace those humdrum knobs:


Kitchens are probably the most expensive remodel ticket item and the most prone to trend-burn (a little phrase I've coined which is pretty self-explanatory). When did kitchens become so important to resale value and why must they change so often? The conspiracy-thinker in me blames real estate agents and HGTV, but nevertheless, most kitchens serve as expensive time capsules.

And the items most prone to fickle design trends? Tiles. Tiles are the tie-die, hair-perm, parachute pants of the design world. And no modern farmhouse kitchen was legit without its overuse of the subway tile. It was cheap, it was graphic, it was white, which was awesome for house flippers. But now because of its overuse, subway tiles are the telltale sign of lazy design. And ripping out and replacing them with yet another trend is expensive. So what to do?

Change your tile grout! Here's a great DIY tutorial: https://carriethishome.com/2016/05/how-to-change-grout-color-for-less-than-20/


Paint your tiles! https://homeguides.sfgate.com/way-paint-subway-tiles-42943.html

These methods might not be a long term change, but are a good way to get rid of this telltale "I redid my kitchen in 2009" dead give-away:

rugs and pillows

I admit it: I'm guilty of loving sisal. Not only are sisals earthy and grounding, but they also have the ability to hide cat puke really, really well. In addition, sisals are cheaper than other rugs, even from big box stores.

But don't throw your sisal rug out just yet; part of the sisal's charm is that you can layer other rugs on top!

BONUS: adding another, more adventurous rug on top of a neutral sisal often helps soften the colors. Plus, you can transition your space a bit more smoothly than just plopping a brand new rug on the floor.

Pillows have similar transformative power. A perfunctory Pinterest search will find you everything from glam clamshells to beautiful tribal patterns:

The key is to have fun! You can keep your existing pillows and replace the shams or use these ones to layer the look. It's called "eclectic." Say it with me... E-Cleck-Tick. Yay!

bigger commitments

Okay. We both know that all these changes are great -- but what you really want to do is paint, wallpaper and put some art on the walls. You've been living in a pedestrian modern farmhouse and eager to express yourself now that, well, "you ain't goin' anywhere" for a while. However, if you're just starting on your interior design journey it's best to start slow. Layer in the new elements we've just covered and see how it goes.

The key to adding color to your life is to do it slowly. You may find out you're more comfortable with just a few changes here and there... versus blowing your life savings on some flash-in-the-pan fads.

(Just ask anyone who spent tens of thousands of dollars to blow out all their walls to create one "great room" only to realize they really wanted some privacy when cooking.)

Also, it's important to know that not everything that is old or passe is "bad". In fact, let's not give in to design trends wholeheartedly. You're not required to buy the newest and trendiest thing because a few marketing execs say so. After all, that's how we ended up with the "modern farmhouse" look in the first place!

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