What is Modern Farmhouse Design? And How to Get the Look

Modern Farmhouse: An extremely popular residential style with home owners, Pinteresters and Fixer Upper fans alike, but what exactly is Modern Farmhouse design? And how do you really capture the perfect mix of Modern and Farmhouse when decorating a home? (Hint: stay away from your grandmother’s 1960s chicken-print wallpaper). We’ve got you covered with tips, terms and techniques for how to make a Modern Farmhouse, inside and out.

What Makes a Modern Farmhouse?

While every home will have subtle variations to make it unique, there are a few key architectural features that truly qualify a design as Modern Farmhouse. You know you’ve seen the style 1000+ times on Pinterest, but you may not be able to really specify what separates it from other types, like a Craftsman or Cottage home. Keep an eye out for these fundamental elements and you’ll be on the right track.

Gables + Pitches

Perhaps the most recognizable characteristic of a Modern Farmhouse is the gable roof. A gable is a ridge along the top with two sloped sides creating a triangular wall on either end. Imagine how you drew a house when you were five, that’s a gable roof.

The roof pitch is also important. Typically, a Modern Farmhouse should have a 12:12 pitch, meaning the two sides create a 45° angle. This relatively steep roof emphasizes the height of the house, which is another distinguishing feature of this style.

Recently, the standing seam metal roof has ingrained itself in Modern Farmhouse design. While this isn’t a requirement for achieving the look, it does actually derive from an older, agrarian lifestyle. With their durability and capacity to shed rain and snow, metal roofs have long been the practical choice for farmhouses, barns and sheds.

Lap + Board and Batten

There are two main exterior siding styles that really communicate Modern Farmhouse design: lap, and board and batten. While I’ve seen some Modern Farmhouse remodels still capture the look by painting the existing exterior brick, if you are starting from scratch you’ll want to seriously consider these two looks.

Also called clapboard or horizontal siding, lap is most commonly made from wood, vinyl or fiber cement (like HardiePlank). As the name suggests, lap siding consists of long, horizontal planks that each slightly overlap the one below. It’s essentially the outdoor cousin of shiplap, or tongue and groove.

Lap siding is measured in overlap, how much gets covered, and exposure, how much remains visible. These amounts are important for calculating how much siding will need to be ordered to cover your home. At Perch Plans, we design our Modern Farmhouse style house plans with the smallest exposure possible, to create a clean and classic farmhouse appearance.

The familiar board and batten effect is created by placing vertical boards with overlaying narrow strips, called battens. This technique is also commonly seen inside Modern Farmhouses as wall paneling. Many traditional barns were built with this style siding, which is why it fits right in with different farmhouse designs.

Board-and-batten siding also comes in a variety of materials, including natural wood, engineered wood and vinyl. Aside from the timeless look and current popularity, the biggest draw for board and batten is easy maintenance. Replacing worn-out or damaged boards is pretty straightforward and minimal.

All White

Most Modern Farmhouses you see today have solid white exteriors. The white has mostly arisen from preference and trend, but the monochromatic color palette is actually important. Modern Farmhouse architecture relies more on the variation of materials and textures to develop interest, than it does colors.

This is why board and batten and lap siding are central to the style. Such highly texturized finishes allow for light and shadows to play on the sides of the house, creating contrast and distinction.

As I mentioned though, white specifically is not required. Part of the popularity can be attributed to the bright, clean feel that white projects, as well as the beautiful starkness created against currently on-trend steel windows. However, the house could be gray, red, black, whatever, as long as it’s just one color.

Open Porches

Nothing says farmhouse like sipping sweet tea while sitting in a rocking chair on a sweeping front porch. The Modern Farmhouse has largely held onto to this nostalgic feature, with cheery front porches welcoming guests, and airy back porches providing a shady space to enjoy sunny days.

Now this is purely my own personal opinion and not architectural science, but every Modern Farmhouse certainly needs a porch swing. Really I think every house should have a porch swing, but that’s not the focus here. I often say my happy place is swinging in a gentle breeze, listening to the cicadas chirp on a warm summer evening.

Double Hung Windows

When building a Modern Farmhouse, you have to hit that perfect balance between too modern and too traditional. Double hung windows point back to old American farmhouses, but the updated patterns available now help bring the style into today. Plus the different options allow for your creativity and personal taste.

A double hung window simply means that both the top and bottom sash are operable, so they can both move up and down or tilt. The windows should also be tall, to again accentuate the height of the home, and to let in more light. You may think a window is just a window, but the right style is key for crafting the right look.

Break It Up

Early American farmhouses were often simple rectangles, prioritizing practicality and ease of construction. However, the Modern Farmhouse moves away from this style, instead spreading out rooms and forming unique exterior dimensions. Take a look at the floor plan, the spaces should kind of look pieced together, almost modular.

This type of layout allows for appropriate proportions and an open floor plan, while still feeling intimate instead of awkward or cavernous. It also supports an abundance of natural light, as each space can have multiple windows around it.

Victorian Roots

Ready for an insider secret? Modern Farmhouse architecture isn’t strictly farmhouse. While it certainly incorporates elements from traditional farmhouse composition, it truly is inspired more from Victorian architecture, particularly Stick and Folk Victorian.

Large front porches, gable roofs, and lap siding are all identifying features of Stick Victorian design. Strip down the decorative detailing, lighten up the colors and open up the floor plan, and you’ve got the beginnings of a Modern Farmhouse.

Mastering Modern Farmhouse Decor

Home decor is where you can really take this style and make it your own, but you want to make sure your interior is still cohesive with the exterior. Below are some of the most common and characteristic design elements that will help carry that Modern Farmhouse feel from the outside in.

Remember, nothing is a hard fast rule. You can tweak these interior design tips to fit your style, and if there’s an idea you just don’t like, throw it out and find your own alternative. Those creative little touches will be the things that make your home unique and personal.

Clean, Straight, Simple, Minimal

The key to Modern Farmhouse decor is a clean and simple approach. There’s no fuss or embellishment, just straight lines and modest ornamentation. It is a form of minimalism, although much warmer than most. Bottom line: Modern Farmhouse interior design focuses on practicality and comfort.

Neutral Zone

The interior color palette follows many of the same rules as the exterior. While the inside does not have to be monochromatic (in fact, it shouldn’t be), it should still cling to a mostly neutral palette to keeps things feeling light and airy. Once more white is most popular, but soft grays, beiges and blues are also prevalent. Stick with warm, calming colors, nothing bright or shocking.

Again, contrast is important. With a neutral palette you need textures and variation to keep everything from bleeding into one beige blur. Wrought iron fixtures and hardware stand out beautifully against lighter colors, while a straight-edged, wood coffee table can create great juxtaposition next to a plush, linen couch.

Wall Paneling

Texture can also be created with different types of wall paneling. Plain white walls all around your house can feel sterile, so try breaking it up with some shiplap or board and batten. These wood elements can also carry to the ceiling, where it’s common for stained wood beams to stretch across the living room or kitchen, creating interest and drawing the eye up.

While you want to avoid covering every surface of your house in millwork, you can have some fun with it. Paint your shiplap a darker shade, or take the wainscoting all the way up the wall. Just remember to use flat boards and straight edges in keeping with the Modern Farmhouse style. Wider planks also help keep the look from getting too busy.

Modern Farmhouse Kitchens

The main characteristics of a farmhouse kitchen are big, bright and open. White shaker cabinets and industrial accents help bring in the modern, but you can also mix it up with black base cabinets or a blue island. Carrera marble is probably the most popular Modern Farmhouse countertop, but butcher block and dark gray stone also create the clean lines and contrast you want for this style.

Speaking of the island, go big or go… to a different home. In a Modern Farmhouse, the kitchen is the hub for family and guests, thus an oversized island is central to capturing this open and friendly aesthetic. Finish out the look with a few industrial barstools and large, wrought iron pendants.

Free standing range hoods and open shelving are two more details that grasp that farmhouse feel while also keeping the kitchen light and uncluttered. Plus open shelves provide a beautiful space to display your favorite dishes or cookware, and unique vintage finds.

Now I know I said you could do what you want, but a farmhouse sink is pretty much a requirement. It literally has farmhouse in the name. But feel free to choose the material you want, whether it’s porcelain, stainless steel, copper or something else.

Choosing the right finishes is make or break for any kitchen, and Modern Farmhouse is no exception. Select a countertop with minimal movement, and don’t be afraid to mix up the metals. This is one place where wrought iron pulls and brass light fixtures really work together.

When it comes to the backsplash, white subway tile is standard, but it’s silly to think that’s the only option. Gray subway tiles, brick, chevron, even Moroccan tile has made it’s way in. Just find something you love that still captures the bright and clean look.


As for furniture, you want to have a carefully curated mix of different pieces. Don’t just walk into a big name furniture outlet and buy a living room set, but instead source your pieces from a variety of stores, vintage shops and antique purveyors. The goal is cohesion and a personal touch, not to match perfectly.

Your furniture should also be big, functional and comfy. There’s no place for little, spindly-legged chairs in a Modern Farmhouse. Find a sturdy, antique buffet for your dining room, or maybe use an apothecary chest for a coffee table with extra storage. Broad harvest tables are practically a must have, as well as an overstuffed couch you can’t help but sink into.

Down to Details

I’m not sure it can really be considered a Modern Farmhouse without a barn door somewhere, so better throw one in for safe measure. Plus they are stylish and give privacy without taking up space, so what’s not to love? Common spaces for barn doors include the dining room, study, or from the master bedroom to the bathroom.

Modern Farmhouse decor is simple, but not bare. Hang a chalk board, put galvanized metal planters in your bedroom, create a pretty vignette on a tray for your coffee table. Just don’t go overboard. Decorate with the little details you love, but use a discerning eye to keep it uncluttered.

Remember to focus on the mix. Too many vintage farmhouse pieces and you venture into kitchy. Too minimal or modern and you lose the softness. Check out our Modern Farmhouse decor Pinterest board for ideas and inspiration to help you achieve that perfect balance and make it your own.

The Heart of Modern Farmhouse

But Modern Farmhouse style is about more than just piecing together the right design and decor elements, it’s about how the home makes you feel. A true Modern Farmhouse should feel cozy, bright and welcoming, whether it’s actually your home or not. The open floor plans support togetherness, while the big kitchens encourage hospitality.

These homes are warm and relaxed, and not at all stuffy or formal. They are designed to be a great gathering place for friends and loved ones, to escape from the bustle and grind of life and just enjoy the important things. Broad harvest tables are made to be laden with Southern feasts served family-style, not antique China you never actually eat off of.

To own a Modern Farmhouse is to embrace the simplicity and charm of an older way of life, but incorporate current features and concepts to bring that traditional style into the present day. There’s a spirit of practicality and order that is softened by the balanced of character and comfort. It’s no wonder that this style has quickly become one of the most popular amongst home owners and home dreamers today.

Dreaming of a Modern Farmhouse of your own? At Perch Plans we’ve made it easy to find thoughtful, high-end, Modern Farmhouse house plans at an affordable price. All of our new home floor plans have been hand crafted by professional, residential architects, and can be modified to suit your personal, new home needs. See our Modern Farmhouse plans for sale here, and give us a call today to find out how we can help you build the perfect home for your family.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *