Farmhouse Style Handbook: The Style's Origins and How to Decorate With It

living room space with black couches and american flag on the wall
credit: Chango & Co

Even though the majority of us don't actually live on farms, we're still obsessed with farmhouse style. If you haven't decorated your own home with farmhouse flair, you've probably seen it on the hit HGTV show Fixer Upper, starring Chip and Joanna Gaines.

The look isn't only reserved for houses in the countryside — it's an adaptable style that can skew more towards an industrial or even boho look. At its core, it's a simple yet elegant look that creates a cozy mood.

Here, we're exploring the origins of farmhouse style and how you can bring it into your own space.

The Origins of Farmhouse Style

farmhouse living room
credit: Magnolia Home

You guessed it: farmhouse style did indeed come from authentic farmhouses. Given their oftentimes remote settings, farmers used whatever materials were on hand — typically wood and stone — to build their dwellings. Early farmhouses in 16th and 17th century Europe were traditionally simple structures, focusing on efficiency and practicality rather than decor. As industrialization spread around the world over the next two centuries, farmers were able to spend a little more time and money on their homes, creating a more distinct aesthetic.

Modern farmhouse style comprises elements like natural wood furnishings, exposed beamed ceilings, white walls, neutral decor, and antique pieces that look as if they were plucked out of an old barn (because in the old days, they were!). A central focus of the style is creating a comfortable ambience.

Farmhouse Style Decorating Tips

farmhouse bedroom
credit: Magnolia Home

If you're going to decorate your home in a farmhouse style, there are a few basics that should be your staples. Start with furniture that blends natural materials like wood and stone with metal elements. If you can add shiplap to your walls, go for it! And keep your color palette on the light and neutral side of the spectrum.

You don't have to redo your entire house to get into the farmhouse vibe — little touches here and there are a great way to test out the style and adapt it to fit your personal tastes. For instance, if you want test out a farmhouse bedroom, try a cast-iron or rough-hewn wood bed frame for a rustic, chic look — then pair it with neutral toned bedding.

Want to spruce up your kitchen? You can go big with a farmhouse sink, or you can opt for painting your cabinets a nice pure or warm white. Kitchenware, too, can help create the farmhouse look you seek. Fill your shelves with handmade ceramic pieces.

In the living room, make your fireplace a focal point with natural stones or even painted ones (white would be the preferred hue).

You can also go a little more industrial or boho with your look. On the industrial side, opt for more metals, while the boho side could use materials like rattan or more colorful accent pieces for a pop.

Where to Shop for Farmhouse Furniture and Decor

farmhouse dining room
credit: Magnolia Home

If you want to bring the style into your home ASAP, there are just a few good places to start. You can often find both decor and farmhouse furniture at these retailers. Just stick to neutral colors and natural materials, and you'll be set.

We suggest starting with the pros for the ultimate farmhouse-style look. Chip and Joanna's Magnolia empire includes Magnolia Home and Magnolia Market (part of the Gaines' shopping and entertainment complex in Waco, Texas).

Chip and Jo have also partnered with Target on Hearth & Hand, a farmhouse-chic line of home goods. You'll find plenty of items there, from dinnerware to bedding to kids' decor.

You'll find plenty of industrial and rustic pieces at Pottery Barn (hence the name). When it comes to furniture, you can often snag statement pieces made of reclaimed wood or other natural materials.

Search for "farmhouse" on this site and you'll come across minimalist bowls, striped napkins, and even farmhouse pendants. Plenty to get you started.

Specialty outlet One Kings Lane definitely has plenty of rustic items to add to your home. The site is especially useful if you're looking for ceramic pieces or classic furniture.

Don't forget to check out Etsy for handcrafted furnishings. Search phrases like "farmhouse style decor" or "country style tables."


Stefanie Waldek

Stefanie Waldek

Stefanie is a New York–based writer and editor. She has served on the editorial staffs of Architectural Digest, ARTnews, and Oyster.com, a TripAdvisor company, before setting out on her own as a freelancer. Her beats include architecture, design, art, travel, science, and history, and her words have appeared in Architectural Digest, Condé Nast Traveler, Popular Science, Mental Floss, Galerie, Jetsetter, and History.com, among others. In another life, she'd be a real estate broker since she loves searching for apartments and homes.