by Lindsay Frankel
The beauty, simplicity, and comfort of the farmhouse style grew out of the basic needs of a different generation of homeowners with a focus on functional elements. Now, the no-frills look of a modern farmhouse exterior is growing in popularity, even among homeowners who want an elevation that stands out from the rest.
While the modern farmhouse still attends to practical considerations such as efficiency and durability, it has also evolved, allowing designers room to play. A modern farmhouse design can even draw inspiration from other architectural styles, but the look remains cohesive because functional needs are never forgotten. The outdoors are never left out of the picture and simple design features return again and again to give this style a sense of familiarity.
The History of the Farmhouse Style
The farmhouse style was originally chosen by working class Europeans because it could be efficiently built by hand with affordable materials. The style quickly spread across the United States in the 1700s, with the familiar white siding making an appearance because whitewashed wood provided additional weather resistance.
Once railroads allowed for new materials to be transported in the mid-19th century, customization became instrumental in design, especially as homeowners built wealth. They preferred personal touches added to the simplified design.
One of the most defining features of the farmhouse, the large front porch, sprouted up about 130 years ago. It started as a symbol of status and evolved into a functional area that allowed for family gatherings during hot summers in the South. This space set the scene for how Americans would spend their time after a long day of work and established long-lasting family traditions.
Photo courtesy of @summerhilldevelopers
Characteristics of a Modern Farmhouse Exterior
There is great variety among modern farmhouse exteriors, but certain identifying features make the modern farmhouse style unmistakable.
A beautiful front porch. Front porches don’t just cover the doorway in a modern farmhouse. They’re wide, welcoming, and covered to protect from the weather. You’ll often see porch swings or even tables and chairs on the modern farmhouse front porch, since they’re intended to be used for outdoor living.
Lots of large windows. Since many modern farmhouses have views worth looking at all day long, a great number of large windows are used to bring the outdoors in and expand the open feeling of the interior space.
Rustic-looking materials. While building materials for a farmhouse were traditionally made of wood, modern building materials like fiber cement achieve the same design aesthetic, but require less ongoing maintenance. For example, James Hardie® fiber cement siding achieves the look of natural wood, but is engineered to withstand damage from moisture and rot and holds no appeal for woodpeckers, termites and other pests.
White exterior. Often, the siding on a modern farmhouse is painted white, but some designers are playing with darker colors for a more contemporary appeal.
Carriage-style garage doors. The garage doors on a modern farmhouse are typically large and wide, reminiscent of a time when horse-drawn carriages were used for transportation. They’re also usually made of wood or a similar-looking material with windows across the top.
Gable roofs. In this roof shape, the edges of two slopes meet at a peak. It’s a classic design that’s commonly adapted to survive different weather conditions.
Photo courtesy of @gallagherboyfarm
The Modern Farmhouse Today
The true “modern farmhouse” is only a few years old, and designs have generally moved in one of two directions: some homeowners embrace the classic look and lean more into the whitewashed and vintage aesthetic, while others choose to incorporate other styles of architecture with more sophisticated details. For example, board-and-batten siding adds to the country aesthetic of the farmhouse, while dark accents and circular windows bring contemporary charm.
Even on the most customized modern farmhouses, elements such as the inviting front porch, simple lines, and large windows peak through. As homeowners step one foot forward into modern design touches, one foot remains planted in a traditional aesthetic that has come to be synonymous with comfort and safety. The result is the modern farmhouse, a style that marries functionality with design to meet the needs of the modern homeowner.
If you’re considering James Hardie siding for a modern farmhouse style, some popular color recommendations include Arctic White for a traditional look or Iron Gray for a more contemporary feel.
For more design inspiration, view popular siding colors for 6 of America’s favorite home styles on our blog.