farmhouse kitchen open shelves

Simple Ways to Tweak Your Kitchen to Get That Modern Farmhouse Look

No room in the house has gone through as much of an update over the last century as the kitchen. At one time, a purely functional space to cook, today’s kitchen is a multi-functional area, often very open and not just a place for cooking, but a hub for entertaining, doing homework and even relaxing. Unlike the olden days when ma tucked herself away to chop the veggies and stir the stew over a small cooktop, today’s kitchens can contain a dizzying array of technological gadgets, large ranges, and huge sub-zero refrigerators. We also fit in all sorts of seating and workspaces, from island stools to a kitchen table, to mom’s office.

Although you’d think after being inundated with Chip and Joanna Gaines shiplap and farmhouse sinks punctuated by modern industrial elements, we’d have reached the peak of the modern farmhouse trend. The truth is the popularity of this tyle doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. The nostalgia of original American farmhouses resides in our bones. While our modern temperament has coaxed us to open things up by breaking down walls and inviting everyone in, we still can’t get away from all those farmhousy feels of the days of yore.

The modern farmhouse kitchen looks best using a mix of old and new, combining state-of-the-art technology with things like reclaimed barn wood floors and kitschy rag rugs. Here are just a few distinctive ways to tweak your kitchen for a more updated (but still “old-timey”) look and feel you may prefer.

Contrast is Key – Veer away from the matchy-matchy textiles, light fixtures, and even appliances. Revel in juxtaposition. A modernized cookstove with a cool industrial refrigerator combined with a folksy rug and steel light fixtures is an updated combination that looks great in a modern farmhouse-style kitchen!

It Doesn’t Need to Cost a Fortune! Mix and match items from a reclamation shop like ReStore with inexpensive items found at Home Depot. Visit estate sales and thrift stores where you can find things that might need a little DIY; for example, a cool old workbench can be easily sawed and sanded to create a sweet farmhouse-style table.

Play on the Natural Light – While older farmhouse kitchens were often darker with possibly one small window to let in light (a farmhouse without central heating would become cold and drafty if it had too many windows), a lot of natural light is the trend now – especially if you have southern or western exposure, as the sunlight that pours in works as passive solar, warming the kitchen naturally.

Minimalism – Playing on that window idea from above, ixnay the run-of-the-mill cabinetry that typically lines every wall in the kitchen. The need for “stuff” to fill a bunch of boring standard cabinets is unnecessary. Instead, cull your things and place windows there to let in the light – and lower your energy bill! Opt for open shelving and perhaps a freestanding antique hutch to store your dishes and cookware.

Opt for Sturdy Work Surfaces – Although appearance is important, it means nothing if it isn’t functional, especially in the kitchen. Countertops need to perform well. A composite material like Corian is sturdy and looks good. Granite is still a cost-effective workhorse. Concrete has been my favorite with its polished smoothness and utilitarian look and feel – pair it with a rough-hewn reclaimed wood table or island.

Get Creative With Storage – Team your built-in furniture with freestanding pieces. Open shelving housing stacks of handmade ceramic bowls and mugs look better than closed uniform cabinetry. Unlike a typical pantry, a beautiful antique larder looks old-fashioned but fits into the updated kitchen (sometimes, what once was old can be new again).

A Table Can Be Your Island – I’m not a huge fan of built-in islands, although they are almost inevitable in most kitchens these days. My preference is a freestanding table or work surface—I’ve seen all sorts of different freestanding pieces work and look beautiful in kitchens. While an actual table might be slightly low as a work surface, an antique cabinet re-vamped and placed on casters, a slim bistro table, or if the kitchen is on the small side, a bar cart that you attach a butcher block top to are all creative, functional, and stylish options.

Odds and Ends – Choose a handful of objects to arrange thoughtfully around the kitchen. These can include thick wooden cutting boards, a coffee percolator for the stovetop, add a few pieces of artwork (even if they’re just propped up haphazardly on the counter), and of course, don’t forget about a green plant or two or vase of eucalyptus.

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