An American Icon
When it comes to the American household, few styles of architecture have retained the popularity, charm, and classic Americana feel quite like the farmhouse. These homes were originally a necessity for those living on the rolling acres of rural land dotting the American countryside. They featured simple design, open layouts, and numerous fixtures built out of simplicity and necessity rather than appearance.
These homes were often built and left in place for generations, resulting in a distinct “lived-in” appearance that added to their unique charm. This included weathered floorboards in high traffic areas, sun bleached wood, furniture with worn paint, and old tables covered in clean white tablecloths. The house was built for function and after generations of use, it took on a personality of its own. As David Simonini, a seasoned and renowned builder of The Simonini Group argues, this style of older design embodied a charm that has been hard to fine and even harder to recreate until recent breakthroughs in manufacturing technology.
In the modern era, the vast majority of the American population has left their rural homes and moved into urban cities for the promise of opportunity and security. These urban city-centers are often low on space, relying on row upon row of townhouse instead of the sprawling farmhouses of old. These townhouses are often 2-3 stories, narrow, and built with an emphasis on cramming as many amenities as possible into a limited space.
While these townhouses are ideal for fitting a large population into limited space, there are certain aspects of comfort given up in the process. Townhouses often sacrifice a great deal of space, meaning creature comforts are lost in the process. These are often much newer construction with an emphasis on function rather than form. With limited space, there’s very little room for older style fixtures like sliding barn doors or bay windows.
The Technology Bridging the Gap
Thanks to modern developments in technology, particularly in materials and manufacturing, modern farmhouse style townhouses have begun to take off. These townhouses take many of the charming features from the older farmhouses and utilize a more compact, easily installed and cheaper produced modern alternative.
Chief among these developments are artificially distressed woods and paints, as well as mass produced and convincing hardwood substitutes. Rather than taking an antique piece of furniture, painting it white, and wearing it down through decades of use, convincing antique replicas are now being mass produced to give the same earthy lived-in charm to furniture that can be used in an urban townhouse. As for alternatives to real hardwood floors and walls, the only reliable option used to be vinyl. Now, however, advances in modern manufacturing have created convincing faux wood laminate floor tiles that can be tailored to any specifications and are easily installed thanks to interlocking machined grooves.
Another technology helping to bring the old-world charm of antique farmhouses into the suburbs is a recent trend toward furniture that seems to transform from one shape into another depending on current needs. Whether it be bookshelves converting into a coffee table or beds doubling as a dresser, modern furniture design has broken into the realm of a Transformers movie in order to maximize the utility of limited space without having to sacrifice the comfort of a farmhouse.
There has also been a merger between the classic focus on woods and paint and the more modern emphasis on metals and glass. Antique-styled wooden furniture is increasingly available featuring brushed steel accents and distressed paint. This type of furniture serves to bridge the gap between antique and modern, creating what is now known as the “modern farmhouse” style.
New Architecture Using Old Style
In addition to changes in modern furniture and fixtures, the charming architecture of the farmhouse is seeing a resurgence in new development thanks to advances in modern home development. We are seeing a push toward design elements using reclaimed and preserved woods, large exterior windows to allow natural light and phase out artificial bulbs, as well as a trend toward more open floor plans like lofts.
In Burlington, Vermont for example, old lumber mills have been converted into apartments and business parks by utilizing the existing exposed brick and hardwood materials while dividing the buildings into smaller subsections for lease. This type of reclaimed and repurposed building has been attractive to younger generations looking to break free from the buzz of office lights and modern metal construction. Even actual farmhouses have been subdivided in this manner as the urban sprawl expands outward into traditional farming land. David Simonini believes this trend shows tremendous promise and hopes the revival of the farmhouse through modern farmhouse style townhouses will continue for years to come.