What Is a Farmhouse Style House?

The large front porch of a white farmhouse

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Warm, cozy, and full of rustic charm, farmhouse-style houses can feel like home before you even step through the front door. These homes were meant for families and were built to be functional above all else, with large open living spaces, expensive (and impressive) kitchens, and acres of outdoor space. And, because of their minimalist simplicity, farmhouses are essentially a blank canvas that wants you to live your decor dreams. 

What is a Farmhouse-Style House?

A farmhouse-style house is a home that's usually built on a large piece of land characterized by large open living spaces, front porches, exposed wood, and an emphasis on functionality above everything else.

What Makes a House Farmhouse-Style?

what is a farmhouse - 130 year old white farmhouse with siding, a front porch, and an American flag

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Though not all farmhouses are found on working farms, they still are usually found on generous parcels of land, and will have plenty of outdoor space. Porches are an essential design element, which gave farmworkers a place to wipe off their shoes and remove any dirty garments before they entered the house; true to farmhouses’ non-standardized blueprints, they can feature any number of porches, and are often found in covered, screened-in, and sprawling wraparound styles.

The interior of a farmhouse is modest and no-frills, with lots of exposed wood and little, if any, ornamentation. At the front of the home the rooms were large and more formal, as they were meant for entertaining family members, business associates, and neighbors. The rooms towards the rear of the home were smaller and more casual living and dining areas. 

Arguably the most important room in a traditional farmhouse was the kitchen, and even in modern iterations, this room is  large, spacious, and well-equipped. In older homes, the kitchen may have an adjacent hearth room, an open fireplace, and a storage pantry. Farmhouse kitchens usually have a central island, an amply-sized, wooden cabinetry or open shelving, and room for a large table. 

Farmhouses were not built on top of basement foundations, so in older houses, there may only be small crawlspaces underneath the first floor, or a cool, dug-out cellar. Many feature an open attic space that was used for storage; transforming the attic into a bedroom or additional living space is a popular modern renovation. 

Common features of farmhouse-style homes are:

Exterior

  • Simple, rectangular or square floor plans
  • One or two stories high
  • Practical, straightforward design
  • Natural building materials like wood and stone
  • Ample outdoor space
  • Large functional porches
  • Pitched roofs with dormers

Interior:

  • Fireplaces and chimneys
  • Large, formal front rooms 
  • Modestly-sized bedrooms and bathrooms 
  • Extra-large kitchen
  • Open attic


History of the Farmhouse

There is not one distinct, unique farmhouse style in America; farmers built them to suit their individual needs, and, being frugal, practical people, the build and design of these houses were usually dictated by available building materials and local geography. Early American farmhouses were normally built by the farmers themselves, using the old-world methods they brought with them from their home countries. In New England, farmhouses were mostly made from timber, as they were in the old country. In Pennsylvania, skilled German masons built farmhouses with mortar, stone, and brick. In the heavily-Scandinavian Midwest, wooden farmhouses use the clean lines and muted color palette of Scandinavian architecture.


What Are the Different Types of Farmhouses? 

Saltbox

history of saltbox houses

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A saltbox house is a colonial New England-style home named after commonly used wooden salt containers from that period. Historic saltbox houses are easily identified by their signature one-sided sloped rooflines and simple colonial facades.

Cracker-Style

what is a farmhouse style house? cracker style house in florida with a metal sloped roof and a wide front porch

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These extra-small homes are as simple as they come; the original cracker-style farmhouses were built by American settlers who needed shelter as quickly as possible. This style features wooden (often cedar) siding and a metal roof, with a deep covered porch, and symmetrical windows that could open wide to catch cross-breezes.

Pennsylvania Dutch

what is a farmhouse - stone and wood home

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Pennsylvania Dutch farmhouses feature stone masonry and wooden details; their design evolved from the traditional building methods of early German immigrants, who were known for their masonry skills.

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