How to Design the Look of Old Farmhouses

Written by jennifer hearing
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How to Design the Look of Old Farmhouses
Here is an excellent example of a colonial stone Georgian farmhouse. (English farmhouse image by Chris Lofty from

In American Farmhouses: Country Style and Design, Leah Rosch declares that "The 'county look' remains the single most popular American style." Unfortunately, there is not one floor plan or facade to use as the de facto farmhouse design. But part of the farmhouse appeal is individuality. Choosing all of your favourite farmhouse features, even if they have never been combined before, will not get you in trouble.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    In architectural circles, the style of America's first farmhouses were referred to as Colonial or Neo-classical. The earliest houses of the "common people" in the colonies were the Salt Box and Cape Cod. The Cape Cod is a 1 1/2 story house with a gable roof (shaped like an A), and is formed based on symmetry with a centred entrance and fireplace. The Salt Box is a 2-room house based on the Cape Cod with a lean-to added on the back. A Dutch Colonial design can be 2 or 2 1/2 stories, is often made of stone, clapboard, shingles or brick, and the roof features flared-out eaves (known as gambrel). A Pennsylvania Dutch house is 2 1/2 stories, made with a gable roof and constructed with stone. Georgian houses are symmetrical, with a gable or hip roof, fanlights or pediments above the centred door and large, double-hung windows.

    How to Design the Look of Old Farmhouses
    A centred door and fireplace are indicative of Cape Cod style. (vintage new england colonial. image by Tom Oliveira from
  2. 2

    Study the traditional or Victorian era farmhouses. Balloon framing eliminated the mortise and tenon construction of fitting beam joints together, and instead houses were built by nailing 2x4s and 2x6s together. This allowed houses to be built faster and bigger. Balloon framing started in Chicago around 1830 and remained popular during the Westward Movement, leaving our countryside strewn with what we traditionally refer to today as the country home or farmhouse. Gingerbread detail, porches and bay windows are some of the popular features developed during that time period.

    How to Design the Look of Old Farmhouses
    Victorian farmhouses incorporate porches and large windows. (Victorian house image by Kurt Anderson from
  3. 3

    Pick your favourite features from these two major time periods for the exterior. If you want simple and clean, incorporate more of the colonial symmetrical features. The two features that give a home a traditional Victorian farmhouse look are wide and long porches that often wrap around the house and a roof with gables that face different directions. Additional elements from both periods that can complete the look are shutters, dormer windows, clapboard siding and at least 2 stories.

  4. 4

    Choose your favourite interior features. The front of the farmhouse usually contains the formal rooms, such as the living room, and the kitchen and pantry are in the back. The most essential room in a farmhouse is the kitchen, and it should be large.

  5. 5

    Peruse the library and bookstores for inspiration. Look at architectural history books to learn more about traditional farmhouse features and construction. Pick up interior design books for ideas on decorating and restoring interiors. Visit farmhouse museums online or in person or try watching interior design and restoration programs for helpful hints and ideas.

  6. 6

    Search online for farmhouse architectural plans to define your starting point. Then add your favourite elements and alter the plans to fit your needs and desires.

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