Cozy, not kitschy

How to em­brace farm­house style in your home with­out go­ing over­board

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE - By Mari-Jane Wil­liams

South­ern or farm­house style is cer­tainly hav­ing a mo­ment. Many home­own­ers crave a cozy re­treat, par­tic­u­larly as the out­side world feels in­creas­ingly harsh and po­lar­ized. And the style, long a sta­ple in ru­ral ar­eas, has be­come an as­pi­ra­tional look for ur­ban homes as well, in part thanks to HGTV and shows such as “Fixer Up­per” that have brought the aes­thetic to a broader au­di­ence.

Some would say, though, that the overuse of the look has pushed it into kitsch ter­ri­tory. For any­one who loves those cute say­ings and can’t imag­ine a kitchen wall with­out the sten­cil pro­claim­ing “Live, Laugh, Love,” by all means, you do you. A home should be, first and fore­most, a re­flec­tion of your own style. But if you want to im­ple­ment that cozy, rus­tic style in a sub­tler, more clas­sic way, lis­ten up.

Kim Leggett, of City Farm­house in Franklin, Ten­nessee, au­thor of “City Farm­house Style,” says the key is to keep things sim­ple, re­laxed, nat­u­ral and un­fussy.

“Rooms don’t have to be co­he­sive with each other” in a farm­house-style home, Leggett says, “and I think that’s part of the at­trac­tion for de­sign­ers and home­own­ers. We’re all so busy that when we come home, we want to walk into a space that feels warm and cozy.”

Here are her sug­ges­tions, taken from a phone interview and an email ex­change, for cre­at­ing a com­fort­able space with a farm­house vibe — mi­nus the cliches.

Say no to mass-pro­duced pieces.

Part of the kitsch prob­lem, Leggett says, is that a lot of big-box re­tail­ers sell mass-pro­duced items to cap­i­tal­ize on the farm­house trend. But in re­al­ity, the style is best cre­ated with au­then­tic pieces.

“It’s just more of a sto­ried ap­proach to de­sign,” she adds.

Peo­ple have been trained to go in that cookie-cut­ter di­rec­tion be­cause it’s all over so­cial me­dia, Leggett says.

In­stead of search­ing Pin­ter­est or In­sta­gram for in­spi­ra­tion, Leggett sug­gests turn­ing to books and mag­a­zines from 10 to 20 years ago for a more au­then­tic ver­sion of the aes­thetic. Leggett likes Ar­chi­tec­tural Di­gest, Coun­try Liv­ing and other shel­ter mag­a­zines, or books such as “New Farm­house Style” by Terry John Woods. Then shop lo­cal an­tique shops, flea mar­kets and thrift stores to find items you love.

When choos­ing fur­ni­ture, go with a min­i­mal­ist ap­proach, Leggett says. “Farm­house style is not for­mal or fussy. Se­lect fur­nish­ings that are sim­ple in de­sign with straight lines, kind of like the Shaker-style fur­ni­ture.”

Items made with brown wood are show­ing up in homes again, Leggett says. “Shunned for years as ‘too dated’ by de­sign­ers and home dec­o­ra­tors, these clas­sic pieces are mak­ing a strong come­back,” she writes in an email.

“Most de­sign mis­takes are the re­sult of color,” Leggett says. She sug­gests keep­ing the walls white. She likes Dune White from Ben­jamin Moore and Pure White from Sher­winWil­liams, say­ing they work well in both large and small spa­ces and com­ple­ment both white and gray up­hol­stery.

Leggett prefers white so­fas to keep things light

Keep it neu­tral.

and bright. Al­though she gen­er­ally rec­om­mends an­tiques and one-of-a-kind items, this is one area where she says to buy new. You want your seat­ing to be com­fort­able (to match that laid-back decor), and newer pieces are bet­ter for ev­ery­day loung­ing. She shops Pot­tery Barn and

One Kings Lane for South­ern/farm­house-style up­hol­stered seat­ing.

Warm up the neu­tral walls and fur­ni­ture with col­or­ful ac­ces­sories, in­clud­ing pil­lows and area rugs.

“A rug is the best place to start if you want to in­cor­po­rate some color,” Leggett says. Be­cause it’s on the floor, it’s a lit­tle more sub­tle than putting a bold color on your walls. She likes vin­tage or Per­sian rugs with some wear or fad­ing that give the sense that they are time­worn. Shop an­tique or vin­tage stores, she says. One Kings Lane also has new and vin­tage rugs.

Make tex­tures and ac­ces­sories the star.

“Ac­ces­sories are the jew­els of the space,” Leggett says. But choose them care­fully. They should be con­ver­sa­tion pieces, rather than generic items pur­chased on­line.

“You have to get out and visit places where you can find these things,” she adds. “The thrill of the hunt is part of the story, and these things will be more mean­ing­ful.”

But don’t go over­board. Edit the ac­ces­sories to cre­ate the look of a care­fully cu­rated space. In­stead of a cliche say­ing, ei­ther in a frame or painted on the wall, as­sem­ble a col­lage of vin­tage por­traits or prints in in­ter­est­ing frames. A spe­cial mir­ror over a large piece of fur­ni­ture is a great way to cre­ate a fo­cal point and make a space seem larger, Leggett says in an email.

The not-go­ing-over­board ad­vice also ap­plies to the cur­rent shiplap ob­ses­sion. Leggett says that al­though shiplap can add tex­ture while still be­ing fairly min­i­mal­ist, it should be used spar­ingly un­less it is in a pe­riod home. It’s more dif­fi­cult to change than wall­pa­per or paint, and when the trend fades, it could make con­tem­po­rary homes look dated. If you want to in­cor­po­rate some shiplap in your home with­out over­do­ing the look, she sug­gests us­ing it in a kitchen or a bath­room.

When it comes to fab­rics, look for nat­u­ral tex­tiles. “No South­ern home would be com­plete with­out the warm feel of linen,” Leggett says. Use it in ta­ble run­ners, bed­ding, cur­tains, place mats, hand tow­els and more to add muted col­ors and soft­ness to any room. Check out Rough Linen’s on­line se­lec­tion of hand­crafted tex­tiles, she says.


Kim Leggett prefers neu­tral walls and up­hol­stery to get an au­then­tic farm­house style. In this ren­o­vated Brook­lyn, New York, brown­stone, a sim­ple tufted sec­tional an­chors the space.

A vin­tage wardrobe from the 1800s serves as a fo­cal point and adds stor­age in this Florence, Alabama, liv­ing room fea­tured in Kim Leggett’s book “City Farm­house Style.”

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