"I want to escape to the country, live in a rural little cottage with a sheep dog and fields as far as the eye can see when I poke my head out the window."
For as long as I can remember this was always my dream. Neil's dream too. In our old flat in Hove, we used to spend hours chatting about how we would one day buy a farmhouse in Sussex to renovate and live the country life – open fires, big farmhouse table gatherings, long walks in the fresh air. It wasn't so much the farmhouse, but the experiences we would have living in it that I was sold on.
Like so many others living in London / the South East, our sought after dreams to escape to the country comes at a high price, and if we were to sit down and calculate how we'd find the money to do it (I think I tried to once and gave up after about 2 minutes!) we'd either not find the money at all or we would have to be retirement age, have our mortgage all paid off and earn lots of equity on a property sale before we could ever dream of doing it – and then, would we even have the energy for it?
It always left me thinking, why wait until retirement to live the country dream of walks and open fires? What if we could move into whatever place in the city we were about to buy at the time and try to live the dream anyway? We could strive for the best of both lifestyles, bringing in particular elements of the "country dream".
So, that's exactly what we did, and the experiment we're doing in our 3 bed 1930s average semi detached not far from Central Brighton. We bought the place to renovate in our dream farmhouse way, not far from woods for country strolls (although we've been so up to our eyeballs in DIY we've barely had chance to leave the house on a weekend!)
When we moved in I worried in case the farmhouse decoration and various elements of farmhousey-looking-ways-of-living I wanted wouldn't suit the era of the house (but to be honest, anything was an improvement as it wasn't touched since the 60s!)
That's until I discovered "Modern Farmhouse" design, an easy, humble, practical way of decorating with a focus on warmth, homeliness, and nods to traditional design but in a way that fits with modern lifestyles.
I love it because it is so accessible and totally no pressure to decorate in a wild way but it still wows in its own way (I've never been a 'let's paint the walls dark blue and be outrageous' sort of person. I just like comfort and a modest looking home.)
In my discovery of "Modern Farmhouse Design" (really that's just a name I give it instead of "humble and cosy mish mash") I've come to think about whether there is a fine line between how much country decoration you can suitably bring to a modern home and what might be a touch too much.
I mean, can you go over board with country decor?
Of course, your house is your house so you should do what you want to it, but I wanted to share some ways you can bring Modern Farmhouse charm to a home in a really effortless way if you are considering channeling the easy-cosy humble home look and need some ideas.
For the record I don't think you can overdo country decoration in a modern home. I love it all. But curious to hear what you think.
Ways to bring country decoration to a modern home...
Make a feature of your fireplace – or build one in
The first thing we did when we moved into our 1930s paradise (more like 60s time warp) was create a focal point of the fireplace. We saved money to install a wood burner as we knew part of our "escape to the country" dream was sitting in front of a fire. It's the best investment we ever made as - besides the look of it - the fire just brings people together and is ultimate cosiness on cold evenings when you cba to go to work the next day. A cosy fire takes your mind off tomorrow's to do list and helps you live in the moment I think. Sorry to go all cheesy on you!
If you're living in a new build with no fireplace, I've heard you might still be able to install a wood burner flue out the side of your building or up through the roof (worth a bit of research). Otherwise you could plasterboard a faux chimney breast and get candles galore in there for ultimate ambience.
Install a staircase that nods to rustic design
I'm including this because staircases are normally so conventional and functional that we rarely consider changing them to become a design statement, yet they have so much potential to bring farmhouse charm to a home. Modern staircases are now so far away from the traditional stair cases we see in an average family home because they tend to blend farmhouse materials together like solid wood steps with iron railings which is much more characterful. Part of the appeal for conventional stair cases is the storage they bring underneath, but nowadays you can make a real statement with space saver staircases that sit on a gorgeous solid stone irregular farmhouse looking floor.
Change your living area floors to wood or stone
Flooring changes EVERYTHING about a house. I mean, you only have to look at the psychedelic carpet we lived with when we first moved in if you don't believe me. It's now a wood floor I adore. In the living areas I usually try to steer clear of carpet for a country vibe as typically, actual farm houses have moppable (is that a word?) floors to clear up what muddy boots bring in. Personally I think wood floors add a lot of character. We chose a laminate wood that is easy to look after. Similarly stone floors are a common staple in country homes. In our utility room we are about to lay a limestone floor that resembles a solid cottage kitchen floor as it is super practical and full of irregularities – I can't wait to share it once it's laid.
Update your interior doors for something more characterful
Another update you can make on your home to bring a warmer, country vibe is by changing your internal wood work to either reclaimed wood or painted woodwork with period details like staged beading. We are one by one replacing our plain white 70s-esque interior doors to 1 over 3 wood panel doors with porcelain handles. It's not cheap as each door is about £200 to buy new, another £40 for a handle and hinges and then labour costs to fit them – that's why we're doing it one by one. I was also tempted with stable-look doors for our utility room / downstairs loo, but if you aren't sure a quick pinterest search for farmhouse doors or cottage doors will give you lots of ideas.
I really could list a whole load more ideas that dives deeper into furniture and accessories. For example, choosing furniture with turned legs as opposed to clean lines give a more traditional feel, or opting for fabrics that are timeless in design – gingham or pinstripe or hessian in the kitchen, linens, leathers and even furs in the living area.
I hope some of these ideas have helped you if you're on the quest to bring country touches to your modern home, and if you enjoyed this, I hope you follow our renovation updates as I share them on here!
Thanks for reading,
Collaborative post, all words and tips my own