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When I put a call out on Instagram for thoughts on the modern farmhouse style (think: shiplap , gables, stark white-and-black shutterless exteriors, reclaimed wood, barn doors), there was a unanimous vote for so over it. But is that what real estate agents across the country are actually witnessing on the ground? Or are buyers still going into bidding wars for the style that Chip and Joanna made ubiquitous?
To find out, I talked to five real estate agents from Washington, D.C. to Savannah, Georgia, to Houston, Texas, and beyond, about what they’re seeing in their respective markets. Here’s what they had to say.
“It’s like cerulean in ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’”
Sarah Brazell , a Realtor with Washington, D.C.-based City Chic Real Estate, hypothesizes that the economy and decor often mirror one another, and the modern farmhouse aesthetic took off following a time when disposable income was at a 21st-century low. “The farmhouse trend came up during a time when Americans were short on cash after the 2008 recession, and it gained popularity due to the DIY aspects, including shipping pallets and chalk paint,” she explains.
So what does that mean now? “It’s like cerulean in ‘The Devil Wears Prada,'” she says, because it similarly started as something created by trendsetters, and then trickled down and became more accessible. Though it’s been around for awhile now, “I view it as a real American rags to riches dream,” Brazell says.
“The ‘refined farmhouse’ vibe is still pulling in buyers.”
White-on-white and black trim are in, signs and words on pillows are out, says Pennsylvania based Realtor JoAnn Echtler .
“Buyers are steering away from the full distressed-shiplap-vibe and gravitating towards a more clean and classic farmhouse finish. I call it ‘refined farmhouse,’” says Echtler. “This ‘refined farmhouse’ vibe is still pulling in buyers, and, unless they enjoy the renovation process, most millennials are willing to pay top dollar for an updated home because, in general, they value their time more than previous generations.”
Echtler anticipates the modern farmhouse trend will continue to evolve further away from shiplap and signs, yet maintain a clean, sleek, white look peppered with warm touches.
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“I’ve watched people fall in love at first sight whenever I’ve shown one of these homes.”
Ayesha Shelton , a Houston-based Realtor, says her clients are still happy to pay top dollar for modern farmhouse style. “It’s a classic design that doesn’t feel antiquated or outdated. Just because you like the look of a farmhouse doesn’t mean you want to live like you’re on a farm,” she says. Her buyers want a timeless look, but with new appliances and modern conveniences.
Shelton predicts that the modern farmhouse trend may continue, while merging with the styles of older homes. “People are looking for comfort in their new homes, something cozy and familiar, but they also want the latest and greatest finishes. It’s all about striking a balance, and modern farmhouse seems to do just that,” says Shelton.
And she’s not just guessing — this is what she’s seeing on the ground. Shelton recounts what she’s seen again and again: “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched people fall in love at first sight whenever I’ve shown one of these homes.” As a Realtor, she wants to see her clients find the home of their dreams and, often, it’s the modern farmhouse that wins them over.
“It’s the opposite of the late ‘90s and early 2000s style that everyone wants to renovate.”
In Savannah, Georgia, where Realtor Brooke Powell is based, buyers are drawn towards the modern farmhouse style for its similarities to a lowcountry, coastal look. Plus, Powell says, “It’s the opposite of late ‘90s and early 2000s that everyone wants to renovate.”
She says of one recent modern farmhouse listing, “There was a $1.7 million listing — a very high price point for our area — that went under contract within 24 hours. You could build an entire modern farmhouse neighborhood and every single one of them would sell for top dollar.”
For all those who think shiplap is on its way out, Powell notes that this style has been used for hundreds of years and, particularly in coastal areas, it’s part of the regional design lexicon.
“When I sold my own house, I decided to overhaul my design to be a mix of farmhouse and boho.”
“Modern farmhouse is one of these interior design trends that I thought would have faded by now, and while it’s not as popular as it was even two years ago, it remains popular,” says Marie Bromberg , a licensed real estate salesperson with Compass in New York City.
Bromberg sees buyers still drawn to modern farmhouse touches, from the farmhouse sinks to butcher block counters. But she warns that these aren’t necessarily practical design choices. “A farmhouse sink, while incredibly charming, stands a much higher chance of getting chipped and stained than stainless steel,” she explains. “And butcher block counters, while stunning, are hard to clean and maintain.”
It could be the pandemic that’s allowing the modern farmhouse to remain en vogue after some may have tried to put it in the past. Bromberg wonders whether the comforting, cozy vibe of modern farmhouse makes it appealing to a buyer still reeling from the stress of the last few years.
She’s been on the selling side of this modern farmhouse-obsessed market. “When I sold my own house, I decided to overhaul my design to be a mix of farmhouse and boho,” says Bromberg. Plus, there was an unexpected bonus to embracing this clean, but often ‘collected’ trend. “Decorating in a modern farmhouse style didn’t require the frantic ‘tidying up’ before showings that other trends, like minimalist, would. Some mess is expected and was seen as charming.” How’d the modern farmhouse makeover fare? She sold for over listing price — in a 2020 NYC market.
Heather Bien is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance writer whose work has appeared on MyDomaine, The Knot, Martha Stewart Weddings, HelloGiggles, and more. You'll often find her making pitstops for roadside antique shops, drooling over original hardwood floors, or perfecting her latte recipe.