Go simple, repurposed and vintage for a farmhouse-style bath with the comforts of today.
1. Make It Look Like a Spare Room
Again, think back to the time when farmhouse owners switched from an outhouse to an indoor bathroom: Most people ran their new plumbing into a spare bedroom or an attic space. So the new bathrooms were generally spacious and had odd ceiling angles. Plus, it meant that the orientation of the bathtub, sink and toilet didn’t always line up like you see today. Following this approach is a good first step to nailing the style.
Architect James Dixon used the spare-room concept with this New York bathroom, which is actually part of a newly built home. He intentionally made the ceiling pitch down at odd angles to make it feel like the bathtub, sink and toilet were plunked down in an old attic space or extra bedroom. “I live in an 18th-century farmhouse that was once a lot of small bedrooms. Some were converted to bathrooms,” he says. “They tend to be very quirky, so making a new bathroom look this way makes them look more believable.”
Painted antique wood flooring helps convey the style as well.
2. Minimal Accessories
“To me a farmhouse is kind of the simplest early house built for practical reasons,” says interior designer Alison Kandler. “You built a porch because sitting outside in Oklahoma was hot. You picked hexagon tile because it was cheap and practical. You built a pitched roof so rain would fall off and you wouldn’t get leaks. There was always a practical side to everything. It’s not ornate. It’s not overdecorated.”
Indeed, most of the people who built farmhouses were interested only in providing four walls and a roof over their head. They didn’t have the time, interest or cash to focus on ornament or details in the wood or construction, so they just kept it simple. Make sure your farmhouse bathroom champions function and repurposing, rather than ornament.
3. Stand-alone bathtub. A claw-foot tub is almost a requirement in a farmhouse bathroom. It’s what you would have seen in original farmhouses when built-ins weren’t around or practical.
Of course, when we talk about farmhouse style, we’re actually talking about modernfarmhouse style. “And that’s a good thing,” says interior designer Kelly Mittleman, who channeled farmhouse style in the bathroom seen here. “You don’t want to replicate the rusticity of yesteryear and have it look clunky or silly like a set piece.”
And farmhouses differ around the world and even regionally in the United States. A New England farmhouse from the 18th century looks and feels different than something in the Midwest, for example. But the general spirit is universal. “When most people think of a farmhouse, they think of simple, no-nonsense details and sturdy construction,” says Dixon.
4. Repurposed Furniture
In the early days, when spare rooms were converted into bathrooms, it wasn’t as though farmers loaded up the family in the minivan and hit up the local home design store to furnish their new space. Typically, they dragged in whatever storage pieces weren’t being used elsewhere in the house. So repurposed dressers and storage cabinets are good candidates for a farmhouse-style bathroom. “A vanity that has a cabinet under the counter immediately starts to look like less of something you would find in a farmhouse,” Dixon says. “If you’ve got a nice old dresser, stick that in the room and fill it with towels and toiletries. It helps that feeling of the bathroom looking like it was a small converted bedroom.”
“Repurposing an old first-aid kit as a medicine cabinet, using reclaimed wood for a vanity, vintage lights — it all helps create that style,” says interior designer Kress Jack.
In the bathroom here, interior designer Charlotte Cooney of Domestic Arts and her partner, Kevin Fischer of Alice Design, brought in their client’s vintage kitchen storage cabinet to complete the look. V-groove pine paneling on the walls gives it a “cozy, homey farmhouse” feel, Cooney says. “It makes it seem like walls that could be in a barn.”
To make the paneling look like it had been left outside and bleached in the sun, she covered it with a watered-down white paint and a flat polyurethane finish. Meanwhile, the homeowner had found a bunch of old radiators in the backyard and wanted to incorporate those into the interiors. Cooney had them all converted to hot-water radiant heat instead of steam. “They’re beautiful and feel like they belong in an old farmhouse,” she says.