Design the Perfect Small Farmhouse: Everything You Should Know

Exterior of a small farmhouse 

Picture this: You’re curled up on a soft couch with your sock-covered feet resting on a distressed wooden table. There’s a warm fire blazing in the fireplace. The skylight etched into your vaulted ceiling peers into a moonlit night. The scent of hot chocolate bubbling on the stove wafts in from your kitchen island into the open-plan living room. This sums up life in a small farmhouse: warm, cozy, and all things rustic.

After two years of being cooped up in apartments during the pandemic, people are flocking to the countryside — relocating or investing in second homes for weekend getaways. If you’re intrigued by the idea of owning a home in the country, let’s take a closer look at what it takes to build and live in a small farmhouse — and why this compact design may be just what you’re looking for!

Breaking Down a Farmhouse

Front view of a small farmhouse

What qualifies a house to be a “farmhouse,” where did the trend originate, and how can you start designing your own cozy dream farmhouse? We have all the answers.

Definition of a Farmhouse

In home design, a farmhouse is simply defined as a residential space on agricultural land. Farmhouses basically evolved out of pure necessity — those who worked on farms needed a place to live, and voilà, the farmhouse was born.

Origins and Evolution of Farmhouse Design and Architecture

Like ‘80s fashion and its scrunchies, farmhouse architecture is a cyclical trend that makes a resurgence every few years. Including now!

This kind of a home plan has solid roots. According to The Spruce, farmhouse architecture has its humble beginnings in the rural houses built by American pioneers throughout the 1700s and 1800s. It’s said the owners built these single-floor, rectangular dwellings themselves, as they couldn’t afford labor. 

Functionality influenced farmhouse architecture — they were built on agricultural land, using whatever material was available. The floor plans included wraparound porches, mud rooms, fireplaces, and a combination of formal and informal spaces (living room, dining room,master suite, etc.).

Over time, the building style evolved to include more floors and wings, and more materials (going from mud structures to brick, metal, and wood ones), as access to transport increased. But basic elements remained, which you see in the modern farmhouses of today.

What to Keep in Mind When Designing a Small Farmhouse

Side view of a small farmhouse

Do all farmhouses have to be white? Will my farmhouse have an open-concept kitchen so my house is always filled with the scent of warm cookies baking in the oven? Can I manage a tiny farmhouse by myself? 

If these questions are swirling around in your head like Sherlock’s mind map, here’s all you need to know to connect the dots of farmhouse design.

What Are the Signature Exterior Elements of a Small Farmhouse?

  • Gable roofs: Remember when you were a (not particularly artistic) kid, and drew a house with a triangle roof? That’s a gable roof — here, two sections whose upper horizontal edges meet, form its ridge. They’re cheaper and more weather-resistant. Since they also help increase the height of the home, they contribute to making a compact space appear a little larger.
  • Exterior siding: Siding is the covering on the house, consisting of overlapping shingles. Board and batten siding is popular in farmhouse design and barn-style homes — it has alternating wide boards and narrow wooden strips, called battens.
  • Wraparound porches: They helped homeowners create transient indoor-outdoors spaces, and often featured rocking chairs or swings for cozy seating. Covered front porches also function as mud rooms, being in the in-between space for residents to remove their muddy gear instead of sullying the house. This is one feature we’re sure harrowed moms would like even in modern apartments, amirite?
  • Barn and lantern lighting: Functional barn lights like gooseneck lamps and lantern-style lights are seen outside the front door and on wraparound porches of farmhouses.
  • Classic colors: Most farmhouses tend to be white or neutral hued — beige, cream, tan, and brown. These neutral colors help make the space look airier, larger, and more inviting, so they’re often used as base colors for the skeleton of the home. Farmhouses are all about simplicity; that’s what makes them warm, comforting, strong, and dependable. In terms of accent and decorative colors, you can have a little fun and opt for hues of warm oranges, yellows, and reds to add warmth and coziness.

What Are the Classic Interior Elements Of Farmhouse Style?

Farmhouse-style interiors are traditional without being stuffy, classic without being boring, and warm. Modern farmhouses, like those featured in Architectural Digest, incorporate classic elements with updates like sleek lines and minimalist decor.

  • Dutch doors: Stable-style doors were a trademark of traditional farmhouses and can be added to modern farmhouses for authenticity. They’re also great if you have annoying pets who are constantly pawing on doors to be let in, and out!
  • Open floor plan: To encourage family bonding, a farmhouse design can include a kitchen island opening out to a living room or dining area. If you own a small farmhouse, an open-concept kitchen also lets you make more effective use of a slightly smaller space, as it’s less obtrusive than a kitchen with doors and dividers.
  • Vaulted ceilings: Described as a self-supporting arch above walls and beneath a roof, a vaulted ceiling is a traditional, classic element of farmhouse style homes.
  • Use of natural materials: Organic materials keep the space feeling as though it's connected to the outdoors — think wood, stone, cane, wicker, and rattan.
  • Double-hung windows: Double-hung windows open from both the top and the bottom of the frame, which means better air flow and ventilation — necessary in farmhouses that historically stored smelly barn products. Not a bad inclusion in modern farmhouses, if you have kids and animals running around.
  • Vintage and antique decor: Furniture is often distressed, reclaimed, and vintage to create cozy interiors.

Who Is a Small Farmhouse Perfect For?

A compact, farmhouse-style home is ideal for those who are looking to relocate to the countryside or those who want a second, holiday home.

A small farmhouse is the most effective living space for single homeowners, small families, or empty-nesters. It’s compact, which means construction and maintenance costs will be budget-friendly, and it’s spacious enough for you to enjoy the benefits of a country home. Read: You could have a walk-in closet in the master suite, or even a home office!

It’s away from the hustle and bustle of city life, plus it’s more peaceful and even cheaper to live in the country.

Design Ideas to Bring Your Small Farmhouse Plans to Life

Bedroom of a farmhouse

Let us entice you into building your dream house by introducing you to a few popular farmhouse design styles and interior tips. All of these features can be tweaked and personalized so that they enhance small farmhouses in particular.

Farmhouse Styles

  • Scandinavian: Modern, minimalist, with a focus on sleek-straight lines, airy spaces, and natural elements — these are the words that best describe Scandinavian-style farmhouses. They follow the less-is-more approach, and are fuss-free without being cold.
  • Colonial: Typical farmhouses of yesteryear, these are all about an old-world charm, with Colonial grid windows and cabinet doors, brick fireplaces, primitive wood beams, and a neutral, natural color scheme.
  • French country: Combining the features of elegant French villas and the rustic elements of American barn-style farmhouses, this reflects the best of both worlds. Think extravagant chandeliers and embroidered tapestries against vaulted ceilings and interior siding.
  • Rustic: It’s all about au naturale and rough-hewn. This look can be achieved by making use of raw wood, rough edges, industrial materials like steel, and distressed and “lived-in” furniture.
  • Modern: This is a good blend of the traditional country look and minimal contemporary design. According to Eliza Blank, CEO of The Sill, “‘Modern farmhouse means mixing warmth into a clean, practical space to make it contemporary and comfortable to live in.’”

7 Interior Design Tips for a Small Farmhouse

Now that you have all the details on designing and building your small farmhouse, it’s time to move to the most fun part — the interiors. We believe interiors are truly what make a house a home, and here are the tips you can use to create a cozy, warm, barn-like environment for yourself.

  1. Start at the beginning: Focus on your entryway. White is a typical farmhouse color, so carve out a pristine entryway with white-exposed brick walls or white shiplap, slate floor, plants, and a distressed bench as a cozy nook. It’ll be like a modern mud room, where people can gather to remove their muddy boots and get an idea of what to expect inside!
  2. Opt for a kitchen island: For a true rustic feel, incorporate a distressed kitchen island made from repurposed wood! You can create an open-concept great room by combining a kitchen, dining, and living room.
  3. Create a neutral base: A standout feature of modern farmhouse plans is leaving the shell bright, white, and airy. Either stick to all-white rooms with wooden beams on ceilings or design wooden walls and floors (use shiplap!). Bring color in through your furniture and decor accents.
  4. Add greens everywhere: A farmhouse is all about embracing greenery. Add little plants everywhere, and add plenty of windows so it feels like the outdoors are part of your small space.
  5. Repurpose furniture or buy antiques: Turn an old bookshelf into a bar cabinet, old shelves into small accent tables, and remember, flea markets are your friend for finding well-worn, antique pieces.
  6. Opt for rustic decor: Farmhouses are about all things earthy, handmade, and DIY. Put up wicker baskets as wall art, fill up open shelves with vintage collectibles, or even create an accent wall by hanging up some hand-painted porcelain plates.
  7. Make sure to include a fireplace: This warm, cozy element is the burning-hot favorite of all small farmhouse owners!

How to Create Your Own Modern Farmhouse

Fireplace inside a bedroom

If the idea of living in the country in an airy home with natural light, wraparound porches, vaulted ceilings, and warm, cozy interiors sounds appealing to you, DEN can help you do the groundwork. We streamline each stage of the building process and offer budget-friendly packages to help design your custom home.

Our Complete packages come with architectural blueprints, detailed structural plans, a project brief, a buying guide for materials and fixtures, and even a cost breakdown spreadsheet to help realize your dream build. 

Choose a Starter package if you’re still evaluating your options. Once you’re ready to build, you can apply the amount spent on a Starter package toward a Complete package.

  • A-Frame Weekender for the minimalist: If you’re looking for something compact with unique flair, the 415-square-foot A-Frame Weekender — with its 14-foot ceilings, an entire wall of glass, and wooden interiors — is the perfect tiny country home for two.
  • Modern Alpine Cabin for the nature lover: Sitting at 448 sq. ft., the Modern Alpine Cabin features an entire wall of glass offering you endless nature views, a lofted bedroom, covered porch, and an option for a skylight balcony. It’s perfect for those who want to connect with the great outdoors!
  • Modern Cottage for those looking for an airy retreat: At 600 sq. ft., this home — inspired by summertime trips to coastal Maine — is airy, spacious, and full of natural light. With exposed beam features and an entire corner of glass opening out to wraparound decking, it’s the perfect example of a small farmhouse.
  • Modern Loft Barnhouse for the luxury seeker: At 880 sq. ft., this slightly larger, Scandinavian-style design is the perfect example of a barn house. It has all the barn-style trimmings, like a gabled roof, exterior siding, and a porch.

    A Small Farmhouse Is the Perfect Escape

    From the history and evolution of the modern farmhouse, to why a small farmhouse is the perfect escape and how to design its exteriors and interiors, we’ve done a lot of telling when it comes to farmhouses. 

    If you’re now dreaming about starlit nights spent on an open porch or curled up in front of the fireplace in a warm barn home, it’s time to take the next step.

    Are you ready to go from dreaming about your perfect small farmhouse to building it?

    DEN's design packages contain everything you need to get started on your small farmhouse journey.