Ask Maria: How Soon Will My Farmhouse Look Dated?

 

Because creating a classic and timeless house, using classic and timeless colours (especially in your hard finishes),  is such a huge conversation on this blog, I constantly receive questions similar to this one:

Interior design by | (I know you’re surprised)  Joanna Gaines

Maria, what do you think about this trend of mixing white with wood (sometimes reclaimed wood)? For example, a white surround with a wood stained mantle (above) or a white kitchen with wood stained open shelves (below).

I see it a lot in the modern farmhouse look (which we’re copying) and I love it, but wonder if it will look dated in a few years.

My Life From Home

Here was my response:

I think wood can warm up a white kitchen if it’s done right. And, EVERYTHING dates eventually. However, a good question to ask yourself to gauge how quickly something will date is this:

How much money will it take to insert a new colour or a new pattern (with paint, wallpaper or soft furnishings)? Can we paint the kitchen a new colour or does it forever have to be ‘gold’ or ‘green’ because you have gold and green slate tile on the floor (for example)?

Case in point. This is a lovely Tuscan kitchen (below) but with the glazed cabinets, gold and green tile floors, green countertops and backsplash, you’re basically stuck forever with this colour scheme until you start renovating.

For example, if this is your kitchen and you love the ‘white and fresh’ farmhouse look, you can’t switch out the countertops for white marble because they will in no way relate to the floor.

You can’t paint the walls white because there is zero white in this room.

If you wanted to paint the cabinets or walls indigo blue or kelly green, well again, you cannot.

This floor will boss this kitchen around until it’s taken out.

Solid cream cabinets and cream subway tile backsplash would be the best choice for this type of kitchen.

This is the reason why I think white kitchens in general, if done right (with wood floors, or tile floors similar to this) are the most timeless.

By the way, if you are choosing a white for your cabinets, walls, trim or millwork right now, make sure you download my White is Complicated eBook here.

Traditional Home

Whenever I bring up subway tile, because it’s often the most timeless option for a backsplash, there are always those who say they hate the look.

But here’s the thing, you don’t have to go with actual ‘subway tile’, it can be a completely different pattern. As long as it’s white, off-white, or cream. This way you’re not ‘stuck forever’ like you are with the earthy kitchen I just mentioned.

Related post: What’s Next After Subway Tile?

Kitchen Design Network

Even a trendy black and white encaustic floor (above) will give you more colour options later.

And the other thing you should know is that my advice is for the person who has no idea what to do. If they make decisions on their own, without a good designer, they will surely end up disappointed.

Better to keep it simple.

There are some gorgeous creatively designed kitchens in this world (See both photos below).

But, there are so many details and things you need to know about kitchen design, that if you DON’T know these things, you will simply insert all the latest trendy colours and finishes (that you’ve fallen in love with) into your kitchen or bath (and not WELL I might add) and end up with the kitchen or bathroom in Zillow that no one likes.

I bring up real estate sites, because that’s the best place to find kitchens and bathrooms designed badly.

2018 House Beautiful Kitchen of the Year by Martyn Lawrence Bullard

2017 Kitchen of the Year by Jon De La Cruz

Tough love, I know, but I want you to be happy with your efforts and investment.

If you are reading this and you’re not a kitchen designer, you will not end up with a kitchen that looks like the two in the above photos, no matter how much you love them and try to duplicate them.

It needs to be custom designed to coordinate with YOUR house and that takes years of experience to pull off.

Not to mention that as gorgeous as both of the above trendy kitchens are, they are still extremely PERSONAL. Best left in the high end home with lots of money to switch things out when the time comes.

I recently received an email from a reader who expressed that she was miraculously happy with the kitchen she was inheriting in her new house but lamented that the previous owners had chosen an olive green subway tile for all the surround tile in one bathroom and a pink beige hex floor in another bathroom.

Dream kitchen by Sarah Richardson |

Another objection to a white kitchen that I hear a lot is that it’s cold.

Well this kitchen (above) is a pale blue grey which could almost be interpreted as a very cool blue-white, however the gold accents and true white countertops including the styling, make it perfection.

By the way, there’s nothing boring about the subway tile in this kitchen, just saying.

If you take the earthy kitchen at the top of this post and suddenly install white marble countertops (as I mentioned at the beginning of this post), that’s when you might also conclude that “white is cold”.

However, what you’ve just done is installed the wrong hard finish.

This is not a warm or cool problem, it’s a yesterday and today problem.

The overall design features of a white kitchen will technically date it much faster than the colour.

For example, we are doing pantry walls now which is where the storage is located, because more kitchens are being designed with decorative upper shelves or no uppers at all (at least in the area around the sink or range, see above kitchen).

If you have a microwave sitting on a shelf. That is also dated. Now they’re built-in to the pantry wall or installed in the island.

So here’s the point of this post.

Choose hard finishes that don’t heavily dictate your colours FOREVER and your house will be more timeless because you or a new homeowner will have more options for inserting their personality in the end.

However, ultimately, the devil’s in the details.

Generally farmhouse trend kitchens are fresh and white which makes them pretty versatile, but the details like reclaimed wood and shiplap will let everyone know exactly when it was installed. So the answer is, yes it will look dated as soon as the next trend replaces it.

PS. Are you going to KBIS? I will be leading a panel called Colour is Relative:

Register here to attend!

Related posts:

Ask Maria: Help! I Don’t Want the Same Kitchen as Everyone Else!

White Farmhouse Exterior Transformation; Before & After

Here’s the Skinny on Whether you Should Shiplap Your House

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  1. We built our house several years ago. I was inspired by the farmhouse look (I checked and we were moved in before a certain charming couple came to TV and made the look super trendy). While we do not have a farm, we are in the country and surrounded by farm fields, so I hope it will at least continue to look authentic once the trend fades. We also did not go too far with the look, nothing kitchy. I think authenticity is the #1 way to avoid dated.
    I do worry about the farm sink and bin pulls though in the kitchen. Hard to replace these items. To center the pulls vertically visually, the holes were drilled lower than center, so if replacing them with almost any other pull, they will not be centered. Wish I realized this before they went in.

    • @Amy: Re the pull bin hardware. Excellent tip as ‘food for thought ‘n choice’. Thank you …. ☺. -Brenda-

  2. Oh, those 2 kitchens of the year….both are horrible! Would definitely put someone off buying the house.
    I installed an all white kitchen in 1987. People I worked with all said it sounded awful, too cold etc, but it was a very small room and was so beautiful. The accent colour was gray back then.

    • Yes, those 2 kitchens… I thought, Oh my… how awful. How could anyone… just goes to show how everyone differs. My dream kitchen that I chose everything for myself is a gently toned down white Corian counters with white cabinets and cherry floors. It is open, clean, beautiful and never gets dated or do I ever wish for anything else! Reading Maria’s blog helped me with my choices too! Plus, my mom has always been a big advocate of not getting trendy with the big stuff as it goes out of date and you are stuck with it.

    • Wholeheartedly agree. Especially that green one. It’s too busy and the backsplash would hurt my eyes and brain! Especially with those gold circles in the cabinet.

  3. Maria I agree with you totally! I have always loved a white kitchen and mine has stayed current for years. The only thing I wish that I had done was clad my appliances. I like the appliances hidden so you don’t have to keep buying what is current. Mine are still white.. The thing that I believe will go out of style is the open shelf look. Who that has a family likes to keep dishes out where they get dusty and after many washings are not so pretty. It looks nice I know but maybe not so practical IMHO!

    Good article as usual!

    • I agree about the open shelves! Sometimes I just want to hide everything away! Things get cluttered looking when they are all sitting out in the open.

      • Though I personally do not care for open shelving; I do feel they do have their place provided they are not overdone. In other words; like anything else ‘less is more’ IMHO.
        To conclude; I agree with Maria that the choice in hard finishes is very important in creating a timeless kitchen however shall also add; I do question the installation of humongous islands that everyone appears to require when a well designed kitchen most probably would suffice. As for pantry cupboards as well as lower base cabinet drawers; I feel they will continue to be a must. -Brenda-

  4. Another great post. I like Amy’s word “authentic.” As she describes her setting, her style makes sense for her & as she said she didn’t go overboard. I don’t like when a kitchen looks like someone is trying too hard, trying to incorporate every new trend. When we see pictures of your kitchen, Maria, it is so YOU! The sunny accent colors are perfect for you! It’s great to see what’s fresh and new, but I think whatever we choose, it has to make sense in our homes – and make sure we keep permanent features classic! PS – Open shelving looks great in magazines…….

  5. Great post! I’m already tired of the farmhouse look and hope it goes away soon. I guess I’m in the minority, but I don’t consider barn doors, distressed wood and shiplap as ‘classic’.

  6. It seems to me that the problem is not so much kitchens becoming dated as it is kitchens badly designed in the first place. Sometimes the bad design arises from bad choices made by the builder or owner, such as super trendy tile or clashing undertones or too many patterns, and sometimes it’s a design that was once current, like those horrid oak trimmed 80s cabinets, that no one will ever like again. There are vintage kitchens, unchanged in many decades, that are charming because the design is good. I could happily live with a good kitchen from the fifties or earlier. When my husband and I were househunting 30 years ago we went through a house from the 20s, I think, that was in well kept original condition. The kitchen was the most beautiful I had ever seen, and looking at it I thought it would be a crime to change anything—although I wasn’t quite sure how I would manage with no dishwasher and very narrow counters. We didn’t buy the house, the owners decided not to sell then, but I do wonder what eventually happened to that kitchen.

    With my kitchen remodel I tried to make decisions that would stand the test of time. The kitchen has one regular door from the hall and a wide opening into the dining room but is still a separate room that can be closed off with pocket doors. There are open shelves on either side of the sink, but there is also plenty of closed cabinetry to hide the homely things. There is glass in the high uppers for decorative storage, and in the upper part of a stand-alone cabinet for glassware and attractive storage items, but not so much that it’s difficult to keep tidy. There is open space around the stove and hood, but bars with S hooks on either side of and under the hood hold pots, pans, and frequently used cooking utensils. The floor is hardwood, protected from spills by two runner rugs. White shaker cabs, white subway tile, marble counters. I think it will age well.

  7. I spent a couple thousand or so on two credentialed, award-winning designers who either pushed the back side of the latest trend or over-the-edge modern design for my 1978 home…both were delightful with great assistants but neither could help me develop my vision. So the only ‘good designer’ I studied was you, Maria, for two years before a friend/contractor/decorator and I made a beautiful, timeless white kitchen. Happily, nothing is over the top, contrived or looks like I tried too hard. My soapstone counters and cream subway tile and cabinets look wonderful with my bossy Saltillo floors. Keeping open wood shelves to a minimum, using the bottom of a cherished antique hutch as the island base and putting wood in the recess of a former boxed ceiling light added just enough warmth. Avoided the farmhouse sink, hardware and other things that would support a farmhouse look, so if I want to remove the rustic touches later, cladding (or replacing) three shelves, painting the island base a fun color and painting the ceiling wood the same as the rest of the ceiling would be an inexpensive fix. That said, I’ve always preferred the look of older wood to new and perfect, so I’m not sure I’ll ever tire of my wood accents. Maria, thank you for teaching me how to make my kitchen such a pleasure to see and use every day….and to avoid some very costly (and professionally recommended) mistakes.

  8. I save home decor magazines for decades…just my best of’s… and they do take up space. The positive aspect is that when I look through them, I can see examples of timeless finishes and choices…those that I still love today. It helps with current decor decisions and especially what not to do. Plain, natural stained wood shelves and the other farmhouse elements are pretty boring now and I predict will not be among the timeless decor basics in future home decor archives.

  9. I think the Farmhouse trend will last about as long as the Tuscan trend did. I think we all fell hard for it in the beginning. It was new. It was fresh. It was a completely different look from all the dark & dirty colors of the previous trend.
    But I wonder if it would have taken off like it has if Chip & Jo didn’t come onto the scene with their show Fixer Upper.
    I personally got tired of it early on. About 5 years ago my husband & I had the opportunity to visit the old barn from his grandparent’s farm. He asked me if I wanted any barnwood from it. I said No Thanks! I don’t like my home looking like everyone else’s.

  10. Hi Maria,
    I appreciate your gorgeous designs and learn a great deal about color fromr you, too. Can you please tel me the color of grout used in your sister’s kitchen backsplash? The tile looks like small bisque colored terracotta squares. I am installing a similar picket floor in a historical Spanish house.

    Thank you,
    Paula F.

    • Hi Paula, Unfortunately I don’t have that information anymore as this was a few years ago but it was definitely a reddish brown because her cabinets had a ‘mocha’ glaze on them that gave them a pink beige undertone! Maria

  11. I always agree … agree … and AGREE some more with all you have to say 🙂

    And, yes, I agree that a microwave sitting on a shelf is dated. Yet I installed one last year – gasp! My rationale was that 1) I dont have an island 2) if I did – I already know from staying w/friends that it hurts my back to bend that low 3) I dont want a built in style because $$$$. Instead I wanted a simple shelf, so that if the microwave died – which it t seems to do every 2 years – I could just simply replace it that same day. And for a minimal amount of money. Even if I was widowed and poor. Easy Breezy. Here’s what I didnt anticipate …. when the microwave broke after LESS than 2 years – I did not run out to replace it. And now it’s been almost 9 months. And I do not miss the microwave. I don’t actually need it like I think I did. Now I’m trying to figure out how to convert the shelf to something else …. stupid shelf! ha!