Farmhouse Fantasy

Today’s farmhouse style mixes modern and rustic for a spare, spacious, and overtly utilitarian feel.


Photo by Ramona d’Viola, Ilumus Photography

Perhaps you remember standing at your grandmother’s knee as she washed everything from her bloomers to the baby in a deep ceramic basin. Back then, it was just the kitchen sink; now, it’s known as a farmhouse sink. This proverbial “everything appliance” set the tone for a functional home and was always ready for the dirty work.

For those considering a kitchen remodel, especially in the Bay Area’s plethora of period-specific homes, farmhouse style is the perfect fit for today’s reuse, re-purpose, eco-conscious ethos. A sublime pairing of modern and rustic, farmhouse style gives you an enviable range of architectural styles, materials, and textures.

Starting with the kitchen sink, the classic farmhouse-style sink is customarily a deep, ceramic basin with a curved apron, usually inset within the countertop. Modern interpretations range from industrial-style poured concrete, stamped copper, and hyper-modern stainless-steel versions, paired with reclaimed, period-specific hardware, or high-tech, multifunctional faucets.

Farmhouse style gets its charm from an eclectic blend of vintage materials married to purpose. That is, the rules aren’t hard and fast, but farmhouse style isn’t a gaggle of ducks draped in gingham; rather, it’s spare, spacious, and overtly utilitarian: think poured concrete countertops ensconced in bent iron or welded wire shelving; bar stools crafted from antiquated farm equipment; counters and islands illuminated by industrial-grade light fixtures.

For DIYers, a treasure trove of eclectic and period-perfect pieces can be found by those who frequent Berkeley’s Ohmega Salvage or its grittier neighbor Urban Ore. Repurposed materials set the tone for a functional farmhouse-inspired kitchen.

If your tastes run to the genteel, farmhouse style has a citified cousin with a more nuanced approach. Defined by its finished look, the city slicker farmhouse kitchen might start with a variety of cabinet styles — flat faced, beveled, glass front, or none at all. Simple planks of finished wood mated to a subway-tile back splash marry modern to rustic for a timeless look.

For small kitchens, forego visually and physically confining overhead cabinets and replace with simple shelving with nominal hardware to showcase vintage American ceramics or day-to-day dishes. It’s these unlikely groupings of materials, eras, and design epochs that yield the most delightfully “un-curated” results.

Highly sought for its texture and subtle patina, wood salvaged from old houses and barns is transformed into functional works of art. A trademark of the farmhouse style, reclaimed-wood barn doors disguise a pantry or act as a portal. Further unify your room with distressed, wide-plank flooring or islands faced with reclaimed wood to add earthiness that improves with time.

Now down to the business of cooking. If your budget and your taste allow, go for modern-day reproductions of period stoves. Updated and efficient, many have the look and feel of early 20th-century ranges, with the heart and brains of a modern day appliance. See models from Heartland, or über-high-end French manufacturer Aga for the truly traditional.

If you’re stickler for authenticity, Berkeley’s Reliance Appliance carries impeccably restored ranges from renowned American manufacturers Wedgewood and Merritt O’Keefe. Beautifully designed, these ranges come in a variety of colors, from bold to basic. Approaching “works of art” status with their chromed cooktops and dropdown lids, these ranges covers all the cooking chores — from a griddle in the middle to second and third ovens, and warming drawers topped off with matching salt and pepper shakers.

Even if you don’t have to feed a horde of hungry farmhands every day, the farmhouse kitchen is warm, welcoming, and truly the heart of the home. Dinnerbell optional.


Reliance Appliance: 830 Gilman St., Berkeley, 510-525-5921,

Ohmega Salvage: 2400, 2403 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-204-0767,

Cherin’s Appliance Inc.: 727 Valencia St., San Francisco, 415-864-2111,