In July, Inman gazes at the glitter and glam of the luxury real estate market. Snapshots of the country’s top luxury markets, advice from leading agents, features on what affluent homeowners want now and a breakdown of the top sales of 2023 (so far) are all in the cards leading up to Inman Luxury Connect, Aug. 7-8 at the Aria in Las Vegas. Make plans to join us now.
Since McMansions met their demise a little more than a decade ago, the void for America’s “it home” has been left vacant.
Tidy brightly-colored bungalows and Craftsman-style homes made a valiant attempt to reach total ubiquity, as did ultra-modern homes with sharp lines, cool-toned color palettes, and bright lighting. Homebuyers also had brief love affairs with tiny homes and re-fabbing shipping containers — both of which have limitations that make a long-term commitment difficult.
However, a proper McMansion replacement has finally entered the ring: the modern farmhouse.
“This post-agrarian look is the defining style of the current era — dominating renovations, new construction and subdivisions in communities with no connection to farming, with interiors that have open concept floor plans, wide plank wood floors, plenty of shiplap, and kitchens with apron sinks and floating shelves made of reclaimed wood,” a lengthy New York Times feature published on Friday read. “Even multifamily homes are getting the modern farmhouse treatment, falling into the barndominium category, as they embrace vertical siding, gables and tin roofs, giving a folksy nod to apartment complexes.”
It added, “Love it or hate it, the modern farmhouse is the millennial answer to the baby boomer McMansion.”
The article said the meteoric rise of this style can be accredited to its simplicity. Warm neutrals never clash, board and batten are sturdy and timeless, and any home — a single-story Craftsman, a split-level ranch, and even a recently-built modern townhome — can easily be transformed into a farmhouse masterpiece.
“When it comes down to it, those are very classic materials,” HGTV expert said Leanne Ford told NYT. “The porch, the board and batten, the swing, those are all beautiful things that have stood the test of time and are still stunning. Those are going to live a long and happy life and still be beautiful in 5 or 10 or 20 years.”
The article featured several luxury homeowners across New York, New Jersey and Florida who spent six figures to turn their colonial revivals, split-style ranches and midcentury modern homes into modern farmhouses. While two couples simply enjoyed the aesthetics, West Orange-based couple Ari Katz and Shari Sperling said their farmhouse obsession stemmed from a need to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, even though their lives didn’t allow them to.
“If I wasn’t Jewish, I would probably be living in Montana,” said Katz, who said living within walking distance of a synagogue is a requirement. “So I’m trying to bring Montana here, I’m trying to do our part to bring the West here. That was really our whole goal with this house.”
Katz ordered Canadian Western red cedar for the home’s four exterior columns, which he said “literally smelled like a national park.”
McMansion Hell blog creator Kate Wagner said Katz and Sperling’s story perfectly encapsulates the cultural catalyst behind the rise of the farmhouse — a yearning for (deceptively) simpler times.
“There is an American fetishism for folksiness and rural life, and there is a longing for rural life that comes into the modern farmhouse,” she said. “It is alienating living in an exurb when the only thing you encounter is a huge strip mall. You have to make up for this barren, alienating landscape by devising some kind of homeliness in your house.”
Although most homeowners are in love with the modern farmhouse, there are a growing number of people fighting back with maximalist and colorful decor and a battle cry to return to individuality.
“Everything was devoid of color,” “The People Against Modern Farmhouse” Facebook group creator Kathryn Grabowski-Khairullah said. “Everybody had to have white shaker cabinets, everybody had to have white subway tile and only white subway tile, everybody had to have a giant hood over their stove.”
Grabowski-Khairullah has chosen a “kitschy” aesthetic for her Detroit-area home, which she called a “Golden Girls” revivalism. “It’s just so kitschy that it’s ridiculous,” she said. “Everything is seashells and bows and pink.”
Email Marian McPherson