Farmhouse-Style Bathrooms With Modern Comforts

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By Mitchell Parker

The American "farmhouse bathroom" is a bit of an oxymoron. Most original farmhouses were built at a time when the only bathroom was an outhouse. And when farmhouse owners did eventually bring plumbing inside, they didn't actually build a bathroom; they took over a spare bedroom or other room and put a toilet, sink and stand alone tub in the space. This focus on practicality and function continues to drive the style's popularity today.

Here are eight elements of a modern-day bath with farmhouse style.


Farmhouse Bathroom by Chatham Architects & Building Designers - JAMES DIXON ARCHITECT PC

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 modern farmhouse 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 like 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.



5. Wood. Reclaimed or distressed wood completes the farmhouse look and, like a claw-foot tub, is practically a prerequisite for the style. It even works for floors, says Suzanne Stern of Our Town Plans, despite the fact that many of her clients initially express concern about water damage. "You're not swimming in there," she says. "Wood is actually a lot tougher than it gets credit for."

The floors here were painted with latex white paint cut in half with water. "The raw wood just soaks it up, and you can still see the wood grain, and the little bit of pigment dampens the yellow of the wood," she says. "It gives it that distressed look."




7. Vintage lighting. Fixtures made from repurposed pieces or old gas versions that have been electrified, or anything that looks like it might have come from a barn is key to lighting a farmhouse bathroom. "In a small space, everything you put in is important," Stern says. "For fixtures I either don't want to see it at all or want it to be something that's pleasing. The lights can be like little jewels. That's very important."


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