Choosing a Farmhouse: Modern vs Traditional

by Ryan Ericson, Contributing Writer for Direct from the Designers™

Farmhouse house plans have been a popular option for both rural and suburban homeowners interested in the bright charm of rustic, provincial living. But with the influx of farmhouse design plans, how do you decide which is right for you? Are you drawn to historic, traditional elements? Curious about adding modern amenities while still evoking the slower-paced essence of Southern living? Here’s a primer on modern and traditional farmhouse design plans to help you sort out which is best suited to be your home.


House Plan 7393 has a central family room that looks out to the covered back patio, exemplifying traditional farmhouse design. This 1-story home has 2,459 square feet of living space—complete with four bedrooms and a bonus room. Those who long for country living will find it here, with a kitchen complete with an island and breakfast nook as well as formal dining.

Traditional Charm

Farmhouses have long been an architectural staple, dating back to American pioneers who built modest structures on their farmland—this style’s namesake. A major feature of traditional farmhouses, especially in the South, is the large, often wraparound porches in both the front and the back of the home. The porches provide an inviting façade as well as a congregating spot for folks to relax or entertain guests. As the years passed and the style remained popular, the original one-story designs have also been adapted into two-story plans for more suburban settings, while still retaining their historic features.

Another important gathering place in farmhouses is the dominant fireplace located in the living room, an essential element of classic farmhouse design. The fireplace serves as a central meeting spot since traditional farmhouses often have straightforward, rectangular floor plans. In terms of design, traditional farmhouses often use warm tone color palettes, natural woods, and include quaint additional touches like built-ins. The traditional farmhouse style has withstood the test of time and includes rustic details that might best capture the easygoing, country spirit you’re looking for in a home.


House Plan 2020 has 1,954 square feet of space and a bold, modern interior with an open floor plan and split bedrooms. This home’s three large bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths sit on opposite sides and flow into the central family room and large gourmet kitchen, an informal space with beam details where everyone in the home can gather.

Modernizing the Classic

Modern farmhouses capture the best of both worlds—traditional architectural features with the addition of modern touches. Like traditional farmhouses, modern designs contain country-style essentials like welcoming, covered porches, while also adding streamlined, contemporary details. The center of the home remains the living room and kitchen but the layouts often incorporate an open concept design—a style that has since become popular long after the origins of the historic farmhouse.

A hallmark of the modern farmhouse is brightness—whether that be the larger windows, crisp white color palette, or architectural features using smooth, clean lines. But modern farmhouses remain rooted in the core components that make farmhouses distinct, often using a one-story floor plan, rustic exterior details, and historic touches like built-ins and natural woods. For those enchanted by the tried-and-true country essence of a traditional farmhouse, but long for more contemporary features and amenities, a modern farmhouse design might best strike that balance.

Weighing the Old and the New

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to sort out which farmhouse style is right for you, but it’s best to focus in on the design elements that feel best suited to your everyday life.

Perhaps you’ve seen contemporary layouts and thought they felt mechanical or cold, but traditional layouts felt formal or stuffy? A modern farmhouse style might be the perfect middle ground, giving you clean lines and in-demand amenities while also providing the cozy central gathering space and historic wraparound porches that residents of farmhouses have lived in and loved for centuries.

Interior of DFD-2020

This open-concept kitchen and dining area in House Plan 2020 highlights the way new meets old in modern farmhouses—it incorporates crisp, contemporary lines and vaulted ceilings along with the exposed, natural wood beams that evoke rustic homesteads past.

On the other hand, perhaps you think those bright additions to the farmhouse, like a vaulted ceiling, detract from what makes a farmhouse a farmhouse—rectangular layouts, natural wood, stone and brick features, built-ins with historic charm. Traditional farmhouse designs have withstood the test of time and capture the spirit of a country setting and a slower pace of life, which might be precisely what you’re looking for in a home.

Interior of DFD-7393

With windows overlooking the back patio, a traditional fireplace structure with natural stone elements, and flat ceilings, the living room in House Plan 7393 exemplifies why traditional farmhouses remain a popular choice.

While these are the general differences between traditional and modern farmhouses, Direct from the Designers has many design plans featuring the specific elements of farmhouse living you most value. Check our collections of farmhouse plans, or head directly to the modern farmhouse collection if those design hallmarks feel more your style. There’s also our collection of Southern farmhouse plans that combine both farmhouse elements and Southern architecture and design. Our expert home plan advisors are here to answer your questions and help you turn whichever farmhouse style is right for you into not just a house, but a home.

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