Jessie Raymond, Around the Bend: ‘Farmhouse style’ at odds with rural life

In an effort to address my poor home-decorating skills, I recently joined a Facebook group called “Farmhouse Style.”
I don’t think it’s the right group for me.
I thought it would be a good fit. I already have the farmhouse; I just need the style. But as it turns out, the farmhouse part is optional. Judging from the pictures people post, it appears all you need is a shiplap wall and a giant rustic clock to hang on it. And whitewash. Lots of whitewash.
I thought the idea of farmhouse style was to embrace everything antique and vintage. But the look is actually achieved by buying new, pre-distressed stuff (or doing it yourself by beating it with a hammer and sanding off the paint).
I have to question whether “distressed” is the direction I want to go with my own decorating efforts. Everything we have already looks like crap.
I do think our house would be more welcoming if I learned how to add accent pieces. But no matter how many pictures I look at online, I just can’t figure out how to display random items the way these people do.
One woman, for instance, took a galvanized chicken feeder and made it work as a charming farmhouse table centerpiece. At my house, it looked like I was nursing a sick hen in the dining room (again).
Another woman arranged a collection of old bottles on her sideboard. When I tried it, my husband asked if I was heading to the redemption center.
Knowing my lack of skill, I tend to keep spaces empty. Much better, I think, to say, “Here lives a woman with no personality” than “Here lives a woman with hoarder tendencies.”
Then again, I have an aversion to clutter. While displaying collections of farmhouse-type items can look beautiful when done right, at my house, it just looks like I’m sorting stuff into giveaway piles.
Take that area some people have above the upper cabinets in their kitchens. Farmhouse Style members load it up with crockery, dried flowers, old cookbooks, and picnic baskets laid on their sides with white linens draped casually over the half-open lids (because who doesn’t store their picnic baskets that way?).
I tried decorating that space in our house years ago and discovered that it just looked like I had run out of cupboard space. Plus everything I put up there gathered a film of grease and dust I had no intention of regularly wiping off.
So I took it all down.
The Farmhouse Style members would collectively drop their Mason jars in horror if they knew I was breaking the “rules.”
But some of those rules make no sense to me.
Take the wooden sign thing, for example. It seems that any farmhouse wall display must include at least one appropriately banged-up wooden sign. So in nearly every entryway photo, you’ll see a sign that says “WELCOME.” In the kitchen, you’ll find signs that say “EAT” or “APPLES.”
These are fine. But in many — not just a few — of the pictures I’ve seen, there is a sign that literally says “FARMHOUSE.”
If you live in a farmhouse, the label is unnecessary. If you don’t, who are you trying to convince?
And some farmhouse design trends, while popular, strike me as silly. I mean, yes, you can turn an inverted wire egg basket into a lampshade for a hanging light. But what’s the point of a shade that doesn’t actually filter the blinding light from the bare bulb?
I do like — and envy — much of what I see in the Farmhouse Style group. At the same time, I actively oppose some of the tropes of farmhouse style. (For instance, I refuse to set out collections of chunky rustic white wooden candlesticks in varying heights and shapes.) Maybe I’m just bitter because I’m home-fashion impaired, but I think real style is more than simply copying what everyone else is doing.
For that reason, I find myself wanting to upend the blind conformity of the group’s decorating choices.
So for kicks this morning, I posted one of my own pictures: a chicken feeder in my dining room, complete with a recuperating hen eating out of it.
I’m just waiting for the message from the moderator: “I don’t think this is the right group for you.”
At least we’ll agree on something.

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