Rustic Elegance in a California Farmhouse

Karen Snyder shows how to curate decor with natural finishes and elegant accents.

This living room space is filled with very minimal, neutral colored furniture that contrasts the all-white walls and is gathered in front of the window in the center of the room. It is embellished by a large hanging round light fixture.
Accenting with stacks of antique suitcases and books is one of Karen’s favorite decorating tips. “The suitcases are vintage from a local antique shop,” Karen says. “The old books as well. I could spend hours in old bookstores.”

Balancing the rustic charm of a farmhouse with a sophisticated twist can be a challenging task. With a flair for combining natural elements and everyday accessories in a fresh way, Karen Snyder of Sanctuary Home, successfully created an elegant farmhouse feel by building the house with her Montana ranch in mind. “We wanted something elegant,” Karen says. ¨Not too rustic, but with rustic features.” Twenty years later, their home still stands, full of rustic charm and farmhouse memories.

Framed music sheets by a grand piano
Framed music sheets subtly enhance the musical theme in this corner of the living room.

Authentic Touches

Nestled in the equestrian community of Hidden Hills, California, Karen’s home is filled with personal details. “All the wood paneling and ceiling beams are reclaimed wood from our Montana ranch,” Karen says. “It gives the house a more rustic and elegant feel.” The beams can be seen in the living room as well as the kitchen and dining room. The dark wood paneling trails up the staircase leading to the second floor, while serving as a beautiful backdrop for Karen’s black and white photographs of her Montana horses.

A Rustic and elegant breakfast nook.
A white dutch door leading from the kitchen and breakfast nook to the backyard is another one of
Karen’s favorite touches. “I love a good Dutch door,” Karen says. “There’s something so charming about it.”
Rustic elegant kitchen with marble
The dark hood above the stove adds a stunning contrast to the rest of the kitchen with its white honed marble countertops. “It’s a custom designed zinc,” Karen says. “The corbels are antique.”


Love Karen’s kitchen? Read more about how she uses copper to transition her decor to fall here.

Wooden beams create a rustic elegant look
The bedroom maintainsa farmhouse ambiencewith the painting of horses hanging above the dresser and the rough-hewn wood beams.
Rustic elegant bathroom
The wooden towel rack contrasts with the crisp white tub and marble sinks for an elegant yet rustic
A gilt mirror and tufted bench are elegant accents in this rustic bedroom
A large gilt mirror and plush tufted bench are elegant accents to the rustic bedroom. The spot is perfect for pulling on cowgirl boots before heading out to the stables.

Karen adds splashes of color in every room with her floral designs. “All the flowers throughout the house I designed,” she says. “I love flowers. One of my hobbies is floral design.” Her garden bursts with hydrangeas, roses, larkspur and delphiniums in an English country style. “My flower studio is a separate cottage that we built next to the house,” she says. “It’s where I do all of my floral designs.”

A rustic elegant floral studio
Karen designed her tiny cottage-style flower studio so she could have a place to create her arrangements.
Rustic elegant desk in a studio workspace
In her flower studio, Karen combines her vintage look-alikes with her authentic antique finds. “The farmhouse chair is an antique,” Karen says. “The wooden dressing screen is not.”

Some of her designs can be seen as centerpieces for her coffee table, dining table and kitchen nook. Whether inside a tin bucket or a vintage-looking vase, her fresh blooms give each room a pop of color as well as a personal touch.

A white bergere chair with a clock overhead and birdcage vignette nearby create an elegant rustic space
In one corner of her studio, Karen uses a unique find to accent a specific theme. “It’s a kind of decorative bird cage … since I love the cottage and garden so much, it’s all about bringing the outdoors in.”

Learn how Karen creates an easy and elegant fall front porch here.

Honoring the Past

Antiques add to the charm of Karen’s home, and her collections of antique silver trays and pitchers are on display in her dark wood cabinets. “I do like to collect antique silver,” Karen says. “Some of them are family silver, pieces that were passed down to me from different family members. I also got a few from antique stores.” A few genuine antiques fill Karen’s home, and the silver heirlooms are all authentic, as well as the vintage suitcases that are stacked atop the display cabinets.

Rustic Elegant diningroom
a rustic chandelier, framed equestrian drawings and an overflowing bouquet in a galvanized bucket add farmhouse romance to the formal dining room.

Affordable Elegance

Although Karen’s house is filled with what look to be antique vases, picture frames and lamps, these pieces are actually more accessible than they appear. “I shop at Target as much as anyone else,” Karen confesses. “I’m always looking for things that are a little old or are made to look old but are affordable.” On her website, Sanctuary Home, she includes links to all her latest finds so her readers can purchase them as well. For example, the lanterns hanging above her counter have an Old World romance, but they’re from a very familiar store. “The lanterns in my kitchen are from Pottery Barn,” Karen says. “I get people asking me about them all the time.”

Rustic elegant barn with two horses
Since Karen lives in an equestrian community, she has a barn and, naturally, a couple of horses, which the couple rides around the trails in the neighborhood.

Another example of Karen’s eye for the affordable-yet-artistic can be seen in her dining room set. “The dining table is from a place called Hooker Furniture,” she says. “But the design is sort of mix and match. The main chairs are bigger, and the side chairs are from a completely different set. It’s not entirely cohesive.” But it is just this mix-and-match quality of Karen’s decorating style that makes this space—and the rest of her home—unique and personal.

Create a magical and memorable outdoor table setting with Karen’s 4 tips.

A horse eating a floral arrangement
Karen’s horse enjoys nibbling on one of her beautiful (and tasty) floral arrangements.

A Victorian Farmhouse with Original Style

Kelly Wilkniss of My Soulful Home invites us over to tour her historic renovation.

Victorian porch decorated for fall
Have fun with color on the porch, Kelly says. Bring the inside to the outdoors. “It’s a fun place to be a little more whimsical.”

Fresh Perspective for a Victorian Farmhouse

Residents of snowy regions around the world have been California dreaming for a while now. “Home in Pasadena, home where grass is greener,” goes a 1920s song about the Los Angeles suburb. But even earlier still, back in the 19th century, Pasadena was renowned for its generous sunshine, lofty palms and perennial roses. And no one might know this better than designer, author, blogger and podcaster, Kelly Wilkniss, owner of her very own piece of Pasadena history.

Victorian Era Home in Pasadena
Bringing new life to the house, Kelly has also started growing a garden in the front yard. “I want the outside of the home to be an introduction to what awaits inside.”

This Old House

Kelly and her family reside in a Victorian house built in 1886, the fortunate result of a particularly harsh Midwest winter, she says, recounting excitedly everything she knows about her home. The house was one of the original dwellings built for the Indiana Colony, a group of Indiana residents who fled to the verdant, rolling hills of Pasadena. In this case, the grass was actually greener, or at least Pasadena has its beautiful roses.

Entryway chair in a victorian farmhouse, decorated for fall
Found in the entryway, this gorgeous chair is paired with an urn full of reeds to add height.
Victorian-era staircase with stained glass window
Kelly’s Victorian staircase also features a unique statue that lights up. “In the 19th century, this meant the house was fully paid off,” she reveals.

But it took a while for this Victorian to bloom. First it was moved from the corner near the Rose Bowl to its current location, a move Kelly confirms a prior owner had made. Later, another owner, the man Kelly purchased the house from, had left the property and back barn full of rubbish. “Oh, you wouldn’t believe what was out there—random things, Trader Joe’s receipts, about 27 phone books and several cars.” It took Kelly nearly a year and a half to install all the electrical updates and fully renovate the property.

A gray Victorian-style sofa with marigold yellow pillows.
Marigold yellow pillows are paired with the slate gray sofa, as Kelly embraces several hues in her autumn décor. “Most people aren’t drawn to just one thing. It’s all about finding the right balance.”
Two large panels of wallpaper add pattern and elegance to Kelly's Victorian farmhouse.
“I didn’t want to commit to wallpapering the whole room, so I slipped some toile wallpaper into these frames.” The tall frames help guide the eye up the corner of the room.

Despite these challenges, though, Kelly knew the house was special. “There was just something about the house,” Kelly says. “It’s not like I wanted a Victorian. I just came across it and thought the porch was gorgeous.”

Earthy, fall tones and old fashioned patterns like gingham add a comfortable quality to this Victorian farmhouse
Kelly unearthed these chairs from the property’s barn and had them cleaned up and reupholstered. A garland and papier-mâché cherub adorn the mirror.

Autumn Flowers

The prior owner had painted the inside of the home in garish dark greens and oranges. “Instead, I really wanted a new palette that was neutral.” That way, Kelly says, she could add “pop color” to enliven the house. “It’s great to bring in natural elements, and nothing does more for a room than bringing in fresh flowers.” A favorite of her “nods to the season,” sunflowers, Kelly says, with their happy golden hues, are a great fall flower. “When I decorate for the fall, I like to be subtle and not go overboard with too much color.”

An antique oak dining set adds rustic appeal to this Victorian Farmhouse.
The formal dining room is fashioned with an antique oak dining set to contrast against the white surroundings.
The small nook with large windows brings plenty of natural light into this Victorian farmhouse
On the opposite side of the dining room sits a settee topped with comfy yellow pillows. The vintage mirrors on the wall are actually a collection of vanity trays.

“I’m not afraid to bring the inside to the outside either,” Kelly explains. She has several pieces of indoor furniture she uses on her porch. “Adding a rug anchored the furniture, and adding draperies delineated the space and gave some privacy,” she says. “Then I added some tall plants to bring height and combine the indoors with the outdoors.”

Brass fixtures and accessories help this kitchen stay true to it's Victorian farmhouse roots.
Staying true to the house’s history, Kelly used brass faucets. “Respecting the age of the house was important throughout the entire process.”
Antique Victorian farmhouse kitchen stove.
The stove is original to the home, but needed to be fixed and thoroughly cleaned before it was safe to use. Above the stove sit odds and ends Kelly has collected over the years, such as an old coffee tin and a set of vintage Sears cookbooks.

A Unique Juxtaposition

Kelly calls her style “farmhouse glam.” “What makes any décor interesting is when you have different looks combined in an interesting way.” Before Kelly’s keen eye for décor reinvigorated the Victorian, the house had been “very dark and full of doilies—Victorian to the extreme,” Kelly laughs. “I certainly didn’t want to live in a museum.”

The original bathtub with a few modern updates makes this Victorian farmhouse bathroom a relaxing space.
The bathtub is original to the house, but Kelly updated the space, hanging a trio of light pendants she made from sconces. Each is hung at a different height to create interest and variety.

All the same, Kelly insists she wanted to stay true to the home’s roots. Many of the house’s characteristic features come from the original: unique light fixtures, an above-ground tub and old wood painted in fresh new shades. “When Victorians used wood that wasn’t that great, such as in the staircase, they meant for it to be painted,” Kelly says. So she made sure to paint the staircase—but with a style all her own.

Kelly Wilkniss blogs at My Soulful Home, hosts a podcast and sells vintage and vintage-inspired home decor through her shop, Bespoke Decor.

4 Things to Look For When You Buy Farmhouse Style Furniture

4 Basic furniture elements every farm-inspired space needs.

Classic, utilitarian pieces like this white hutch are a perfect example of farmhouse style.
With simple clean lines, this classic hutch filled with linens and other vintage vessels is both useful and visually appealing, just what farmhouse style should be.

When you think of farmhouse style, what invariably comes to mind is furniture with simple lines, worn wood, nubby slipcovers and paint chipped to perfection. It’s been said that furniture “makes the room” and homes with farmhouse inspiration are no exception. While other furniture styles can be modified to work in a farmhouse framework, nothing can beat a step-back hutch or a classic wing chair. Here are a few things to look for in furniture pieces when farmhouse style is your goal:

Farmhouse style is marked by simplicity and a balance of materials, like this slip-covered couch flanked by a well-worn stool and side table.
Farmhouse style is marked by simplicity and a balance of materials, like this slip-covered couch flanked by a well-worn stool and side table.

1. Utilitarian

True farmhouse style focuses on the utilitarian, so the pieces should be functional, humble and comfortable. Don’t let these words fool you, though. Form, beauty and style can coexist happily in sturdy, timeless pieces. Think of the staple farmhouse table with a planked top, turned legs and a warm, glowing patina on the wood. Simple, functional, but also a stunning centerpiece.

This former chicken coop, the epitome of farmhouse style, keeps kitchenware easily accessible while safely tucked way.
This former chicken coop keeps kitchenware easily accessible and safely tucked away.

2. Age

While new pieces can offer farmhouse flair, antiques do it without even trying. Even adding just one or two statement antique pieces, like a jelly cupboard painted the perfect shade of robin’s-egg blue or a large wood cabinet reclaimed from a hardware store, can instantly draw a modern space back to simpler times.

Assorted linens kept on open shelves will soften the hard lines of furniture to create a balanced farmhouse style room.
Assorted linens kept on open shelves will soften the hard lines of furniture pieces. The result is a balanced room or varying textures and colors.

3. Texture

Texture is a key component of farmhouse style, so it’s important to be mindful of how each piece in a room plays off the other. Soft linen slipcovers and a wood chest of drawers with a smooth marble top can balance out the rough and rustic look of old barn doors or a primitive wardrobe with chipping paint. A juxtaposition of textures keeps a space from looking too rustic or too fancy.

Antique farmhouse style pieces like this one will have dreamy imperfections that add texture and history to your space.
Imperfections, like the well-worn patina of this cabinet, are the scrapes and bruises that make make classic pieces unique. Aged pieces add dynamic texture, history and color.

4. Color

Neutrals are the current trend for farmhouse style, but don’t be afraid to add one or two furniture pieces that will bring a bold pop of color. Rich reds, sky blues, grassy greens and warm, honey-toned yellows are all perfect picks for adding punch to a neutral room.

The teal blue jars play off of the robin's egg blue cabinet for a colorful farmhouse style display.
The teal blue jars play off of the robin’s egg blue cabinet for a colorful farmhouse style display.


While the farmhouse trend remains popular, give your home a touch of farmhouse charm in your own personal style.

For Marian’s furniture tips and tutorials,visit


4 things to look for before you buy farmhouse style furniture

5 Tips to Add Farmhouse Style to Your Romantic Home

Victoria Van Vlear, editor of American Farmhouse Style, shares her 5 tips for integrating farmhouse style into your romantic home.

Farmhouse style is warm and welcoming, comfortable and cozy.

Farmhouse style is a hot décor trend, and for good reason. It’s warm and welcoming, comfortable and cozy, family friendly and laid back. And there’s no reason why your romantic home can’t gain some rustic vibes to freshen up your spaces and bring you a little closer to the country. Here are five elements that will add instant farmhouse appeal to your home.

Mudrooms are practical in areas that get a lot of snow in the winter (and mud in the spring).
Photography by Bret Gum
  1. Mudroom.

Mudrooms are practical in areas that get a lot of snow in the winter (and mud in the spring). These locations also tend to be in farm country, which makes a mudroom ideal for a farmhouse. The great part about a mudroom is that you don’t have to have a full room. You can create a mudroom space in an open foyer or in your entry hall. Janna of Yellow Prairie Interiors created a mudroom in her hallway with a simple built-in that contains a few coat hooks, a bench for putting on shoes and a closed cabinet for storage.


Many farmhouse lovers are embracing butcher block countertops in the kitchen.
Photography by John Gruen
  1. Butcher Block.

Many farmhouse lovers are embracing butcher block countertops in the kitchen. They’re affordable, DIY-friendly and convenient for chopping and other food preparation. And you don’t have to replace all your countertops in order to get the full farmhouse experience. Architect Rafe Churchill added butcher block to just the island, which is also the main food prep surface in this kitchen. This gives the homeowners a great base of operations, while still maintaining the high quality look of their other counters.

Farmhouse enthusiasts love to include rustic vintage items to their homes. Head out to the flea market and bring home whatever catches your fancy.
Photography by Jaki Hawthorne
  1. Flea Market Finds.

Farmhouse enthusiasts love to include rustic vintage items to their homes. Head out to the flea market and bring home whatever catches your fancy—whether it’s a fruit crate you can turn into a bookshelf, framed needlework you can hang on your wall or an old quilt you can throw across the back of your sofa. Flea market and antiques store items bring endless possibilities to your spaces, like they did for Katie of The Rustic Boxwood in her living room. You get bonus points if the item was made in America.

The first farmers in America were pioneers, taking their families out into the wilderness to head West and carve a place for themselves (think Little House on the Prairie).
Photography by Chuck Baker
  1. Simple Furniture.

The first pioneers in America were farmers, taking their families out into the wilderness to head West and carve a place for themselves (think Little House on the Prairie). Folks couldn’t afford fancy furniture, and most of it was whatever they could make with their own hands when they weren’t clearing the land or working the fields. As a result, farmhouse furniture has remained simple—chairs with ladder backs, rustic farmhouse tables and three-legged stools. Infuse your own home with this same simplicity to keep the farmhouse spirit alive.

Wood is a staple element in farmhouse style. It’s also a great DIY material—try making a coffee table out of an old pallet, or stain a wood sign to become wall art with an inspiring quote.
Photography by Jaki Hawthorne
  1. Wood Accents.

Wood is a staple element in farmhouse style. You can use it in myriad ways: on the wall in the form of shiplap or pegboard, in furniture with a farmhouse table, painted hutch or rustic bar cart, like this one by Katie. It’s also a great DIY material—try making a coffee table out of an old pallet, or stain a wood sign to become wall art with an inspiring quote.

American Farmhouse Style Fall 2018Love the rustic simplicity and homegrown comforts of the farmhouse style? You can find more inspiration for your farmhouse by subscribing to American Farmhouse Style. You can also follow on Facebook and Instagram.



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