Legendary designer Jenni Kayne reveals the decor secrets of modern farmhouse design

The Californian designer shares her expert tips to recreate her signature blend of warm and minimal modern farmhouse style

Jenni Kayne modern ranch living room
(Image credit: Angi Welsch))

Surrounded by rolling hills and vineyards, just north of Santa Barbara, Jenni Kayne's idyllic Californian ranch is the epitome of relaxed and minimal modern farmhouse style. It's a project that's been years in the making: when Jenni and her team first viewed the property, the building was dilapidated and much in need of modernization. However, they could see the potential of the space, which featured pitched ceilings, a classic ranch-style layout and incredible views of the Santa Ynez valley. 

Fortunately, as the creative brains behind her eponymous lifestyle brand, the fashion, interiors and lifestyle maven was well placed to breathe new life into this neglected farmhouse. Before construction had even begun, Jenni had distilled her vision for a modern take on ranch living that reflected her signature – and much-coveted – aesthetic.

'Elevated yet casual and comfortable,' is how Jenni describes her style, which is perfectly in sync with Californian living. 'It’s minimalism with a touch of coastal flair, and it's reflected in everything we design,' she says. 'Born and raised here, California has always influenced my work, especially as my business began to expand into home and interior design. The Californian approach feels similar regardless of the project, from a modern farmhouse to a ranch home, it’s about an effortlessness that always caters to everyday living.'

Jenni's main aim for the ranch interior was to create a home that was restful and inviting. To do this, she opted for a palette of natural materials and neutral textiles, which has been brought to life with layers of texture. A mix of vintage and modern furniture pieces sits against this serene backdrop, creating a space that feels fresh and contemporary, with subtle rustic touches that help root the remodeled structure in its rural location. We spoke to Jenni about how she realized her vision for the project, and asked her to share some expert tips to emulate her distinctive brand of modern farmhouse design.

Jenni Kayne

Jenni Kayne is a designer and founder of the lifestyle brand Jenni Kayne, based in California. She is known for her modern take on rustic style, offering a sun-filled and relaxed aesthetic. She has her own interior design studio which embodies the modern farmhouse approach to decor. Her business owns 16 retail stores and employs 150 staff but is set to grow further with plans to open five new outlets by the end of 2022. Three of the current stores – in Soho, New York City and Brentwood and Montecito in California are dedicated to homewares. Another new homeware store is planned for Westport CT.


Jenni Kayne ranch breakfast nook

(Image credit: Angi Welsch)

The Californian take on this rustic aesthetic is all about easy living. Therefore, your day-to-day activities and how you like to spend time at home should inform your interior. For example, the modern farmhouse kitchen incorporates an array of different spaces to socialize, entertain and relax, from a transitional seating area that serves as a family room, to this cozy linen-clad breakfast nook for casual, comfortable dining.

'First and foremost, I think a space should always represent the way you live,' says Jenni. 'You need to operate within a framework of everyday living and function, and then pick moments that feel special and luxurious. Function dictates everything in design.'


Jenni Kayne ranch living space

(Image credit: Angi Welsch)

Featuring panoramic views of the Santa Ynez Valley, the modern farmhouse living room at the ranch has been stripped back to highlight its most redeeming features, such as the pitched wood ceilings and original fireplace. Favoring a light and airy aesthetic that made the most of the outlook through the floor-to-ceiling apertures, Jenni opted for plastered walls and engineered wood floors in white oak. 

'I always gravitate towards different tones and textures that make a space feel warm and inviting,' she explains. 'First on my list is paint or plaster. Portola Paints’ offerings and colors are my go-to because they have something unique and exciting for any type of space. I also love grounding a room with pale flooring, whether timber or natural stone.'


Jenni Kayne outdoor dining

(Image credit: Angi Welsch)

'Nature is a source of inspiration for all of our home interior projects, the ranch included,' says Jenni, who overhauled the entire yard and extended the deck to create more room for hosting and dining - modern farmhouse exteriors are just as key as the inside. 'When designing the ranch, we looked to optimize the space for indoor-outdoor living, creating an open floorplan that is easily navigated, and making sure each room had its own unique view of the Santa Ynez mountains.'

Outside, a bar connects to the kitchen’s main window, while a generous dining table sits on a deck made from weathered teak, which is designed to develop patina over time. The landscaping has been kept deliberately simple and natural. Olive trees frame the deck and the eye is drawn out to the rugged, undulating hillside beyond the pool.


Jenni Kayne ranch bedroom

(Image credit: Angi Welsch)

'I think it’s important to select a minimal color and material palette and use that as your base for a pared-back home,' advises Jenni. 'Within this contained palette, opt for art and accessories that complement each other and speak the same stylistic language.'

The designer and her team chose to preserve the ranch's original layout, which saw all the farmhouse bedrooms positioned around a courtyard.  They added wide windows and doors to flood the spaces with natural light, and continued the pale interior palette for a tranquil feel. Richer colors, such as the ochre bedlinen, adhere to the warm neutral scheme for a cohesive, unfussy feel. 


Jenni Kayne ranch bathroom

(Image credit: Angi Welsch)

The ranch's luxurious modern farmhouse bathrooms pair glamorous free-standing tubs with more rugged elements, such as the durable stone-effect Italian porcelain tiles by Arto, which cover the floor in this elegant space. 

'I like to add just a few organic touches so that a space still feels clean. For example, weathered wood for beams and smaller accents – like stumps and stools – an antique sink fashioned from stone, plaster walls, or floors that feature knots and inherent character,' Jenni says. 'It's best to strike a balance and not go too far in one direction, so I think adding in rustic elements in small doses is key. '

Tessa Pearson is an interiors and architecture journalist, formerly Homes Director at ELLE Decoration and Editor of ELLE Decoration Country. When she's not covering design and decorative trends for Livingetc, Tessa contributes to publications such as The Observer and Table Magazine, and has recently written a book on forest architecture. Based in Sussex, Tessa has a keen interest in rural and coastal life, and spends as much time as possible by the sea.