Modern farmhouse wall decor - top designers on little touches that add a lot of rustic charm

Modern farmhouse wall decor ranges from landscape photography and industrial antiques to bold wallpaper and wall-to-wall color. Experts explain how a little goes a long way

white-panelled cabin
(Image credit: Tessa Neustadt. Design: Leanne Ford)

When it comes to choosing modern farmhouse wall decor, there’s a fine line between idiosyncratic and out of place. That said, playing it safe can lead to a somewhat lackluster space. If you choose art that’s too bold or contemporary, your pieces might undermine the aesthetic you’re trying to achieve; too obvious or traditional, and your interior could end up feeling clichéd.

As with any design or art purchase, we always advocate opting for pieces that really speak to you if you're trying to create an interior that's unique and personal.  Mixing it up in terms of style, period and provenance applies as much to art and wall decor as it does to furniture, lighting and textiles. 

New York interior designer James Huniford – whose own weekend home is a carefully restored farmhouse in The Hamptons – concurs. ‘It is important that my home is comfortable for me, my family, and my friends… but it’s also a laboratory, a place to experiment with the way fabrics and objects with an artisanal character feel alongside more refined ones. It’s about taking elements from different periods and not letting their history affect how you use them, but instead finding a shared harmony.’

But if you’re specially searching for something that will sit harmoniously within an existing scheme, it can help to have a little guidance. Modern farmhouse style is usually achieved with a restrained juxtaposition of old with new. So where to start when choosing wall decor? 

Perhaps the most straightforward route to take is adding landscape art or photography, which provides a direct link to the great outdoors. Another option is to go for contemporary art in colors drawn from nature’s palette. Or, follow James Huniford’s lead and embrace all manner of vintage pieces, including the agricultural and industrial, to add interest to your walls – from antique maps to weathered oars and old wooden grain sifters. 

8 MODERN FARMHOUSE WALL DECOR IDEAS

1. MAKE A WALL FEATURE FROM AGRICULTURAL ANTIQUES

grain sieves on wall

(Image credit: Robyn Lea)

When designing the guest bedroom of this airy Hamptons home, James Huniford hung an assortment of 19-century wooden grain sieves the wall, creating a striking feature from these humble, locally sourced vintage finds. This approach also works well, of course, for modern farmhouse living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms...any space you care to tackle.

 ‘I love this minimalistic installation, which uses objects as art. Because the house is located near a large farm, I wanted to bring in some agricultural elements,’ says James. Complementing the arrangement of sieves is an early American drop-leaf table and more industrial pieces, including a metal grain scoop and gear chain.

2. GET CREATIVE WITH PICTURE PLACEMENT

Glenn Ban living room

(Image credit: Marta Perez)

When interior designer Glenn Ban redesigned this cozy porch space in his Hamptons cottage, he chose a simple seascape as a nod to the home’s coastal location. Short on wall space, he hung the picture across two windows, above the Donald Judd-inspired daybed that fills one side of the white-painted porch. 

‘The room has windows on three walls, which allows for beautiful ocean breezes,’ says Glenn. ‘The art above the daybed looks beautiful, and it also reminds me that all spaces can feel layered, even if they are quite utilitarian in their purpose.’ 

3. CHANNEL COTTAGE STYLE WITH PAINT IN PASTEL SHADES

pale pink bedroom

(Image credit: Turner Pocock)

If you’re short on space and keen on color, then a cocooning paint scheme could be an ideal way to add interest to your walls, rather than risk crowding a room with too much decoration. 

This Berkshire estate cottage was renovated by London-based interior design firm Turner Pocock, who painted the walls and ceiling of one of the modern bedrooms in a soft and soothing pink. 

‘We wanted everything about this cottage to be comfortable and easy,’ say designers Bunny and Emma. ‘The pink paint we used in the bedroom is an archive Farrow & Ball color called Potted Shrimp. We particularly love how the chalky finish adds to the sense of calm.’

4. CREATE – OR COMMISSION – A MODERN FARMHOUSE WALL MURAL 

bedroom wall mural

(Image credit: Stephen Kent Johnson)

‘We wanted the interior to be unique and crafted but not tricky or clichéd in any way…. the location and landscape is the star here,’ says Steven Johanknecht of Los Angeles studio Commune Design, who renovated this 100-year-old Californian cabin in the hills of Santa Anita. 

The designers looked to a variety of different influences for the redesign, including historic American cabins, European chalets and Shaker-style interiors. 'The walls of the bunkroom feature a hand-stenciled motif by decorative artist Nic Valle, who was inspired by Navajo rug pattern,’ Steven says of the mural, which complements the painted timber bed frame with its olive-green hue. 

5. ADD CHARACTER WITH ARCHITECTURAL SALVAGE

white painted bedroom

(Image credit: Tessa Neustadt)

‘This cabin looks older now than when I got my hands on it,’ says interior designer Leanne Ford of the 1900s timber home she restored in Los Angeles. ‘The area where this bedroom is was once outside, but we extended these little rooms to make it part of the interior,’ adds the designer, who retained an indoor-outdoor feel with stone flooring and a rustic aesthetic. 

‘I found these gorgeous old glazed doors and hung them on barn slide behind the bed, then painted them to help them blend in,’ she continues. ‘I love white paint in all shades, but bright white would have been too modern in here, so I used a really warm, antique shade of white to match the cabin.’

6. TRY PLAID WALLPAPER FOR A HERITAGE AESTHETIC 

plaid wallpaper

(Image credit: Colossus Mfg.)

‘When we first set eyes on this small guest bedroom, the existing bed really overtook the space,’ say Christina Valencia and Kele Dobrinski of Colossus Mfg. studio, who overhauled this Lake Tahoe home. 

‘We knew we wanted to add something during the remodel that could draw your eye upwards and fill the space with visual interest. This heritage plaid wallpaper had the camping-meets-modern balance that we were after.' 

The design duo loved the palette so much that they also layered the bed with blue-toned bedding. ‘To provide subtle contrast, we added two butterscotch-colored reading lights above the bed.'

7. BUILD A WALL OF BEAUTIFULLY ORGANIZED STORAGE

home office storage

(Image credit: Beatrice Pediconi)

In her backyard office, which sits on the site of an old horse barn, Hudson Valley architect Annie Mennes designed a wall of streamlined storage that’s as stylish as it is functional. 

Annie, the founder of Garrison Foundry Architecture, referenced East Coast farmhouses and Scandinavian interiors with the design. ‘The office is simple and utilitarian, with a modern-rustic vibe,’ says the architect, who sourced the custom floating shelves from a mail-order company and painted them in Benjamin Moore’s ‘Cloud White’ to match the walls. 

‘The idea was to hide everything in the white storage wall,’ Annie explains. Color-coordinated box files and a painted pegboard complete the project. 

8. REFERENCE NATURE WITH ABSTRACT LANDSCAPES

kitchen wall art

(Image credit: deVOL Kitchens)

The owners of this this repurposed cattle shed in Wighton, Norfolk, turned to British bespoke kitchen company deVol to help with the redesign of their once-ramshackle barn. 'Anyone who has been to North Norfolk will know what a special place it is: wild and beautiful, with amazing beaches,’ says Helen Parker, deVOL's creative director. 

‘Our Shaker kitchen is on a big scale here, yet it still seems to feel comfortable and homely,’ she adds - the ideal vibe for a modern farmhouse kitchen. ‘And we absolutely love the original artworks that have been propped up around the room; these huge landscapes really add to the feeling of being in the wilds near the sea.’

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.