Silverdale’s Farmhouse Facelift
Farmhouse design has become a hot decorating trend. One in Silverdale posed a unique set of challenges.
By Sean Meyers June 19, 2023
Editor’s note: The homeowners asked that their last names not be used.
Kirsten and Rick weren’t looking to make a statement in 2018 when they decided to move to Silverdale, a Kitsap peninsula community that catnaps around the northern yaw of Dyes Inlet.
Their daughter had spotted a real estate ad with a blurry thumbnail photo of what seemed an impossible find: a two-acre plot on a small estuary that formerly hosted an oyster farm. It had a rural feel complete with fruit trees and blueberry bushes, yet sat well within the city limits.
“I thought, ‘It must be a mistake,’” Kirsten recalls. “It can’t be Silverdale. I was completely smitten with the location.”
There was a catch, however: a circa 1930s farmhouse that had seen much friskier days. In electing to revitalize the farmhouse, they were not alone. Agricultural ethos is hot again in a nation yearning for a return to simple ways. Google data show that “Modern Farmhouse” was one of the most-searched decorating styles online in 2022, especially among urban residents.
Farmhouse architecture began in Scandinavia and Germany, where landowners built simple structures to house workers.
They were often one-and-a-half to two stories with an asymmetrical silhouette, and constructed of wood and other non-complex local materials. They featured a large kitchen, a fireplace, and small bedrooms, with a flat front exterior peaking to a gable roof.
That format jumped the pond to America in the 1700s. By 1900, 90% of the United States population was rural, with many living in farmhouse-style homes with deep wrap-around porches, an inexpensive way to extend square footage. Outdoor “water closets” were another nifty penny saver.
Early farmhouse interior design was a study in economy and utilitarianism — each object must serve a function.
There are several contemporary interpretations of farmhouse style. Three of the most popular are classic (or rustic), modern, and coastal.
Classic farmhouse style has a certain cozy, gap-toothed affability. Chipped pitchers, cracked windows, rustic metal finishes, reclaimed wood, and other imperfections are embraced. Simplicity is the key. Modern style invites innovation and comfort. Neutral palette, Scandinavian influence, and clean-line design are common techniques. Coastal style brings the outside in with plants and other greenery, and by introducing stormy or slate blues, grays, and greens.
Kirsten and Rick selected SHED Architecture & Design of Seattle for the remodel.
“I looked and looked and looked online, probably about a year, and I kept coming back to SHED,” Kirsten says. “I thought the homes they built were simple and elegant.”
The farmhouse pridefully resisted efforts to design an aesthetically pleasing addition, so the decision was made to remodel it as a guesthouse for extended family, and then build a new age-in-place (single-story, wide halls) primary home for Kirsten and Rick.
“We don’t get too caught up with terminology,” says Prentis Hale, SHED principal and lead architect on the project. “We might mention ‘modern farmhouse’ at the beginning of the design process, and then never repeat it. We design for what the customer wants.”
The exterior featured durable clinker brick and the interior a central hearth surrounded by small rooms with poor views. The brick was salvageable, but the fireplace was not, as it prevented a modern open floor plan on both stories. The difficult extraction was expertly accomplished by Joe Gates Construction.
“Once the hearth was out, the design was easy,” Hale says. “On the second floor, we were able to switch from three cramped bedrooms and a bathroom to two en-suite bedrooms.”
Kirsten wanted a more traditional farm kitchen, which was accomplished in part with shiplap paneling, open cupboards filled with neutral crockery, and a talking-horse-accessible Dutch door. A custom range hood commissioned by SHED serves as a bright green bow on the kitchen design.
The script flips to midcentury modern in the living room, which includes an Eames reclining chair, an Isamu Noguchi coffee table, and Saarinen dining table and chairs.
“I love most things about modern farmhouse, but I don’t like modern farmhouse furniture,” Kirsten says. “It’s a relatively small space, and the Scandinavian furniture fit better, and felt peaceful, clean, and right.”
Farmers got a belly full of the outdoors in their daily toils, so farmhouses tend to have small windows and heavily cushioned, introverted interiors. SHED’s new design filled the home with light and unified it under one large gable roof.
One new dormer overlooks the oyster beds, while another showcases the orchard and garden. New windows and an expansive deck orient the eye to water views. Dark, wide interior molding was replaced with thin, light molding. On the exterior, wide white wood molding was replaced with thin black metallic trim that complements the iron railing and reoriented front door overhang.
“We weren’t looking for complexity. We were looking for simplicity,” Kirsten says. “The design brings the outdoors in. It’s incredibly serene.”