Transcending the Trend
Sustainable Design in the Modern Farmhouse
According to a recent survey from Homes.com, “modern farmhouse” was the most popular home style in 42 out of 50 U.S. states in 2020. Modern farmhouses swept the nation as they became popular on social media and television. The look was favored for being “simple, cozy, and not too busy,” and for being a nice family home. Trends are great for accent pillows, but we want our home’s interior design story to stand the test of time.
“The client was inspired by the modern farmhouse aesthetic, but they didn’t want to confine their house by that look because it is trendy right now.”
–Erika Blank, Interior Designer, The Picket Fence Interior Design
The Picket Fence Interior Design Studio achieves that timelessness by balancing mountain modern elements with transitional ones true to Sun Valley’s heritage. TPF is a full-service design firm that creates fresh and bright interiors that are sustainable both aesthetically and from a functional standpoint. They are experts in using technology that drives contemporary interior design, including LED lighting, sustainably sourced woods and furniture, natural fibers that do not off-gas, and durable, beautiful flooring.
Their design philosophy and talent is most evident in a recent project on a modern farmhouse in Hailey, Idaho. The goal was challenging: to bridge the gap between the look of the modern farmhouse and make it fit in its Sun Valley environment. While the house looks like something Joanna Gaines would love from the exterior, as soon as you step inside, it has The Picket Fence’s signature clean envelope with a more transitional feel. The result is bright and timeless. Above all, it’s livable.
Fresh & Bright: A Clean Envelope
Erika Blank is a LEED-certified interior designer who has been with The Picket Fence Interior Design since 2014. She is TPF’s West Coast Principal and oversees all of TPF’s projects, including this recent sustainable modern farmhouse. For this project, the clients, who are full-time residents in Sun Valley, wanted their home to be fresh and modern, but still livable with classic elements that would never go out of style. Their previous house had traditionally elegant finishes often found in Sun Valley homes, such as granite countertops and the same tile throughout, but they also explained that they never felt like that kind of house fit their personal taste.
“The client was inspired by the modern farmhouse aesthetic, but they didn’t want to confine their house by that look because it is trendy right now,” explains Erika. “They loved the idea of an open-concept floor plan with vaulted ceilings. They also desired a bold, high-contrast color palette that kept the envelope of the home neutral.”
Some of the ways TPF brought the homeowners’ vision to life included meshing existing furniture with new pieces in the living room and dining room, coordinating finishes throughout the open floor plan, and creating a lighting plan throughout the house. They designed communal spaces, porches, and outdoor living areas to capture the surrounding mountain views.
TPF’s design process involved selecting finishes with the homeowner early on to decide what colors the wood floors, walls, and countertops should be. Erika points out that because those pieces are so permanent in our homes, that initial direction laid the groundwork for an organic process of pulling other design elements together down the road.
Using Tech in Interior Design: Lighting & Materials
Innovation is an overused term of art, but it is entirely appropriate for TPF’s interior design services. They routinely bring smart home technology into interior spaces for maximum livability. Lighting systems, app-controlled motorized blinds and shades, heating and cooling, and built-in speakers with surround sound amplify the aesthetic experience and help set the mood. Performance fabrics and materials are introduced that are both durable and also look good. Part of TPF’s expertise is that they constantly study the newest products so they know the most interesting materials that can be used for a particular project. “The use of technology, whether in fabrics or electrical systems, has really helped us engage all of the senses, allowing us to create a mood specific to each client,” explains Erika.
In this house, TPF worked with Audio Innovations to enhance the lighting and audio systems. They installed smart lighting in the kitchen for better entertaining. Overhead lights dim, and island and cabinet lights turn on to create an instantly more comfortable mood with layers of eye-level lighting. Erika notes that technology has advanced so much in the last several years that the skinniest strips of light can be routered into a cabinet or the underside of a shelf to create a more inviting effect.
TPF used high-performance laminate material for all of the custom cabinetry in this home. They incorporated hand-made ceramic lighting pendants in the kitchen from Mud Australia, a company that makes dishes that they also carry in their retail shop. They brought in cork wallcovering in the powder room and hickory flooring throughout the home.
In the butler’s pantry, they used Marmoleum flooring, traditionally seen in elementary school cafeterias, because it is bio-based, highly durable, non-toxic, anti-microbial, and easy to maintain. The clients have two large dogs and needed something durable for a high-traffic space. Erika points out that Marmoleum has come so far in its aesthetic selections and there are so many fun colors now. It was an ideal solution to make this space durable and pet-friendly, and also have an unexpected element.
The dogs factored into TPF’s flooring choices in other ways too. “We needed to ensure the floor would hold up well to dog paws,” explains Erika. To do that, TPF selected a floor option with a wire-brushed texture. Everything in the home needed to be durable and easy to clean. “We selected furnishings with performance textiles to hold up to the family. We wanted them to have a great-looking, comfortable space that didn’t compromise on style because of their pets. That was how we defined sustainable design for them.”
Sustainable Interior Design
Sustainability for TPF also extends to being able to design within your budget. In this home, TPF selected new furniture from Verellen, a North Carolina-based manufacturer of heirloom-quality furniture with a modern look. “They have an eco-side to their business and their frames are made with sustainable wood,” explains Erika. “As designers, we are mindful of our environment. In situations where we can’t source locally, we try to use materials that have more natural elements and sustainable qualities.”
Another aspect of sustainability is how design choices will translate to potential resale value. An essential consideration for this particular house was that the clients might want to sell it down the road. TPF edited choices so that they could be adaptable to future tastes and trends while still delivering exactly what the clients wanted today. To accomplish that, TPF balanced high-end fixtures against a cabinet finish that looked like wood but happened to be laminate. They splurged on hardware and pulled back on other elements without compromising the overall aesthetic feel in the home.
One of the most striking examples of this approach is in the master bathroom, which looks to be fully marble. In reality, the tiles are porcelain, which was more cost-efficient. To achieve such a luxurious look, TPF made sure the tile setter laid everything out so the veins matched up, which made it feel like a solid slab of stone. Unlike marble, the tiles won’t age or patina. They don’t have to be resealed like marble either, so the low-maintenance aspect delivers additional value and durability.
“Stone technology has come so far that it really helped our budget to use porcelain instead of marble,” shares Erika. “If you have a specific style or look, we will explore if there’s a different way to achieve it with a more practical or cost-efficient solution. At the end of the day, the execution of the vision and its livability has to be spot-on.”
Moments for Livability
Moments are what bring TPF’s spaces to life. In this home, the master bedroom closet is designed around a layered gold leaf-plated lamp that casts a warm light through layers of its artichoke silhouette. TPF added an ottoman in the middle of the closet that looks beautiful and also offers a utilitarian experience of being a great place to put on your shoes. They also brought in overhead vanity lighting. “Our goal was to make a statement that there is something distinct about this room,” explains Erika. “It doesn’t just have to be a room with shelves to store your clothes; it can have special details.”
In the months since we have adjusted to COVID-19, interior design has changed. TPF’s clients need defined spaces for home offices where they can close a door and take Zoom calls. They also need spaces where their children can do virtual school all day and not be distracted.
In this house, the client knew they needed a home office before COVID-19 and knew they didn’t want to convert a bedroom to an office. TPF worked with the builder, Tanner Construction, to put in a wall and a pair of glass doors to enclose a space for an office or study. “We took what was essentially the formal dining room and transformed it into a private office,” notes Erika. “The home already had a breakfast room and a large island, so it worked for our program to utilize this space in another way.” This change also brought the opportunity to create a focal wall in the living room. An oversized smoky mirror on the wall and a mid-century console balance the scale and ground the space.
The project was under construction when COVID-19 shutdowns peaked, so TPF pivoted on a few design details accordingly. One such pivot was the addition of a home gym in the garage. “COVID-19 has changed how we work and live in our homes, which means it has also changed how we design for our new way of life,” explains Erika.
Erika and her team at TPF have not missed a beat in designing clean and comforting spaces that function for the increased amounts of time we are all spending at home. Up next, TPF is working on several projects in the White Clouds development. Having worked extensively in the Diamondback Townhomes, they love working with clients who have become friends, as well as with new clients, to create inspiring spaces that you can’t wait to come home to.
Ask the Expert: What is the perfect white paint color?
We love white paint, but there are so many options and undertones that picking the right color can be daunting. Each one has a different impact and evokes a specific feeling. Add in the fact that color behaves differently depending on what color you place next to it, and it comes as no surprise that one of our most asked questions is, “What is the best white paint color?” After years of trial and error, we have come up with five favorite whites from Benjamin Moore that will work for almost any project.
Chantilly Lace is one of the truest white tones. When you compare it to any other shade of white, you can really see the undertones in the other shade. For this reason, it is a great option when you want to have a crisp, fresh-feeling white with minimal undertones. It works well for modern homes and minimal aesthetics, as well as historic remodels when you want to highlight gorgeous wood trim and casing.
Even though this color has gray in its name, it is an incredible grayed-out cream that looks different as the light changes throughout the day. Depending on the angle of the sun and natural light, it can read so warm that it’s almost beige, while other times it is a much lighter, warm gray. This is a great color for every exposure – north, south, east, or west. It is so light that when you paint your walls and trim in Classic Gray, it will look white. We love to use this color in our mountain contemporary projects.
This tone is the perfect complement to more traditional spaces. Swiss Coffee is a warm, creamy white that works well with other soft hues. It has a slightly yellowish-gray undertone. If you have a dark room or a north-facing space with cool light, this is a great option because the warm tones in Swiss Coffee will help offset the gray light.
Simply White is a classic. Benjamin Moore called it out as their color of the year in 2016 – and it isn’t going anywhere. We love this tone because it is a true chameleon. Simply White is one of those colors that looks warm when paired with warm tones, and cool when paired with cool tones. Simply White is a gorgeous white for kitchen cabinets. Its fresh (but not stark white) appearance is the perfect choice for a welcoming and bright kitchen.
We love this color so much that we painted our office from head to toe in White Dove. It has creamy and gray undertones, and it works amazingly well in spaces flooded with natural light. Known for reflecting light beautifully, it still has a soft, calming effect without looking yellow, which makes it perfect for exteriors. Some white houses can look dirty in the snow, or too bright in the summer. We’ve found that White Dove is the perfect solution.
Erika Blank is a LEED-certified interior designer and the West Coast Principal of The Picket Fence Interior Design Studio. She believes that good design is all about being versatile and keeping an eye on the details – not just checking the boxes. Erika has been with The Picket Fence Interior Design since 2014 and uses her signature style and problem-solving skills to create fresh and livable spaces.