White is certainly a cornerstone “color” of the farmhouse style. (It’s technically not a color per se, but you get the idea.) Because rustic decor has a tendency to be a little rough around the edges, white is a light, airy element that helps bring it all together. With that said, many farmhouse decorators not only choose to keep walls (and sometimes flooring) white, they also enjoy incorporating a great deal of whitewashed wood into their interiors as well.
Now, if you were born any time before 1990, it’s likely that the word “whitewashed” brings to mind images of 80s hair metal bands like Warrant. This word may also bring back memories of grandma’s failed attempts at shabby chic decor, complete with fake floral arrangements, potpourri bowls, and seashell-shaped pastel pink bathroom soaps.
We’re definitely not talking about that kind of whitewashed.
Fortunately for us, today’s farmhouse shabby chic is nothing like the days of old. Shabby chic (now commonly referred to as French provincial) boats a much more refined and stately aesthetic. It’s also considered to be a fairly romantic style of decor thanks to lovely, understated tones of gray, white, lilac, or pale pink. And, of course, whitewashed wood is almost as essential to this style as those crisp, white walls we mentioned above.
The great thing about using whitewashed wood is that you have so many options for incorporating it into your space. You can find whitewashed furniture, accessories, frames, or even kitchen cabinets – the list truly goes on and on. Additionally, different types of wood will have differing undertones after whitewashing. For example, pine will tend to look slightly pink, while oak will generally appear grayer after the process.
Whew! We bet you didn’t realize so much could go into whitewashed wood! With all that can be involved with this element, you may be wondering just how in the world to begin using it in your home. Luckily, you have several options – it all just depends on your style! Below are some of our pointers:
Pair whitewashed wood with bright colors
If you’re the type who prefers to adorn your home with bold prints and bright colors, using whitewashed wood is a good option for balancing out the busyness. Adding something as simple as a mirror with a whitewashed wood frame can really go a long way in pulling together a room. You might also consider hanging something as simple as a shelf or coat rack, too!
Pair it with bold materials
In addition to pairing whitewashed wood with bold prints and patterns, you can also pair it with bold materials like metallics or busy patterns. This would also be especially helpful if you decide to incorporate some bright walls or fabrics into your decor (which is likely the case if you’re going for a bohemian farmhouse look). Doing so will help retain your muted farmhouse look while still allowing you to have fun with something vibrant!
Use it to help brighten up a dark space
There are certainly times where we can go a little too far in one direction when decorating. When it comes to French farmhouse, we can easily use too many heavy or dark pieces of furniture. The good news is that whitewashed wood elements can serve not only as a space balancer, but also as a space brightener. Something as simple as this adorable piece of wooden wall art can give an oppressive-feeling room a much lighter feel. Another great option is simply placing something like a couple of decorative wooden block letters on a dresser or shelf (because, after all, what farmhouse would be complete without your initials somewhere?).
Pair it with the industrial aesthetic to add interest
You know how much we love the farmhouse style, but even we will admit that, at times, it can be easy to decorate a little on the drab side. It’s important to infuse interesting elements here and there throughout your interiors in order to prevent your space from looking too uniform (uniformity is the enemy of farmhouse decor!).
One fun way to add interest is by adding bits and pieces of industrial decor throughout your home. This galvanized metal wall organizer is a great example of a piece which is perfectly balanced with rustic, whitewashed wood and a metallic, industrial material.
Use it when going for a romantic look
There’s no denying that there’s just something romantic about whitewashed wood. We can’t quite put our finger on just why this is, but it’s very common to find whitewashed home accessories featuring very feminine designs. You might consider hanging a whitewashed wooden art piece that would be lovely in a room like a bedroom, nursery, or even a cozy reading nook. Of course, no romantic home would be complete without some wine for those cozy nights, so keeping some whitewashed wine crates around your kitchen is always a good idea as well.
Mix it with other wood tones for a more authentic farmhouse look
As we mentioned before, uniformity is definitely not what you want if the farmhouse style is your goal. The trick to this particular style is avoiding matchy-matchy furniture, textures, prints, and even wood colors or textures. Fifteen years ago it would have been a major faux pax to have different types of woods in one room, but that’s just simply not the case anymore.
When mixing woods, the key is ensuring they share the same undertone. Regardless of texture or color, as long as the undertones are cohesive, the room will still remain pulled together. This is definitely an important consideration, especially if you already have hardwood floors in your home. If your wood flooring has gray undertones, your best bet is ensuring the whitewashed furniture and accessories you choose to decorate with also have gray undertones.
As always, the bottom line is that you love what you put in your home.
While it can often feel as though interior design is full of rules, the most important thing is what matters to you. If you’re technically following certain design rules but hate your decor, what’s the point? As Nate Berkus said, “The best design projects are the ones where people broke the rules.”
Have you incorporated whitewashed wood into your decor? Which pieces are your favorite?