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Design Ideas
Design Expertise Coastal Farmhouse
A realtor/broker and her contractor husband team up to design the ultimate coastal farmhouse for their family.
Sometimes you don’t have to travel far to find home. For AJ Olson Whitfield, a realtor and broker associate at Villa Real Estate, home is located just across the street from her family’s previous residence. However, even though they didn’t have to move far, it was quite a journey to get to home sweet home,... Keep Scrolling
Written by Autumn Krause
Photography by Bret Gum
Styling by Jickie Torres


living room with open shelving, large television, white chair, leather sofa and fireplace
Handsome Details. Leather sofas and rustic wooden tables with X-details give the living room a countryside sensibility. The mantel shelf is 100-year-old reclaimed wood from an old barn in East Mississippi.

Sometimes you don’t have to travel far to find home. For AJ Olson Whitfield, a realtor and broker associate at Villa Real Estate, home is located just across the street from her family’s previous residence. However, even though they didn’t have to move far, it was quite a journey to get to home sweet home, one that included demolishing the existing house and building a new one-that exuded coastal farmhouse style- from scratch on the lot.

white coastal farmhouse with open porch with teak furniture set and chandelier from ceiling
Outdoor Living. A porch is a wonderful place to enjoy the perpetually sunny California weather and watch the kids. AJ says, “We did Ipe wood decking and a custom X-patterned fence.”
young couple standing on front steps of white and gray home with American flag
Farm Cottage Charm. AJ describes the exterior of their home as a “blended modern farmhouse with East Coast influences.” She wanted to stay true to the theme of natural elements and contrast and achieved this with Ipe wood decking with a dark exterior and white highlights.

“My contractor husband, Garrett, and I love a blank slate,” AJ says. “We built our home from the ground up. I feel that new construction can sometimes come off flat, so it was important to bring in elements that gave life to the designs.” They did this by pulling from both their coastal and farmhouse styles and melding clean and purposeful lines with a welcoming touch. “Garrett and I are a great team,” AJ says.

“Most people think we are crazy … and this may be true, but we love having a vision and then turning it into a reality.” By combining their talents, they created a stunning coastal farmhouse with modern influences.

family room with fireplace, tv above mantel, open shelving with decor, fluffy pillows on the sofa an decorative lanterns on a sofa table
Shelves Make the Room. Bookshelves are a wonderful way to give a personalized twist to a room—especially when filled with items that reflect the homeowners. AJ’s shelves hold a mix of cherished treasures and stylish items she snagged from home retailers. She says, “The majority of the items on our shelves have been collected over time, like the white elephant that was my grandmother’s or the Michael Aram mussel shell from our wedding. However, I do love checking out TJ Maxx Home Goods. It is amazing what you can find.”
white and natural wood coastal farmhouse style open stairway with neutral wall art and small table with accessory at base of stairs
The Right Scale. Stairs are often overlooked but not in AJ’s home. Her stairway was carefully planned out, from its dimensions to its materials. “There is something truly magical about a wide stair,” she says. “And I knew I wanted something other than the traditional railing, so we came up with a white oak railing with square iron balusters.” She had the balusters installed without a shoe for a cleaner look.
white mudroom/storage area with black and white striped bench cover and yellow pillow and straw hat hanging above
Pit Stop Space. AJ says, “This may be California and we don’t have need of an actual mudroom per se … but a dumping ground for life before you enter the main home? Yes, please.” The drawers hold the kids’ shoes and any items that AJ and Garrett find themselves reaching for on their way out.
desk area in a coastal farmhouse with two brown leather swivel chairs beneath two smaller windows
Homework Hub. AJ and Garrett specifically wanted a space where their daughters could do homework, have computer time, and color. “We had the perfect nook designed for it,” AJ says. “The chairs are from World Market, and that brown leather is my new favorite color. It goes incredibly well with grays and brass.”

AJ knew she wanted an open floorplan with a clear line of sight from the kitchen. “When we were creating the floorplan, my husband came home to find blue tape all over the floor,” she says. “I had mapped out the living spaces and was walking around my make-
believe kitchen island.” Since the kitchen is a natural gathering space, she knew just what she wanted: a light color scheme reminiscent of the coast, warm wood finishes in true farmhouse style and accommodations for entertaining.

“I try to stay away from being matchy-matchy. Furniture should be cohesive, but it doesn’t all have to be the same.”

dining area with large coastal patio doors, a long dark wooden table and 8 chairs with white chair covers
Space to Breathe. Natural transitions and designated areas were important to AJ. For the dining room, she opted for an open floorplan with a distinguished perimeter. “The pocket doors open on both sides of the room,” she says. “You’re inside, but the transition to the yard is seamless.” She gave the space a dreamy quality with mercury glass, aged brass and a glimmering chandelier.

white kitchen with white subway tile, open natural wood shelving adorned with glassware, brass hardware and gray countertops

Related Reading: A Charming Beach Farmhouse

white kitchen with stainless steel double wide stove with white and natural farmhouse wood hood above stove

Style Radar. Barstools add extra functionality to the kitchen. AJ and Garrett came across them at their favorite local French bakery, Pandor. “People around us were just sitting there enjoying their coffee while we were flipping stools over to figure out who the manufacturer was,” AJ says. “They had the wood tops that I knew would pull the hood and open shelving all together.” The stools are from World Market.

young couple with two young daughers in white kitchen

“The tile is a Walker Zanger white subway tile, and it’s crafted to look handmade,” she says. “We selected a gray grout to highlight its natural look.” AJ selected open shelves and a custom hood in natural wood finishes to contrast with the tiles. “The shelves are a white oak,” she says. “I wanted the hood to coordinate with the shelves because I love the warmth of wood.” AJ says that the kitchen is the heart of the home, and hers is both elegant and efficient.

Two sinks allow guests to grab a drink without getting into the thick of food prep, and there’s plenty of hidden storage in the island. “There is no wasted space in our kitchen,” she says. The kitchen orchestrates the movement and meaningful pauses in their active family life.

white master bedroom with large chandelier and natural farmhouse wood open beams
Beauty of Balance. There is nothing overly ornate in the home’s design, so for the master bedroom, AJ wanted a bed that could stand on its own. An elegant bed from Restoration Hardware was up to the task and sits beneath a Joss & Main chandelier. “My husband has always been dead set against crystal in the bedroom so I had to work to mix a masculine and feminine vibe,” AJ says. “This chandelier let me have a true focal piece while keeping true to that concept.”
white bathroom with white tub, open shower, window with green tree in view
Modern Master. The master bathroom features an angular freestanding tub and a walk-in shower. AJ says, “My favorite part of the whole bathroom is the walk-in shower and not having to squeegee the glass every morning. Marriage saver, right there.”
coastal farmhouse style master bathroom with two sink vanity and two large mirrors above sinks
Planned to the Nines. A lot of planning went into the layout of the master bedroom to ensure that everything lined up correctly. AJ says, “I even had the mirrors custom made because in all my searching I couldn’t find anything with the height and width I wanted.” These two mirrors are sized to perfection for AJ’s vision.
childs bedroom in white, pink and blue with ballarina art above bed
Flexible Furnishings. AJ makes sure this bedroom could easily fit her daughter, Ava, at any age by allowing for the ability to switch out accessories. Faux flowers and pink pillows by Laura Ashley catch the eye, while a ship from Half Hitch Goods stokes the imagination. “Also, I have an obvious love for metallics and wood,” she says, “so I flipped it in her room and went silver and gray.” There is a special touch in the room from a talented friend—two drawings that hang above the bed. “Hayden Lasher is an incredible purse designer, but she did drawings for us when our daughter was born,” AJ says.
childs bedroom in white, yellow and light blue with a teepee in corner
Designed to Last. AJ’s key to a successful child’s room is to ask, “Can it grow with them?” and to make sure the answer is yes. For her daughter Ellie’s bedroom, she selects durable items that have the ability to be updated. Mirrors, a Restoration Hardware bed and a metallic blue Laura Ashley comforter give her daughter’s room a playful and feminine feel.

A Room for the Family

The living room is a large space but it’s still inviting. “It’s welcoming, which is important to me,” AJ says. She had matching bookshelves painted a custom color that took several samples to get right. “We wanted gray, but not blue,” she says.

A 100-year-old reclaimed wood mantel brings a rustic touch to the modern space (AJ rescued it from an old barn in East Mississippi), and shiplap siding on the fireplace adds texture. Couches from Restoration Hardware coordinate but don’t match—as AJ says, “I try to stay away from being matchy-matchy. Furniture should be coordinated, but it doesn’t all have to be the same.”

Since Garrett and AJ have young daughters, AJ made sure to build discreet toy storage into the living room. “All of the baskets in the coffee table are full of toys,” she says. “We wanted a space that the girls could play in but could still reflect us as adults.”

“I feel that new construction can sometimes come off flat, so it was important to bring in elements that gave life to the designs.”

open patio with large sectional seating with yellow and coastal blue pillows and teak table with large chandelier above
Extension of Comfort. AJ calls this area the “California room.” It’s directly outside the dining room and acts as a second living room. “We are blessed with incredible weather, so most days the doors are open, and it is a seamless extension of the living space. It also overlooks the backyard, so it is an ideal spot to have a cocktail and snacks with guests while the kids run around in the backyard,” AJ says.

A True Coastal Farmhouse Retreat

AJ describes the master bathroom as a “true retreat,” with its soothing color scheme and freestanding tub that invites long, luxurious soaks. “The color palette is neutral, yet it is anything but boring,” AJ says.

“The tile walls have a soft texture to them, and the floors are actually tile as well.” The soft colors bring rest to the mind and eyes and suggest that inside the tub is comforting serenity.

guest bathroom with natural wood vanity, white square sink, arched mirror above and two pendant lights above
Simple Rules. A downstairs powder room is a micro study in AJ’s design philosophy. “It’s a play on contrasts and natural elements, from a custom white oak vanity to an iron arched mirror,” she says. “Tile brings a slight texture and a print gives it an aged look.”

AJ knew the tub would be a natural statement piece in the bathroom. “A freestanding tub is an amazing focal point,” she says. “I knew I wanted to incorporate it into the design, but it needed to carry the angular, clean lines we have throughout the rest of the home.” The tub has clear angles (no rounded shapes here), and those lines are also found in the sink area of the master bathroom, where two elegant mirrors hang above an alabaster honed-marble countertop.

With all of AJ’s careful design decisions, the bathroom bookends the day, offering natural daylight to start off the morning with an invigorating shower and the spacious tub to end the day with a relaxing soak.

AJ and Garrett Whitfield with two daughters sitting on steps
Family Affair. AJ designed her home for her thriving—and active—family. With two young girls, AJ melded durability with style. “One of the first thoughts I had when I began designing was, ‘Where can I hide toys?’” she recalls. She ended up designing plenty of clever storage options throughout the rooms.

Even though AJ and her family only crossed the street to get to their home, the journey involved a whole new build. In the end, it’s a home built to hold all the love of a happy coastal farmhouse family—because that’s exactly what it was designed for.

Neutral Design Is Cool

AJ’s top tips for making a neutral color palette interesting

“Most people think we are crazy … and this may be true, but we love having a vision and then turning it into a reality.”

white, open coastal farmhouse kitchen with large island, three stools and two large pendant lights above
Timeless Style. AJ’s expertise shows that you don’t need a range of colors to create dimension or interest. Finishes, various neutral tones of paint, and textures create an intricately inviting kitchen in a neutral color scheme.
  1. Use natural elements. Their colors tend to be more versatile. “Wood, metal and leather are my go-tos for warmth and contrast,” AJ says. “Use metal (both gray zincs and warm brass) to highlight the grays and add contrast to tans. The right leather in a chair or couch can add a great deal of depth to the design.”
  2. Add texture. This is easiest to do with fabrics, (think pillows and throws) but you can also add it with a textured tile and finish surfaces. “For example, do a honed countertop instead of a polished countertop,” AJ says.
  3. Go green. “This is my best tip for bringing a neutral palette to life—literally.” AJ says. “Get plants!” You don’t need to go overboard, but a few well-placed pops of green can make the difference between “meh” and “wow.”
  4. Have fun with mirrors! They are neutral in nature, but you can add a great deal of character with the right mirror. AJ adds, “Be aware of what the mirror is actually reflecting.”
  5. Add a pop of color or something metallic. These you can easily change, like fresh flowers, a piece of art, a fun throw or pillow. It gives you a chance to punch up a design but takes away the commitment. “My favorite color when I need that extra oomph is a darker mustard yellow. It doesn’t fight with gray or tan,” AJ says.

For more on AJ Whitfield, visit her website or her Instagram.

Love bold lighting? Check out this post on Glass Pendant Lights

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