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Design Ideas
Rustic Farmhouse Game Changers
A designer turns her talents to decorating her own home by mixing things up and making some opposites attract.
Interior designers make their living by decorating clients’ homes, but what happens when the professional turns personal and embarks on decorating her own rustic farmhouse? Leah A. White of Leah A. White Interiors & Home Staging shares the “game changers” she used to turn her house into her dream home. Set in the quaint town... Keep Scrolling
Written by MERYL SCHOENBAUM
Photography by MATTHEW DELPHENICH
Styling by LEAH WHITE


Interior designers make their living by decorating clients’ homes, but what happens when the professional turns personal and embarks on decorating her own rustic farmhouse? Leah A. White of Leah A. White Interiors & Home Staging shares the “game changers” she used to turn her house into her dream home.

Bright and light neutral living room with oatmeal colored couch and armchair, wooden accent furniture and mercury glass lamp all on a light colored shag rug.
COZY RETREAT. This loft space, filled with natural light is the perfect spot to rest and take a minute. Cozy seating and throw blankets call for snuggling up in this space.

Set in the quaint town of Hope Valley, Rhode Island, the home’s architecture reflects the area’s rural surroundings. “The overall design of the home has a rustic, modern-farmhouse feel with a lot of traditional elegance,” Leah says. It was built as a split-level ranch in 1974 and renovated in 1988. The additional space from that remodel was a major selling point for Leah and her husband because they have four children. The home has four above-ground bedrooms and three bedrooms in a finished basement, but the couple knew they would have to make some modifications to create the home they envisioned.

COME ON IN

Entryway console table topped with plants and a lamp with three woven baskets underneath for storage as people enter the home and need to leave belongings.
STAY AWHILE. These baskets welcome guests to drop it all that door and make themselves at home.

“I wanted it to have a rustic elegance that’s livable and comfortable for a family with children.”

“When we bought this home, we could see through its outdated appearance,” Leah says. “It’s a large home with tons of character. It had some great bones. Elements such as stone fireplaces, a butler’s pantry and cedar vaulted ceilings added to its wow factor. My husband and I worked for years to reveal its beauty. We don’t regret buying a fixerupper; it’s truly a labor of love. What you put into a home makes it your own, and it shows in its character and charm.”

An open white door leading in to a casual mud room, with a light wooden bench, a wall sign that says "home". and a striped jute rug.
MUDDY BUDDIES. The large mudroom has ample space for seating and an entry table. Both have a distressed cottage-style finish that ties them into the rest of the house. “I kept all the colors in the house soft and neutral,” Leah says. “I got creative with this room by making the HOME sign. It was an old sign that I didn’t particularly love, so I decided to flip it over and glue distressed wooden letters on it. I love that it is big and bold and gets your attention when you first walk in.”

Among the renovations the couple undertook was remodeling four bathrooms and the kitchen, which Leah says was the biggest improvement. There was also a wall between the dining room and kitchen that needed to go. “I wanted a more open layout on the main floor. Taking down that one wall made it a better space for entertaining guests,” Leah says. “After renovations, it felt like a new home.”

FARMHOUSE FUNDAMENTALS

Once the renovations were done, Leah was able to reach into her designer toolkit and pull out what she calls the “game changers” to create the ambience she desired.

Heather gray tufted slip chair and matching foot rest next to a wooden bookshelf.
OFFICE SPACE. This large space off the family room became the library/ home office. “The large console table is probably my favorite piece of furniture that we own,” Leah says. “I love the way the elegant chandelier works with the rustic décor.” Cedar slatted ceilings add to the unique architectural design. “The wood ceilings were one of the main reasons I chose mostly weathered oak furniture to complement it throughout the house,” Leah says.

“I wanted it to have a rustic farmhouse elegance that’s livable and comfortable for a family with children,” she says. “I love a home that can be lived in and still look great. That’s why the rustic farmhouse design works so well for our family.”

Rustic farmhouse open space with vaulted wooden ceilings and a beaded chandelier with a regal framed deer in between two windows.
NEED TO BALANCE A BIG SPACE? “I chose a bold pattern for the rug. Because of the size of the space and its high ceilings, I needed something that would counter the emptiness and make the room cozier.”

One of the ways Leah achieved her dream-home design was through her informed furniture choices. “Furniture placement and style can make or break a room. You have to consider so many things, such as the finish, placement and styling. It defines a space,” she says. “It has to speak to the overall feel you want to accomplish.”

“Furniture placement and style can make or break a room. You have to consider so many things, such as the finish, placement and styling. It defines a space.”

A family room, with a vaulted, wood-paneled ceiling and a large sectional facing a full wall media setup.
MIXED MEDIA. The family room features a media wall unit and a large sectional sofa that can provide seating for the whole family. “I wanted this space to be the go-to room for movie watching and family game nights,” Leah says. A mix of washed, faded blue tones and white walls complements the rustic wood.”

MIX IT UP

Leah is a firm believer in mixing over matching when it comes to placing furniture in a room. “Mixing finishes helps create drama in the space. Gone are the days of ‘matchy-matchy’ furniture,” she says. “Mixing color and style adds interest. I love shopping in antiques stores and finding a great piece to refinish with paint and new hardware.

Bright and light neutral living room with oatmeal colored couch and armchair, wooden accent furniture and mercury glass lamp all on a light colored shag rug.
COZY COMFORT. The living-room colors were kept neutral to open up the space. “This paint is one of my favorites, Halo by Benjamin Moore, which is crisp and fresh,” Leah says. The furniture has a barn-wood theme, and the weathered finish complements the clean color scheme, creating a peaceful space. Baskets and a shag rug were added for texture, and the mercury-glass lamp adds a pop of liveliness to the room. “Mercury glass is my go-to for adding life to a calm space,” Leah says.

Sometimes you get lucky and find an antique piece that doesn’t need to be touched and coordinates nicely with newer pieces.” For example, Leah purchased an antique desk from Craigslist for $40 and didn’t need to do a thing to it. “I just love the way old pieces tell a story. It contributes something unique to a room that a brand-new piece could not.”

KITCHEN FURNITURE: MIXED, NOT BLENDED

When homeowners buy furniture for their homes, the kitchen is often an overlooked room, but adding an island to the space provides dimensional interest as well as practicality. Leah suggests mixing styles to achieve your desired ambience.

Large custom kitchen island with dark pendants hanging above and rustic farmhouse accents throughout the kitchen.
FARMHOUSE KITCHEN. The kitchen and pantry are Leah’s favorite parts of the home. “I wanted it to have a farmhouse feel without looking too trendy. When you invest in a new kitchen, it’s important that it captures a timeless design that also keeps … current,” she says.

For example, if you want a modern-farmhouse style kitchen, she advises combining a wooden island with industrial pieces. “I really love the way our kitchen island turned out. It was designed with the intent that it would be a substantial piece of furniture in the room. It needed to be both beautiful and functional for seating a large family around it, and it had to be unique. I chose large legs that are traditional and a khaki/sage paint color to create a furniture look.  When an island looks and feels like furniture, it can really make the design.”

White kitchen with rustic cabinetry, oil-rubbed bronze pendant lights above the island and stainless steel appliances.
COMPLIMENTARY ACCENTS. “A larger version of the standard white subway tile accented with dark grout makes the backsplash the perfect complement to the creamy white cabinetry,” she says. Industrial metal stools and large, oil-rubbed bronze pendant lights above the island add to the modern-farmhouse/cottage style.

“Having the kitchen island stand out instead of blending with the rest of the cabinetry makes it more of a beautiful piece of furniture.”

Creamy white kitchen, near a glass paneled back door letting in tons of light and small plants giving texture to the countertops.
IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS. Small accents on the counters bring the kitchen to life from small potted plants to large glass storage filled with grains.

COLORS AND CONTRASTS

Leah likes to contrast colors and textures to create a layered effect. Her choices in the foyer illustrate her design aesthetic. “We stained the stair railing with a darker stain because I love the light walls with the dark contrast rail,” she says. “I also painted the door a dark gray. The gray paint was a game changer. I love the cream wreath against the dark color.”

Large foyer with a hanging pendant lamp, beige floor tile and a black front door with a wreath.
WARM WELCOME. The home’s entrance illustrates Leah’s decorating strategy of mixing colors, textures and patterns. The foyer was updated with tan marble tile and fresh paint. “We intended to replace the door as it was a plain standard white door and I wanted something different,” Leah says. Painting it black in the meantime gives it a custom feel.

“I’m big on adding texture. It’s what gives a simple design coziness.”

Rustic farmhouse table surrounded by a mix of woven and upholstered chairs.
FARM TO TABLE. The farmhouse table anchors the dining room. “I added a mix of woven and upholstered wingback chairs to add texture,” Leah says. The buffet and mirror are both in black to break up the wood elements and provide balance.  “Adding a mirror as a focal point is a great way to energize a room,” Leah says.

Mixing different textures is another secret weapon in Leah’s decorating arsenal. In the living room, baskets and a shag rug were added for texture. “I’m big on adding texture. It’s what gives a simple design coziness,” she says. “I always add lots of baskets to warm up a cooler color palette.”

Mason jars filled with fresh-cut white and purple flowers placed together as a centerpiece on a farmhouse dining table.
KEEP IT FRESH. Fresh flowers always finish up a room. This small pop of color draws the eye in and adds a feminine touch to an otherwise rustic room.

A VISION COME TO LIFE

Leah loved the process as well as the outcome of her redesigned and reimagined rustic farmhouse. “My husband and I worked for years to reveal its beauty and couldn’t be happier with our dream home becoming a reality,” she says. “There’s something special about a home that evolves over time, especially when you build an emotional attachment to it and you see the vision slowly unfold. This home embodies our love and commitment. That’s what makes it my most favorite design project.”

Want more simply beautiful ideas? Check out this post on a Farmhouse Beach Cottage. 

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