We’ve definitely had more than our fair share of “What in the world have we gotten ourselves into?” moments over the past seven and a half years since we moved in. I thought it would be fun to do a little review of what we’ve learned here so far and answer the question “Would we still buy a farmhouse?”
I’m not going to lie to you, while moving out of the city and buying an old farmhouse to fix up sounds like a really romantic idea, there are a shocking number of downsides to taking on a project like this. We’ve come up against a pretty terrifying number of challenges and just really unpleasant discoveries during our time renovating this house and truthfully, that’s really just par for the course when it comes to old houses. We love our home fiercely, but – oh boy – has it ever tested our patience. So would we do it all over again? Would we still buy a farmhouse knowing what we know now if we could go back and change things? First, let’s talk about some of the highlights and lowlights of our experience here so far that have influenced our opinion of this whole process.
What You Need to Know Before You Buy a Farmhouse: You’re Always Just a Little Bit Nervous
You’ll often notice things around an old house that just aren’t things you normally need to think about in a new house. Why are some of our floors so slanted? Is that old mudroom really falling off the side of the house more than it was last year? (spoiler: Yes, it it was.) Has the floor always seemed a little bouncier right here? We have been able to address a number of questionable things and bring them up to standard, but it’s a huge project and there are still just a ton of things that make us a little nervous if we really think about them. It’s true that you never know what you’re going to uncover when you start a project, but there’s also the concern that you might not uncover something that really needs to be uncovered too if you don’t complete a certain project soon enough. These old house renovations aren’t for the faint of heart!
Old Houses are Just Dirtier
At least to begin with. Our house does of course feel cleaner and cleaner as we complete renovations and update our rooms, but as I mentioned recently in another post, there are definitely some unique cleaning challenges when it comes to old farmhouses. With some older finishes, it doesn’t matter how much you scrub them, their old-out-datedness and their worn-outness just won’t let them seem clean. And the stuff that falls out of your walls when you’re doing a renovation is pretty spectacular actually. Old crumbly walls create an amazing amount of mess. Check out my post on cleaning your farmhouse for more in-depth detail on this particular issue.
They Don’t Necessarily Always Fit in With Modern Life
There are things you’ll want to do in your home that are perfectly normal now, that just weren’t what people did 100+ years ago. Entertaining is definitely different these days, and it can be hard to fit large groups of people into the tiny, closed-off living rooms that are often found in old houses. Of course, we love our cozy little living room the rest of the time, but you can really feel a little too cozy if you get too many people in there. I’d love to be able to fit some more seating in our living room, but there just isn’t much space.
We’ve also come to think it’s normal in our modern day to have multiple living spaces in a house. You know, like a formal living room, a play room, a family room, a TV room, spaces like that. Some old farmhouses definitely do have multiple spaces like that, but we just have the one room that has to serve every purpose. When you want to have a room to relax in away from the TV that everyone else is watching, this can feel like a challenge. And when you have kids, toys in the living room are just a fact of life!
Sometimes They Fit in Better With Modern Life Than Modern Houses
Of course if I’m going to point out the ways that old farmhouses are sometimes not so great for modern life, I have to also point out the ways that they’re actually much better for modern life than the way new houses are built now. People built their farmhouses to suit their family’s exact needs and some of those concepts they followed are still just so practical today, even if the design shows on TV tell you otherwise. First of all, I love that my kitchen is so proportionally-large compared to what you get in most newer houses these days. It’s a big, practical room and I know I’ll always have enough space for any kind of culinary adventure I decide to undertake. I’d also really love to high-five whoever decided to put the bathroom and the laundry room just off the kitchen in our house. I’ve had some pretty amazingly productive days thanks to the ability to watch a toddler in the bath tub while cooking dinner and doing two loads of laundry without having to take more than four steps in any direction. This kind of super functional kitchen space should be standard design for family homes in my opinion.
And the doors between rooms! I know we always say that open concept is best for family life, but it’s incredibly useful and sanity-saving to be able to close a door to a messy kitchen, close a door and have a little peace and quiet while you’re making lunches at night, or close a door and keep a wet dog in the kitchen or mudroom until he dries off. Doors are a mom’s best friend. 🙂
If You Buy a Farmhouse, Storage Space Will be Scarce
If you’ve been following along with us on our adventures for any length of time, then you may have noticed that all of our renovation projects tend to be storage-focused, and that’s because we basically have almost none. We do have a basement that we can use to store stuff, and small closets in the bedrooms, but that’s about it. No linen closets, no coat closets, no pantry, no cold room. So every time we renovate an area of our home, we make sure to add as much storage space as possible in the form of built-ins. It actually works to my advantage because I love the way the built-ins look, but storage is definitely something I under-estimated the importance of when we first moved in.
When you Buy a Farmhouse, People Are Going to Love Your House
This is a really fun one of course. We’ve always gotten so many compliments on our home. Of course, people really love our newer additions and the renovations that we’ve done, but truthfully we get almost the same reaction from people now as we did when we first moved in. There’s something about the charm of an old house, even one that needs a lot of work that people are just drawn to. Old farmhouses are just so interesting. 🙂
I have to say that these days, now that we’ve gotten quite a few projects done, I probably have about 60% of my days when I feel like “Yay! I love my house!” and only 40% where I think “Maybe it would have been easier to just buy a new-build and try to add in our own character”. The good news is that these percentages definitely improve consistently with each project we do, and I foresee a 100% house-loving record in my not-too-distant future. 🙂 There’s also something really satisfying about having an authentic farmhouse rather than a new city house that just has farmhouse style decor that I really enjoy. It makes me feel like if I ever decide that it’s time to get some ducks and chickens, I can totally pull it off.
Have you made the move to an old farmhouse? Would you still buy a farmhouse if you had the chance to go back and change your mind?
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.