Home and kitchen aesthetics like “farmhouse” and “cottagecore” seem to be thrown around with to describe everything from flowy linen dresses to tea kettles and cheese boards (we’re guilty of it too). Both terms are shorthand for decor and lifestyles that evoke simpler, self sufficient times when making your own bread or compound butter was just something people did versus being a collective pastime during an international crisis. So, it’s not a surprise that both styles exploded in popularity over the past year.
But what exactly is farmcore versus cottagecore? Is there a difference between the two? Or is it one giant twee fantasy straight out of a Taylor Swift music video meant to help us self-soothe when we face another pandemic spike? To be honest, we didn’t really know until we did this explainer. We dove deep, so you don’t have to.
Modern Farmhouse Has Been Around For A While
If you’ve ever looked at Airbnb listings in Central Texas, California’s Wine Country, or even strolled through your local Target you’ve probably seen some form of the modern farmhouse. The style was widely popularized by Chip and Joanna Gaines who starred in HGTV’s Fixer Upper and turned their native Waco, Texas into a bona-fide tourist destination. The style features bright whites and neutrals with distressed wood accents (or both, when it comes to shiplap walls). Some of the more kitschy elements, like loopy script signs or edison bulbs have become cliché, but neutral linens and stoneware are good design details to keep in mind.
Cottagecore: A Rustic Dreamscape
This aesthetic is like modern farmhouse’s younger, fairy-cosplaying, frog and mushroom obsessed cousin. You’ll find lots of thrifted or vintage items in a cottagecore kitchen, and some knitted or crocheted accessories like tea cozies. If it’s something a grandmother would own, it’s probably cottagecore. A lot of its inspiration comes from quaint shacks in the UK or France, so touches like copper cookware or fishing net market totes add to the seaside town vibe. And while modern farmhouse tends to update or repurpose old fixtures like sinks or vintage glass, the sense of ye olde times permeates — I’ve even seen one TikTokker wash dishes without running water for maximum authenticity.
If you want a bigger breakdown and maybe shop a few styles to add your place, here’s a list of items that are found frequently in both style categories, from cookware, to utensils and tea towels. The best part: all of these items are renter friendly, so you can do a full-scale makeover without nailing wood paneling to your walls.
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Modern Farmhouse Cookware
While the finishings and decor of a modern farmhouse kitchen are rustic, the cookware shouldn’t be. Unless it’s a well-seasoned cast iron pan, anyway.
Farmhouse kitchenware is all about what looks great and packs great performance. This sauté pan from Abbio fulfills both requirements, and would look stellar hanging from a pan rack or full of simmering veggies on top of a vintage-looking gas range (that actually has all modern features).
Modern Farmhouse pays homage to more rustic ways of living and cooking, but also offers all the bells and whistles of modern design and technology. But when it comes to cookware powerhouses, you can’t go wrong with a versatile piece of cast iron that can fry eggs, bake cornbread, and much more. The cast iron skillet belongs in either farmhouse or cottage core aesthetics, the only difference being that you may want to go with a more vintage-looking brassy finish for a19th century French countryside-esque experience.
All things vintage are essential to any cottagecore cooking arsenal, but you’ll get extra points for well-loved enameled cast iron or copper pieces.
While you certainly can’t go wrong with a Le Creuset Cocotte in any kitchen, they’re especially appropriate if you’re curating a cottagecore space. Don’t fret about any staining that may accumulate when braising veggies, roasting chickens or baking bread with your dutch oven — think of it as a beautiful patina that makes it feel cozy and lived-in.
French cottages in the countryside are a core visual inspiration for cottagecore, and a key to a vintage-looking French kitchen is a well-preserved copper pan. Copper is a material covered by professional chefs and home cooks alike (most notably in France), as its heat conductivity gives a chef precise control when cooking over a flame.
Modern Farmhouse Linens
What sort of dish towels and napkins go best with white walls and rustic wood tables? If you said color, you’d be very wrong. Neutrals only. Yes, some might call this look boring but as far as “trendy” items go, this is a good one to adopt since it’s actually timeless.
Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV fame are the proverbial blueprint of modern farmhouse decor. You’ll often find staples, like this railroad gray striped kitchen towel, from their Target line, Hearth & Hand.
Soft blues are also a common thread when it comes to linens or other soft decor elements. This chambray napkin set adds just a touch of color to the white and gray tones often found in farmhouse kitchens, but the lighter denim keep the style from fully tilting into Americana.
Heirloom Tomatoes Dish Towel
If you want to build a modern farmhouse look in your kitchen but also include some accent colors, you can have fun by adding some patterns with kitchen linens. Food designs, like this heirloom tomato dish towel, are a great addition, especially if they have a soft, hand-drawn quality to them.
If you don’t have the time to hand-knit or thrift your own vintage looking fabrics, these are a good place to start.
Cottagecore linens tend to be a bit more distressed or softly worn than the stark white and grays of their modern farmhouse counterparts. The aesthetic is all about being resourceful, so I’ve seen influencers even use rags on their counters. This dobby weave tea towel is much more sophisticated than a piece of scrap fabric, and the raw edges of the towel still lend a rustic look to your kitchen, especially if you choose a muted, earthy color like olive or blush.
Botanicals and wildflowers are also a huge component of the cottagecore aesthetic. This screen printed tea towel is made from cotton flour sack material that will get softer with each use. The screenprinted design is perfect for creating a deep in the woods feeling, even if you’re just dreaming about a forest in your city apartment.
Modern Farmhouse Tabletop
Industrial accents like concrete planters, stoneware plates, and brushed metal will help your farmhouse table look elevated, rather than overwhelmingly cheugy.
These stoneware plates from Material Kitchen are the perfect marriage between rustic and minimalist, which make them ideal for a modern farmhouse dining table.
The clean, polished look of the marble and the smooth grain of the mangowood on this serving board would look great on a dining table or countertop. Pick the dark ebony finish for a more updated, industrial look, or a classic blonde finish for a bright, airy look.
If you’re fully leaning into a modern farmhouse look, you probably have a ton of rustic elements already like decorative jugs or shiplap wood paneling, so you can go a little more minimalist with other things. These salt and pepper grinders keep things looking fresh and it comes in a wide variety of soft colors.
Nothing says farmhouse like literally growing your own herbs. This antique brass-finished planter has its own integrated grow light, which makes it a great lively centerpiece to your table, and ensures your fresh herb plants don’t quickly die or wither.
As much as HGTV would have you believe that it’s easy to find a vintage, perfectly-distressed-but-not-falling-apart- serving tower for your farmhouse entertaining spread, it’s not. So grab this tiered, wooden serving tray from Amazon to save yourself some time and effort.
The clean lines of this flatware set would look great as a simple, more industrial contrast to more homey farmhouse fixtures, like weathered dining tables or stoneware plates.
This style is much softer, with elements like ceramics, wood, and vintage pieces.
Well-loved items are at the center of the cottagecore aesthetic, so this vintage stoneware jug could be used to serve guests or be displayed as the perfect rustic vase for hand-picked wildflowers.
When it comes to setting your cottagecore table, you can’t go wrong with East Fork’s glazed stoneware. The speckled finish gives the plates a perfectly imperfect touch, and each piece is finished with glazes developed and mixed in-house.
Antiques or vintage pieces are also welcome additions to any cottagecore dining set (think tea sets and doilies). This detailed set of side plates would look great with more simple stoneware for a mix-and-match moment, or with the corresponding dinner plates for a more is more feel.
As much as this look is about vintage country aesthetics, it’s also about the idea of living and cooking more slowly. This cute Peugeot pepper grinder lets you do just that as you’re hand-grinding pepper over a bowl of hand-made pasta or a crispy fried egg.
Whereas a modern farmhouse might have a sleek looking marble or slate serving board, you’ll want to go all out forest-inspired with this olivewood serving. The asymmetrical shape of the board gives it a more rustic look and the olivewood materials are grown and harvested sustainably.
Found items are often found on dining tables or as part of an eclectically decorated side table. This vegetal teapot is ideal for inspiring forest fairy vibes.
If Antique Road Show-esque teapots aren’t your speed, you also can’t go wrong with Le Creuset’s traditional whistling kettle. The charm of the carbon steel and porcelain enamel pot is also sure to outlive the next few years of decorating trends.
Dansk’s cookware has a timeless feel that would look at home among mid century, farmhouse, modern, or cottagecore decor. These gorgeous pieces of bakeware from Food 52’s exclusive collaboration can go right from the oven to the dinner table, and the rounded handles and glazed finish give these pieces a more antique feel.
Many cottagecore influencers that pop up on my various social media feeds use inherited, found, or thrift store flatware in their spreads or videos. If you’re less willing to go that route for flatware (which, fair), the copper dipped handles give this set the appropriate vibe to mimic that secondhand aesthetic.
Other Modern Farmhouse Accessories
Mason jars as a personality trait is considered a little cringe at this point, so they’re an object that should be implemented in your modern farmhouse kitchen sparingly and intentionally. These blue-hued mason jar soap dispensers are cute enough to place on your kitchen counter or powder room sink, and you can rest easy knowing that the jars look sleek as vintage and reclaimed accessories, rather than just looking like an errant jar you kept from a barn wedding circa 2015.
Mix things up by adding some modern, industrial touches to your collection of rustic farmhouse items. These wire baskets can organize everything from spices and cookbooks to linens and fresh produce.
Other Cottagecore Accessories
The benefits of this knit market bag are two-fold. They act as a fun physics-defying tote during your run to the store or farmers market (how my phone and wallet manage to not slip through the large knitted gaps, I’ll never know), and can be hung on wall pegs for cute, space saving food storage. The bags are made with 100% cotton, take up little space when not in use, and are probably more eco-friendly than the dozens of screenprinted totes you have in your closet.
Mushrooms are so beloved by the cottagecore set that they practically deserve their own list, but you can start small with this illustrated (and informative!) poster that can add to the French countryside look of your kitchen.
Would it be possible to fully embrace the cottagecore aesthetic without going on a picturesque picnic complete with handmade pastries and vintage tea accoutrements? Not really, so you’ll need a wide wicker basket. This unique barrel-shaped one is easy to pack and unload at your picnic destination, and has an easy to clean polyester interior.
This apron is made from 100% European flax linen for a luxe feel that’s easy to clean and maintain. The crossback design is ideal for throwing this apron on and off while you do cottagecore homesteading activities like baking your own bread or jamming hand picked wildberries.
What foxes were to early 2010s millennials, mushrooms are to Gen Z cottagecore enthusiasts. If you’re ready to jump head-first into that lifestyle, pick up a foraging knife that’s designed to harvest wild mushrooms (just make sure to not eat anything poisonous and pick responsibly.