Growing up in the country's metro cities, we'd often hear friends making plans to spend their summer vacations in farmhouses. Now this would usually mean one of two things. Either the friend had an ancestral home or familial ties to a rural part of the country. So, summers were the time to go back and revel in all the bounty such a rustic life and a large family had to offer. Alternatively, the friend or their family was one of the ultra-rich people who owned a second home somewhere on the city's outskirts, making it perfect for picnics and parties.
With time, our sensibilities and needs have started to evolve, and so have our priorities. As homeowners, we are now looking to own a second or even third home, preferably in a quiet, tranquil part of the country, far from the cacophony of the city. Farmhouses are no longer places that are reserved for people with agricultural backgrounds or the super-rich. Instead, they are a much-needed personal space to raise our children, commune with nature, indulge in hobbies like organic gardening, and perhaps even build ties in a community we want to retire into. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has only served to highlight the need for such safe, self-sufficient homes where we can live in complete peace and joy.
With our needs set out clearly, let us look at the difference between traditional and modern farmhouses regarding design, construction, interiors, functionality and aesthetics.
Traditional farmhouses grew out of rudimentary village homes with no fixed designs, apart from the need for an open courtyard and space for rustic activities such as storing the harvest, winnowing, or dairy processing. The materials used to make these, too, were locally available stone, timber, mud, and unbaked bricks. Large, spacious rooms with traditional khus curtains and blinds helped keep the rooms cool and comfortable. In some parts of the country, terracotta and clay tiles were a major element incorporated into the building of farmhouses. With time, these farmhouses have come a long way. However, even those who prefer traditional designs in the construction of farmhouses prefer to retain structural elements while going with more functional modern designs and materials.
The central courtyard with the traditional Tulsi aangan remains a favourite with those who want a more orthodox design. The use of beams and eco-friendly material, which provides natural insulation, remains a popular choice. In some parts of southern India, the open front porches or Thinnais and wooden pillars are still design elements that most farmhouses retain. Traditional farmhouses retain the vastu layouts, with the northeast designated for the entrance and the southeast for the kitchen. The square or rectangular shape and single-storied buildings are preferred since they are optimal for adherence to these scriptural guiding principles.
Modern farmhouses are more than connecting with our roots. They make space for the flow of creativity and innovation – things that urban apartments do not accommodate. This is your opportunity to play with design elements. From tiered construction to oval layouts, from vertical gardens to green balconies, your imagination is the limit for modern farmhouses.
The materials used to construct and decorate modern farmhouses can be as eclectic as the owner's imagination. Most prefer the use of glass, metal, and ceramic fixtures with a liberal use of marble and granite. The interiors, too, can be done up with comfortable yet exclusive pieces of furniture, rugs, carpets, and upholstery.
Modern farmhouses place functionality above all. These are second homes that are designed to be rejuvenating holiday destinations and places to retreat from the breakneck pace of the city. Properly constructed driveways, parking slots, outdoor and indoor spaces for socialisation, hosting social events, luxurious baths with jacuzzi, splendid views and open balconies are all elements that modern-day farmhouse owners look for in these homes.
An open garden with sculptures, fountains, artwork, manicured lawns, and benches or tea tables add favour to the vacation experience in a modern farmhouse. Hobby spaces that are perfect for painting, pottery, dancing, or fitness activities are what elevate the functionality of modern farmhouses.
Traditional or contemporary – whichever your pick of design, material, construction styles, or functionality – there are common elements that are integral to the spirit of farmhouses. The need for open spaces that allow natural ventilation and sunlight is vital. Similarly, a free-flowing design that is a major break from the box-style flats and apartments found in cities makes for ideal farmhouses. Most importantly, farmhouses showcase the best of organic farming, kitchen gardens, herb patches, and fruit trees. These are all missing from urban homes, but farmhouses make these indulgences a real possibility if not a matter of pride.
Vastu is an ancient Indian system of architecture and design that aims to create harmony between humans and nature by balancing the five elements - earth, water, fire, air and space.
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