Just as barns are known for being red, farmhouses always seem to be painted white — but how and why did this become the traditional hue for these homes? (We can assure you the trend became popular long before Joanna Gaines and her beautiful farmhouse were country fixtures.)
It all began with whitewash, also known as lime paint, which was used during colonial times to prevent mildew from forming on both the inside and outside of houses, according to the Daily Press.
The liquid's main ingredient, lime, worked as a disinfectant, odor disguiser and insect repellent, and it was used all over farms for different purposes. It especially came in handy for preventing mildew from growing on homes located in hot and moist regions. The liquid's mild antibacterial properties also made it a popular choice for dairy farms.
Whitewash was cheap, dried quickly and took almost no expertise to apply. It was easy to touch up and could quickly make a farmhouse look clean and bright, according to Louise Gray, who whitewashed fences as a kid. Remember when Mark Twain's title character Tom Sawyer was assigned to whitewash his family's fence? Although fictional, the scene isn't unrealistic. The material was so easy to work with that even a youngster could be trusted with it.
The simple and pretty look of the light hue may also explain why it became a popular choice. White houses were a sign of cleanliness and purity, according to This Old House. And so, whitewashing became known as a cheap and easy way to make a house look attractive. In fact, it became such a common home improvement solution that the word "whitewash" began to reflect that. As listed in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word whitewash can also mean "to gloss over or to conceal faults."
Today, hundreds of years after the initial surge in popularity of whitewashing, the look is still a favorite among farmhouse dwellers, even if modern homeowners prefer paints made specifically for exteriors in lieu of whitewash. But the look is still the same — clean, timeless and elegant as ever.