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Brian’s 5 NON-NEGOTIABLES For The Farmhouse (And What Made Him FINALLY Love The Design Process)


If you’ve ever read my stuff on this blog, you know I tend to ramble. I’ll usually meander around, like, deep mental-health-type things from a guy’s perspective, and go off on tangents that have nothing to do with the subject at hand before reigning it back in to prove a point. Well, rest easy guys. Today is different. I just wanted to pop in while we’re designing our future farmhouse to write a quick post about how I’m pretty much an expert designer now. Just a brisk little post about five things I’ve contributed to the design plan that Emily didn’t think of. This means I’m kinda better than her at being a design blogger. No meanders, no random tangents, just the facts. Promise.

I’ve never been much of a video game guy. My parents wouldn’t allow us to have them growing up, no matter how many times my brother and I hissed through clenched teeth, “You’re, like, so tight!”. The term ‘tight’ meaning strict and mean. And although my parents were neither strict nor mean, we would hurl the phrase at them any time we didn’t get our way. I can’t have the new hot pink Andre Agassi’s? Ugh! You guys are so tight! No Squeezits in my packed lunch like all the other fourth graders? Quit being so tight! But looking back now, I’m actually glad that my folks were, “Like, the tightest parents of all our friends! UGH!” because we never really had the opportunity to catch the addiction to the pixelated time-suck of video games (not to mention the tooth-rot that came from Squeezits). I mean, sure, we would body-check our friends out of the way when we visited their homes, and commandeer their Nintendo for hours. Sad, deprived creatures that we were, the 8-bit glow gave us a thrill we couldn’t get at home, so we nearly sucked the controllers into our mouths when we visited friends. Sleepovers were especially bad, a challenge to see how many of the 24 hours could be spent playing video games. I remember one night in a buddy’s room at 4 am, not being able to tell whether I was dreaming about Super Mario Bros 2 or still playing it. So I guess there’s something to be said about moderation. 

see how cool this is????? also it’s still a work in progress. no real sneak peeks yet:)
old old version of the mudroom (and those tiles were just fillers). still no secrets revealed!

Well, I’ve been introduced to a new kind of video game and I’m kind of obsessed with it. It’s called ‘Whatever The Program Is That Anne From Arciform Uses’ and it needs to be on the cover of the next Game Informer magazine. It’s basically a program in which Anne has plugged our future farmhouse, all the exact measurements down to the light sockets, and is able to manipulate it in real-time. In 3D! …Kinda. It’s amazing. It’s like dressing your video game character up in any suit of armor you can imagine and spinning him around to see all the sides. Wanna take out this wall? Boom, here’s how it would look. Wanna pop out a bunch more windows? Bam, take a walkthrough. Wanna put in a secret fireman’s pole that slides down to a hidden mancave in the basement that even Emily doesn’t know about? Pow! That’s never gonna happen. But it could! Do you see all the exclamation points I’m using? That’s because there’s finally a way for me to be like actually excited about designing our future house! Which is pretty remarkable.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a quick update: the changes i’ve made to my la living room

I wasn’t ever super involved in designing any of our previous abodes. I was in a deep depression for the Glendale renovation and just kind of stuck my tongue out at the whole thing. Which was really awesome for Emily, I’m sure. Then for our Los Feliz house, I tried to get more into it, but the whole thing was overwhelming for someone who isn’t that design-minded, so I took a backseat and threw in little ideas here and there. The Mountain House was always going to be a showcase for Em’s work and a content machine for the blog, but I was more invested in it because it was a cabin in the woods and I love that kind of thing. ‘Cause I’m a MAN, MAN! I started out strong – began filming all the design stuff, like I Design, You Decide. I gave lots of input, visited tile places, and made serious decisions like how we should clad everything in wood. But we had like three of Emily’s employees handling the design full-time so I got used to just kicking my feet up and letting them do all the work, and I just kind of let it go altogether. Frankly, when you’re married to a design expert, you don’t really feel all that needed when it comes to design input. And that’s not meant to be read in a negative way, I was never excluded from any discussions, quite the opposite, Emily always wanted me to participate more. But I’m not good at design and she had a team of pros, so what could I possibly contribute?

Well, it turns out, when you put a video game in front of me, I can contribute a ton! I’ve been hyper-involved since day one of designing our farm up in Portland. Maybe it’s the mental shift from a year of isolation, maybe it’s having an outside design team take on the hard work, or maybe it’s just that the property is that magical? Whatever it is, I’m super excited when we talk design these days. Like, who knew that I’d have an opinion on the amount of muntins should be in our vista window, terms that I definitely know and use now that I’m a pro designer. It’s been a blast to sit in on the weekly Zooms where we rotate and scrutinize all the nooks and crannies of the house. I even had a few big suggestions that may end up in the final plans (can’t say what they were yet, no spoilers!). And because I’m now an official design blogger with a huge audience that I grew myself and is reading this because I’m an expert, I want to highlight a few things that have come up in our process so far that were sources of disagreement for Em and me. I’ll let you decide who is the more expert designer. 

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: the reveal of the mountain house kitchen

1. I don’t want paneling in the house. There seems to be an emerging pattern for what I like in our successive homes, and it’s a trimming down of the busy. After spending months here in the Mountain House I realized why I feel so much peace here. Yes, there is wood on the ceiling and all over the kitchen, but all the walls are just a smooth matte white with not a lot of colorful art. It’s kinda like a really professionally baked white cake. Why would you throw a bunch of sprinkles and messy glops of writing all over it? Those things don’t taste good anyway! Yeah, they’re great for a kid’s birthday, but if you want to sit and admire a cake on a quiet Sunday morning, you know how people just stare at cakes on Sunday mornings? Wouldn’t you want a clean, velvety smooth, white cake? Well, that’s why I don’t want paneling. I have enough chaos with kids and work and dogs and alpacas (let’s see if she catches that), so I don’t need any more lines to look at when I’m zoning out. 

left: photo by sara ligorria-tramp, from: mountain house master bathroom reveal | right: photo by tessa neustadt, from: our classic modern master bathroom reveal

2. I don’t want a shower room in our primary bathroom. I didn’t even know what shower room meant before our video game sessions, and maybe I’m not even using it right, but I’m a design blogger now so the rules don’t apply to me. But I think it’s a shower that’s enclosed by walls and tile rather than surrounded by glass. I like the openness of a glass surround. I know it seems like the opposite of what I guy would want, but I think our bathroom should feel like a hotel spa, big and bright and flowy. Maybe it’s because I spent my college years in a rental that had a tiled shower stall that was so small that the freezing cold tile would goose me every time I turned to a different side. My echoed yelps would make my roommates laugh, but it sucked! I know enclosed shower rooms are cozy, I know they’re private, but I just don’t like them as much as glass. I don’t know why! Maybe it’s because I like to fog them up and press my buttcheeks on the glass and laugh at how it looks like two giant cartoon-alien eyes peering into the shower. I mean, is that so wrong?! But seriously, I think it looks way more luxurious to have a glass shower surround when you’re looking at the bathroom as a whole. And I’m nothing if not luxurious.

photo by tessa neustadt | from: emily’s kitchen and dining room reveal

3. No auto-appliances. If the Terminator movies have taught us anything, it’s that robots will kill us all eventually. So why would you want to put your privates in the jaws of a bloodthirsty cyborg unit? When it comes to appliances, I want control. Manual control. I need knobs.

4. No added closet in the entry. Emily wanted a small closet added to the front entry because she is tired of seeing all our snow jackets hung and flung all over the place. Also, she said that when Barack Obama comes to our dinner party, he would want a nice, formal place to hang his jacket. I said no. It was too cramped with the closet – Anne drew it up and we stood in the virtual entryway. And it took up too much of the room and was superfluous. I said we can do hooks and a coat rack. Besides, Barack is cool enough to hang his jacket on a rack. He’s super down to Earth. Sorry, number four is kinda boring. But it was a disagreement.

design by brooke and steve giannetti | photo via country living

5. This one doesn’t have anything to do with design, more with the farm in general – I Want Animals! I mean, what’s the point of having pastures if you don’t have any livestock grazing on them. I grew up with horses, but I don’t want horses, they’re too big and we have a love/hate thing between us. The amount of bites and kicks and bucks I’ve been on the receiving end of… It’s just too much. BUT I still want some animals roaming the land up there. My pick right now is alpacas because they’re so stupid looking in the best way. They make me laugh so much when they chew. And the fluffy fur, I mean come on. I’d be into goats for clearing brush, but I’ve been butted by some mean goat before and that would be a bummer. Also, their poop is hilarious. I would do a mini-thing, like either a miniature donkey or Shetland pony? Those seem like they may need more attention though. Which is Emily’s big protestation, that we have enough responsibilities already and we should see how it goes. Meh. We’ll at least get some laying hens and maybe split the coup up for a rabbit hutch. Elliot really wants a flop-eared bunny and I’m not going to discourage it. I want creatures! I don’t have a green thumb, like, I have whatever the opposite of that is. I don’t have the patience for crops, it’s just not interesting to me. But I’d shovel a lot of sh*t for some animals.

I’m sure there will be more disagreements as the process continues and I’ll come here to vent, so stay tuned. It feels good to know that as a successful design blogger I can get come here for support when I just need to get away from all the stressful work I’m doing on the farmhouse. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go see if Anne can add a man-sized whoopie cushion to the upstairs landing and let me virtually jump on it. 

Opening Photo Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Prioritizing Your Partner – In Design And Life

Fin Mark


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I love Brians posts so much! They are always such a treat.

Vicki Williams

Yes! Yes! Yes!


Great post, and I particularly agree on points 2 and 4.

My parents moved to a house with a tile-enclosed shower cubicle and I hated it, I used to call it the Coffin Shower.

You are 400% (my personal scientific calculation) more likely to hang up your coat if there is a hook in plain sight, rather than having to open a door, take out a hanger, drape your coat on the hanger, return the hanger to its place and close the door. And that’s if you’re an *adult*. If you’re a kid, forget it.

Also, if you don’t mind me saying, in all my years of reading this blog I have seen half-closed drawers and clothes on the floor on the background of countless pictures and videos and you just don’t seem like the kind of people who would ever open a cupboard door to hang a coat up. Design for yourselves, not for Imaginary Yourselves.

Oh and also, totally with you on point 4, and there are plenty of horror films and thrillers to back you up on this one.


Well I’m with Emily on No. 4. I am Team Coat Closet and/or Team MudRoom. Hooks and coat racks just end up looking super messy, with too much stuff hooked on them. Who wants to look at all that in your main living space?

My kids always hung up their coats in the closet because that the No. 1 rule in our house was: Put Away Your Own Sh-t!


It’s true; I don’t have a coat closet and have always wished I did. I’ve never warmed up to seeing my crap hanging in the hall on hooks.

Amy Rogers

BRIAN! Bravo for being involved & hanging/developing a design point if view, BUT BUILD THE BIGGEST CLOSET POSSIBLE for shoes, boots, umbrellas, dog leashes, towels to wipe dogs, snow suits, etc etc etc OR THE CRAP WILL CREATE CLUTTER THAT TAKES OVER!!!!!! Please!


Agree. I just installed a proper entry cupboard for the first time and it is amazing to have everything neatly out of sight! Please reconsider. It will make your entry way more zen.


Brian, I love your post, but I am with Emily on point 4 as well. Growing up in Minnesota there was a large coat closet in the front entry and it was 100% necessary. Honestly, if you’re all about reducing visual clutter and that beautiful professionally baked cake, you really need to find a way to upgrade your life with a coat closet and ideally a mudroom as well. Small coat closet by the front for guests, large mudroom for the family. Promise it will be worth it.


So my mom is anti-closets. In fact, she removed the closet from her bedroom and also the coat closet in the front hallway. But her house is pretty much immaculate with no clutter. Her secret? Armoires. Put an armoire in the entry. It will be a nice opportunity to bring in some color or texture, but you can also have some closed storage for mittens, hats etc. You can get armoires that were originally for hanging clothes so you can actually hang your coats. Then you can have some nice hooks for cute styling options. Win win for all!


I think an important point here is whether there will be the large mudroom or not. If so, I’d imagine they’d mostly enter the house through that door, especially on the gross days, and leave the wet coats and such there. I can be convinced either way, but would imagine the front door area would be more useful for guests, so I don’t see as big a need for a large closet there.

So you guys need more information (and honestly we might do a full post about this with all the options). I’m so fine with coats on hooks in the mudroom, where most of our daily indoor/outdoor traffic will be. Its the pretty entry (small though) that I wanted to build a closet for guest coats and Anne mocked it up. It looked kinda boring in the rendering but we could have made the details pretty – aged mirror on the fronts with pretty moldings, pretty hardware, etc. AND inside there would be hooks! we don’t have the depth for hangers, so it would be a quick slide or open and hang. I’ve actually agreed to a pretty antique coat tree that at least can be tucked in a corner for Obama’s coat – but we’ll show you the storage options ASAP. Ultimately if Brian feels strongly about something I tend to let him win which HAS NOT always been the right thing to do, but i’m certainly ot always right either (which is why its so awesome to have Anne help tie break) so I think a post about all the coat storage options is DUE. It is shocking and… Read more »

Vicki Williams

Hooks in coat closet, genius! (Since I just did a big reply and looked up and don’t know where all the typing went.) And since hooks in closet was my idea and then guess what? That is what Emily said. Sorry Brian, you are wrong on this one. But LOVE your posts!


This is how we negotiate things in my marriage: if one person feels EXTREMELY STRONGLY about something, that person gets to prevail. Otherwise, I get to prevail.


Could a corner closet work, if it’s just for guest coats on hooks? Might save some space. I used to live in an old house in Portland that had a small corner closet in the entryway and it was pretty cute! Can still have a mirror on the front, but not take up so much space.


Ok, I am team Brian on #4.! I also love hearing the male perspective, since they lean to simple and practical. Here is a classic “design how you think you will live and entertain” vs. “how you actuallywill.” As I stated in another post, the dining room bench in entry with hooks….maybe a beautiful basket or two. Your entry is not a big visible elephant seen from other rooms! Your besties and extended family will probably go to the mud room door after the first time thru the front door. Your immediate family will definitely simplify by entering and exiting thru the mud room. The rare “semi-formal or new guest” at the front entry is not going to hang their own coat. As a gracious host ( that I know the two of you certainly are ), you will be asking to assist in taking their possessions. If you take their coats, etc., YOU will be hanging it in the entry or off into the mud room. Has anyone had parents who entertained and it was your and your siblings job to take the guests coats/hats/purses and take to another room or mudroom when your parents entertained? Your CRITICAL and… Read more »

Maybe a shallow closet with hooks inside is the solution? So it doesn’t take up so much room, you can close the mess behind a door but it’s still super easy?


Okay, I may be old fashioned here, but since when do guests hang up their own coats? We always ask guests if we can take their coats, and then hang them up in the coat closet. Family members and close friends who stop over casually usually use the back mudroom entrance which has hooks. We use both the hooks and the closet for our coats.


I agree about hooks – yes, cupboard – no.
I have hooks in my entry and guests actually use them.
They’d be unlikely to be into putting their stuff IN “my” cupboard. They feel free to do their thing once they’re in the front door.

Plus, the entry is a separate little room. The coats on the hooks won’t be seen from the living/great room!

Also … I’m all for the bench next to the fireplace, being the entry bench! It’s original and what a joy to see that when ypu come in the front door. I have a carved Balinese bench in my entry (I’d prefer the farmhouse bench) and people put their various clobber on it, including habdbags, otger superfluous stuff tgey didn’t want to leave in the car, etc.

ooh yah, we kept it. that’s a good idea!


Totally love this point, Rusty. Guests are way more likely to use something out in the open than digging through any cabinets! …and when they leave, so does their “clutter”. I think hooks are easy and it’s just a matter of making sure your seasonal stuff rotates to storage. We don’t have spring weight coats on our hooks right now – just winter. The rest are in bins and we’ll swap them out when seasonally appropriate along with our other weather accessories (hats, mittens, etc). This maybe is also a point for minimalism and reduction of what you bring into your home – I don’t have ten winter coats, I have two (a “nice” coat and a very, very functional coat). It’s easy to keep things neat when you have fewer things.


Yep! I’ve worked on reducing the amount of clothing and shoes I have over the last 4 tears and life is easier as a result!

I have a bench entry in the foyer of this house and I get the guests to put their stuff on the bench and take off their shoes… then all that stuff stays out of sight from the dining room and kitchen. My last house had a coat closet and no one used it! I remember one holiday dinner gathering where everyone just dumped their coats and pot luck bags in front of the coat closet, visible from the living room and dining table that I had spent so much time decorating to perfection. 😢 Having a foyer is a good thing…


Does anyone know what the application Brian was using or can recommend a similar one?

I also want to know! (I bet it’s got a steep learning curve even for trained architects and designers, and I bet it’s not cheap. But it still seems rad.)


Looks like it might be Chief Architect, or maybe 2020 Design?

DING DING DING. marie wins and its NOT cheap and its really intuitive. I know that anne is crazy talented and haas a lot of experience so I don’t want to diminish her roll in this, because she is SO FAST. But If I had clients again I would 100% use this program – it does floorplans that automatically models 3d inside the house. We’ll show you in aa video soon.

Brian you are so silly! Also it always cracks me up when I start reading a post in Brian’s voice, but see the “by Jess Bunge” contributor tag in my RSS feed, haha. (I don’t know why; it says Brian on the website but it’s funnier in RSS when it’s inaccurate.) The thing I personally hate about glass showers is cleaning them. I really, really hate it. Even in soft-water Seattle I hated it, and now that we live in hard-water London I hate it even more. And I never do it. So it gets really foul and thick and then I have to use super harsh chemicals that don’t even really work and it’s not worth it. And in this pandemic, I can’t outsource things like cleaning in good conscience bc it just seems like an unreasonable risk to bring anyone extra into our home, to them and us, and just a really unacceptable thing. So yeah. Go glass if you have a cleaning strategy. Maybe you love doing that part? Come do mine, haha Interesting about the coat thing! I REALLY want and like concealed coat storage, because we have a ton of coats and jackets and hoodies… Read more »


If you rinse down the inside of the shower enclosure before you get out of the shower, you will save yourselves a lot of cleaning later


A spray bottle of vinegar and water will clean that up easily, no scary chemicals needed. Mr Clean magic eraser also works.


Do you use liquid body soap??? Bar soap has talc, which creates a film. But liquid soap leaves ZERO film. When I used bar soap even my housekeeper couldn’t get the film off, but liquid soap has totally changed that. Try it immediately!


Emily said they’ll probably have a cleaning service… post-pandemic by the time they move in.

And guests might be putting their damp/wet coats in the entry closet if they’re coming in thd front door and not the mudroom/back door.

ha. we just talked about cleaning service last night (thinking maybe a once a month deep clean, but i’ve come to really appreciate having the kids so involved now that they are so much older). But GREAT tips re bar soap (brian does use bar soap) and and RainX? Interesting. Also I think the detail he’s forgetting is that I want a steam shower (I LOVE ours here) and you have to have glass all the way to the ceiling with like something on the seams that is less pretty, etc. I think its cozy being in a tiled room in a hot shower personally …

Vicki Williams

Yes I meant to mention RainX. My tile guy says to spray on when glass is clean and it helps with the cleaning afterward.

Mary C

Our tile bathroom has one outside wall and when I’m in the shower or on the throne, I can feel the cold coming through the tile. Hate it!


You know that product for car windsheilds that makes water bead up & run right off, RainX? You can use that on your glass shower doors too!

Vicki Williams

Also try white cleaning vinegar with some Dawn (can you get that in London?) 2:1 ratio, Spray on, wait a bit and wipe down and you will be amazed! Try it anyway.


This Vinegar+Dawn cleaner is also amazing on tub rings. You almost don’t need any elbow grease at all.


Use a little plastic dish of baking soda and a soft scrubber or brush while you are in the shower. Doesn’t stink and not nasty if it gets on you. Keep a squeegee or towel to dry it off when you get out every day. It’s not perfect, but it helps cut down on the film and water marks a lot.


A friend introduced me to using a window squeegee on the shower enclosure after each shower (it’s not pretty, it’s definitely not design but it is effective). Like Herselfindublin I rinse the shower down and then I also use Method daily shower spray with it…works a treat!


Virginia, London hard water is a league of its own! I prefer natural cleaners, but in London, I’ve found Viakal really works wonders on our glass shower. Also, I got a little squeegee that everyone is supposed to use when they are done showering.


Glad to finally be hearing from the REAL experts!!!


Hahaha 🤣😂


I am waiting on them to change the blog name to Style by Brian Henderson… ; )


The butt cheeks comment started my day off with a big hearty laugh. Thanks Brian!


Going to take a shower now and definitely going to give this a try 🙂


Molly … you have to tell us how that worked out!! 🤣


I think it must require a steam shower. I used really hot water but my glass never got that steamy. Also I forgot to actually try it. But someday I will!

Vicki Williams

What? The butt cheeks or the RainX?


This was so much fun! “you know how people just stare at cakes on Sunday mornings?” Love it.
These points all make sense, although I’m sure Em could find a way to do visual interest (like paneling) without it feeling too busy. The mountain house is full of architectural interest!
And of course, you’ve heard from us all in the comments that outerwear needs air! The only closed storage I’d want is for off-season clean things.
I wholeheartedly agree with #3 – I do not want my appliances having a mind of their own!
I’m giddy excited to see the “after” floor plans. Seriously EHD can you just pause all other content and just post a daily update of the rough drafts hahaha

the paneling i was planning on was inspired by the victorian house on the property. its like an 2″ tiny vertical beadboard that goes wall to ceiling and just a subtle TEXTURE. in the renderings Anne put in the normal 4-6″ white vertical boards because thats what the program had. We settled (as of now) to having it on the ceilings but not the walls, which admittedly gives us more flexibility long term. But I personally think he’s just responding to the renderings and not seeing the full vision.

Christina B

Sunday morning cake staring, was the best.

Leigh H



Three cheers for Brian posts!


I don’t know if you’ve done this already but if you’ve established overarching goals for the house then some of these decisions will work themselves out naturally. Like if a goals is to have a light and airy space then a larger entry and glass enclosure are logical choices. That said is there going to be a mud room by the back door? A mud room in the back could be a good compromise since the back has more room to handle a place for organizing jackets and such while keeping the front entry. As for animals, I love all animals that said I like to consider how existing animals in the household will get along with the new animals you are thinking of introducing into the household. Will the dogs get along with [insert animal here: alpaca, goat, bunny, etc.]? Or will the dogs chase around the alpaca and stress out the alpaca? Would chickens peck at the dogs? Have the dogs been around other animals? Do you know how they will react? Just food for thought🙂 Always love to hear from this expert designer🤗 Good luck with the house!


Yeah, a worker was bringing his very friendly dog to my mom’s place and it was all cool – until the dog killed one of my mom’s chickens. It wasn’t the end of the world or anything (birds that aren’t hand-raised aren’t particularly endearing), but definitely sucked for the chickens. Dogs are dogs, just something to keep in mind.




Dogs will 100% kill chickens. Not every time they see chickens, but it is always within the realm of likely outcomes. It doesn’t mean they’re dangerous, it doesn’t mean they’re going to turn on the humans in their lives, it doesn’t mean they’re badly trained, it’s just something they do. It takes TONS of specific training to make a dog chicken-safe and even then it sometimes still happens.

Tara Tibbetts

I have 10 dogs and 8 chickens. The dogs don’t kill the chickens and we have never trained them. And half my dogs are hunting breeds (mostly hounds).


I thought about the dogs and Alpaca situation (and chickens IF theyre going to be free range) … and maaaaybe, Oscar and Buttercup might need to be introduced (at the speed of light, before they’re too old) to chickens, etc. smaller animals?

As for the Alpacas, these aminals are dudes and dudettes and are fabulous at taking care of themselves!
In fact they naturally defend other animals from predators like foxes. People keep a couple with a herd of sheep for exactly this reason.
The dogs will quickly learn that the Alpacas are the boss of them!

no you are right. they FREAK OUT with squirrels – so of course they are going to chase those chickens…. They will be likely in the back paddock but its absolutely something to think about.


Lauren Liess has dogs, chickens & geese & would likely have some helpful tips!


Another thing to think about is if the dogs bark at squirrels they absolutely will bark at the chickens, so if/when you have chickens they’ll need to have a run or area that the dogs *can’t see*

I remember you said the the entire area is fenced, so I’m guessing that means you were thinking the dogs could roam (fun!) – but it would be incredibly stressful for the chickens if the dogs run up to their run area and start barking and growling at them.

(And yes, chickens don’t lay well when they’re freaked out.)

This is doable – but needs to be a thoughtful placement! 🙂

VERY good points. Aand yes we do have overarching goals (coming at you soon) that involve a lot of simplicity and openness. And yep, we have a messy mudroom at the back of the house (where we will use daily, not this entry). more to come!


Get a donkey! They don’t take any sh!t from canines. Minis may be safer bc full grown donkeys are used to protect sheep and goats, but I can assure you no dog will chase most donkeys.


On the other hand, a donkey will kill a dog, so the dogs had better learn veeery quickly to not mess with the donkey.


So glad to hear your perspective. Thanks for talking about your buttcheeks. 🙂


I love this! I would be 100% down for a regular “Brian’s Design / Farm Diaries” feature. Or podcast even!


I would live for farm diaries posts!!

i agree. he’s so funny and has such a great perspective. 😉


So true!! I laughed my butt off reading this and then sent to my fiancé so he knows he is not alone in his design opinion MAN-dom.


Awesome! Brian needs to contribute more 🙂
I also agree with everything he loves!


Hooks in front – mudroom in the back 😉



Is this like the mullet of design? (Sorry. Couldn’t resist. All I hear when I read this is “business in the front – party in the back.”


That’s a great segue between the first two paragraphs, Brian. 🙂


We definitely need to hear more from the *real* designer of the farmhouse AKA Brian. I like your non-negotiables, especially the no smart appliances. Just give me knobs. However, I disagree when it comes to the lack of coat closet. I don’t doubt that it would make the entry cramped, but so what? I think I prefer cramp over clutter.
And definitely get alpacas. All the alpacas.


Loved this post but I think an entry closet is almost mandatory. And I don’t just mean for resale value. Between rain coats, puffer vests, fleece jackets, and winter coats, that really adds up for a family. And you could be wearing each of those in a given week depending on time of year.

Regarding animals, you should totally get rabbits! Personally, I like the pointy-eared kind because the lop/floppy-eared kind can have impaired hearing, I’ve heard (pun intended).


They’ll be using tg5e mudroom as a family.
The entry is for guests, so not so much clobber is going to be in there.


Thank you Rusty, I will now be referring to my messes as clobber. Love it!

Kristi B

Too Fun! Actually, I don’t why but I was randomly recalling your comment that you didn’t know what sofa was in the living room at that very moment to a friend. Probably my fav quote of your real suffering 🙂 but today had great quotes too. A rarely known ‘alpaca facta’: their poop is the most healing to the land and soil. In sustainable ag there’s is known to be like gold because it both balanced and rich. We have a small farm and it has been so helpful during COVID. Baby lambs born on Easter, piglets in fall and even getting the peeps in the mail all so therapeutic and helps keep my 11 and 14 off those darn screens. Anyway: good luck with the animals. I’m a plant girl married to an animal guy and I have to admit…things weren’t complete here without them.


Ooooh, so lovely Kristi. 🤗


Get goats! We had a lot of animals growing up and goats were the best. Pigs are messy, sheep are dumb, cows ditto plus there’s so much poop. Chickens sure if you want some eggs, but goats are great. They’re low maintenance, they eat brush, they don’t require expensive grooming or anything. We had a dwarf goat named Petey (Peter Pan? because he would never grow?) and once one of his horns got stuck in the hay rack and it ripped off and then the horn GREW BACK. Seriously, goats are great.

As for the coat closet–if you have a mudroom, you’ll be set. When we lived in the country, no one ever came in the front door anyway. You always go through the mudroom to drop off all your crap. The front door is for company, like Obama 🙂


Courtney, I agree. Goats are great!
I grew up in the country and my very much older sister and her husband were a bit hippy and they had a small farm, with goats!!!
I loved ’em! She milked them, made cheese, yoghurt, the works… didn’t eat them bc vegetarian.

I wonder if miniature goats would eat up the blackberries just as well??

I think goats are a lot like naughty dogs! Ha! 🐐🐐


The smaller the goat the worse the terrorist! Get on your car. Eat the paint. Get in the garden.
Bigger goats act more like a cow and are less destructive. Ask me how I know. 😉


I love goats. Mine would eat any growing thing. Except blackberries and poison oak. The rest they chomped down, pretty much preferring the things I didn’t want them to eat. They adored roses. BTW, can you have animals in the city of PDX?


Lil, it looks like you can have animals there. The number of animals like goats and llamas you can keep is based on square feet and (after doing the math) it seems 3 acres should be adequate room.

I love to do online searches, but I didn’t look up zoning and permitting! The link mentioned “agricultural uses” and “approved conditional use”.


To avoid clicking the link and reading lots of government-ese,I’ll summarize that it says up to 4 chickens, up to 4 rabbits, up to 2 miniature pigs, and up to 3 miniature goats can be kept on *any* lot (I wish my community still allowed that – they used to).

Miniature horses, turkeys and emus, llamas, and lots of others fall under the “agricultural uses” and “approved conditional use” clause. I didn’t see alpacas mentioned, but they should count under “other similarly sized livestock”.

No roosters unless the lot’s zoned for agricultural uses; no swine (except miniature).


Ummm regarding closets…. speaking from a family of four here: we have a front closet for dress coats, extra coats, and guest coats; hooks and cubbies by our back door; and a wall of hooks and shoe racks in the garage (each family member has own hooks, wire wall-mounted baskets and shelving for mittens and boots) plus there is a mitten/glove/boot dryer. In the garage are covered storage bins on shelving above the hook wall to hold out-of-season coats, snow pants, boots, gloves and mittens (bins are marked for individual family members). That said it all works pretty well as long as one family member keeps on the system daily. The garage system and front door system works without much help. The open hook cubby system requires constant vigilance ie I’m always hauling extra coats and shoes to the garage or the bedrooms and saying (to my dying days), “Only one coat, one book bag, and one set of shoes in the cubbies. It’s only for what you are wearing at this time.” Then I haul rain coats, sweatshirts, random school papers, sneakers etc…. off to the correct location or if I’m particularly owly….. I’ll impound them for a bit!… Read more »


Gosh! You sound super well, organised!!!


Hi! I have to agree with Brian on some of this. No shower enclosures— and on that same note I’ve never understood the water closet or whatever you call the tiny toilet room often seen in a master bath. Who wants to feel like they are in a stall? Give me the whole space and a window. I’m not gonna poop if someone is in the shower anyway, I’d use a different bathroom, lol.
Also- no smart appliances- more expensive to buy, will need to be replaced faster, and they always have issues. Who needs more technological clutter? Also probs worse for environment.
And no closet in the entry. First, kids won’t use it as easily as they would a hook. Guests never want to open someone’s closet… they’re gonna be more at ease with a hook or rack. Put the closet/coat built-ins in TVs mud room. Also, in PNW, lots of wetness so idk you’d want to use that closet much anyway. Wet closet… nah
Love Brian’s voice, thanks for the morning chuckles 🙂


I’m guessing your main entry will be in the back where you will have some kind of mud/ utility room situation. Can’t imagine you will enter the front door much. No one I ever knew on a farm or our rural property as a kid came in that way-the front was for guests. I’m with team Brian on that one. If you get 4 people coming in the front and they are all cramped in a tiny space trying to back up to open a closet door to put away coats it just won’t work. I also hate a cyborg house. The technology will all keep changing and you will forever be needing to upgrade to the latest version of whatever. No thanks. Alpacas are 15k a piece. We visited a farm this winter. The farmer told us they are a herd animal and need their community. he will only sell them a minimum of 3 at a time- if you own 1 alpaca all by itself it will die within 6 months. He had 30. They are sheared once a year and their fur is very valuable and prized so it may make sense ?They were hilariously adorable, so… Read more »


Yeah… no cyborg house!
It’s a FARM house.
Oh! And it has real animals!
Oh, oh, and Brian takes care of the animals and shovels their poop!


Alpacas used to be pricey due to supply and demand but now you can purchase non show quality for far less than 15K.
Many people were told they would make money on the wool and offspring but that is not true unless you are doing your own shearing and have good quality wool etc. For pet alpacas you can probably get a young pair for less than $2500. Yes the show quality ones demand thousands of dollars like show horses and show dogs but your pet alpacas are not that expensive. Many alpaca growers have open houses once or twice a year and can answer a lot of your questions. I think you might want to start out with a couple of small nanny goats first and work your way up to Alpacas. Visit people who have these animals and find out about the work involved and then make the decisions that are right for your family. Your kids will thank you many years from now for allowing them to grow up in the country and having the pets and the responsibilities.


Ha! Brian, you’ve done it again! Too funny! 🤣😂

I agree with you on all counts, except maybe some panelling here and there, just not a house full.

It’s important, though, to start introducing Buttercup and Oscar to the smaller animals NOW!!! I know this’ll be complex during a pandemic, byt if you really want everyone to get along and not have Birdie’s pet rabbit a muder victim that *some scruffy* will never be forgiven for… DO IT!!!
🐾🐾 🐾🐾 🐈 🐐 🐇 🐓 🐑 🦔

Chickens, smaller creatures that move dast/erratically. (I was so surprised by my terrier working it out with a cat! She’d never seen one before and terriers have a kill instinct with smaller creatures, so if you work at it NOW, it can be done.)

It’ll also show Em that you’re committed to caring for the animals by demonstrating it up-front (sales pitch via demonstrated actions = proof). 👍

Amy E Jones

Too funny! Omg, you’re killing me. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: more Brian Henderson on the blog. And please give this man his own reality TV show…’Brian on the Farm.’ I’m sure hilarity would ensue! Do alpacas also spit at people (like llamas)? Would be a good sidekick!


I believe they do … spit!


They absolutely do spit. They’re generally not very nice…


If you’re not vegan, get a miniature Jersey cow!!! They’re manageable and they’ll give you milk! Best of all, they’re ADORABLE and you can make butter and mozzarella cheese. Highly recommend.


I’m not vegan, but think about it from time to time, because to get milk from any mammal, they gave to give birth.
Then, the baby is taken away at a few days old and the mother … imagine that! The mother cries and searches for her baby for weeks!
The babies are then ‘sorted’. If they’re female, they’re raised to become sairy cows and the process is repeated.
If they’re male, at @ 2 weeks old they become plastic-wrapped VEAL.

Ugh! THAT is why I think about becoming vegan.
I only buy cheese that does not have ANIMAL RENNET.
Rennet comes from the stomachs of the male baby cows that become veal – it’s what turns the milk into a solid so they can digest it.
Makes me sad.🙄


Yeah… get a cow if you want to have it periodically raped and then mourning the loss of its baby so that it can produce milk for you.


Um, no. Cows have cycles also, and are bred when they are in heat. One of the ways you detect their heat is when they “ride” other cows or heifers (yes, other girls since that’s who they are mostly in fields with.) They will then accept the bull when they are ready and willing. Alternatively, many dairy farmers artificially inseminate (gently and carefully) when they are in heat, in order to vary genetics. I don’t think you would consider it rape if you witnessed the process. I’d liken it more to a pap smear 😉


The main tenet of dairy farming is cow comfort. Every dairy farmer I know loves their cows; you have to in order to work with them as hard and as constantly as is necessary. It is literally 24/7/365 work. Cow comfort also equates to increased milk production. So, a mother crying for weeks makes no sense from a heart standpoint, or a money one. Oxytocin is a thing for cows, too, and a distressed cow will not be producing milk. As for babies, yes, males are usually sold, although there isn’t a big veal market. Most bull calves go on to be raised as steers for beef. Many dairies now use sexed semen and artificial insemination so that far fewer bull calves are ever born. Not trying to sway anyone’s feelings or opinions about animal products, but it frustrates me endlessly to see so much misinformation. I am all about animal welfare, and it’s important for more agricultural education and also to know and trust your farmers and processors.


LOVE it when Brian posts! Laughter is great medicine!


I agree about the entry closet. Guests can use hooks there. But there should be a family entry somewhere hidden from view with plenty of hooks for all the clutter of family life and don’t forget to add space for the dogs collars and leashes. By the way if you need some pretty doggie bling collars check out Facebook as there are some awesome custom creators out there!


I’m totally with you on the house design video game!! We have a seriously old BHG House Designer and I love it. I’ve designed our future “dream house” so many times. Can’t wait to see what you all come up with!

This was cracking me up!
I can totally see his point on the appliances and technology, besides it’s a farmhouse so I think of simpler times less is more kinda thing more tranquility please!!
Im sure that you can come up with some trim and molding that are a good compromise without it all being paneling.
I’m team 🦙
I get not wanting a closet, you can offer to take your company’s coat for them but you will need an alternative for the day to day for kids shoes, backpacks ect.
Anyways, I loved this it’s nice to hear thoughts from Brian because you know, he’s going to live there too.


Haha! So fun! Thanks Brian, I love your humor and voice. I agree with it all! We have a huge mudroom of Shaker pegs and while it’s visually crazy in winter, my kids would just throw their stuff on the bench if they had to open a closet door. It all dries out better too, which will be important in Portland… but I recommend pegs spaced out over a coat rack for that reason.


Stick to your hooks/guns, Brian. I have 7 kids and a lot of extended family nearby. Yes, we have a mudroom for our family (near the garage entrance which is our main family entrance) with OPEN lockers so air dries everything in between uses, but for guests at the front door, it is hooks and a bench. Their stuff is fine exhibition-style for the few hours they are here, it helps dry as they are in the open, and then they leave and it is airy/nice again. I built shelves above the masculine, hefty, black hooks and we display art and coffee table books there. The entire area is a bit of a modern work of clean-lined art if I do say so myself! Hooks are fine enough for the guests. Oh, we do have extra hooks across from our mudroom lockers for overflow – Us with winter outerwear and for hanging outerwear for the 14 extra teens who ended up at our home for an impromptu snowball fight yesterday when school was canceled.


Christina, that sounds so gorgeous! 😊


Elliot neeeeeeeeeeeds a bunny! I grew up with a pet rabbit and he was MAGICAL!


Yesss!I adopted one that turned up jn my front yard, lost. I tried everything, but couldn’t find the owner.
This bunny was toilet trained!!! It peed and pooed in a litter box just like a cat!
I was teaching at the time and a girl in my class had just lost her bunny, it died of old age. So, I asked her if she’d like it and she did! She was over the moon!
Every year, for 5 years, she sent me a Christmas card with a photo of the bunny!
Soooo sweet. 😊


Oh a d bunny used to hop up on my lap for snoozes and cuddles just like a cat! Blew my ind. That’s why I tried so hard to find it’s humans. It was obviously loved.

emily jane

Hi Brian! I am writing from Portland with Giant Flemish Rabbits on property (with babies on the way! In fact, by the time you guys move up here we’ll likely have pets available. Their ears stand up but are sooo sweet and smart and engaging that Elliot might not miss the floppy ears. Aaaaand their poop is also great for the earth (especially when mixed with chicken poop -or so I’ve read as I am a beginner in both gardening and rabbiting). Aaaaanyway, with certainty gained from experience, I can advise hooks on the wall in the family entrance/mudroom -lots, and lots and LOTS of hooks & in multiples for EVERYONE. Along with mood-lifting endorphin support, animals provide chores which will mean lots of trips in & out of so. very. much. RAIN (I’ve doubled the amount of time I spend in front of my ‘happy light’ this winter!). A mudroom’s main purpose is function so the chaos of a wall of wet coats hanging and muddy boots lining the floor (perhaps beneath a bench..?) will make perfect sense in there but even more importantly, are absolutely necessary. For Michelle and Barack’s coats a vintage armoire in the formal entry… Read more »

Robin in NoCo

Unsolicited hobby farm animal advice: Nigerian dwarf goats. We have six on our 1.5 acres (irrigated) in northern Colorado and they are the BEST! Anything with fleece requires shearing, and it can be a real pain to find a shearer to do just a few animals. Goats are pretty easy keepers (just grass hay, clean water, goat minerals, and some shelter) and if you choose wethers (neuetered males) you give a home to a “by-product” of the goat milk industry, and wethers are far sweeter than rams. Ours have periodic heat butting pantomime fights to establish cartoon dominance, and it is some good entertainment! Also a bonus: our pasture is nearly weed-free and we have no brush to clear! If you get them as bottle babies it’s pretty time consuming (but ADORABLE) at first but they will reward you with “are you my momma?” devotion. I’m excited for you and your family and your new adventure on your mini-farm. It was the best decision we ever made for our family (lived here for 15 years, kids are 22, 19, and 17 now).


The deep desire for Squeezits really brought something back this morning. Nostalgia? Trauma? Either way, I enjoyed it!


Well, Brian I have no design advice for you because HEY, your the PRO!
Just a reality check though in case you need it. Five months of the year someone will be sloshing out in the pouring rain to care for those animals. ( possibly a hired farm hand)? I do agree animals are a must. When I hear chickens I hear protecting them from coyotes and getting rid of rat families that attract them. I’ll admit I’m no farm expert. I hear turkeys make great pets ? I’m probably the only turkey here….I’m sure this place will be beautiful.


A witty contribution. In the same boat with Nr. 3, except of the kitchen – knob-less kitchen is a big relief and time saving.


We have both a front entry large closet (two doors) and a back mud room (main entry for us) with hooks, built in bench, shoe cubbies etc. We tend to use the front closet for our off season jackets and shoes. After living here a year, we noticed guests just throw their jackets on our front bench rather than in our front closet, so we also added some Umbra hooks for guests that look like wooden sculptures when no guests are over. I only let the kids (2 & 4) keep 2-3 jackets and pairs of shoes in the mud room so I don’t have to see the mess every time I enter the house. If you can put your laundry in the back mud room, it is so great. We’ve had it in the basement, mud room and upstairs. Main floor mud room worked best for our needs, no concerns about running the machines when kids are sleeping and on the same level as the wine & TV for folding. We’ve got our kids into the habit of putting their socks straight into the wash when they get home so they aren’t left all over the house or eaten… Read more »

Roberta Davis

That’s a very short list! Quite reasonable! When Barack comes over for dinner, hide all your coats in an upstairs bedroom and clear out the small closet for him!


Personally I wish we could use a coat closet due to the visual clutter. But, here in Seattle they are a little less convenient — in the wet months (ie, Sept – May) our kids needs convenient hooks to quickly hang rain coats and winter coats to dry out first. And then of course they never get around to moving things to the actual closet.

Amanda McCullough

I have both a “mudroom” (actually a breezeway from garage to house) and a formal front closet …..I use the mudroom for every day and have a couple nicer coats in the front closet. But guests always just throw their coats on the guest bed when they come over! My issue is ALL the shoes in the mudroom……constantly going and lining them up on the edge so you can walk in the mudroom still……. humans!!! LMAO

This was such a joy to read!

Okay this was hilarious, but I really think Emily (and Anne) should win on the entry closet!!! There is nothing like being able to throw all your dirty sh*t inside an enclosed space when you have guests over. We have an entry closet with a nearby peg rack for easy grab and it’s the best of both worlds.


Animals- YES. They will make you so happy. Give in on the coat closet if you must in exchange for an alpaca and a mini donkey. So cute.


but I’m a design blogger now so the rules don’t apply to me.

Maybe it’s because I like to fog them up and press my buttcheeks on the glass and laugh at how it looks like two giant cartoon-alien eyes peering into the shower. I mean, is that so wrong?!

I’m cry laughing. Thanks for a hilarious post Brian


I chuckle every time you guys refer to five acres and a house as a farm. It makes you sound very L.A. 😉 Brian, your 80’s references always make me laugh, as I relate! I would suggest a couple of goats as beginner animals.
They have very entertaining personalities, and are relatively easy keepers. They do an excellent job of keeping brush and grass down also. Good luck on your journey, I am excited for your family.


5 acres is 2 hectars, enough to do crop rotation, or use as a pasture. Totally legit as a farm in an old country, but too little to have both crops and cows.


Read “Running with Sherman” by Christopher McDougall and then get a donkey.


No closet in the entry is such a straight guy choice.


(Not that you said you were going to do this, but) please please PLEASE don’t get rabbits and just leave them in a hutch. I have two rabbits that are free-range and litter trained, and everyone who interacts with them is shocked by how fun, playful, and interactive they are when they’re not stuck in a tiny cage all day. Also floppy-eared rabbits are not hearing-impaired (lol), it’s more like they’re mute (they use their ear positioning to communicate),


Rabbits are much the same as cats …monly they don’t hunt or kill.


I see you looming some knitwear with the alpaca fur. Could be a new etsy side business….


Brain – So funny! you should follow Ballerina Farm on insta and you can get your animal fix there – no maintenance 🙂

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