A vintage British laundry trolley holds Amy Zantzinger’s collection of white platters. The kitchen has a variety of lighting fixtures, from the Urban Electric wall lanterns to the dome glass light from South of Market that hangs over the table. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Designer Amy Zantzinger styled her family’s waterside retreat to be an elegant yet casual farmhouse. No country cliches here: Her look combines rustic farm tables, lanterns and antique weather vanes with contemporary lighting and white marble bathrooms.

Here are some of her ideas for getting the modern farmhouse look:

Paint most of the rooms in the same white paint. Amy chose Farrow & Ball’s All White. “It’s fresh and crisp. We don’t want people to be distracted by the walls. We want them to look out the windows at the views,” she says. Amy sampled a number of her go-to paint colors in various spots, studying how they looked at different times of day. Benjamin Moore’s White Dove and Simply White were two other colors considered, but White Dove was a bit too gray and Simply White too creamy.


Soft seafoam linen curtains frame the views of the farm and the river in the master bedroom of the Zantzinger home. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Stick with linen. Many of the curtains, chairs and pillows in the house are made of linen. “There is a casualness about linen that I like,” Amy says. In the living room, she blended beige linen curtains, blue linen cushions on wood-frame chairs and linen striped pillows. In the master bedroom, the sea-foam linen curtains create softness and a gentle frame for the view of the water.

Collect white platters for casual country meals. Amy and her family love to entertain, so she has a stash of white stoneware platters, from places including Ikea and Restoration Hardware. She likes the kind with a higher lip, so nothing spills out. “My platters are clean and simple; they showcase the food,” she says. Her style is to combine several foods — such as lots of tossed greens with chicken salad in the middle — on one big platter. She often shops when she travels, especially in San Francisco, which she says has some of the best home stores in the country. Two examples of things she found there: a vintage beechwood English laundry trolley from the shop March where she stacks her platters, and glazed Italian platters from Hudson/Grace.


The dining room of the Zantzinger home has nautical touches and a view of the river. The light fixture over the table is by Gibson Lighting. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Combine many kinds of lighting. Amy spent a lot of time figuring out the right light fixtures for each room. She sought out interesting old sconces and lanterns, such as a 1930s ship light from a Dutch naval vessel hung in the mud room. “Vintage fixtures give texture to a home. If the fixtures are all new, the place can look like a lighting showroom.” Because so many chandeliers and pendants have exposed bulbs, she chose bulbs that complement or contrast with the fixture. In some she used the Edison-style exposed LED bulbs that give off a warm glow. Candles add ambiance; she likes to light them at dusk, not before.

Find new uses for old silver. Adding some silver to a more casual setting creates interest and patina. Amy has a collection of silver pitchers, julep cups and vases she amassed over the years. “Vintage silver looks great when placed on an old wood table,” she says. You can find pieces at flea markets, thrift shops and vintage stores. Amy fills old silver-plated water goblets with wildflowers she picks in nearby fields.