After developing a systematic analysis of the vernacular phenomenon in different disciplines, this paper presents a flexible model to understand the multiple factors and the different degrees of vernacularity behind the many processes that lead to the generation of material culture. The conceptual model offers an open, polythetic and integrative approach to the vernacular by assuming that it operates in different dimensions (temporal, socio-political, sociological, locational, epistemological, procedural, economic and functional), and that the many attributes or characteristics included in those dimensions are all relevant but not strictly necessary. The model is intended to facilitate a more methodical and rigorous connection between the vernacular concept and contemporary discourses on sustainability, resilience, globalization, governance, and rural-urban development. In addition, and due to its transdisciplinary character, the model will enable the development of comparative studies within and between a wide range of fields (architecture, landscape studies, design, planning and geography). A prospective analysis of the use of the model in rural landscapes reveals its potential to mediate between the protective approach that has characterized official planning during the last decades and emergent approaches that advocate the reinterpretation of the vernacular as a new form to generate new collective identities and to reconnect people and place.