French country design evokes images of rustic, old world charm reminiscent of old chateaux and inviting, spacious country homes, against the backdrop of lavender fields and bright sunshine. The French are known for living well and creating charming country homes that are both aesthetically pleasing and welcoming. They design both elegance and simplicity in a beautiful, natural way.
You can enjoy the beauty of this style in your own home by incorporating some of the colours and style elements into your home from drapery to furniture, ceramics and more. Here are some elements to consider to evoke a French country design in your home.
French country colours evoke warmth and comfort. This look creates a welcoming, relaxed ambience that can be achieved through your colour palette. Typically French country design has a neutral dominant shade with warm, subtle and subdued tones such as creams, beiges, soft yellows and tans. This is contrasted with a few key accent colours. While white can work, softer, creamier colours like ecru or ivory offer more gentleness and warmth.
For your walls, you can use a softer palette that draws upon natural colours such as a soft sage similar to grass, softer yellow similar to the sun, gentle blues that look like they came right from the sky and lavender, pink and grays that evoke flowers in the countryside. For example, Benjamin Moore offers a full range of colours in this spectrum such as Mascarpone AF-20, Ballet White )C-9, Gray Owl OC-52, White Heaven 2068-70, Morning Sky Blue 2053-70 and Kittery Point Green HC-119. Farrow & Ball offers this range with more of a beige influence – Slipper Satin, Off-White, Pavilion Gray, Caluna, Parma Gray and French Gray.
While French country design enjoys the full gamut of colours but there are a few that stand out in particular. This includes a bright sunny yellow and gentle gold/champagne colour, fiery red and burnt rust, bright green and dark hunter green and finally, cobalt blue and softer ocean colours. The burnt rust in particular offers a historical quality.
Contrasting colour helps accentuate styles and draws your eye to objects of art, ceramics and accessory pieces ranging from lighting fixtures to soft fabric throws. For example, the walls may be painted a soft, pale colour while the ceilings have dark wood beams. Provencal printed fabrics, including the well known toile style, looks fabulous against a lighter palette of colours.
Choose natural materials when possible. This includes having wooden chairs with delicate carvings, natural stone floors and a stone mantlepiece with a clay or brick hearth. Adding wool or cotton rugs adds to the ambience.
Distinctive Architectural Features
Stone floors and walls, distressed ceiling beams, rustic furniture with curved panels or delicate carvings, beautiful wood armoires, wood shutters and curved pathways are just some of the distinct, architectural elements of French country design. Some homes in Provence also have deeply cut window sills with tall, narrow windows and wooden shutters often in brighter colours to keep out the hot summer sun. Wild creeping vines add charm to windows and doorways.
As mentioned before, toile is a popular traditional design often seen with one colour (black, blue, red or green) contrasted against a while, cream or yellow background. Interestingly enough, toile was first produced in Ireland but caught on in France in the 1750s, where they were called “toiles due jouy” where toile means cloth in French and Juoy is the town in France near Versailles where the fabrics were first manufactured. Themes can range from animals to country scenes, courting scenes and Chinese patterns. Toile is typically printed on cotton or linen fabric. In addition to toile, Provencal prints include bright colours such as green, lavender and orange. You can also opt for blankets and throw pillows that you pair with solids or floral, gingham or stripe prints.
French country design evokes imagery of wire baskets, wood cutting boards, bright ceramics, beautiful old paintings and flowers everywhere, often placed in simple clear vases or old pitchers. Add window boxes with bright flowers such as geraniums and lavender. Instead of fine china, you can use bold, bright summery cookware and tableware. Vivid animal motifs, big pottery, colourful tablecloths and wrought iron candle holders complete the look.
Whitewashed Wood Surfaces
A whitewashed finish offers rustic appeal in a charming, elegant way with distressed finishes in cream or pearly white.
Wrought Iron Furniture and Accessories
The French took wrought iron first used for weapons and tools, and turned it into highly decorative and stylized artwork. You can see wrought iron all over the French countryside from gates to estates to wine cellars and in scrolls in furniture. Just add plenty of pillows and nice throws to a wrought-iron daybed that you can use for entertaining in the living room and serves as a bed for an extra guest at night.
Additional decorative items include chandeliers, iron decor items, long mirrors and wall clocks.
Blue and White Porcelain
Similar to the popularity of the Delft porcelain in the Netherlands inspired by Chinese porcelain, French porcelain was first developed in a factory in Nevers. Today, blue and white porcelain evokes the French countryside and in complementary looks in tea towels and painted cabinets in the kitchen.
Furniture with Flowing Lines
Aim to add in plenty of natural materials. French country furniture offers both sophistication with a natural, flowing feeling. Plush seating and inviting upholstery add both comfort and style.
French Provencal furniture was handmade, passing on from one generation to the next and included elements such as wrought iron, antique brass and burnished bronze finishes. You can enjoy the same look and add a tufted headboard with a handcrafted trim. Weathered finishes add to the antique look.
Finally, adding antiques and bright pops of colour through cobalt blue vases and fresh flowers finishes the look.