The Characteristics of French Country Style Decor
The French country style gets its look from the French countryside, especially that of Provence and has inspired homeowners, interior designers and architects for centuries. While there are manor homes and chateaux in the countryside of France, this style is inspired by the more relaxed farmhouse-style homes and their natural influences.
The History of French Country Esthetic
American Soldiers in World War I were enchanted by the homes they saw in the French countryside of Provence. When they relocated back to the USA, they brought the style back with them and built their own homes mirroring the French country style look. This style has waxed and waned over the years and is enjoying a current resurgence as its elements are closely linked to the modern farmhouse interior design trend.
French Country Decor Style
The French country style is a classic mix of rustic and refined. Its comfortable, casual elegance includes traditional elements that are distressed, relaxed, and subdued. Elements of nature play a key role in achieving the effortless and “perfectly imperfect” feel of the French countryside. The French style country decor feels welcoming and lived-in, but also elegant.
These are key interior home decorating trends that characterize the French country look:
- Colors: The color palette for French country style is warm. With a neutral foundation, medium to low-intensity colors are utilized to add character and to accentuate. Soft yellows, baby blues, and warm pinks are popular, as are more saturated greens, brick reds, and deep blues.
- Patterns: Used to add character and pops of color, the style is full of pattern and prints, usually on linen or cotton. Checks, plaids, and stripes are common, as well as the French country hallmark: toile. Traditional motifs of the Provencal style also include sunflowers, roosters, olives, and lavender, which are typically found on curtains and table linens.
- Materials: Natural materials are key, with wood-beamed ceilings being a large part of the look, as well as wood-planked or natural stone floors and weathered brick or stone fireplaces. Nothing is polished; finishes are subtly distressed to create a lived-in look.
French Country Architecture
The architecture of the French countryside includes both farmhouse designs and more stately manor homes. Characteristics of the style include comfortable, natural designs and a rustic warmth with lots of curves and soft lines built largely with wood, stone and plaster.
- Exteriors: Homes generally fit in with their natural surroundings and often include the simplicity of brick, plaster or stone facades. Symmetry is an important feature, with front facades that are mostly flat. Roofs are tall, sloping, and hipped with barrel-shaped overlapping clay tiles in natural beige, brown, or red colors.
- Windows: Windows are generally tall and rectangular, adding to the symmetry and the appearance of additional height. First and second-floor windows are usually aligned perfectly and adorned with arches and/or wooden shutters.
- Ceilings and walls: Exposed wooden beams are a hallmark of French country homes. The style also utilizes plaster on both ceilings and walls. Accent moldings and trim with intricate curves and delicate scrollwork enhance the French country look, as do textured wallpapers with simple patterns, tapestries, and light-colored drapes constructed from rich fabrics.
- Floors: Most floors in the French country style are natural stone, aged brick, or wood planks, usually laid in a parquet or herringbone pattern. Tiles are also popular, including oversized checks, fleur-de-lis designs, and lantern mosaics.
French Country Furniture
French country furniture designs, inspired by the pieces found in the homes of Provence, often incorporate mixed patterns, distressed woodwork, ruffled fabrics, and a mix of subdued and vibrant hues. Furnishings are all about creating flow, with curved lines, natural materials, and low-sheen finishes as key features of the look.
- Comfortable seating: Seating is cozy and plush, with comfort as the ultimate goal. Chairs generally include upholstered cushions. The Louis XVI chair is the epitome of the French country style, with wooden construction, elegant lines, and thick cushions.
- Simple pieces: Furnishings like chests and tables are generally simple and graceful, incorporating carvings that serve to decorate while emphasizing the curves of the furniture.
- Classic finishes: Furniture is characterized by finishes that are distressed, painted, and sometimes whitewashed. Milk or chalk paint can be used to achieve this distressed effect.
French Country Accessories
While the French country style is similar to that of the currently popular modern farmhouse, its look is distinctly different. While both are known for their warmth and influences from nature, the French country decor includes more ornate details, curved lines, and feminine patterns.
The following are characteristics of the French country aesthetic:
- Wall decor: Iron or bronze wall sconces with curved arms and slightly decorative details add a French country look to a home. A gold or bronze-framed antique mirror placed between the sconces completes the look by reflecting the light to add to the rusticity of the atmosphere. Prints featuring flowers and birds in antique frames will further advance the design.
- Tableware: Tables are generally layered with fabrics. White ceramic serving pieces are frequently decorated with blue or pink designs, with flowers, birds, and pastoral scenes particularly popular.
Rugs For Your French Country Style Decor
The French country style is incomplete without a proper floor covering. Here are some of the more popular styles:
- Natural: The French country style draws heavily from nature, and the typical wood or stone floors look great with a natural rug covering, such as jute or sisal.
- Antique: With warm, muted colors as a hallmark of the French country style, a distressed, faded, antique rug with a center medallion or floral motif is a perfect complement to the style.
- Vintage: Vintage floor coverings add to the comfortable elegance of a French country room. Popular motifs include floral patterns, roosters, vines, sunflowers, wine, fleur-de-lis, and checked patterns.
- Aubusson: The 17th-century French technique of weaving rugs with depth perspective is reflected in antique French rugs from Aubusson, which add an authentic dimension to any French country decor.
- Savonnerie: First commissioned by King Henri IV in the 17th century, these antique rugs utilize the muted colors and floral motifs that are quintessentially French country.