Understanding and Incorporating French Provincial Decor
Sophistication and simplicity come together in French Provincial decor, sometimes in ways that are unexpected. This style arose from a need for practicality balanced with the desire for elegance. The result is a versatile interior design that can be successfully incorporated into any home.
History of French Provincial Decor
Provence is a rural region located in the south of France. To this day, it retains a linguistic and cultural identity distinct from the rest of the country. Nevertheless, in the 17th century and 18th century, farmers and other citizens of Provence longed for the elaborate home fashions that were popular in Paris, France. Local furniture makers sought to answer the demand by imitating the style of Parisian furniture while using the materials available to them. The result was a “pared-back” style of furniture made from materials readily available in Provence and therefore more affordable for the people to purchase.
This amalgam of country and cosmopolitan style that came be known as French Provincial has existed now for several centuries. It became popular outside of France in the early 20th century thanks to World War I. Foreign soldiers returning from France liked the look of the country homes they had seen there and started to mimic it in the interior design of their own homes.
Elements of French Provincial Decor
Because French Provincial decor consists of disparate and sometimes contrasting elements, it can be successfully incorporated into any living space. Here are some examples of key style elements.
1. Muted Colors
A French Provincial color scheme usually takes its inspiration from nature and consists of pastels, such as lilac, grass green, periwinkle, lavender, and peach. Background colors are typically ivory cream, beige, and other warm-toned neutrals. A rug can be a good way to incorporate these colors into your design scheme and unify the space.
2. Needlepoint Upholstery
Needlepoint was a common occupation for European women in the 17th and 18th centuries. They would often turn their creations into coverings for furniture cushions. Therefore, upholstery that is hand-sewn, or at least looks like it could have been, is a common element.
In the days before central heating, a fireplace was not a luxury but a necessity to keep the house and its occupants warm and cozy during the winter. Therefore, a fireplace has central significance in a French Provincial design scheme. The mantelpiece may be made of ornately carved wood or natural stone.
4. Freestanding Storage
A home in Provence in the 17th and 18th centuries would likely never be without a wooden freestanding storage unit, such as a wardrobe or an armoire. The people of Provence, especially those of modest means, favored these over closets because they were taxed according to the number of rooms in their home, and a closet counted as a room in the government’s assessment. However, such units were not merely functional. People sought decorative armoires and wardrobes made of intricately carved wood.
5. Rustic Materials
French Provincial interior design often makes use of rustic building materials, such as wood, stone, and brick. These may remain raw and exposed, or they may be painted or whitewashed. Examples of rustic materials that may appear in a French Provincial home include exposed ceiling beams and parquet floors, sometimes made of distressed wood.
6. Wrought Iron
Wrought iron is a relatively inexpensive material that, when bent and shaped in attractive configurations, can bring a touch of elegance to the rustic elements often present in a French Provincial home. For example, it is not uncommon to see a table made of raw or distressed wood with wrought iron legs.
A word of caution when decorating with materials like wood, stone, and wrought iron: They can make a room feel too hard, too stark, or too cold. One way to add some warmth and softness back into the room is with a cheerily colored rug on the floor.
7. Gold Accents
Gold accents on fixtures and hardware can provide a touch of opulence, which was all that most people of Provence could afford in the 18th and 17th centuries. Gold and gold-toned accents can add a similar touch to your French Provincial interior design without becoming too showy. See if you can find rugs embroidered with gold-colored thread.
8. Pendant Lights
No French Provincial interior design would be complete without at least one pendant light or chandelier. Whichever you choose, it should be ornate, preferably made from wrought iron or gold-colored metal. These lights are intended to attract attention and admiration; therefore, they should be hung in an area of the house where people tend to gather, such as a living room or dining room.
The Timelessness of French Provincial Decor
The different elements of French Provincial decor and French rugs result in a style that is uniquely timeless. An antique or vintage rug can tie the whole concept together. In the Nazmiyal Collection, you are sure to find the perfect rug, weather it be an authentic antique, vintage or modern rugs reflecting traditional interior styles. Connect with our experts to learn more.