Create an ideabook for your next remodeling project!
Browse more than 1,000,000 photos from top designers and save your favorites
Style Secret: Simple, Stylish Furnishings
You know those people who can rifle through the clearance clothing rack and emerge with an outfit that looks like a million bucks? It's the same with the French and their furnishings, which nimbly straddle the line between elegance and functionality. Although French country pieces are largely free of the embellishments that historically have marked more affluent French design, they're shapely and well scaled, with an eye toward balance. And because the rural French of old had to be sure every piece would work its hardest, it's not unusual to see multifunctional case goods or other furnishings that can transition to wherever they're needed most.
In keeping with the collected look, stay away from matchy-matchy furniture sets. Instead, mix wood pieces in a variety of natural finishes with metal ones that show a little age.
New-world chic: The seating area above epitomizes the French country approach to furniture. The fauteuil chairs, table and shelf all blend in sophisticated yet unstudied harmony, tied together by the color scheme of gentle whites and dove grays. They have just enough decorative flourish to elevate them above the strictly practical, yet they're in no way showy or overdone.
Style Secret: Flowers
Blurring the boundaries between inside and out is a cornerstone of life in France's rural regions (indeed, throughout the nation). Thus, no French country interior is complete without flowers, whether they're clustered in a pottery vase, blooming on linen upholstery or carved into a wooden mirror frame.
Fresh blossoms and foliage should look as though they could have come from a garden just outside the door, arranged casually and without affectation. Choose flowers that thrive in the regions where the style arose: sunflowers, irises, poppies.
New-world chic: The grouping on this breakfast table feels homey, cheerful and utterly welcoming. The jug of flowers is the star of the scene, with supporting players (a bowl of fruit, a rooster-bedecked pitcher) amplifying the impression of country living.
Style Secret: Clear, Warm Colors
Whether they're bright, deep or pastel, French country colors have a gentleness about them that translates to instant comfort. Whites are warm, not stark; think cream, ecru, ivory. Other colors pull directly from the landscape: dusty sages and lavenders, sunny yellows and sky blues, peony pinks and brick reds.
New-world chic: Essentially, this kitchen and dining area comprises a trio of primary colors. Yet the nuances in the palette take them into more sophisticated territory: creamy yellow, rich red, muted royal blue. Because the stronger colors are used only in small dabs, they don't overtake the laid-back attitude of the space.
Style Secret: Textural Surfaces
No stainless steel or minimalist tile here — French country surfaces call for visual depth and wear their imperfections proudly. Cloak the walls in plaster, stucco, stone, or a blend of all three throughout the house. When it's applied with a practiced hand, a thick layer of drywall mud can be a less expensive solution to these pricier materials. If you choose simply to paint the walls, consider a glaze or other treatment that will keep them from feeling flat. For the floors, slate and limestone, natural wood and tumbled earthen tile all strike the right notes.
New-world chic: The range hood in this kitchen is covered in tiny mosaic tiles — a riff on convention, but it works because it approximates the rough look of a more traditional French country surface. The raised detailing on the backsplash enhances the sense of dimension.
Style Secret: Roosters
Much of the appeal of French country style lies in a sprinkle of whimsical accents — and what's more iconic than the princely rooster? The challenge is to limit yourself: There's such a glut of rooster-themed bric-a-brac on the market that it's easy to get caught up in the madness and end up with a space that's more Old MacDonald than old France. Instead, pick one or two pieces, such as a kitchen rug, a cookie jar or a painting. Then practice the art of restraint.
New-world chic: Notwithstanding the statuette that crows from the island, this kitchen keeps the rooster details in check. The three-dimensional detail on the range hood blends into the background until you look closely. The backsplash over the cooktop, a hand-painted farm scene, complements the poultry pieces in a more subtle way.
More 'So Your Style Is':
Traditional | Contemporary | Transitional | Cottage | Eclectic | Industrial | Coastal | Arts and Crafts | Hollywood Regency
French Country Blend
French Kitchen Style