Warm. Relaxed. Inviting. Colorful. These are all adjectives that describe the elements used in French country design and this look can be achieved through the use of traditional fabrics, furniture, and accessories that are commonly found in French country homes.
Similar to American country style and design, French country fabrics are colorful, durable and versatile. They celebrate the surrounding areas of Provence and the south of France. Warm and sunny yellows can be found in the fields of sunflowers and wheat and are highlighted by the ever-present sunshine. Vibrant reds mirror the clay tiles used in the surrounding architecture. Bright shades of blue come from the sky and the ocean and even the lavender fields, and green can be found in the low hills of the surrounding terrain.
Fabric patterns are also important when decorating a French country home. For example, toile de juoy (often referred to as toile) appears in homes as window treatments, wall coverings, bedding, upholstery and table linens. This traditional fabric tells a story through the pattern. Common motifs are people dressed in turn of the century clothing and enjoying a day at the park, strolling through the village or dancing in the streets. Children and pets often frolic nearby. Most toile is set against a cream colored or white background with the pattern done in one color of black, red, blue or gold. However, fabric manufacturers currently offer more modern color combinations such as a striking black and red combination or a trendy pink and green.
A common characteristic of French country style is a mix of patterns and colors that have been artfully combined to create a colorful and casual look. Checks, stripes, toiles, and florals can all be combined in one pillow, for example, or a selection of these patterns can be used as seat cushions, toss pillows or upholstery. To make pattern mixing easier just remember a simple trick used by designers: choose a common color that appears in all your fabrics to some degree and then choose a large pattern, a medium sized pattern and a small pattern and mix them together however you like. One suggestion might be to use a large floral pattern that features shades of red, blue and green as the body of a pillow, accented with a medium sized gingham check ruffle in blue. Toss this pillow on a window seat upholstered in the blue gingham and a window valance that features a blue and cream toile with a coordinating band of a blue check. I know this all sounds confusing but just experiment with all your chosen fabrics and see what is most pleasing to you and what works best in your home.
To achieve a relaxed and casual look that is so prominent in French country design, furniture pieces combine beautiful distressed wood tones with aged metal and matte finishes.
A typical dining room, for example, might include a round dining table with a distressed wood top place on an old metal pedestal. Chairs would feature a carved back and comfortable seat cushions tied to the rungs. Use your fabric pattern matching skills here and accent a floral cushion with a gingham ruffle and ties or, for a more graphic look, black and white checks accented with black and white stripes or checks combined with toile; a classic French country combination. An old cabinet with layers of peeling paint might work as a buffet. Note: If distressed wood and a “shabby chic” finish are not to your liking, French country furniture can also feature polished wood and curvy shapes that are a bit more formal.
Upholstered furniture pieces are over-stuffed and comfortable. Fabric choices might include cozy chenille or a durable fabric blend that features one of the patterns mentioned above. A sofa upholstered in a red and white check and accented with floral pillows creates a friendly and inviting seating area for your family. Toss a needlepoint pillow of sunflowers or barnyard roosters to create the collected and pulled together look that is so desirable.
As with any decorating style, accessories are so important to the overall look of a French country style home. Pictures, family photos, collectables, vases and artwork will all add ambience as well as the all important personal touch that every house needs to make it a home.
- Pictures might include a gallery wall of photos of your travels through the French countryside or even a collection of framed postcards picked up on those travels.
- Family photos are always an important element when decorating your home. Group them together on the wall, a buffet or side table for maximum impact. They can also be switched out with the seasons so you can enjoy past vacations during the summer, for example, and reminisce about funny Halloween costumes or Christmas gatherings during the holidays. For a casual look, frames can be mismatched or, for a more formal look, use the same frame finish such as all wood, brass, etc.
- It is fun to display a prized collection. The trick here is to be sure and group your collection together rather than spread it all over the house. This way you can enjoy it as a collection and not just a singular item. Roosters, for example, are a staple in a French country kitchen as are old wine and oil jugs, bottles, etc. Limoges boxes are pretty when placed atop a coffee table or in a shadow box in the powder room.
- Artwork can be original and expensive or it can be something sentimental like a child’s painting or a flea market find. Serene landscapes and still life paintings work well in a French country room as do folk art paintings of farm animals, people in cultural settings and costumes, etc.
When it comes time to decorate, all of these French country interior design ideas can help you achieve the look through the use of fabrics, furniture, and accessories and turn your home, or just a single room, into an inviting spot that your family and your guests can enjoy.