French country design showcases rustic elegance at its finest. Image: Allan Edwards Builder Inc.
Thus far in our Defining a Style series, we’ve talked about trendy styles such as Nordic and industrial design. This time, however, we want to talk about an aesthetic that has fallen out of favor in the last few years, but is more than ready to come back. It’s time to talk about French country.
While many people are under the impression this type of design is too ornate to fit with today’s tastes, we think that could not be further from the truth. French country design showcases elegant simplicity at its finest — and, if given a chance, could become the next twist on rustic.
If you’re ready to give French country a chance, this post is for you. Keep reading to find out how to bring this look into the rooms of your home. Think of this post as your ultimate guide on how to infuse your interiors with the sophistication of the French countryside.
Choose warm, subtle colors
The French country aesthetic is almost in direct opposition to some of the ultra-modern style we’ve discussed in the past. Rather than relying on monochromatic shades and bold pops of color to create visually exciting contrasts, this look is all about creating a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.
The easiest way to achieve that goal is through your color palette. While the dominant shade in each room should still be fairly neutral, French country’s reliance on subdued hues means you can stretch that definition a little bit further than usual. Focus on colors that are inherently warm and subtle — such as tans, creams and soft yellows — to fill this role.
Where your accent colors are concerned, you’ll want to choose shades that harken to French country’s traditional roots. Choose colors such as rust and antique white, which will infuse the room with a subconsciously historical feel.
Look for furniture with flowing lines
One of the biggest misconceptions about French country style is that it’s ostentatious. In reality, the opposite is true. This look comes from the rural valleys of southern France. It’s more or less the French version of rustic.
With that in mind, you want to follow many of the same rules as you would when putting together a traditionally rustic look. Concentrate on incorporating plenty of natural materials. The shape of these pieces, however, is where this aesthetic sets itself apart. French country furniture boasts a variety of sophisticated, flowing lines to add plenty of visual interest in addition to function.
Upholstery is another area in which French country looks differ from other rustic styles. Since comfort is the main goal of this type of design, cozy cushions are key. Be sure to include plenty of plush seating in your design.
Embrace weathered finishes
French country style is steeped in tradition. The elements of this type of design have been handed down from generation to generation. When done correctly, a few subtle nods to that past can be seen throughout these designs.
One way to do that is through your finishes. Rather than having design elements look as though they’ve come straight from the store, you want the impression that your rooms have seen a bit of a history. When it comes to selecting flooring, furniture or even architectural elements like decorative wooden beams, choose finishes that are a bit distressed, or imperfect around the edges.
Of course, the best way to achieve an antique look is to bring in real antiques. You may want to consider shopping at secondhand stores or investing in vintage items to really cement that sense of history.
Add pops of Old World charm
As always, accessories are the fun part. They are really where you can let this style shine.
Toile — a traditional floral pattern — is a hallmark of French country design. Think about including it in your upholstery, but if you’re not ready to make that big of a commitment, textiles such as blankets or throw pillows are also a good choice. Pair it with solids or mix and match with other prints like florals, stripes or gingham.
Other French country accents include decorative chandeliers, shapely mirrors, iron décor items and large wall clocks. Whichever items you choose, make sure they carry through the same distressed feel as your other design elements.
Though French country design has been around for several centuries, it seems to have fallen out of favor in recent years. We think this is a huge mistake. Many seem to think this style is synonymous with overly decorated, traditional styles, when in fact it’s a beacon for simplistic elegance. If you’re ready to help bring back this aesthetic, this post is for you.
What do you think of French country design? Will you be including it in your interiors? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.