So That Your Style Is: French Country

What it is: Just like it sounds, French country style springs from the gentle hills and valleys of rural France. It’s an unstudied, collected approach, constructed on firmly entrenched regional customs and on cherished objects handed down through generations. Simple and sincere yet effortlessly elegant, it satisfies the soul as far as the eye.

Why it works: The French tend toward an inherent sense of taste and refinement that keeps this unassuming style from feeling pedestrian. Inspired by instinct along with a knack for striking a balance, French country décor constantly finds its centre, no matter how many disparate components you throw in the mix. It marries an old-world sensibility having a border of elegance that keeps it perennially fresh.

You’ll enjoy it if … all your bathroom products are lavender blossom. You love getting your hands dirty in the garden. You crave stability and can’t endure discord. You believe wine tastes much better in a chunky tumbler than the usual stem glass. Move over, Julia Child — you create the meanest coq au vin around.

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Warmington & North

Style Secret: Simple, Stylish Furnishings

You know those men and women who can rifle through the clearance clothing rack and emerge with a outfit which looks like a thousand dollars? It’s the same with all the French and their furnishings, which nimbly straddle the line between elegance and performance. Though French country pieces are largely free of the vases which historically have marked more affluent French design, they’re shapely and well scaled, with an eye toward equilibrium. And because the rural French of old needed to be sure every piece would work its toughest, it is not unusual to see multifunctional case merchandise or other furnishings which can transition into where they’re needed most.

In keeping with all the accumulated look, steer clear of matchy-matchy furniture sets. Instead, mix wood pieces in a variety of organic finishes.

New-world chic: The seating area above epitomizes the French country strategy to furniture. The fauteuil seats, table and shelf all mix in sophisticated yet unstudied stability, tied together by the colour scheme of gentle whites and dove grays. They have just enough decorative boom to lift them over the strictly practical, however they’re on no account gaudy or overdone.

Style Secret: Flowers

Blurring the boundaries between inside and outside is a cornerstone of life in France’s rural areas (really, throughout the united states). 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 if they could have come out of a garden just beyond the doorway, organized casually and without affectation. Choose flowers that flourish in the areas where the style originated: sunflowers, irises, poppies.

New-world chic: The group on this breakfast table feels homey, cheerful and completely welcoming. The jug of flowers is the star of the scene, with encouraging players (a bowl of fruit, a rooster-bedecked pitcher) amplifying the impression of country living.

Adeeni Design Group

Style Secret: Clear, Warm Colors

Whether they’re bright, deep or pale, French country colours have a gentleness about them which contrasts to instant relaxation. Whites are warm, not stark; believe cream, ecru, ivory. Other colours pull straight from the landscape: Beautiful sages and lavenders, sunny yellows and sky blues, peony pinks and brick reds.

New-world chic: Basically, this kitchen and dining area comprises a trio of main colours. Yet the nuances in the palette take them to more sophisticated territory: creamy yellow, rich red, dull royal blue. Since the stronger colours are used only in small dabs, they do not hamper the laidback mindset of their room.

Amy of Maison Decor

Style Secret: Accents With Purpose

Rarely will accessories in a French country room be purely decorative. They usually have an undertone of viability: wall-hung plates which can be pulled down to get support, jugs and jars which home kitchen staples, baskets which corral plump produce from the garden. Open shelving is a natural partner with this look — everyday things enjoy pride of place instead of languishing behind cabinet doors.

New-world chic: The oversize candelabra on this table anchors the room however also serves a purpose. It harks back to the days when candles and fires were the primary light source for the farmers and peasants of the French countryside. Even though it holds its own with decorative swoops and swirls, its performance keeps it from feeling pretentious.

The Lettered Cottage

Style Secret: Layered Fabrics

Just enjoy the furnishings, French country fabrics make an artful, engaging potpourri. Toile is your quintessential print for this style, but throw in a couple of notes of gingham, stripes, florals and solids to get a pleasing pastiche. Textural fabrics, such as lace, tapestry and matelassé, give the visual interest that the look needs. Avoid formal textiles like damask, which can feel too prim.

New-world chic: 2 distinct toiles unite with oversize gingham checks in this airy bedroom, unified from the lavender palette (a nice nod to the lavender which blossoms across French areas). The soft, swooping canopy adds just the ideal touch of elegance and drama.

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Zuniga Interiors

Style Secret: Soft Weathering

At a style that’s intended to reflect longevity and heritage, spanking-new furnishings and accents stand out. Instead, French country requires just a tiny dust and rust. Painted pieces should feel stressed, like they’ve withstood years of wear and use. Bypass shiny metals in favor of wrought iron, burnished bronze or pewter, instead with a couple dings and scuffs. You can even get away with a slightly frayed coverlet or even a threadbare spot on a cushion.

New-world chic: This inviting seats vignette feels as though there is a story behind each piece in it — it is just like the most stylish group of hand-me-downs possible. Even the brand new things whisper old. The faded colours of these fabrics feel perfectly in accordance with the patina of the woods.

Susan Serra

Design Secret: Textural Surfaces

No stainless steel or minimalist tile — French country surfaces demand visual depth and use their imperfections proudly. Cloak the walls in plaster, stucco, rock, or a mix of three throughout the home. When it is implemented with a practiced hand, a thick layer of drywall mud can be a less expensive solution to these pricier substances. In the event you choose simply to paint the walls, consider a glaze or other treatment which will stop them from feeling flat. For those flooring, cherry and slate, natural timber and tumbled earthen tile strike the right notes.

New-world chic: The scope hood within this kitchen is covered in tiny mosaic tiles — a riff on tradition, but it works because it approximates the rough look of a more traditional French country surface. The raised detailing on the backsplash enriches the sense of measurement.

K & M Designs

Style Secret: Roosters

Much of the appeal of French country style lies in a sprinkle of vibrant accents — and what is more iconic than the princely rooster? The challenge would be to limit yourself: There’s such a glut of rooster-themed bric-a-brac in the market which it’s easy to get caught up in the madness and get 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 which crows from the island, this kitchen keeps the rooster details. The three-dimensional detail on the scope hood blends into the background until you look carefully. The backsplash over the cooktop, a hand-painted farm scene, complements the poultry pieces in a more subtle manner.

Much More ‘So Your Design Is’:
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