As is the case with many specific design styles, French country furniture has a personality all its own. It can be worn and distressed to evoke a relaxed and casual feel, or lovingly carved and polished for a look that is a bit more formal.
The kitchen is the heart of the home in French country decor. It is the place where everyone gathers to cook, eat, talk and catch up on each other’s lives. The furniture you use in a French country kitchen needs to be comfortable, casual and colorful.
- Seating can be limited to a couple of stools pulled up next to the counter, a comfortable upholstered chair in the corner or, if space allows, an entire casual dining table with chairs and/or benches. Dark stained wood is commonly used and seats are often cane or rush or wooden seats that are made comfortable through the use of cushions that simply tie to the rungs of the chairs.
- A round table is preferred but an old distressed farmhouse table also adds the desired ambience to this casual eating space. Table pedestals can be wrought iron with a French curlicue design, an old garden pedestal or a large ceramic urn. Just be sure that whatever pedestal you choose is strong enough to support the weight of the tabletop. Those tabletops can be a wooden top that is showing its age; a metal such as zinc or copper that has developed a soft patina over time or even glass that allows the beautiful pedestal below to show through.
- If space allows it is always nice to have a cozy corner in the kitchen to sit and enjoy a good book and a cup of tea. Furnish this space with a comfortable wing chair, for example, upholstered in a bright and cheerful red and white check. Perhaps you only have space for a small settee that is lined up against the wall. Give it a rubbed black finish and add colorful pillows in a mix of fabric patterns as space for a company to sit and visit or, better yet, a spot for your kids to share their day while you prepare their meal.
The living room
A living room is just that, a room for living. And, for this reason, it should be furnished with items that are comfortable and invite people to come in, sit down and relax. Many living rooms today serve as a multi-purpose room—they are the only room in the home to entertain, to watch TV, read a book, do homework, etc. Therefore, they need to be furnished in an inviting manner that accommodates all of these tasks.
- You will need a sofa that accommodates several people. A French country sofa will be over-stuffed with rounded edges and upholstered in a casual and durable fabric such as chenille, microsuede, and aged leather or, depending on your personal design style, a casual gingham check or overall floral pattern.
- French country decor utilizes many different periods of furniture. A more formal French Bergere chair, for example, can be incorporated into a casual space right alongside antiques and casual pieces. Occasional chairs might feature some carving on the back, legs or frame of the chair and, again, covered in a casual and durable fabric that invites you to sit and stay awhile.
- A spot to rest your glasses or place a drink abound in any French country living space. End tables, coffee tables, console, and bookshelves are often mismatched in style and finish and add to the relaxed environment. A console table can also do double duty as a desk for homework, paying bills or writing letters. (does anyone do that anymore?)
- Accessories add personality and interest to any room. A grouping of family photos gathered together on a skirted round table, an arrangement of landscape oil paintings hung on the wall or a collection of items purchased on your travels are displayed on a console table or in a corner hutch. And don’t forget the impact a large vase of cheerful sunflowers can have on a room.
The dining room
Regardless of whether your dining room is just a space adjoining the living area, a small corner of the kitchen or a large and formal room, you will need a dining table and enough comfortable chairs to accommodate your family and future guests.
- French country decorating is casual and informal. Therefore, your dining room table should reflect this attitude. A large farmhouse table with a distressed top, a beautiful round table with a worn wooden finish or a lovely glass table sitting atop a beautiful metal base can all work in this design scheme.
- Chairs can be completely upholstered, feature seat cushions only or left unadorned so a natural cane seat can be enjoyed. Upholstery fabric can range from a pretty toile, a cheerful gingham check, bold black, and white stripes or a lovely floral pattern, all determined by your own personal design preferences.
- A hutch or buffet is a multi-functional piece of furniture. It can act as a server during meal times and it can also display your beautiful china or valued collections. For your French country dining room, beware of any piece of furniture that is too formal. Choose, instead, a beat-up old farmhouse cabinet with doors flung wide open so all can see and enjoy your possessions. An antique French bakers table with a marble top can handle hot dishes, is easy to maintain and adds a sense of history to your space.
French, Italian and English country furniture and design, along with the popular Shabby Chic style, all share common elements: they are casual, relaxed, have a sense of history and appear collected over time. These ideas are timeless and classic, nothing trendy about them!