The French countryside is full of warm and inviting colors including the bright blue of a cloudless sky, the warm golden tones of wheat and grass, luscious green plants and multiple shades of red that range from bright poppy red to earthy terra cotta. Throw in a few symbols of nature that include colorful sunflowers and lazy farm animals and you have the recipe for French country decor.
Mix and match your fabric
French country decor is known for its colorful mix of fabric patterns. For example, a pillow might be sewn from a beautiful floral pattern with a striped ruffle added. A seat cushion made of red and white toile fabric is welted with a black and white check, or a window valance is sewn from a brightly colored floral and accented with a coordinating pin dot design. You will very likely find all of these items used together in one room in the home.
An easy “rule” to follow when it comes to mixing fabric patterns is to, first of all, be sure that all your fabrics have the same color combination. Then choose one large scale pattern (a floral for example) throw in a medium-sized print (a check) and add a small scale pattern for accent ( a pin-dot) Combine them in any way that is pleasing to you and don’t be afraid to toss them all together in one room, on one sofa etc. The more the better when it comes to French country design.
Toile (pronounced twahl) prints are commonly associated with French country design. This fabric is named for the village it came from, Toile de Juoy, and features scenes of a charming village, farm life, people gathering in the park in turn of the century costumes or children playing. Common color combinations include a cream background with the design woven in black, red, blue or green. However, colorful toiles are now making an appearance and “modern” combinations include a youthful pink and green or blue and yellow. Use toile to make kitchen curtains, romantic bedding, and colorful accent pillows or to cover light upholstered items such as an ottoman or bench. One of the best ways to use toile is to cover the entire room, usually a bedroom, with wallpaper, drapes, bedding, and upholstery.
An example of this can be seen in this photo courtesy of House Beautiful, designed by Tom Scherer and photographed by Francesco Lagnese. The overall use of the toile pattern has been softened with solid color bedding items. One tip: if this is the design style you choose, keep in mind that no other color or pattern should be introduced into space; let the toile take center stage.
Colors of the countryside
As we mentioned earlier, the colors used in French country decor are colors that come from the surrounding countryside. The south of France is full of fields of sunflowers, grapevines, rustic farmhouses, and small villages. Here you will find stones of old buildings showing the decay of years of exposure along with rusted hinges and time-worn wood. All of these items create easy to live with colors for your walls, your fabrics and don’t forget those all-important accessories. Colors include:
- Sunflower yellow
- Any shade of blue
- Cheerful red
- Green from sage to emerald
- Black and white combos
- Creamy tan, white and ivory
French country furniture is first and foremost, functional and comfortable. Upholstered pieces are over-stuffed with sink into cushions. Case goods (or wood pieces) are antique or certainly made to look as if they are. Metal is an important element in French country design and can be found in the bases of dining and occasional tables as well as lighting fixtures and accessories. A mix of styles including rustic, French (more formal than French country) and primitive are used in one room to create the appearance of a room put together over time.
French country kitchen decor
While we have been talking about living areas such as bedrooms and family rooms, when used in the kitchen, French country decor can be very charming.
Toile is a casual fabric that works well in the kitchen. Use it for window valances and curtains, as chair seat cushions on a breakfast table or bar stools, or as colorful appliance covers. Combine it with bright red and white checks or a black and white pattern for added interest.
Rustic and worn jars, pots and pans and other utensils look great in a country French kitchen. Hang them from a pot rack or display them on a painted bakers rack.
Introduce sunflowers, cows and other farm animals to your accessories. These French country icons will add a cheerful touch to your kitchen all year long.
Details, details, details
Details are the finishing touches that turn an ordinary house into your home. For example;
French country wall decor: The items you hang on your wall should be chosen because they give you pleasure and not because they “match” your decor. That being said, if French country design is your favored style, chances are your wall decor will reflect that and pictures and paintings are a common form of wall decoration. You might choose a pretty oil painting of a meadow full of sunflowers or a whimsical watercolor of a funny black and white cows grazing by the side of the road. Old store signs can also be fun, especially if they are in French. Just be sure you know what they are saying!
French country window treatments: All window treatments, including curtains, valances, drapery panels, and shades are an important detail in your overall design plan. While you can hang an ordinary panel at the window and be done with it, adding details such as fringe, buttons, contrasting bands of color, braid and tassels will add a designer touch and create a finished look.
French country decorating ideas
Now that you know a little bit about French country decorating, let’s put all of these ideas together and see what we come up with:
A casual sitting room in your home decorated in French country style might include a comfortable sofa upholstered in a denim blue fabric, a wing chair upholstered in red and white checks with contrast blue welting, a window seat or bench filled with pillows in multiple colors and patterns, a weathered jug of flowers placed on the mantel along with a French style wooden coffee table and old iron lamps. Paint the walls an inviting shade of yellow; add some casual curtains in a toile pattern to the windows and you have a comfortable and welcoming room for your family and guests to enjoy