‘French country decor ideas focus on a look that's soft, rustic, elegant and casual,’ explains fabric designer Vanessa Arbuthnott. 'The style incorporates traditional freestanding furniture, lots of wood and exposed stone walls, and a penchant for off-whites, soft blues and yellows.' It’s an easy look to recreate as it doesn’t rely on closely coordinated accessories, matching suites of furniture or lots of designer pieces. Begin with a color palette of soft pastels, creams and white, across paint and stylised wallpaper; layer on fabrics, either plain linen or traditional toiles, ticking and classic florals; and curate a collection of antique and rustic furniture in pale wood and rattan. Finding the finishing touches for your French country decor ideas are what weekends browsing brocantes and rural markets are made for – collecting vintage treasures that add character and patina to your room scheme. A clear mid-tone blue – the color of Mediterranean sea and Provencal sky – is synonymous with French country decor.
Typically paired with white or cream, the effect is fresh and elegant, while natural surfaces such as wooden floors and panelling bring a rustic softness to a room. In this beautiful dining room – part of a scheme for a cottage in Lakewood, Texas, created by Kim Armstrong Interior Design (opens in new tab) – there are numerous tones of blue used across the furnishings and even the wood panelled ceiling. Easy elegance sets the tone for French country decor, so a simple supper can be elevated with beautiful table linen, fresh flowers and a joyful use of color. Sunny yellow stripes bring a hint of market-stall chic to this kitchen that adds charm to the simple space.
Personalisation and character is a key trait of French country decor, and can be incorporated into any rustic dining room ideas. 'For a completely bespoke tabletop we can make up table linen to any size from our fabrics in a wide range of colours, stripes, or prints.'
Paintings and photography aren't just a finishing touch; they can be an integral part of your decorating scheme – which is why interior designers put so much thought into living room art ideas and display choices. 'The yellow lamp also helps to bridge the visual gap between the furniture and the wall, creating a beautiful sense of flow that is quintessentially French.'
'French country decor ideas are all about creating a casual and rustic elegance,' explains interior designer Gray Walker (opens in new tab). 'Painted antiques covered in rich velvets and tapestries mixed with easy linens and cotton florals will create a platform to grow from.
With the gourmet status of Gallic cuisine, it's no surprise that French country kitchen ideas put food front and centre. Fabric designer Zoe Glencross took her cue from the French countryside for her collection, Vivre Le Rêve (opens in new tab).
'Start with core items such as natural stone or vintage oak flooring, oversized curtains and large decorative mirrors as your main focal points, then add a few delicate, handcrafted accessories to style. 'Look for secondhand or handcrafted accessories such as old vases to create an authenticity and uniqueness to your scheme,' suggests fabric designer Zoe Glencross. 'And if you’re lucky enough to visit France, try to go to a local brocante market to find something that you love, adding your own je ne sais quoi. This elegant drawing room, from interior designers Perlmutter & Freiwald (opens in new tab), incorporates tricks for decorating with antiques into the richly layered scheme. 'They look great when teamed with beautifully crafted printed linen throw pillows, finished with subtle pompom or wave edge trims.' Choose a tone that will complement the rest of the decor, or which will create a bold contrast that turns the ceiling into a talking point.
Opt for one or two larger pieces painted in a pale shade to bring the perfect combination of scale and simplicity to your French country style interior. In a French country home, you can expect even the smallest rooms to be given the same care and attention as the main reception and living areas.
The size of the room meant that the darker blue shade could be used to dramatic effect, with the light-colored countertops and natural light helping to lift the whole scheme.’ Super-long, full drapes that ‘puddle’ on the floor are the epitome of French country style for curtain ideas – relaxed, romantic and reminiscent of classic chateaux. To stop the look becoming too formal, pair a floral design, like this Silwood Silk from James Hare (opens in new tab), with a classic ticking stripe or check. Choosing paler tones on a lighter ground, rather than a dark and opulent damask, will also create a more bright and breezy rustic effect.
The interiors reflect a longstanding connection to the land and nature and seasons,’ says Louise Bacou, co-founder La Maison London (opens in new tab). Even in a bedroom featuring a mirrored armoire, refined chandelier and delicately shaped chairs, the look is given countryside chic with polished wooden floors and plain plaster walls. ‘There is a harmony in French country-style furniture that comes from being well made, in natural materials, built for longevity and that is also adorned in the colours and decorative flourishes that are a reflection of the surrounding countryside,’ says Louise Bacou, co-founder La Maison London. ‘When I think of French country decor ideas, I’m reminded of beautiful fabrics that drape the home in luxury,’ comments Kerry Jackson, Founder & Creative Director, MM Linen (opens in new tab).
‘Go for gorgeous bold floral prints and complete the look with an array of cushions in a mixture of luxurious textures in complementary colors.’ 'The repeated floral motifs characteristic of Indian block printing, for example, are also typical of the fabrics of Provence – used for anything from traditional skirts to neckerchiefs (fichus), intricately quilted bedspreads (boutis) to table linen.
For a typical French country look, combine these pretty block prints with plains and stripes for a stylish clash of patterns, colors and cultures. Passementerie is the term used to describe the world of trimmings such as cord, fringes, borders, tassels and tiebacks, appliqués and rosettes – all staples of French country style.
‘Today, we seek interiors that find balance between classical furnishings and sleeker modern accents,’ suggests Marisa Gutmacher, executive design director, Samuel & Sons (opens in new tab).
For a French country look, focus on passementerie pieces that bring out the natural architecture or a rustic property, or enhance the beauty of furniture. A tassel hanging from a key will draw attention to ornate period ironwork, while a decorative trim will frame a traditional French-style bed. 'Natural materials, rustic finishes, laidback linens and eclectic accents are key to French country decor,' says Véronique Piedeleu at Caravane (opens in new tab).
'This year, I’d look to welcome the French country decor feel into the home with artisanal furnishings crafted from materials such as bamboo and rattan, gorgeous patterned tapestries, blankets and hangings. Contrast with with warm charcoal and turmeric tones, and elevated everyday objects such as sculptural terracotta vases and poetically painted ceramics.'
Bring the feel of the French countryside into your home with a mural that wraps around all four walls of a room to create an immersive rustic look.
Reminiscent of the hand-painted wallpaper that would have adored the walls of country estates in France, a printed mural is a more contemporary version that suits today's decorating schemes. For quintessential French flair, choose metal garden furniture with elegant lines, and complete the tableau with Mediterranean herbs in terracotta pots. 'Wherever you live – weather permitting – a glass of kir, pastis or Champagne followed by dinner al fresco at a prettily laid table, seated on striped, checked, floral, or Provençal-inspired cushions, will at least give you stylish sense of the French countryside,' says fabric designer Alison Gee (opens in new tab).
If you want a rustic take on your dining table styling tricks, pair country checks and ginghams with fine crystal and decorative china. 'I find French country tablescaping is a welcoming and also incredibly versatile style, that can look just as wonderful in a city dwelling,' says Gemma Martinez de Ana from tableware brand Bonadea (opens in new tab).
Think rattan, crisp starched thick linens, bowls filled to the brim with fresh produce, and carafes and pitchers scattered along the table.'
'I like bringing organic elements into the china, so mushrooms handpainted on a plate are always welcome,' agrees Gemma Martinez de Ana.
‘Wallpapering instantly transforms a space, and traditionally it has been used in French country decorating to evoke a sense of grandeur, even in the simplest homes,’ says Ruth Mottishead, Creative Director of Little Greene (opens in new tab). ‘Within French country decor, wallpaper patterns can be highly detailed and layered, but the colors are often tonal, which makes working them into a scheme easier than expected.
Motifs such as curlicues, fleur-de-lys, stylised foliage and trompe l’oeil, as seen in classic 17th and 18th century French wallpaper designs, are enduringly popular. The Palais design from our Révolution Papers collection, which features flowers and garlands, is an interpretation of French wallpaper panels produced from the late 1700s.’ French country properties span from cottages to manor houses, chalets to chateau, but whatever their size, they are united by an easy elegance.
‘French country décor means effortless chic – visions of a manoir dotted with romantic accents such as chandeliers, painted furniture and old linen sheets on the beds,’ says Arianna Brissi. Classic details include a tiled or painted chequerboard floor, decorative wall sconces and ornate mirrors, offset with charming fabrics in toning pastel shades. There are plenty of places now to source gorgeously soft linen bedding and tablecloths – look for French grey, pale blue and baby pink for a contemporary spin on the look.
‘I love to throw a monogrammed linen bed sheet over a table to make a grand tablecloth,’ says Carolyn Westbrook, homeware designer and author of A Romance of French Living (Cico Books). ‘Furniture will typically feature acanthus leaves, sweeping curves, scrolls, crests, swirls, lion feet and cabriole legs.’
Rather than the high shine of polished antiques, this look is softened for country homes with furniture featuring bleached and painted woods, rattan and rush seating.
‘Architecturally, a French country kitchen often features rough, natural finishes such as exposed stonework, which adds to the rustic feel and is further enhanced by earthier tones and warm neutral colors,’ explains Neptune (opens in new tab) design manager, Simon Temprell. No French country room would be without flowers and foliage gathered from the garden and hedgerows – think bunches of herbs in the kitchen, dried lavender in the linen closet and bouquets on the table and mantlepiece. ‘The table should be very simple with pots of herbs, wild flowers and leaves, and napkins tied with string and a sprig of lavender.
'Scouring the brocantes at the Saturday markets in France is a delight, and you can find endless sources of inspiration from rustic kitchen tables to delicately designed bureaus and intricate chandeliers.' Beyond the search for elegance and comfort, there’s something intangible – “fantaisie” – that excites the soul,’ enthuses Georgia Metcalfe, Creative Director and Founder of The French Bedroom Company.
Effortless, refined and sophisticated, combining old and new with seamless ease, French country homes are always unique to the person who lives there.'
'What all French rooms share is a personalised mise-en-scène (staging and styling) – a harmonious assemblage of colors, materials and textures that create a relaxed, romantic look.’ 'These shades are perfect for a classic French country look as not only do they sit together in a palette that’s true to the style, but the tonality of these colors allows for a look that can transition throughout the seasons while remaining consistent.' The interiors reflect a longstanding connection to the land and nature and seasons,’ says Louise Bacou, co-founder La Maison London (opens in new tab).
This is reflected in country homes where long easy hours are spent at old rustic tables enjoying the season’s latest gifts.’ They are a setting for enjoying the bounty of locally produced food and wine, served in old glassware on rustic tables with fresh linens, and kitchenware as receptacles for handpicked flowers.’