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If you want a lighter, more refined version of traditional pastoral decor, then look to our French country decor ideas for inspiration.
‘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. Instead, its eclectic, mismatched style is all part of the charm.
French country decor ideas: how to get the look
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.
And if you're a lover of rustic design, look at our country decorating ideas for more stunning inspiration.
1. Find the perfect French blue
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 – there are numerous tones of blue used across the furnishings and even the wood panelled ceiling. Kim is renowned for using color and pattern to create a layered look of 'livable luxury'.
Here, there's a sense of playfulness, too, as the crystal chandelier twinkles from a hatch in the ceiling.
2. Elevate the everyday
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.
'Our crisp, white table linen is available with diamond stitch, hem stitch or a scalloped edge and we also offer a monogramming service by request,' says Clare Fouche of Volga Linen. '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.'
3. Use art to complement furnishings
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.
'What I love about this French-style living room created by Kim Armstrong Interior Design, is how the artwork complements the fabric of the armchairs, and so naturally draws the eye around the room,' says Andrea Childs, Editor of Country Homes & Interiors magazine.
'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.'
4. Match your walls with your drapes
For this romantic bedroom in Lake Charles Louisiana, designer Lance Thomas of Thomas Guy Interiors repeated a French-style print across both wallpaper and window drapes. The result: an immersive scheme that seems to set the four-poster bed within a glade of green scenery.
'When a lot of pattern is used in a room, it's best to balance the scheme with calmer areas,' says stylist Sara Bird. 'Here, crisp white sheets create a tranquil area in the centre of the room.'
5. Let your scheme evolve
While we want to put the fundamentals of a room in place, rustic French style tends to evolve, with new pieces adding to the patina of a room over time.
'French country decor ideas are all about creating a casual and rustic elegance,' explains interior designer Gray Walker. 'The use of soft pastels, classic florals, and tailored stripes will help create the mood of collected luxury.
'Painted antiques covered in rich velvets and tapestries mixed with easy linens and cotton florals will create a platform to grow from. Collections of pottery, leather books and vintage rugs will add the patina as you build on your interior.'
6. Take inspiration from the past
With the gourmet status of Gallic cuisine, it's no surprise that French country kitchen ideas put food front and centre.
'The tomato red color was the guiding thread of this house and is also present in this kitchen. It's a color that is very typical in traditional kitchens and also recalls antique kitchen cloths and linens,' suggests interior designer Joana Aranha.
'Besides all this, it was in the local markets that we took the inspiration for the organization of the kitchen with hanging onions and aromatic herbs scattered throughout the space. We even designed some shelves slatted underneath to keep the vegetables in plain sight, ensuring that they last longer. This is a place to actually cook – a real and warm country kitchen.'
7. Mix and match fabrics
Fabric designer Zoe Glencross took her cue from the French countryside for her collection, Vivre Le Rêve.
'For me, inspiration for creating the French country look comes from beautiful old chateaus that have a certain imperfect quality while still being beautiful,' Zoe says. '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.
'Mixing and matching printed fabrics with nature-inspired motifs is the perfect way to add some French-country style to your interior, and linen fabrics offer a more relaxed look to avoid the overall scheme appearing too fussy.'
8. Add French flair to the powder room
Create a pretty powder room by adding beautiful wallpaper and decorative accessories.
'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.
9. Incorporate antiques
This elegant drawing room, from interior designers Perlmutter & Freiwald, incorporates tricks for decorating with antiques into the richly layered scheme. For your French country decor ideas, antique and vintage pieces don't need to be rarified or expensive items. Pieces that show the patina and marks of time will add a natural, rustic interest to your room scheme.
10. Re-upholster vintage furniture
If you've find the perfect piece of French-style furniture but it's looking shabby or the upholstery isn't to your taste, then it's time for a change.
'I love to find authentic French pieces online to re-upholster,' says fabric designer Zone Glencross. 'They look great when teamed with beautifully crafted printed linen throw pillows, finished with subtle pompom or wave edge trims.'
Lay a woven rush or sisal rug for a rustic finish.
11. Decorate the ceiling
For French country decor, ceiling ideas are something to look up to! The 'fifth wall' can be decorated with wallpaper or paint, panelling or even, as in this bedroom designed by Kim Armstrong, latticework. It's all part of the rich layers that comprise the Gallic rustic look.
Decorating the ceiling is an opportunity to introduce more color to a room scheme. 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.
12. Pair scale with simplicity
Furniture is a key focus for French country decor ideas.
French-style furniture features ornate flourishes that risk overwhelming a room. Keeping the rest of the decor pared back will let these hero pieces shine, while still revealing the beauty of the space around them.
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.
Our country bedroom ideas have more expert design tips for creating relaxing rustic rooms.
13. Bring charm to every room
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. Pretty accessories, paintings and wallpaper all weave Gallic charm.
'The French country look is all about elegance with a rustic feel, says designer Penny Morrison. 'Distressed painted furniture is key to achieving the look. I especially love Louis XVI furniture for this style. It has a weathered look that exudes so much character and charm.'
'There are also so many exquisite small prints that you can acquire which look incredible in these spaces,' continues Morrison. Here, a bathroom is lined with her Flowerberry wallpaper in Pink.
Our country bathroom ideas gallery is bubbling with more inspiration for you.
14. Paint kitchen cabinets in French Blue
It’s perfectly possible to combine the trend for simple, wooden kitchens with chic French flair by painting kitchen cabinets.
‘This kitchen bridges the gap between old and new,’ explains Richard Moore, design director at Martin Moore kitchens. ‘The space incorporates different design styles, with the French Blue paint achieving uniformity.’
Consider blue when you're opting for your kitchen color ideas.
'French Blue was used throughout the space, including the walk-in pantry. 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.’
15. Let curtains sweep the floor
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, 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.
16. Recreate rustic elegance
French country decor ideas are steeped in tradition.
‘French country style never really goes out of style; it is timeless. The interiors reflect a longstanding connection to the land and nature and seasons,’ says Louise Bacou, co-founder La Maison London.
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.
17. Choose decorative furniture
‘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.
Search out antique pieces at brocantes, flea markets and antique stores. Or decorate a plain piece using stencils and furniture paint, lacquered for longevity.
18. Create a romantic mood
‘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. ‘To recreate the look, choose lustrous fabrics in bold shades and don’t shy away from pattern.
‘There’s a romantic feel to French interior style,’ Jackson continues. ‘Go for gorgeous bold floral prints and complete the look with an array of cushions in a mixture of luxurious textures in complementary colors.’
19. Display fine china
Displaying china and turning everyday and special occasion tableware into a stunning display is a great way to interpret French country decor ideas in your own home.
Build in open shelving with coops below, painted the same color as your walls for a streamlined effect.
Then arrange your china and tableware to show off their unique charms. For purely decorative piece, consider arranging them on the wall for a look-but-don't-touch display.
20. Look for traditional motifs
'French taste is marked by a passion for Indian textiles,' explains fabric designer Alison Gee. '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. This stands to reason, as they were originally copied from Indian fabrics.'
Known in France as indiennes, these fabrics were imported into France from the 18th century onwards, particularly along the Mediterranean coast.
For a typical French country look, combine these pretty block prints with plains and stripes for a stylish clash of patterns, colors and cultures.
21. Add a trim
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. ‘The New Traditional style is refined and luxurious yet comfortable, and allows for mixing different period pieces connected through unified color palettes.’
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.
22. Turn linen sheets into drapes
For country curtain ideas with a French twist, think about combining elegance with a rustic feel. 'Using antique French linen or hemp sheets works so well as an idea for curtains, while heavier linens are ideal on cushions or as chair covers,' suggests fabric designer Penny Morrison.
Adding a pelmet will bring a touch of refinement to your repurposed fabrics.
23. Add rustic wall decoration
'Natural materials, rustic finishes, laidback linens and eclectic accents are key to French country decor,' says Véronique Piedeleu at Caravane. They also work just as well for farmhouse bedroom wall decor ideas, too.
'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.'
24. Create country atmosphere with a mural
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. Wall mural ideas will bring a totally unique look to your decor.
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.
Choose a soft monotone print for faded glamor.
25. Take the French look outside
The French particularly like to combine florals and toiles with stripes and checks in their decorating schemes and country garden ideas
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.
26. Learn the art of French tablescaping
Tablescaping is a huge trend right now, but it's an art the French have refined over centuries.
If you want a rustic take on your dining table styling tricks, pair country checks and ginghams with fine crystal and decorative china.
Flowers are a must and these can be either a centerpiece display or a few posies dotted down the length of the table.
'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.
'For me, it is the natural textures, organic elements, mismatched china and of course, the slight imperfection, that deliver that splash of rustic charm. Think rattan, crisp starched thick linens, bowls filled to the brim with fresh produce, and carafes and pitchers scattered along the table.'
Take the formality out of country dining by pairing casual seating with a considered table setting. And don't forget to add characterful pieces for originality – these champignons plates are just perfect.
'I like bringing organic elements into the china, so mushrooms handpainted on a plate are always welcome,' agrees Gemma Martinez de Ana.
27. Curate your country color palette
Washed-out pastels are your go-to shades for creating the French country look – sage green, sky blue, primrose yellow, chalky creams and every shade of white. ‘But one color prevails and there is even an official name for it – French Grey,’ says Arianna Brissi from lifestyle store Brissi.
‘We have featured French Grey since we launched the business 20 years ago, when grey interiors were not at all fashionable. A touch of blue will pair well with French Grey, especially in the kitchen.’
Use a matt paint to give a dresser or sideboard a country look; we like French Grey paint by Neptune and Light French Grey by Sherwin Williams.
28. Create the wow factor with wallpaper
The French approach to country wallpaper ideas is immersive – why have a feature wall when you can cover all four walls, and even the ceiling, in a riot of stylized pattern?
‘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.
‘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.’
The blowsy rose bouquets look as at home in a simple country bedroom as they would in a grand chateau.
29. Go Gallic in the living room
Classic French country living room ideas contrast the rustic beauty of stone features such as fireplaces and window surrounds with elegant additions that elevate the look – a crystal chandelier that sends sparkles of light around the room, and paintings displayed on the walls.
‘The essentials are chairs and a sofa in white linen, loaded with cushions for a splash of color,’ says Jane Summerill, Founder of Summerill & Bishop.
A scattering of additional pieces brings a sense of ease and informality. ‘Consider adding side tables filled with books and candles. And a couple of old wicker chairs always work for the country feeling,’ Summerill suggests.
30. Channel chateau style
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.
31. Look for vintage linen
‘It’s very important in France to have lovely linen. It can be passed on through generations and an armoire filled with beautiful piles of bed or table linen, all beautifully ironed, is normal,’ says Jane Summerill of Summerill & Bishop.
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. Or hunt for classic undyed or crisp white from antique fairs and flea markets.
‘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). ‘I have always adored linen, and when it is white, it serves as a base and does not compete with other elements in the room.’
32. Source characterful furniture
Country brocantes and antique fairs are a treasure trove of unique pieces that bring personality, patina and panache to your French country decorating ideas.
‘The French respect the past and while they update and modernise, they prefer to go for furniture that will stand the test of time, or pieces they really love, regardless of whether they are en vogue or not,’ explains Georgia Metcalfe, Creative Director and Founder of The French Bedroom Company.
‘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.
33. Select shutters
One of the rituals of staying in a French country home is closing the shutters at night and flinging them open each morning.
‘Although the French are renowned for their fabrics, they often choose shutters as a window treatment rather than heavy curtains; using pretty nets in the day to diffuse the sun,’ says fabric designer Vanessa Arbuthnott.
Paint interior or exterior shutters in the softest tones of blue, cream and yellow for a classic French country look – we like Blue Marguerite by Benjamin Moore.
34. Gather the right ingredients
The kitchen is the heart of the French country home, and with a welcoming warmth created by an accumulation of eclectic pieces, this deVOL kitchen exemplifies this homely aesthetic beautifully.
‘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 design manager, Simon Temprell.
‘The look is less “put together” than US or English kitchens. French design relies on “found” pieces and an informal look, with freestanding furniture and fixtures, that hark back to the past, such as traditional brass taps, honed marble draining boards, Belfast sinks, vintage and antique accents, toile fabric, and dark wood furniture.’
35. Decorate with herbs and flowers
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.
‘I prefer bottles or jars with single flowers and leaves; I like them to look like botanical prints,’ says Jane Summerill, Founder of Summerill & Bishop.
‘The table should be very simple with pots of herbs, wild flowers and leaves, and napkins tied with string and a sprig of lavender.
36. Add elegance with antiques
'Antiques are crucial to styling a French country aesthetic,' says interior designer Jojo Bradley. '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.'
What is French country decorating style?
‘There’s a romantic feeling to French country interiors. 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.
‘One of the principles of French interior design is that they don’t really go in for trends. 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.’
What colors are used in French country decor?
‘Colors in French country interiors tend to lean towards soft whites, muted greens and pastel blues,’ explains Ruth Mottishead, Creative Director of Little Greene.
'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.'
What furniture is typical of French country decor?
‘The French style is probably less comfortable than we are used to. It tends towards more upright seating and upholstered pieces, with carefully selected antique furniture, rather than the squashy chintz sofas of British or American country style,’ suggests Caroline Inchyra, textile designer and founder of Inchyra.
For a country look, the French style is softened with whitewashed wood and rustic rattan pieces.
What is the secret of French country style?
‘French country decor never really goes out of style; it is timeless. The interiors reflect a longstanding connection to the land and nature and seasons,’ says Louise Bacou, co-founder La Maison London.
‘In the French countryside, time moves at a gentler pace. This is reflected in country homes where long easy hours are spent at old rustic tables enjoying the season’s latest gifts.’
‘There is an attention to detail in French country interiors which delights the senses. 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.’
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Andrea has been immersed in the world of homes, interiors and lifestyle since her first job in journalism, on Ideal Home. She went from women's magazine Options to Frank. From there it was on to the launch of Red magazine, where she stayed for 10 years and became Assistant Editor. She then shifted into freelancing, and spent 14 years writing for everyone from The Telegraph to The Sunday Times, Livingetc, Stylist and Woman & Home. She was then offered the job as Editor on Country Homes & Interiors, and now combines that role with writing for sister title homesandgardens.com.
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