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.
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.
Look at our country decorating ideas for more stunning rustic inspiration.
1. 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.
Take a look at our country bedroom ideas for more expert design tips for creating relaxing rustic rooms.
2. 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.
3. Paint kitchen cabinets in French Blue
It’s perfectly possible to combine the trend for simple, wooden kitchens with chic French flair.
‘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.’
‘The client wanted to achieve contrast in the kitchen, namely by blending traditional cabinetry with a dark, bold colour scheme,’ Moore continues.
'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 worktops and natural light helping to lift the whole scheme.’
4. Let curtains sweep the floor
Super-long, full curtains that ‘puddle’ on the floor are the epitome of French country style – 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.’
8. Display fine china
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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
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11. Turn linen sheets into drapes
The French country look is all about 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.
See our country curtain ideas for more ways to dress your windows.
12. Add rustic wall decoration
'Natural materials, rustic finishes, laidback linens and eclectic accents are key to French country decor,' says Véronique Piedeleu at Caravane.
'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.'
13. 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.
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.
14. Take the French look outside
The French particularly like to combine florals and toiles with stripes and checks in their country 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.
Discover more planting, landscaping and styling looks for your outdoor space with our country garden ideas.
15. Learn the art of French tablescaping
Tablescaping is a huge trend right now, but it's an art the French have refined over centuries.
For a rustic take on the look, 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.
16. 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.
17. Create the wow factor with wallpaper
The French approach to wallpaper 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.
For more wallpaper ideas for every room in your home, go to our country wallpaper ideas.
18. Go Gallic in the living room
The classic French country sitting room contrasts 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 colour,’ 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.
Our country living room ideas feature is full of expert insight to create a stylish rustic look in your home.
19. 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.
20. 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.’
21. 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.
22. 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.
23. 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.’
24. Give your bathroom a brocante look
A roll-top bath and vintage-look vanity made from a reclaimed table or cabinet will bring a relaxed rustic look to the bathroom.
Open shelves and wire or woven baskets hold beauty products, face cloths and classic cubes of Marseille soap, while glass canisters with shining silver or brass tops provide a pretty way to organise cotton balls and other essentials.
‘Introduce monogrammed towels to bring in a touch of the manoir, and use a painted towel rack to display them,’ suggests Arianna Brissi from lifestyle brand Brissi.
Here, the pared-back elegance of Provence is evoked, through a scenic panel screen and antique ceramics, rustic textural walls and a large traditional freestanding bath. Modern geometric tiles, overlaid on the old flagstone floor, zone the space and bring a touch of modernity.
25. Decorate with herbs & 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.
26. 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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