These French country houses are a lesson in the classic rustic style – here's what we learned from the designers

These French country houses exude rustic charm and understated elegance – and there's much to be learned from these timeless spaces

French country houses hero
(Image credit: Sara Silm/Jane Grainger/Margaret Reckitt)

French country houses have become a source of inspiration for rustic-meets-elegant interiors, and for good reason. These often old spaces are full of character and carry a wonderful balance of old and new, something trends have been embracing this year.

From the beautiful architecture to charming French country decor, this style of home offers an abundance of inspiration for decorating homes of every age and style. Advocating the lived-in aesthetic and personal touch that recent trends haven't showcased, there are plenty of design cues to take from French country houses.

And where better to gather ideas and decor insights than real French country houses around the country? We've spoken to the owners and designers of these spaces to find out how they created their charming, characterful schemes.

5 french country houses that showcase this classic rustic style 

From rustic countryside abodes to interiors embracing understated elegance, these French country homes are full of character, personality, and historic charm. So, whether you live in a French home or simply want to introduce French country style to your interiors, there's plenty here to inspire.

1. Maison Noe in Dax

French country house with stone walls and blue shutters

(Image credit: Benji Lewis/Mathieu Détaint)

There are different styles of French country houses, but a feature many of them have is the natural stone used for brickwork and the almost symmetrical facade that gives these spaces enduring appeal.

'Built in 1806, my French house, called Maison Noe, had never left the ownership of the family who originally built it. It’s built in the classically elegant maison de maitre style, with a square façade, a central front-to-back hallway that allows daylight to flood through the building, with two rooms off to each side and barns attached at each end,' explains owner and interior designer Benji Lewis.

'I’m sensitive to the idea that you can over-renovate an old French property so my approach has been to retain what makes sense with the authenticity of the original structure and otherwise reinstate materials that would have been in the house when it was built,' he adds.

When it came to furnishing and decorating, Benji was careful to maintain the character and sense of history that was core to his French country home. 'For the furnishings I did as I would with any client, I drew furniture layout plans on scale drawings so that when I shopped I knew exactly what would fit. I trawled the brocantes and antique shops in the area for almost everything – it’d have taken less time if I had bought everything new but somehow second-hand furniture works fantastically well in an old French home,' he says.

French country kitchen

(Image credit: Benji Lewis/Mathieu Détaint)

While his home is filled with beautiful antique furniture, he has introduced some elements of new. 'I did spend money on getting upholstered goods re-conditioned, restored, and re-covered. As much as I love preloved I don’t like upholstery when it’s too far gone and I wanted my soft seating to be comfortable,' he explains.

He explains that introducing old and collected pieces is core to authentic French country style: 'I think the brocante factor can’t be overstated when it comes to achieving a successful French Country look. There’s a massive difference between curated and chaotic and I knew I needed to not fall into the chaotic bearpit.'

'I think to successfully achieve the French country look you need to strike a fine balance between controlling your thoughts on what you buy but bouncing plenty of interest into the mix and then curating it all carefully when you get home,' he adds.

Benji Lewis
Benji Lewis

Benji Lewis is a well-established British interior designer with extensive experience working on residential and commercial properties both at home and abroad. These include flats and studios, town and country houses, listed properties and commercial spaces such as the redesign of London’s Universal Studios offices.

2. Manoir Mouret in South West France

French country house exterior

(Image credit: Margaret Reckitt)

This classic French country home is as idyllic as it gets – surrounded by picturesque countryside, it's exactly what you would imagine a historic home in South West France to look like.

'Manoir Mouret was built in the 1850s as a "maison de maître", the home for the master winemaker. We are surrounded by our neighbours' vines and their work in the fields marks the passing of the seasons here in rural France. The wine was originally made in the barns surrounding the main house, but they have now been sensitively converted into accommodation which respects the heritage of the buildings,' explains owner Margaret Reckitt.

French country house bedroom

(Image credit: Margaret Reckitt)

Inside this French country house, Margaret has created a classic, elegant space that feels understated and classy. 'We created a unifying color palette and "flow" across all the buildings that today make up Manoir Mouret so that whichever of the 13 bedrooms you are in you have a sense of place and calm (with a few pops of color too)' she explains.

Alongside the muted color palette, fabric and upholstery have been used to lift the space and introduce references to the surrounding landscapes. 'Many fabrics and wall coverings we have used have nature as their theme so that you are constantly reminded of the beautiful nature surrounding us here,' Margaret says.

While the interiors here are more refined and elegant, she notes the importance of antiques to create an authentic French country feel. 'We have added extra layers of interest with objects from local antique fairs, again often speaking to the agricultural history of the house and area,' Margaret adds.

3. A petit chateau in the Béarn region

French country house kitchen

(Image credit: Sara Silm)

French country homes often have the old-meets-new aesthetic that truly endures, and Sarah Silm, owner of this home and author of How to French Country, has embraced traditional French country style while adding her own personality to the design.

'I live in the magnificent foothills of the Pyrenees in the Béarn region of SW France. We purchased our petit chateau nearly 10 years ago and have gradually restored it ever since. Dating back to the 1850’s, the chateau was built by a French general and was later purchased by the sister-in-law of King Leopold III of Belgium, who’s descendant we bought it from,' Sara explains.

When decorating her home, Sara was keen to keep as much of the original charm as possible. 'The chateau had been empty for decades so I kept everything I could save and started to add my touch from there. I developed a color palette by color matching old patina from local shutters and doors, as well as being inspired by the beautiful landscape of the Béarnaise countryside and the Pyrenees,' she says.

French country house bedroom

(Image credit: Sarah Silm)

In each room, Sara has introduced elements that celebrate the architectural details, but she has also taken a layered approach to pattern and texture, creating a warm, homey feel. 'It’s always good to layer textures, so I often start with the floor and work my way up from there. I tend to center spaces with rugs, often vintage Persian rugs with muted color palettes, or natural sisal, that contrast with old floorboards or the tumbled travertine flagstones that are throughout many of the rooms downstairs,' Sara explains.

A careful balance of curated style and unfussy design is core to French country house style. 'It's important to keep it relaxed and not to have anything too precious or formal. I love patterns and many of the designs from Le Village, my French wallpaper collaboration with Sandberg Wallpaper feature throughout the house. The feeling wallpaper brings, not only speaks to the intimacy and warmth of a French country style, but it also allows you to express your personality,' she adds.

4. A Maison de Maître in the South of France

French country house exterior

(Image credit: Jane Grainger)

A grand entry awaits at this French country house in the South of France. A slightly different style of country house, this home's exterior has been finished in a neutral hue rather than natural stone, offering a more elegant facade. 'Our home, a Maison de Maître built in the mid-1800s, is in the center of an old bastide village,' says owner Jane Grainger.

The exterior is a wonderful preview to the interiors – the classic elegance runs through this French country home, with a blend of traditional French country style working in harmony with more contemporary additions. 'I’ve always loved creating a home, so my main priority was for the house to feel like a family home, whilst being influenced by the period and style of the house,' says Jane.

French country houses

(Image credit: Jane Grainger)

When she moved to France, she was upsizing from her UK home, so she needed to introduce more 'new' furniture that suited the property 'Luckily I have a love for brocantes and vide greniers so all our furniture has been preloved purchases that we’ve been able to buy at some great prices,' she says.

The architectural details give this home true French country style, and there are plenty of them. 'The layout and symmetrical details of a Maison de Maître symbolize a traditional French country home, together with the well-proportioned rooms and large windows, which flood the house with light. There are also the pretty Juliet balconies to all the windows on the first and second floors, which together with the wooden shutters make the house feel steeped in French history and living,' Jane points out.

If there's anything to take away from these French country houses, it's a careful mix of old and new paired with laid-back, comfortable living is key to adding country charm and character to your home. Whether you create an authentically collected space like Benji or lean into understated elegance like Jane, it's really no surprise French country houses are becoming a pillar of inspiration in the design world.

Kitchens & Bathrooms Editor

I joined the Homes & Gardens interiors team at the start of 2024 as the kitchens & bathrooms editor. My undergraduate degree was in Magazine Journalism and Production, which I studied at the University of Gloucestershire. Before joining Homes & Gardens, I worked for two interiors titles across both print and digital channels, writing about a range of topics from room design ideas and decorating trends to timeless kitchen schemes and the best places to source pre-loved homeware.