French country living room ideas – 10 ways to add timeless elegance
Create relaxed, romantic interiors brimming with character with these French country living room ideas
French country living room ideas are renowned for their enduring elegance. With an appreciation for the rural landscape at its heart, French country is a style which has been bringing timeless charm and an air of romance to interiors for centuries.
Rustic yet comfortable, and elegant yet practical, living rooms decorated in the French country style boast a relaxed, lived-in look and are characterised by gentle neutrals and faded colors paired with a wealth of natural materials. Linens in floral, striped and checked prints lend that all-important soft touch, while antique furniture and time worn pieces bring depth and character.
Whether you're looking to redecorate, or simply introduce a few French-style finishing touches, we've rounded up a beautiful array of living rooms ideas which are perfect for those that adore the French country look.
French country living room ideas
If you're looking to create a French country living room then you're in luck as it’s an easy look to recreate. 'It doesn’t rely on closely coordinated accessories, matching suites of furniture or lots of designer pieces,' explains fabric designer Vanessa Arbuthnott. 'Instead, its eclectic, mismatched style is all part of the charm.’
While part of the enduring appeal of the French country decor is that there's no real recipe, there are some recurring themes, so to help you get inspired we've rounded up some beautiful ideas alongside some tips from the experts.
1. Layer delicate prints in soft colors
The palette and prints you use can have a big impact on the look and feel of a space. Renowned for being relaxed and elegant, French country living rooms tend not to include vibrant or dramatic tones, but instead are characterised by their myriad soft colors inspired by nature alongside gentle floral prints.
‘French country decor ideas focus on a look that's soft, rustic, elegant and casual. The style incorporates traditional freestanding furniture, lots of wood and exposed stone walls, and a penchant for off-whites, soft blues and yellows,’ explains Vanessa Arbuthnott. 'Think softly upholstered or loose covered sofas and chairs in natural linens and gentle florals in neutral tones.'
2. Embrace rustic textures and natural materials
When it comes to French country style, often less is more. Rather than opting for bold prints and vibrant colors, think about embracing aged surfaces and the gentle textures of natural materials. Boasting subtle variations in tone, exposed plaster work makes a fabulous textural backdrop for a French country living room plus it pairs beautifully with the grain of natural timber furniture.
If you're keen to introduce pattern, then consider limiting it to small areas so as not to distract from rustic textures. In this stunning space bobbin chairs covered in linens from Fermoie (left) and Designers Guild (right) bring a touch of pattern without dominating the space.
3. Choose faded floral fabrics
Bringing the beauty of nature into the home, floral fabric is the perfect choice for a country living room helping them feel connected with the landscape that surrounds them. The French are renowned for their floral fabrics, from ditsy repeat designs to elaborate prints with urns, ribbons and cartouches and luckily there's a wealth of French-inspired prints available that take inspiration from traditional designs.
A beautiful trailing pattern, this Fuchsia fabric by Colefax & Fowler looks fabulous across curtains and elegant curved armchair in this living room, and helps bring softness and femininity to the space.
4. Keep it simple
If you've got a penchant for pretty details, and love French interior pieces such as decorative carved wall sconces; crystal table lamps and delicate lace fabrics, then consider choosing a pared-back all-white scheme to really show them off. Limiting the palette of a room to just one color is a brilliant way to focus attention on delicate details of French pieces as this beautiful space proves. If you're thinking of white living room ideas then be sure to fill the space with elegant shapes and plenty of layered fabrics to bring the look to life.
5. Furnish with distressed pieces
Antique painted furniture bearing time-worn patinas and chipped paintwork are guaranteed to bring character as well as a relaxed, lived-in feel to a living room. Antique shops and flea markets are a good source for vintage pieces. Alternatively, drab brown furniture picked up at low prices from yard sales can easily be transformed into characterful, unique pieces using a simple lick of paint and some distressed paint effects. If you're sourcing pieces to paint don't worry too much about the color of finish – look for pieces with beautiful shapes and silhouettes as this is what will shine through.
6. Showcase architectural features
If you're lucky enough to have a living room with beautiful original features such as exposed masonry and stone fireplaces then be sure to showcase them within your interior as these aged surfaces are a key part of the French look.
French country interiors, 'have a slightly rustic finish, celebrating rough plastered walls and worn wooden floorboards,' says Louise Wicksteed, design director at Sims Hilditch. 'The interior of Emma’s Wiltshire home is a great example of this, inspired by the Provencal style of the French hotel La Bastide de Marie.'
7. Decorate with ornate wallpapers
Wallpaper is a brilliant way to instantly change the look and feel of a room. If you're looking for living room wallpaper ideas with a romantic French feel then consider using prints that reference the Rococo style – a movement that first emerged in France in the 1720 – 1730s that is characterized by elaborate ornament.
'French country decor is highly decorative. Patterns that detail more traditional flowing damasks, fleur-de-lys and scrollwork will bring a touch of elegance and rustic charm to a room,' says Ruth Mottershead, creative director at Little Greene.
'These patterns will offer a sense of timeless grandeur, creating a trompe l’oeil that draws the eye and can accentuate the height of a room. These designs work well in colors that complement the period, such as soft yellows and blues, pairing beautifully with whitewashed woodwork and parquet living room flooring.’
8. Don't forget the chandelier
If there's one piece a French country living room can't be without, it's a chandelier. Elegant and timeless, a statement chandelier can instantly transform the look and feel of a room and makes a beautiful ceiling centerpiece. While there are lots of reproduction designs available, nothing quite matches the grandeur and elegance of an antique crystal chandelier, however, care must be taken when installing.
'It’s wise to remember the practical aspects of safely installing chandeliers. Fixing chandeliers to a ceiling can be a very difficult endeavour; I’ve had to lift floors and put reinforced bars in situ to take the weight of some, so take this into account when buying,' says antiques expert Marc Allum writing for Period Living magazine.
9. Choose plantation shutters
Synonymous with the south of France, shutters are a common feature of many historic French buildings, so if you're looking for window treatments ideas for a French country living room then plantation shutters are a brilliant option. Boasting faded pastel and aged paintwork, antique shutters are also prized for their decorative qualities, too and can look particularly effective leant against the wall as a characterful backdrop or fitted as wall paneling.
10. Opt for timeless stripes
From grain-sack style, heavyweight linens to tightly woven cotton tickings, striped fabrics are a staple of classic french decor, bringing a timeless and relaxed feel to living room upholstery. Using a selection of different striped fabrics of the same colorway to upholster chairs is a great way to bring added texture and interest neutral living rooms.
What makes a house French country?
If you're wondering what makes a house French country then the answer is there is no one defining feature – part of the charm of French country interiors is their relaxed, lived-in look created from a mix and match approach to decorating. It is safe to say however that French country is an elegant style that has timeless appeal.
'There is something about French country style and textiles that draws me in time and again, it has a vibe all its own but instantly you know the look,' says Caroline Inchyra, founder of Inchyra. 'I think it is to do with the ability of the designs to be both rustic and comfortable but at the same time exude elegance.'
While the style has no one defining feature, French country interiors are often based on a palette of soft neutral tones and delicate faded colors. Whether introduced through furniture, flooring or wall treatments, natural materials are a key focus within the look as is an abundance of rustic textures and time worn patinas. 'Think about layering color and designs too, keep it eclectic. French style is distinctive but not contrived,' adds Caroline Inchyra.
When it comes to furniture, elegant pieces with curved silhouettes and ornate details are often used to bring femininity and softness – think Louis XVI style settees with scrolled arms, upholstered headboards and white-washed armoires crowned with carved details.
What fabrics make a house French country?
There are many fabrics that work well in French country living rooms. Capturing the romance and beauty of nature, floral fabrics are a brilliant choice for a French country look as they have a timeless appeal and help connect homes with the rural landscape.
Linens in prints like checks, ginghams and stripes are also popular with interior designers looking to channel the French country style as they bring a subtle touch of pattern while keeping spaces feeling restful and relaxed.
'The French use a lot of linen and it does create quite a specific look, that of faded grandeur, effortless style that works no matter how big or small the house,' says Caroline Inchyra.
'Linen always feels as though it has been there forever, there’s just something about it combined with a muted softness and a very subtle color palette, mainly inspired by nature. I think that’s why it works so seamlessly within a country interior, especially as curtains and cushions. Heavier linens can be used as upholstery but not for heavy use.
Pippa is Content Editor on Homes & Gardens online contributing to Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors print issues. A graduate of Art History and formerly Style Editor at Period Living, she is passionate about architecture, creating decorating content, interior styling and writing about craft and historic homes. She enjoys searching out beautiful images and the latest trends to share with the Homes & Gardens audience. A keen gardener, when she’s not writing you’ll find her growing flowers on her village allotment for styling projects.
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