5 ways this style expert showcases French country style

Interior designer Sara Silm's French chateau is packed with Gallic charm. Here, she tells us how to get the look

French dining room
(Image credit: Thames & Hudson)

Sara Silm is an Australian stylist, cook and journalist. Sara has spent much of her life travelling the world, before buying Chateau Montfort in the French countryside in 2015, which she renovated extensively. 

Filled with beautiful French country decor ideas that we can't wait to copy, she has just published a book, How to French Country

Here, Sara shares her top tips for bringing Gallic charm into your home, whether you live in the Loire Valley or Los Angeles, Nantes or New York. 

1. Create a welcoming entrance with pattern

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(Image credit: Thames & Hudson)

For anyone considering entryway ideas, think: pattern.

'The original encaustic chequered tiles, softened with a natural jute rug, set the chic rustic tone here.' says Sara. 'They were painstakingly revealed beneath a layer of stubborn glue and old carpet. 

'French country is all about creating a layered aesthetic that’s elegant but understated and pattern is a great tool for adding these layers. This decorative wallpaper goes beautifully with the red and grey marble-topped antique table.'

2. Conjure up a space to gather

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(Image credit: Thames & Hudson)

French country is perfect for traditional dining room ideas.

'Used for family meals and formal dinners, this room is neither too casual nor too precious. The big old wooden table is key; it was bought at a brocante (flea market) for €50 ($57), its legs painted in a chalk-based grey for an instant French country transformation,' says Sarah. 

'The grand carved fireplace is softened with a bric-a- brac display of birds’ nests, ceramics and a marble bust that was found in the house.'

3. Pick out authentic, unique fittings

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(Image credit: Thames & Hudson)

'A French country kitchen deserves a majestic sink such as this, made from one huge, solid piece of stone. The plumbing is hidden by a simple raw linen skirt – very understated French chic – hung on a wire.

'A neutral palette works well in a traditional French kitchen. The wall features bevel- edged white subway tiles and the flooring is tumbled travertine marble from Cupa Stone. The patina and natural colour variations are very forgiving of the dirt that’s inevitably walked in from the garden and the irregular surface is the perfect amount of rustic.'

4. Focus on the bed

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(Image credit: Thames & Hudson)

The centrepiece here, a classic choice for a French bedroom, is the grandeur of an antique bateau bed upholstered in a vibrant pink hue. It is offset by an elegant patterned wallpaper – Borastapeter’s Paradise Birds – and a stylishly understated Ikea seagrass rug. Mismatched bedside tables have been united with the same shade of Autentico chalk paint. The bedlinen is organic hemp from Couleur Chanvre, accented with Caï Fahrel woodblock print cushions. The two botanical prints are market finds. 

5. Experiment with toile in the bathroom

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(Image credit: Thames & Hudson)

We, at Homes & Gardens, adore bathroom wallpaper ideas, and what could be more romantically Gallic than the pastoral scenes of a classic toile de jouy? This is Little Greene’s Stag Toile in Juniper, which is washable, so well-suited to the space. If you use wallpaper in a bathroom, don’t hang it too close to a shower area (which should be tiled), ensure that it is not in direct contact with water on a regular basis, and install a ventilation fan to reduce steam and condensation.


How to French Country by Sara Silm is published by Thames & Hudson

Lucy Searle
Content Director

Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property and gardens since 1990, working her way around the interiors departments of women's magazines before switching to interiors-only titles in the mid-nineties. She was Associate Editor on Ideal Home, and Launch Editor of 4Homes magazine, before moving into digital in 2007, launching Channel 4's flagship website, Channel4.com/4homes. In 2018, Lucy took on the role of Global Editor in Chief for Realhomes.com, taking the site from a small magazine add-on to a global success. She was asked to repeat that success at Homes & Gardens, where she also took on the editorship of the magazine. Today, Lucy works as Content Director across Homes & Gardens, Woman & Home, Ideal Home and Real Homes.