What is French country style? And how to add this timeless aesthetic to your interiors

Here's how to use French country style to add rustic elegance to your home

French country style
(Image credit: Benji Lewis/Mathieu Détaint)

When you think of lived-in interiors, the French country style probably comes to mind. Renowned for a soft color palette, rustic antiques, and European flair, this interior design style is becoming increasingly popular, and not just in French properties.

French country style draws on the aesthetic of rural life in France – it blends the elegance of French design with the rustic environment of the countryside, and the furniture and decorative items used reflect this. 

There are plenty of French country decor ideas to draw inspiration from, but curating a home that balances elegance and rustic charm requires more than simply adding patinated decor and aged furniture. Here, we ask interior designers to explain what French country style is, and how to introduce this timeless aesthetic into your home.

What is French country style?

Sims Hilditch living room of a converted barn in Wiltstshie

(Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

French country interior design style epitomizes rustic elegance – think slightly worn walls adorned with beautiful curtains and original floor tiles topped with beautifully ornate and antique furniture. Today, it's about striking a balance between old and new, luxury and country.

'French country style is really about patina; beautiful antiques, a mix of wood showing age and tole fixtures, and Provençal patterns in shades of yellow and blue. It's a happy, carefree, and very timeworn feeling to an interior space,' says interior designer Ariel Okin

The color palette in French country schemes tends to stick to warm neutral shades and muted hues – green and blues are particularly prevalent, as are reds, yellows, and pinks. These subtle, soothing tones not only pair beautifully with the natural wood and antique pieces but aids a harmonious blend between the rustic and more elevated details. 'I think more muted lime wash or plaster finish on walls suits French country style to achieve a relaxed lived-in look that is so charming about French Country style,' says interior designer Meta Coleman.

white vintage armoir in kitchen-diner with blue island and aged brick tiled floor

(Image credit: The Refined Group/Werner Segarra)

This lived-in approach is core to French country style, and not just in terms of color and furniture. 'Think period (or antique) reclaimed rustic when it comes to French country style. Start from the ground up – uneven terracotta floor tiles (I particularly love hexagons) or flags, distressed wallpaper and lime rendered walls, paneling, carved stone fireplaces, and broad oak beamed ceilings,' says interior designer Benji Lewis.

Although there is a rustic style and live-in side to French country, there is also an air of understated elegance that French interiors are renowned for. 'Room proportions are likely elegant, the French do elegance brilliantly whether you're in a chateau or a farmhouse. And don't forget the obligatory Pierre de Ronsard rose rambling around the top of the front door,' adds designer (and French interior expert having a home in France himself) Benji Lewis.

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.

How to decorate with French country style

1. Decorate with a muted color palette

French country bedroom with warm neutral paint in the walls

(Image credit: Benji Lewis/Mathieu Détaint)

The color palette for French country style leans more toward muted hues than vibrant shades. Natural wood tones are prevalent in these interiors, so introducing colors that don't fight with these finishes is key.

'French country palettes often have creams and pale hues, mixed with more saturated colors like yellows and blues,' says Ariel. The key here is blending the elegance of French style with the more rustic elements of countryside living. Lean into muted hues of yellow, blue, pink, and green paired with creamy neutrals for an authentic finish.

It's important to remember color doesn't only apply to the wall paint, but to your decor and soft furnishings, too. If a room has a neutral base, introduce elements with more saturated tones to avoid creating a scheme that feels too stark. 

2. Introduce classic French decor

Hallway decorated with toile wallpaper from Little Greene

(Image credit: Little Greene)

There are a few key designs that feel integral to any French country scheme, many of which fall into the decor realm. 'Add rustic wall decor like iron wall hangings or clocks, and oftentimes very pretty toile fabrics combine in these spaces,' says Ariel. 

A chair or headboard upholstered in toile fabric will add a charming addition to a home and add depth and interest when surrounded by wooden furniture. Don't be afraid to introduce patterns – stick to smaller, more subtle designs over big and bold. 

Equally, walls adorned with iron wall hangings draw the eye up when entering a space, and you can find some interesting examples at antique sales. Adding these different elements helps to introduce that balance of luxury and rustic style.

3. Source French country antiques

French country kitchen

(Image credit: Benji Lewis/Mathieu Détaint)

No French country style home is complete without antiques. From furniture to smaller decor items, there is no better way to infuse a space than decorating with antiques sourced from the region.

For a seamless look, Ariel suggests adding 'a combination of items that feel more luxurious or high style, like a Louis-style chair, with items that are a bit more rustic, like a wooden pine table for example – the juxtaposition between the two is what makes French country style so pretty.' 

To make your home feel cohesive, try to introduce a variety of antique items, rather than simply having all antique furniture and only contemporary decor. 'Ways you can incorporate the style range from decorating with toile fabrics to adding antique farmhouse style tables, and gilded chandeliers – it really runs the gamut,' she adds.

4. Add decorative and architectural details

French country bedroom with ornate decorative paneling above the fireplace

(Image credit: Benji Lewis/Mathieu Détaint)

There are a few key design elements typical of French country style. From paneling and plaster moldings to exposed brick walls and exposed wooden beams, these features are key to introducing rustic elegance. In a room with a natural wall, whether it's brick or wood, make it a focal point in the room. Add a dark wood table with an ornate mirror above to ground the space and capture the feel of the design style.

When it comes to wall paneling ideas, there are many different forms and designs – where some country house interiors favor shiplap or wainscotting, French country style calls for something for decorative and ornate. Panel an entire room, or make a feature above a fireplace and wallpaper the surrounding walls for a French country scheme.

5. Mix old and new for a successful scheme

French country style entryway with antique furniture and reclaimed floor tiles

(Image credit: Benji Lewis/Mathieu Détaint)

As with many of the trending interior design styles, mixing old and new is key to French country interiors. Decorated with only old pieces can make a home feel dated, yet only introducing modern furniture and decor takes away from the charm and character this style is renowned for.

'Mixing old and new is integral to achieving a perfect French country look,' explains Benji, adding 'a piece of contemporary art hanging above a Louis XV commode, for example, is an excellent combination.'

Take extra care when displaying items, whether it's art, antique decor, or decorative furniture items – styling plays a big part in creating the right aesthetic in French country interiors. 'Curation is king to achieve a perfect French country style look - it matters less about the quality of what you showcase, it's about how you show things off,' he adds. 

French country style offers a seamless blend of elegant design and rustic decor. 'A home has to flow together, so if you really gravitate toward this style, I would recommend using it as a jumping off point to pull inspiration for every room in your home so that it all makes sense together and tells one story,' suggests Ariel.

Striking this balance is key to a successful scheme – a home in this style should feel lived in and inviting, yet have elements of intricacy and luxury. So whether you introduce French country antiques and toile fabrics or decorate with ornate paneling and soothing, muted hues, maintain a sense of old and new as you create a home that feels reminiscent of the French country style.

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.