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French Country Design

French Country Decorating Style

If you are a fan of the French Country decorating style you are someone who puts comfort above all else. This is a great way to decorate your entire home or just one room if you need to take it slow and acquire one item or do one project at time. A lot of the furniture and items you will use can be found at flea markets and thrift stores and you re-purpose them. Dumpster diving and going to garage sales and flea markets can take a lot of time during the weekends when the weather permits. If you are patient, you will find just what you need. However, you can purchase French Country pieces new as well.

The good news for novice decorators is the French Country decorating style has no rules set in stone. There are suggestions, of course. But you are free to use your whimsy. The only rule is that a guest feels welcomed when they enter your home. They feel the warmth of friendship and hospitality. They know they are accepted in their jeans and sweat shirts as well as Sunday best.

French Country Decorating

French Country Decorating

Begin with the ambiance of the French countryside and what you would expect to see in and around a French cottage. Outside there may be pastures or vineyards with plenty of green grass and wild flowers. The sky will be a beautiful clear blue and the sun is shining. Inside you will be greeted by the aroma of baking bread and glimpse the top of the kitchen table with bowls of fresh fruit and another basket of fresh eggs. The kitchen will be the heart of the home which extends into the living room and dining areas.

There are predominant colors used throughout the French country decorating style. These colors are taken from the world around the cottage. They will be inspired by nature like sky blues, greens, sunny yellows and muted golds. Since a farmer uses everything with a purpose, you will find autumn colors like the golden rust and orange from the harvest. The colors are shown to perfection with the use of natural textures. Woodwork will look distressed as will the stucco walls. This effect is easy to achieve with several paint hues. Allow your paint store of choice to give you some simple suggestions.

French Country Shutters

French Country Shutters

Since the wood furniture has been around for generations, it is distressed as well. This is where your flea market and thrift store finds will come in handy. In the French countryside it is common to discover dining room tables that have been painted as well as shelving, different styled chairs around the table, book cases, occasional tables, and bedroom furniture – anything wooden. For the dining room it would be appropriate to paint the chairs the same color as the table; however, you would want vintage-looking cushions in vibrant colors that pick up the table and chair color.

You may be thinking that you have quite a lot of this all ready. That is the idea. You do not have to make everything brand new. It’s a matter of combining colors, patterns, textures and lighting to feel lived-in and welcoming. If your sofa and living room chairs are in more modern, conventional upholstery, simply purchase slip covers in a French country decorating style. This would incorporate a few ruffles here and there and plenty of fabric activity like checks or florals. One look you will never see in a French cottage is something that is trendy or in vogue. (The laptop will be hidden somewhere!)

There are more items you can add one at a time to bring in the French country decorating style. Cast iron light fixtures, while heavy, will add to the aged look of the room or home. Items like book ends that have been painted black will stand out on the brightly colored occasional table. A traveling trunk with rusted metal hinges can serve as a cocktail table. If you have a fireplace it is easy to install a plank or beam at the top of the unit to serve as a mantel piece. Hanging copper pots or black iron accessories will give it the ‘home and hearth’ look.

French Country Decorating Fabric and Colors

French Country Colors and Fabrics

For the window coverings shutters were and are used as well as sheer panels. If you use sheers or half-shutters you can hang a valance at the top of the window in interesting colors and patterns. Most of the time the floors were made from tiles because tile was less expensive and tiles were easier to clean when the farm or vineyard workers came in from the fields. However, you could count on vibrant but well-worn area rugs to add to the comfort of the home. Adding more interest to the interior of the cottage would be items that were made to depict everyday living objects such as farm roosters, sunflowers, grapes and greenery.

Where your flea market and thrift store really comes in handy is when you are looking for pictures for your wall. In the French country decorating style there would be numerous old-looking paintings of pastoral scenes, wooden bowls of grapes and fruit or pictures of people working the vineyards.

In adding a finishing touch to any room, don’t forget the ceramic water pitcher holding a bouquet of wild and garden flowers. Real flowers and greenery are an essential of cottage design. The flowers bring in lasting scents of the sunny outside that blend well with the freshly baked bread. Everything says, “Bonjour!”

If you like French Country style you may also like Shabby Chic.

More information on Styles and Periods of Interior Decorating

Styles and Periods
Furniture History
Decorating Styles
Period Decoration
What is Style?

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About the Author – Lee Brown

Lee Brown is the co founder of interiordezine.com, she has worked in the Interior Design Industry for over 23 years, specializing in commercial, hospitality, high end architectural homes and retail design. Over the past 13 years Lee and Chris Brown have been collating their wealth of design knowledge to provide free interior decorating education to the world. Make sure you register for your free ecourse today. Free Interior Decorating eCourse
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