French Country Style Defined

Bring the French countryside into your home with this chic inspiration.

By Lisa Frederick

French country style has its roots in the customs of the sunny, pastoral French countryside, springing from centuries of slow-paced yet hardworking rural life. Unlike the more opulent sensibility that might have been found in the grand maisons of Paris, French country style is earthy and relaxed, artfully straddling the gap between practical sturdiness and decorative aplomb.

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The Basics

Open Traditional Dining Room
Gideon Mendelson

French country décor feels warm, welcoming, and unpretentious, characterized by an elegant grace that elevates its humbler side. Its surfaces are gently worn with time and use, its colors reflect the sunny rural surroundings, and its furnishings fill multiple roles with ease. Although it feels more rustic than refined, it is in no way crude or rudimentary.

These designer rooms display French country style:

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Smith + Noble
Wrought iron. Wrought iron has been a mainstay of French country style since the Renaissance era. Use it in furnishings such as a canopy bed or daybed; lighting; and accessories such as andirons, candelabras, or door and cabinet hardware.

Rich, soft colors. Warms yellows and creams, pale sky blues, sage greens, brick reds, and dusky lavenders all feel pitch-perfect for this style and echo the exterior landscape.

Toile. Popular in France for more than two centuries, toile fabric sprinkles in a dash of whimsy and lighthearted appeal. Mix it with stripes, gingham, and textural linen or burlap for French country flair. 
Nella Vetrina
Distressed accent pieces. Accents look best with a light patina. Try moss-dappled urns or planters, weathered woods, hammered metal, and antiqued finishes such as oil-rubbed bronze.

Whitewashing. Made from lime, chalk, and other substances, whitewash was a popular alternative to paint in rural French homes. Try it on indoor and outdoor walls, furniture, floors, and ceilings for a look that whispers of age.

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