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What is a French Country Style Home and Decor? Our Epic French Country Style Guide

French country style house exterior

French country style is a rustic elegance that includes distressed ceiling beams, carved wood, antique pieces, and ornate light fixtures. It's crucial to achieve the right balance of romance and sophistication meshed with the feel of a rugged countryside. Exterior design, along with pretty patios and gardens is also important.

French country style houses definitely have a distinct appearance. The design applies more to exterior than interior although there are some French country interior distinctions as well that we set out below.

The above-featured example is a quintessential french-country style exterior design. It’s designed by none-other, Donald A. Gardner.

This is our detailed write up explaining precisely what the French country style is.

See our French Country floor plans here.

What is French Country Style?

French country style is, of course, inspired by the French countryside, specifically Provence. Provence is a region in southern France that is dominated by gorgeous landscapes and a distinct culture that includes picturesque mountains, lavender fields, and rustic villages. This sort of style is a unique combination of traditional and elegant. It’s a refined sort of elegance that incorporates elements of nature and subdued colors. There are often lots of white-washed wood in the decor and colors in sky blue and soft green. It’s a graceful, yet rustic style that tries to find balance between comfort and beauty.

French country decor goes back centuries to the time of French royalty and elaborate palaces. Rich royals were emulated, just as they are today, by those living in small towns and rural areas. The average person, however, would not be able to afford all the elegance of palatial decor. They would obtain stylish, decorative pieces when they could and mix it with the simple furnishings of their country homes. French country style is ultimately a mixture of old and new, a balanced combination of simple and fancy.

What are Interior Style Features?

French country interior design example by Don Gardner
French country interior design example by Donald A. Gardner.

When most people think of the French countryside, they envision rolling fields spotted with purple and gold. They may think of rugged farmhouses featuring elaborate gardens and charming antiques. These are obviously a big part of the inspiration behind French country interior style. The following are basic features that are often associated with French Country design and this unique interior style.

  • Colors: The French Country style is highlighted by the contrast of the colors on the inside of the house. You are likely to see bright yellows and golds that are a little softer. You will see fiery hot reds and a muted rust color. You will find bright cobalt blue mixed with softer tones of ocean blue. Those bright colors are often balanced with black and gray accent pieces.
  • Prints: This style has a large amount of contrasts. Not only will you find contrasting colors, but you will also find contrasting textures and accents. Toile is a commonly used theme in this design style. These theme uses farm animals, country scenes or courting scenes. This patterns are most often found on cotton or linen.
  • Natural Materials: These materials are a key element to decorating this style of house. You will find plaster walls, exposed wood beam ceilings, carved wood, and stone floors.
  • Decorations: You are going to find sunflowers, grapes, lavender and even beetles in the decor within a French Country style home.
  • Checks and Plaids: Patterns that uses checks are a key fixture in decorating the interior of this style home. The checks can be any color from black and white to green and white. They offer a balance to the Toile style. Checks are often put together with Toile in upholstered material. Chair cushions and the material on sofas is often decorated in this checked pattern.
  • Rococo: Rococo and Bombe were items that were incredibly popular during the time of Louis XV. It is most noticeable for its curved look. The history of these designs goes all the way back to the skilled artisans of the 18th Century. These skilled craftspeople created methods that gave them the ability to shape wood and trim into curved forms that you can still find today.
  • Blues & White – Soft blues and shades of white and ivory are essential colors that are almost always part of this particular style. A variety of greens and yellows are sometimes used as accent when decorating. Earth tones in brown and grey often compliment the brighter blues and yellows when putting together an attractive decorating scheme.
  • Weathered Wood – Tables, chairs, and other types of furniture rarely have a smooth finish when decorating in French country style. This distressed wood provides the rustic charm the look is famous for. Even though the wood is usually unfinished or distressed, it is still sometimes intricately carved and designed. Dining tables that are rectangular have a rugged, farmhouse appeal, while the circular shaped tables provide a romantic, refined look.
  • Ceiling Beams – Exposed wooden ceiling beams are often an integral part of decorating when achieving this classic French look. The wooden beams, like much of the rest of the furniture, has a weathered, unpolished look. These types of beams may be large or small, and are sometimes found in kitchens and dining rooms.
  • Soft Curves – French Country has an almost feminine feel to it. Everything from accent pieces of furniture to wall hangings may have curves and rounded edges. Soft curves are a way to compliment the rustic and rugged feel of larger pieces such as ceiling beams and long, rectangular dining tables.
  • Gallery Walls – Walls with lots of beautiful paintings and portraits are a distinguishing mark of this type of design. An individual may choose family photos or classic art work when decorating the walls. One common denominator when it comes to art work is large ornate frames. Bronze and gold frames will compliment almost any color scheme in the home.
  • Touches of Elegance – While rustic is sometimes the dominate style element, there are always touches of elegance. For example, a simple chair may have a natural, unpainted frame, yet have a pretty, upholstered cushion. A large bed with a simple frame and headboard may have intricately carved designs or a detailed beaded design.

What are Exterior Style Features?

Classic French country style of house exterior.
Classic French country style of house exterior. Designed by Donald A. Gardner.

French country styles are often seen on charming chateaus or a gorgeous Tudor mansion. Think gated courtyards and luxurious balconies. There are lots of exquisite pieces and styles that can be used when doing exterior decorating in French country.

  • Doors – French doors are double doors that are normally large and sometimes elaborately designed. These types of doors are a defining aspect of a French country home. A decorator might choose mahogany wood for a more formal look or knotty alder wood for a casual style. French doors aren’t just for the main entrance. They may lead to a large outdoor area such as a patio or a garden. They might also be smaller and tucked away at a side entrance that leads out to a narrow sidewalk.
  • Shutters – Vibrantly painted shutters in forest green and cobalt blue are staples of French country style. Shutters can be as worn and weathered as the overall exterior. When they’re bright and freshly painted, however, they stand out and add eye-catching style. It’s important to remember that on a real country farmhouse in France, most shutters are not just decorative, they actually open and close. For eye-catching appeal on any house, this is one area it’s important not to skimp on.
  • Mixing Materials – The exterior finish of these homes often include a mixture of materials and styles. For example, many French country homes have a charming mix of blue or grey stone and stucco. The stone exterior is often on the lower level of the home or one particular section. Different combinations of brick or stone may line a pretty sidewalk or patio.
  • Exquisite Patios – Beautiful inlaid patios constructed with bright colors and intricate designs are great options when designing a French country floor plan. Some patios may have wrought iron poles or structures around the patio with vines growing up and around the iron. Canvas or bamboo roofs might be covering the top of the iron.
  • Balconies – Wrought iron isn’t just for patios. It’s sometime used to create lovely balconies. These can be decorative in front of large windows or part of the actual balconies made for lounging. Don’t forget the large pots with flowers native to France. These would include lavender, daffodils, and irises.
  • Gardens – The natural tones in the gardens throughout the French countryside are such an inspiration for the overall style that it’s hard to imagine a French country style home without areas outside for plants and flowers. Besides flowers, a garden in the French countryside might have dwarf boxwood, holly, juniper, oregano, and Lilac.

Furniture style

French Country style has a distinct type of furniture which sets it apart from other types of furniture. One of the ways this furniture stands out from others is because it is furniture that was originally built for the rich and powerful. Over the years, the furniture was altered so that it is affordable and even those in the country can afford it. The wood furniture must have a dull look to it. Most of this furniture is distressed and provides a worn in and comfortable feel. You will not find wood that has a high amount of sheen in the style of house. The intention is for the furniture to look charming and old world.

Furniture style that is French Country design includes:

  • Raw wood
  • Curved panels
  • Hand carved
  • Rustic

A French Country home is not complete without an armoire, including the Sauder Cottage Road Armoire. This storage unit includes a garment rod to keep clothes without wrinkles. It has full size doors to keep items contained, as well an adjustable shelf.

A round or curved dining table set with chair is needed for your dining room. The French Countryside Round Pedestal Dining complete with ladder back chairs is perfect for the French Country look. This set has a distressed look with a rubbed finish is the ideal table for your French Country home.

A French Country Hall Table is a perfect piece of furniture for your home. While this is a hall table, it can be used in any room. This particular hall table has a shelf and one drawer. It can be used to store just about any item.

Storage cabinets are a great way to stay within the French Country style while finding a useful way to store items so they are not left out in the open. Cabinets typically have doors to hide what is in them. These cabinets provide a rustic countryside look while giving you a useful piece of furniture.

What Materials are Used for this Style?

Materials most commonly used are:

  • Plaster: this gives the house a rough look.
  • Wood: exposed wood gives the house a natural look. This is most done with exposed beams in the ceiling or on the walls. Many of the details throughout the house are carved in wood. This gives the house a simple look.
  • Stone: this is a material that is easily found and incredibly durable. It is commonly used for the floor, a mantle, and tiles. You cannot forget the stone fireplace.

There is an emphasis on using natural materials when choosing everything from furniture to wall hangings. Natural wood is an essential material for furniture when decorating a home in French country. Raw and partially painted wood are perfect materials for virtually any room. There are lots of options when it comes to walls. Wood paneling, plaster, and wall paper are all choices when decorating interior walls.

Natural stone can be used for flooring throughout the home. Worn clay and brick might also be found on floor. Beautiful wool rugs add warmth and a homespun appeal. Cotton rugs might be used in a warmer climate or during the summer months. Linen is sometimes used for draperies and other types of window coverings. Linen is clean, crisp, and provides a traditional look to almost any room. The natural weave in linen will allow fresh air in a room if a window is left open, even if the curtains are closed. Curtains are great accent pieces and can be dyed bright, rich colors as a contrast to more subtle earth tones.

What Type of Decor is Associated with this Style?

The different combination of pieces that can be used for this style is almost endless. When it comes to furnishings and decorations, it’s important to remember that keeping everything in proportion is necessary. Overdoing any one element or type of furniture will create an unbalanced look. The following are staples of French country decor.

  • Louis the XVI Style Chair – This is a classic staple when decorating in French Country. There are a variety of chair styles that can be used when adding romance and elegance to a room.
  • Brick Fireplaces – Fireplaces are almost as essential in a French country home as rustic beams and ornately carved wood. For a more rugged look, consider a fireplace that is made entirely of brick. A fireplace made of cast stone would create a more refined look.
  • Large Armoires – Armoires are large cabinets with storage areas for bedrooms. A French country armoire would normally include drawers at the bottom and shelves along the top. These pieces come in a variety of colors and wood types.
  • Ornate Lighting – Elegant chandeliers with touches of gold are great attention grabbers in dining areas. Lantern style lighting is a good choice for kitchens, especially if a person wants a more rustic look. Low hanging light fixtures automatically add a touch of sophistication.
  • Antique Pieces – Think antique vases, water pitchers, and even sinks and bathtubs. Antique mirrors and birdcages can be used in bedrooms and living rooms while antique candlesticks and old light fixtures are ideal for dining rooms and kitchens.
  • Bold Wallpaper – The classic French country style of wallpaper features flowers in dusty blue surrounded by an ivory or off-white background. However, a beautiful contrast to the wooden ceilings beams and floors are large flowery patterns in bright colors on one or two of the walls.
  • Copper Pots – An arrangement of old copper pots and pans hanging in the kitchen double as gorgeous decor as well as practical cooking items. Finding these gems at flea markets and garage sales is great. Gorgeous copper pots can also be purchased brand new.

More Decor Tips

No matter what style home you choose, it is the decoration within the house that set one style apart from all the others. This is no different for the French Country Style house. The intent of this style is to create a comfortable and homey feel. It is rustic, but with a touch of elegance. The decor of French Country homes will welcome you in and surround you with images of olives and roosters.

  • Flowers: flowers are found everywhere in these homes. It does not matter if they are real or artifical flowers, they are throughout the house. You find them in baskets, pitchers, and vases. They bring color and life to the house, along with bring the natural world indoors. You will also see plenty of window boxes. Lavender and geraniums are examples of flowers you will find.
  • Pottery: pottery and ceramics are the material of choice in this style home. You will not find fine china in this style. A water pitcher and planters are great examples of what you might find made out of pottery.
  • Iron and Wire: other materials out of which you you may find decor in this style are iron and wire. Wire baskets are a decorative way to store fruit or other items while maintaining the rustic look. Iron candle holders are another example are a great decor option for the French Country style home.

What Styles Mix Well with French Country Style?

There are several other styles that will look good with French Country. Shabby chic, Mediterranean, and contemporary decorating are a few that work well with French country.

  • Shabby Chic – As the name implies, shabby chic, mixes the sophisticated and elegant with a worn or tattered look. Because French country has a rustic charm to it and incorporates pieces that have a combination of the elegant and the unfinished, shabby chic pieces often work well with this type of decorating. Shabby chic style also includes antiques which easily fits into the French country style of decorating.
  • Contemporary – Contemporary decorating is another style that often goes well with French country. Contemporary pieces are simple, with basic styles and patterns. These pieces can add contrast and balance to other more elaborate furnishings and designs. To add a touch of contemporary style, instead of classic paintings, hang a few key pieces of abstract art in large wooden frames.
  • Mediterranean – A Mediterranean design is based on designs inspired in Italy and parts of Greece. Much of the decor and style is similar to French country. There is an emphasis on ornate wood, and lavender and yellow are popular colors. Beautiful textures such as velvet and linen are used on walls, furnishing, and drapes.

What is the History Behind this Style?

French country dates back to the 1600s. Louis the XIV started a movement to make France a country known for elegance and great style. The epicenter of this particular style officially started in the Palace of Versailles when the king brought in artists and craft experts for an extensive renovation. Glassblowers, weavers, and furnituremakers turned the palace into a standard bearer of exquisite style and luxury. This particular style enjoyed great popularity throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.

Through the years, those who lived in the French countryside attempted to emulate the furnishings of urban dwellers, especially those in Paris. They attempted to copy the style of wealthy royals and aristocrats while still meeting the needs of their daily country lifestyle. This is how French country style was started. Pieces that are intricately carved, yet worn, became staples in French homes throughout the countryside. Through the centuries this style has developed into one of the most popular decorating options.

Why Does French Country Style Look Great?

One of the wonderful aspects of French country style is how it meshes rustic, country decor and designs so beautifully with touches of elegance. When decorating a room or an entire home in French country a person can use both old and new pieces. This combination of two distinct looks allows the decorating process to trend one way or the other. A person decorating may decide to lean toward the rustic end of French country and end up with a more rugged decor that resembles a French farmhouse. Lean the other way and the home would have more sophisticated pieces and a romantic feel. This style can be completely personalized, with an almost endless array of options.

Check out all architectural styles here.

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