Simplicity, brevity, functionality – these are the three pillars that keep trendy interiors today. However, it is not at all surprising that the coldish rationality of minimalism, the undemanding restraint of Scandi, and the direct utilitarianism of hi-tech are gradually starting to tire. Changes in current interior trends come unobtrusively and accurately, but they can no longer be denied.
The first sign, symbolizing the change in style in the design of houses and apartments, was the gradually growing popularity of retro styles, including French country, also known as Provence in many countries. Refined and simple, slightly feminine and full of charm, undoubtedly cozy and promising maximum pleasure from being surrounded by things dear to your heart – this is the very essence of this beautiful style. Suppose you are already a little tired of trendy restraint and severity and want to create an entirely different atmosphere in your home. In that case, the article on the peculiarities of French country is for you.
What is French country design?
Today, designers call the French country style – “the union of elegance and rustic charm.” In general, they accurately describe both the very essence of the style and its origins.
Its history began in the distant 17th century, but experts are still inclined to talk about an unprecedented growth in the popularity of French country only in the 19th century. It was then that the active growth and development of cities again prompted people to seek unity with nature and rest from the hustle and bustle of large settlements. At that time, wealthy people began to increasingly acquire houses in the southern regions of France for periodic residence – and some even moved there permanently.
The houses in the provinces charmed with their friendliness and simplicity, the light of the whitewashed walls, and the ease of decoration from natural wood. However, wealthy citizens, accustomed to luxury goods and elegant solutions for urban mansions, sought to surround themselves with elements of an exquisite pastime, even being practically in the lap of nature. It is from this eclectic symbiosis of rustic comfort and urban chic that French country was born – a style that combines the seemingly incongruous but lacks even the slightest hint of disharmony.
Fundamental principles and key elements
The style, born in the land of the constant warm sun and lavender fields, simply cannot be either boring or harsh. The desire of the French people to admire beauty in all its forms and to enjoy life both in elegant cities and in the lap of nature has formed the very recognizable principles of the French country style:
Colors and prints
The palette of French country indicates a connection with the past and, moreover, allows you to experience all the splendor of the hot Provence sun. The following shades are key for this style:
As you can see, muted and pastel tones dominate in the color scheme of Provence, creating a feeling of lightness and at the same time appearing slightly faded – which, however, gives the interior that very charm of the past.
As for prints, French country allows you to unfold in this field fully. The variety of designs, of course, is dominated by flowers – small and large, lush garden roses and modest field buds – as well as the famous Toile de Jouy. Sometimes in Provence-style interiors, you can also see classic geometric prints – empire stripe and charming Vichy check.
As we said above, when decorating a house or apartment in the Provence style, you should prepare for the fact that there will be a lot of natural materials. But first things first.
The walls are decorated with light paint and plaster. At the same time, it is not at all necessary to level them: the imperfection of the surface will only add naturalness and authenticity. In addition, the walls are often finished with natural stone, and sometimes a tiny brick surface is left open. Wallpaper is used much less frequently, as it can add unnecessary variegation.
When decorating a French country ceiling, you have four options:
When choosing a solution for decorating the ceiling, focus on the interior as a whole. So, whitewash with beams is suitable for a more rustic version of Provence, stucco molding for a more refined and elegant one.
There should also be no problems with the design of the floor in the Provence style since there are not so many options. Use matt and deliberately uneven ceramic or stone tiles, hardwood or parquet floors. At the same time, it is absolutely unnecessary to choose juicy and even colors: minor scuffs will come in handy.
Interior furniture in the Provence style can be recognized immediately, even for those who are not well-versed in design. Curved legs and backs, decorative details, convertible armchairs, and upholstered chairs, delightful carvings, and graceful armrests – all furnishings embody beauty and comfort to the highest degree. Needless to say that all this furniture is made only of natural wood since Provence simply does not recognize anything else? In addition, a little brushing will not be excessive, thanks to which the furniture will look antique.
As for the names of furniture items, French country is one of the few styles where you can not limit yourself. So, glazed sideboards here peacefully coexist with soft sofas, accent and coffee tables (even at the same time), an elegant desk can be located near a bookcase, and a sleek console is often found near a massive wooden dining table with the same benches.
Provence lighting in interiors is one of the most interesting stories in design. There should be a lot of light here, and therefore fans of the style do everything possible to ensure that there is enough light both in cloudy weather and in the dark.
In this case, the selection of luminaires for premises is based on the principle “the more, the better.” So, in French country, you can see several table lamps in one room at once – and sometimes together with a couple of floor lamps. However, the chandelier remains an expressive accent for this style – massive, forged, decorated with fancy metal curls, elegant shades, or candle-shaped lamps. In some cases, it is replaced by a pair of ceiling pendants in the form of antique lanterns, but the chandeliers remain the undisputed favorites.
What is really a lot in French country style interiors that is textiles. It is almost impossible to imagine a house in the spirit of Provence without textile decoration. Charming curtains on the windows and cozy, although not always fluffy rugs on the floor, canopies to match the curtains and bedspread on the bed, tablecloths, and napkins – in a word, everything that can give comfort and warmth is warmly welcomed by Provence.
As for the texture of fabrics, it should be natural – most often, it is linen, cotton, both thin and heavy and dense. In addition, speaking about textiles for such an interior, one cannot but recall the special pride of French weavers – fabrics called Toile de Jouy.
From French, this name is translated as canvas or linen fabric. Initially, the material is indeed an unbleached linen canvas with patterns printed on it with romantic pastoral motives or genre scenes. Such material began to weave back in the 18th century in the suburbs of Paris, Jouy-en-Josas, and from here, it got its name.
Today, the toile and its motifs are used in various textile elements of French country – from curtains to upholstery. If authenticity is important to you, don’t forget to add this print to your interior.
Decorative details are defining in the French country. A description of the interior items that are used in this style is worthy of a separate article; however, we will limit ourselves to only a small list of decor that is most typical for an interior in the spirit of Provence:
It is also noteworthy that all this decor can be used simultaneously. Overdoing it, of course, is not worth it – but creating an enchanting coziness the way you see it is not only possible but also necessary.
French country style in various rooms
After learning the basic principles of French country, you will probably be interested to know how this style will look in different rooms. Let’s run through the rooms to understand how to introduce the spirit of the Cote d’Azur into them organically.
Spacious but without uncomfortable voids, whitewashed without looking rough, sun-drenched, and incredibly cozy – this is how the standard living rooms in the French country style should be. In this case, the room becomes the abode of patterns and ornaments, elegant furniture and lace, decor and living plants. Also, do not embarrass yourself with the furnishings and lighting: choose a pouf and a luxury ottoman for the sofa, and instead of one floor lamp, use a pair of identical ones.
Falling asleep and waking up in the past – this idea may seem very tempting to some. Create the atmosphere you want with a canopy bed or high white headboard, match textiles, and don’t forget about a comfy chest of drawers, an elegant wardrobe, and a cute dressing table – yes, this set is considered a classic for Provence!
Kitchen and dining room
When you look at the Provence-style kitchen, it becomes clear: they really cook and gather with the whole family here. Typical French country solutions include latticed cabinets, open shelves, and kitchen islands – as well as spectacular hoods reminiscent of antique stoves. Also, do not hide the tableware – dinner sets and copper utensils polished to a shine will become an absolute decoration.
As for the decoration and furnishings of the dining room, you have to take care of a comfortable wooden table, cozy chairs, and spectacular lighting. Symmetrically arranged cupboards, green plants, forging elements, and charming wall decor add comfort.
Creating a Provencal atmosphere in your bathroom takes a lot of work, but it’s worth it. Walk-through, faceless furniture and plumbing are entirely out of place here. Therefore you have to think about a spacious bathtub with fancifully curved legs, a shower and taps in a retro style, furniture in the appropriate style, and mirrors in exquisite frames. If you manage to decorate the room with wood, consider that you are close to the ideal. And one more thing: if you want to achieve a 100% hit, don’t forget about the chandelier.
Nursery and Kids’ room
French country is the best fit for decorating a room for toddlers and girls. True, in the first case, you will have to abandon the abundance of decor and give preference to milky and beige tones with the addition of olive and lavender. However, in the second, you can fully please your little princess with a cozy and individual interior with an abundance of charming trinkets and the most comfortable furniture.
When choosing an environment for a nursery, be sure to pay attention to the material quality and environmental friendliness. Furniture should be strictly made of wood, painted with non-toxic paints, and not have potentially dangerous hardware. However, responsible manufacturers have followed all of these criteria for decades.
Modern French Country
It would be cunning to say that Provence has not changed today. Today, not many can afford a hedonistic lifestyle 24 hours a day, and some of the textures characteristic of Provence have slightly changed or completely disappeared. That is why it should be noted that the modern French country style today is also somewhat different. And to understand what exactly, it is worth trying to catch the difference between the classic and today’s Provence. This is what we are going to do now.
Pure, authentic Provence in its most perfect form is distinguished by the features that we talked about earlier:
If we summarize everything we talked about before, then the classic French country style should look as if you have traveled back in time and found yourself in a real house somewhere in the Provence region.
Today, French country is more widespread, adapted for the design of not only country houses, but also quite spacious city apartments. Designers recommend paying attention to the following key features of the so-called adapted style:
French country: is it trending now?
Elegant and full of charm of the past, French country is not one of the hot trends. Let’s say more: its aesthetics are directly opposite to industrial and minimalism, tuned to restraint and functionality, and rather implies serenity, a leisurely flow of life, unity with nature, and unconditional hospitality. That is why we have every reason to believe that even if he will never again be at the peak of popularity, his fans will be able to keep him for decades to come.
Why try this style?
Decorating your home in the French country style is also worth it because there is hardly any other style that would so successfully combine everything that symbolizes comfort, casual chic, and elegance. You can try it in the design of a country house, especially if industrial reigns in your city apartment: the style of the serene Côte d’Azur villages will become a nice variety after the ultra-trendy, but slightly gloomy urban practicality.
Who is Provence suitable for?
It is worth paying attention to French country in the following cases:
And one more thing: you can create a perfect interior in the French country style only if you have enough funds. It will not be possible to do with budget solutions even in decoration, and therefore get ready for expenses – or choose a more affordable hygge for implementation.
Provence style in different countries
One cannot but agree that the French country design is a special philosophy of life, closely related to the concept of hedonism. It was this concept, combined with specific decorative details, that did not allow Provence to spread widely throughout the world. Soft and feminine lines and pastel colors are alien to the lifestyle of the East, Arab countries, and Latin America. However, in Europe, it is still quite popular, and in each region it is endowed with its individuality. Consider these metamorphoses using the example of several countries.
Having moved to foggy Albion, Provence becomes a little more laconic and orderly. It has more symmetry and less of the natural and charming mess that reigns in an authentic French country style. There is also a lot of beige and brown, but pale and pistachio greens are replaced by brighter herbal shades. In addition, cherry and maple furniture dominate the interior, while stripes and small flowers are more common in prints for textiles.
Italian “Provenzale” is so delightful in the balance of colors and the selection of decor and finishes that one wants to stay in such a house forever. Yellow, milky, olive and blue tones merge into varied but always harmonious melodies, and wood ceilings are in tune with the color and texture of the floors. Numerous glass objects, wall decor, an abundance of fresh flowers and fancy curtains create an atmosphere of perfect and, at the same time, maximum natural chic – if it’s even possible.
The famous German craving for order has had a significant impact on Provence in the region – the result is an entertaining yet elegant and balanced mix of French country and neoclassical style. The first violin is played in the palette by beige, creamy and vanilla tones. The furniture is most often made of rosewood, light maple, beech, and pear. The decor is much less. It is all arranged, laid out, and hung in a particular order – which, however, does not detract from the feeling of comfort.
The American version of Provence boasts a larger scale and a broader palette. In the French country that has migrated here, shades of teal, emerald, azure and coral are often found, the furniture is quite massive, and there is much more free space.
So, now you are familiar with the peculiarities of the French country. If you like cozy rooms with rich textile design, filled with charming decor and radiating hospitality and charm of the past, you can safely implement such an interior in your home. The fact that it is not included in the list of trendy styles is not so important: it has a soul and identity, which is much more valuable than ever-changing trends.