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You have no doubt seen the canonized, stylish French woman. She looks chic, elegant without looking affected. Her scarf is casually wrapped around her neck, her coat is years old but cashmere and her bag is a weathered saddle leather Italian number. Her hair is shiny, her nails are groomed and she’s carrying a bundle of fresh flowers. French homes reflect this same seemingly inborn sense of style, taste and refinement.The rest of the world has admired this effortless style whether it’s a chic Parisian apartment, a sophisticated family home in Bordeaux, a coastal retreat in Cannes or a French country house in the Loire valley. The French country style has become increasingly popular but so much so that whole collections of furniture can be ordered in ‘French Country’ and objects have become overly themed to the point of looking more like a themed hotel room than a classic French home.
So how do you do modern French country without falling into the trap of decorating by numbers? One of the secrets of good French design is an unstudied, unforced esthetic that feels spontaneous. The classic French design approach is an undesigned or at leastless designed, collected approach. The collected approach is where objects have meaning and provenance. It might be the finial you found at the little antique shop in Avignon. It is the well-loved wool throw your great aunt gave you. It is the brass bed your grandfather was born in.
The French love their families, their friends and their food so living spaces center around these things. Kitchens are a specific area where French design has been heavily influential. Family meals are paramount in French culture and therefore kitchens are often designed to be large, open communal spaces. Imagine a big wood slab table with lots of chairs surrounding it topped with cheese, bread and wine.
This influences everything from the predominant materials used to lively additions like fresh flowers and large baskets and bowls of fresh produce. French kitchens are meant to be used not mere showplaces. The French design esthetic effortlessly marries elegance with functionality.In a modern French home, just enough embellishment is added to elevate everyday things from the strictly practical. French country homes are not unadorned but typically decorated with useful everyday objects that serve multiple functions. On shelves, counters and even the walls, you are likely to see serving bowls, pitchers & baskets. That same basket stored artfully on a counter does double duty holding produce at the farmer’s market.
Pieces that age over time are fine but all too often big box retailer pieces that are intended to look “French Country” end up looking like everything was faux distressed. If you want to pull a little French flair into your design, try an authentic French standby like the Tolix style chair or stool. The Tolix collection was created by Frenchman Xavier Pauchard in the 1930s and has become known as THE French café chair and stool. We sell a high quality designer Tolix reproduction in many styles and colour choices at a price that makes updating your design a no-brainer. The Tolix style line is made from galvanized steel and painted galvanized steel and the pieces are the kind that only get better with time as they develop the natural patina of age.
It is preferable to mix materials, woods and textures. Choose individual classic beautiful things and they will blend in an eclectic, personal way making your space feel like no other. Use furniture made from natural finishes and rounded, natural forms. The Relax House authentic Thonet inspired collection is another great line for a European inspired home. The Thonet chairs were initially fixtures of Berlin and Vienna, Thonet himself being a German designer, but overtime these chairs and stools found their way to into cafes all over Europe including France. Thonet’s classic No.18 style chair is a stunning but simple addition to your kitchen giving it that old world European charm.
Industrial chrome pendants and glass doorknobs can add character and still follow the “found objects” collecting approach that defines the best of French design. Zinc fixtures, galvanized steel chairs and warm, mixed woods can add layers of texture that adds visual interest to a simple space. A nice way to do French country in a more modern way is the all-white kitchen. In the kitchen, counters and cabinets and even tableware are often white. In fact, white dominates the design with natural wood being the contrasting element. The mix of white and wood in varying textures looks elegant and clean.
Lest you think you must use only woody neutrals, think again. Colours that work well in a French country home or a modern French home are things like velvety heathers, dusty sages and sunny yellows. On the bolder side, think bright, peony pink, cornflower blue and brick red. Colour too is used eclectically in a way that mirrors the ‘collected look.’ Steer clear of a room done only in a strict two colour scheme like blue and yellow. In a classic French country home, you are more likely to find a large natural wood plank table with Tolix style chairs in a natural galvanized steel finish, a bright blue enameled Le Creuset dutch oven with the warms smells of Coq Au Vin filling the room and a bouquet of yellow daisies on the counter.