The French provincial look has its roots in the mid to late 1700s, as people in various provinces in France (particularly Bordeaux, Brittany, Normandy and Provence) began to emulate the lavish furnishings adorning chateaux and estates. It has evolved from focusing primarily on decorative luxury, to a warm and welcoming style that incorporates not just marble, wrought iron and carved timber, but also the more rustic timber, stone and distressed materials so common in villages dotting the French countryside. This style is more feminine than most, and uses a soothing, muted colour palette and plenty of tactile fabrics to create a refined look that’s the epitome of good taste.
Why it works: This style combines ornate furnishings with fine linens and gentle tones to create an elegant and sophisticated look that, done right, can work as well in a modern setting as it can in the most ornate of historic abodes.
You’ll love it if… you think a baguette is the perfect accompaniment to beef bourguignon, tracky dacks is not in your vocabulary, and you dream of high-end bed linen and antiques. Reproduction furniture and accessories aren’t off limits, but you’d much prefer the real deal.
If the French provincial style strikes a chord with you, these must-have elements will have guests saying oh là là the minute they step through your chic front door.
Authentic French linen bedding gets better as it ages, so while splashing out now may hurt in the short-term, you’ll be glad you did in the years to come.
Taupe, ivory, sage, grey and other restrained hues are the way to go. Such a refined colour palette is set off beautifully with an elaborate chandelier – welcome in any room of the house.
Whether it’s a fireplace, wall, skirting board or cornice, the most committed French provincial homes ensure each feature showcases ornate decorative detail. Cabinetry and furniture follows the same theme so keep an eye out for antique armoires, sideboards and tables – they add authentic vintage appeal.
The French believe the eyes should rest on nothing but beauty in the home, and this is exactly why the French provincial style has become so well loved outside France. Details such as items on display in the bathroom are as important as those on coffee table and bedside tables. These fresh flowers and matching soap and lotion dispensers might just pass muster.
There can be no mistaking a French provincial kitchen. Luxe lever taps, a vintage-look stove and elaborate moulded cabinetry are almost essential. Ivory is often the colour of choice, but black can come into play in the form of benchtops, handles and appliances. French provincial kitchens tend to be large, luxurious and chef-ready.
The kitchen is no place to forget about the details – think striped linen tea towels, a clutch of wooden spoons in a ceramic jug, and French enamel cookware … and don’t forget the oversize Parisian clock and glass cake dome to display the freshly baked gateaux.
Curved and carved legs and other decorative detail defines French provincial furniture, and luxurious fabrics are used with gay abandon. Keep to soft florals and classic stripes if you’re feeling the need to add contrast to all those muted tones, and don’t skimp on fabric when it comes to curtains. Fold upon fold of curtains deliver a lavish look, and feel free to design curtains long enough that they pool onto the floor.
Each room should tie in with the others – a cohesive theme echoed throughout the house is a must if you want to pull off this look successfully.
Although chairs in French provincial homes don’t tend to deviate much from the upholstered and shapely numbers you see here, there is room for a little creativity if you love a rustic or country influence. Materials such as stone, metal and timber can all be introduced. This light fitting, for example, adds interest without stealing the show. Distressed painted furniture can also make an appearance without causing offence.
Wrought-iron often combines with timber and marble in outdoor furniture, and urns are a common accessory on patios. Plant lavender or rosemary in rustic urns for your outdoor room and it will smell as good as it looks.
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