The biggest French element is the use of natural materials
such as the white stone wall in my kitchen.
Rustic farmhouses and ancient chateau in the South of France
were built using natural stones found in the region.
While you may not be able to add a stone wall
inside your house, stone often can be added outside
when flower beds are added or low retaining walls are built.
Instead of using brick or dark stones, use light colored stones
either stacked in a dry wall or mortared with white cement to create
a look similar to the stones used in older provençal French houses.
Both natural wood and painted wood are ways
to add rustic French farmhouse design.
Large wooden pine posts and exposed ceiling joists left
au natural add even more to a French farmhouse look.
While these are structural elements in my house,
adding exposed beams to ceilings can add a
major rustic French look to existing structures.
The more massive the wood, the better, for
making the beams look authentic.
The painted wooden island and wooden shelf in the stone wall
are two of the easier ways to add French elements in any house.
All of the kitchen cabinets do not have to be painted.
One of the hallmarks of French kitchens is the use of
free standing furniture instead of built-in cabinetry.
By painting just the island, it makes the island appear
to be a free standing piece of furniture.
Open shelves, another hallmark of French farmhouse
kitchens, are part of the look of non-built-in cabinets.
Recent trends in kitchen updates show how easy it is to remove
doors from upper cabinets to transform them into open shelving.
After getting structural design elements in place,
what do I do now to infuse even more French elements?
The structural elements are the bones that
could support any number of design looks, but after
that is where a house really begins to look French.
Nothing sets a French tone faster than French-styled chairs.
Once again, I used painted and natural finish pieces together.
Mixing styles and finishes gives the kitchen a relaxed country
feeling that the pieces were added over time, perhaps some
inherited or perhaps some found at local brocantes.
The two painted wooden counter stools have a simple
French Country design, and the blue paint complements,
rather than matches, other blues in the room.
An antique pine stool's hand-carved aprons and support braces
are French style curves that could have been lovingly carved
by the home owner or by an ancestor.
For me, blue says France, especially when combined
with white and natural wood and stone.
Other traditional French colors are red, yellow, and green.
Blue and yellow, red and yellow, green and naturals, blue and red,
are all color combinations used throughout Provence.
With so many color options, most people can find
a color palette that is both French and perfect for them.
Whenever I find things to add to my house,
I am drawn to certain blues and watch for them.
The large carved wooden framed print is
of Chateau Chenonceau in the Loire Valley,
most certainly a print with an authentic French subject.
Over the years, I have seen many beautiful prints of
Chenonceau, but when I found the blue print version,
I fell in love with it.
Recently I added several blue and white checked fabrics,
both in the kitchen and adjoining living room.
Other traditional French fabric patterns include stripes and toiles.
All of these patterned fabrics add a layer of French-styled textiles.
Placemats from the Pottery Barn Outlet go very well
with the new blue and white buffalo check upholstery
on my sofa and an armless chair with matching ottoman.
One placemat anchors a grouping on the kitchen island.
A wooden box from HomeGoods with beautiful French handwriting and
rubbed edges give it an air of being used for many years.
Bees and wreaths have been motifs in French designs for centuries,
including designs used by French royalty in their coats of arms.
French antique shops and flea markets are filled with botanical prints,
making the perched bird another definitive French design element.
The Paris Maison & Objet Trade Show in 2011 had several companies offering
fossils, stuffed birds, mounted horns, antique writings, and dried botanicals.
Their display cases and styled tabletops were stunningly original,
looking nothing like American styled vignettes I see at national trade shows.
Blue bottles, also found at HomeGoods, are reminiscent of large antique
French wine bottles, but without the expense of real antiques.
Demijohn jars are another favorite style of French bottles.
A few 'found' French objects provide details that add another
layer of French style.
The French household always has flowers,
whether in a large garden or in window baskets lining a city balcony.
Realistic faux muscari are easy to care for and
do not require sunlight or water to add a French floral
element to vignettes on my kitchen counter.
Which French design element is your favorite?
- Structural natural materials like stone and wood...
- Free-standing kitchen islands and open shelves...
- Painted or natural wood chairs...
- French color palettes using blue, red, green...
- French fabric patterns such as stripes, buffalo checks, toiles...
- Themes like French handwriting, botanical prints, bees and wreaths...
- Bottles like large wine bottles and demijohn jars...
- Flowers, either fresh or artificial...
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