In the French countryside, there are “chateaus” or castles in nearly every town. These set the tone of rustic elegance that has been known as French Country style. While it’s common to find “shabby chic” interior, it’s actually rare to find a fully French Country home in the United States. However, it has recently become more popular because of shows like Escape the Chateau. If you happen to be a fan of the show, or maybe you just love the European style, this article is for you! We’ll go over the various elements of what makes a home look like it belongs in the French countryside.
30. Copper Cookware
Nearly every French chef in the world loves to use copper cookware. This is because copper is an amazing conductor of heat, and it helps to cook the food evenly across the entire pan. Cast iron cookware like Le Creuset is also popular, but the great thing about copper is that it’s just so pretty. Once they are done cooking, French people love to hang their cookware on the wall. This proudly displays their collection, and it’s so shiny and beautiful, it practically looks like art.
In the past few years, copper cookware has begun to catch on here in the United States. However, you need to be careful, because it’s toxic to eat off of copper itself. So when you see cookware that makes you cook directly onto the copper, that defeats the whole purpose! The inside of the cookware should be lined with aluminum. So if you see fully copper pots out there, steer clear. If you want the truly iconic French look, make sure you buy a brand that is genuine, like Mauviel M’heritage.
When you think of the famous Palace of Versailles, your mind probably imagines elegant gold and silver accents. Sure, not everyone can afford to decorate their home like a royal residence. But it is still popular to have certain accessories that have gold and silver tones. This might come in the form of a picture frame, mirror, chandellier, sconce, or metal furniture.
Lucky for you, it’s easy to get gold accents in your home. All you need is a can of gold spray paint, which can be found at your local Walmart for around $2. You can turn a picture frame, candle sticks, or just about anything else you can imagine into something that looks like it belongs to royalty.
Here in the United States, if you told someone that you wanted to put fabric wallpaper in a room, or even considered installing padded walls, they might look at you like you’re crazy. We tend to associate padded walls with mental hospitals, probably because of movies like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Therefore, Americans have steered clear of the style for a very long time. However, once you see how gorgeous it can actually be, it truly looks luxurious.
In France, having fabric wallpaper is a sign of wealth, because it is far more expensive than putting paper on your walls. Some people even like to match their wallpaper to the fabric on their furniture. (Like the photo above). Americans might see something like this and immediately think it’s way too much of the same pattern going on in one room. There is so much going on, it feels exhausting. But when it is done tastefully without going overboard, it actually works very well.
In large French country homes, they will often have a “Gîte” (pronounced “jeet”) in their backyard. This is usually a small cottage or “holiday home”. Home owners use these as a way to earn some extra income by renting it to people who are traveling from the city to spend their summer in the country. In the winter time, home owners may use it as a guest house for their relatives to use when they come to stay for the holiday season. This has been customary in France for a very long time, but in the United States, people are finally catching on with the idea of building a guest house in their backyard and renting it out on AirBnB.
Even if you can’t afford to build an entire guest house on your property, you could still achieve the French Country look by building an outdoor craft room, or a “she shed”. A lot of people love to decorate these sheds in a girly, shabby chic style that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to pull off inside of their home. It should be the one place where you feel comfortable doing whatever you want to do.
Whether you visit a grand chateau or a small French cottage, you rarely see full sets of matching furniture. Most of the time, it has been collected from various thrift stores in the area, or passed down through multiple generations. Even people who own castles have their money tied up in paying for the expenses of repairs and utility bills. So Americans might be surprised to know that even chateau owners are constantly going to charity shops, swapping furniture, or picking up something from the side of the road.
This is good news for anyone who is trying to capture the French Country look in their own house. There is no pressure to spend a lot of money on furniture or make it look perfect. Just try to find pieces that will compliment one another with similar color fabric. And if all else fails, you could always upholster or paint something to match.
You may have noticed that French Country kitchens often have cabinets that have chipped paint. Furniture can often look distressed, as if it has been there for hundreds of years. In America, we would immediately decide to re-paint furniture so that it looks new again. But in France, they let it go, and it just goes to show how well-made the products were, that they last for multiple generations.
The style has become so popular here in the states, that some people are beginning to purposely sand down a painted piece of furniture in order to expose the wood and make it look older. Other products are purposely made to look old when they come home from the store.
For years, silk was a fabric that was only accessible to the rich. In France, there was a huge surge in interest in Japanese and Chinese culture, and there was an influx of trade with the east. You can actually see a lot of Japanese influence in the work of artists like Vincent van Gogh. So French people loved to put silk in their homes wherever they could. You’ll see it as furniture upholstery, curtains, scarves, tapestries, and clothing.
Today, silk is a lot more affordable than it used to be, but it’s still a luxury item. If you are looking to make your home feel more French, try to think of a way that you could tie this into your home. Even if it’s something small like a throw pillow, it still adds just a touch of elegance to your living space.
Ever heard of the phrase “blue blood”? In France, the color blue has always been tied to the monarchy. So for years, by painting your door blue, it was a sign that you could afford the paint that was created from these rare dyes that were once used to create the beautiful hue. Today, the tradition has carried on.
You don’t need to have a huge house to paint your door blue, either. Even tiny cottages in the French countryside sometimes paint their doors and shutters blue. It helps them to pop out in contrast to the white stucco that you typically see in French homes.
Similar to their distressed cabinets and furniture, French country homes are filled with metal objects that may be old and rusted, but they still work just fine. A lot of people use older metal buckets for their flowers, and it creates a beautiful little decor piece on a side table or a kitchen island.
Sometimes, rust can be beautiful. If you are looking to decorate your home with this style, you might have all brand new items, instead. They actually sell pre-distressed metal pitchers with French writing online, which look amazing with some lavender sitting inside. Since Country Farmhouse is such a huge trend right now, you can usually search for distressed metal accessories online that would also look great in a shabby chic French inspired home.
The definition of “damask” is a fabric that has been woven from silk, wool, linen, or cotton. There are all different patterns that have been made over the years, but one of the most popular fancy patterns has been reused so many times, it is now also known as “damask”. You will probably recognize this, since it has been reused on nearly everything, from wallpaper to rugs to clothing. In the United States, when we see damask, we usually associate it with luxury, and it’s not really in line with what we would imagine in a farmhouse. But in France, it wouldn’t be out of place at all.
Since there are so many options to choose from, you really only need to get one or two damask patterned items in your home to help achieve the French look. Even if it is not your style, and you would never want to have an entire wall dedicated to the pattern, that’s completely fine. You may be able to find something more subtle, like a set of bathroom towels.
Rococo is characterized by an elaborate late baroque style. It was especially popular in 18th-century France. You have probably seen the asymmetrical patterns and scroll work that you immediately identify as being very French. In the United States, furniture companies would often try to recreate the Rococo style. Even today, there are still elements of this style all over France, especially since they have high-quality furniture that lasts a very long time.
Some of you may be thinking, “This looks way too fancy to belong in a country cottage!” In the United States, we tend to keep interior design very linear. Well, that’s the thing about France…You can find a mix of luxurious elegance in thrift stores, do it’s not so uncommon to see a fancy golden mirror in a house that has rusted buckets for flower vases.
In the United States, farmers tend to put a lot more priority into growing crops in their fields. Or, they have a lot of pride in mowing a perfectly green lawn. But in France, people absolutely love to have huge fields of flowers so that they can appreciate the beauty, and breathe in the sweet smells of nature. Some of the most popular are sunflowers and lavender, but they grow pretty much everything.
A lot of people also grow wild flowers, just to see what will grow naturally in their area. If you want to have a wild flower field, it’s easier than you may think. You can buy a bag of wild flower seeds and follow the instructions. In some cases, you may need to plow or rake up your existing grass to make sure your wild flowers will grow. But if your grass is already patchy, this could be a beautiful alternative to buying grass seed.
Traditionally, a daybed is a piece of furniture where you are not going to sleep for the entire night, but rather just a place to get in a quick 10-minute nap. So these are usually found outside of the bedroom. In modern times, people will sometimes have a daybed with a twin-sized mattress in a guest room that doubles as an office.
In France, they have a certain style of couch called a “chaise lounge” which serves the same purpose as a daybed, only they usually look very fancy. They are typically made in the Rococo style, and were used for women to lounge in a grand salon while reading a book.
In most modest country homes around the world, you will find a brick fireplace with a wooden mantle. If you already have one in your home, this can still look beautiful as-is. There is really no need to do a total makeover, unless you decide to jazz it up a bit, like what you see in Fixer Upper.
But in France, they have some of the most amazing fireplaces in the world, especially in their chateaus. Even in apartments and smaller houses, people like to install fireplaces that have some kind of intricate details. So if you are building a French Country home from scratch, or planning to buy a faux fireplace, consider finding one that it at least a bit fancy.
France is home to one of the most famous art museums in the world, The Louvre. They are a country that is famous for having some of the greatest artists in history congregating in Paris like Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, LauTrec, and so many more. Many of these painters traveled to the south of France to capture images of the common people while they were farming. They also painted beautiful parties and picnics, as well as the lush gardens. So it really only makes sense if you have some French artwork in your home.
If you cannot afford to splash out on new paintings throughout your house, you can buy coffee table books filled with images of some of the famous painters. We recommendMonet or the Triumph of Impressionism. It is also possible to buy prints and postcards of some of these paintings, and you can buy affordable frames from somewhere like Dollar Tree.
In America, if you walked into a room to see walls with peeling paint, you might be concerned for your friend’s well-being. But in France, it is actually very stylish to have distressed walls that look as though they have been worn down for hundreds of years. Some people will actually try to achieve the look on purpose, because they want to make the room feel as though you are stepping back in time.
If this style resonates with you, and you want to try it out, make sure you do your research. Watch some tutorial videos on YouTube, and read some articles on how to get it done properly. If you don’t do it right, you could accidentally make it look like a truly terrible mess.
Have you ever walked into a home, knew it looked expensive, but couldn’t put your finger on why it looks like a millionaire lives there? Chances are that it had molding. Even when a room is completely empty, molding makes a room instantly look more luxurious. In Europe, you might even see entire rooms filled from floor to ceiling with wood accents.
In smaller, cozy French cottages, you might not see any molding at all. But in the larger country homes, you are likely to see it go up at least a couple feet, or mid-way from floor to ceiling. This is most commonly found in dining rooms and living rooms. This can be very expensive. At the very least, consider replacing your baseboards and crown molding to be a bit thicker than usual.
In America, crystal chandeliers are so fancy, most people assume that only the rich can afford them. They are often associated with all things girly and expensive. But in France, they are a lot more common. You can find them in almost every thrift store, and a lot of people have inherited them from their relatives. So you will often see a fancy-looking chandelier hung in an otherwise rustic country home.
Even here in the United States, it is possible to find an affordable vintage chandelier if you begin to scour your local yard sales and auction houses. Or, you can always opt for a more modern farmhouse chandelier that would tie in with your existing country decor. Before you install it on your own, consider hiring a handyman to help you. These can be heavy and complicated to install.
In the United States, whenever we see a large ornate mirror, you know that someone spent a small fortune to get it. But in France, these are far more common, and usually get passed down from generation to generation. If you are planning to turn your house into a French country paradise, you will want to consider finding a fancy mirror.
If you hang a large mirror on the wall, it can help make your rooms feel larger. Having a full-length mirror is both stylish and practical. You can check yourself out before you leave for the day. Most French people care a lot about their appearance, so it is usually a must-have item in anyone’s house, no matter how much money they might have.
Back in the day, houses were constructed with large wooden beams to hold up the second floor and roof. They did not cover these support beams with drywall, and left it exposed. In modern homes, the second floor is supported with insulation, and there are usually electrical wires in the ceiling. So everything is covered up, with smooth white ceilings.
If you live in America, and you want to have wooden beams, you are most likely going to need a professional to install them. But believe it or not, they actually make fake wood beams that are hollow on the inside. So they are actually a lot lighter than you would imagine.
In the French countryside, there are a few factories like Limoges and Quimper that have been producing porcelain and pottery for hundreds of years. These items are highly collectible since the factories have made certain variations to their patterns that are no longer made. And, of course, like most luxury items, there are plenty of knock-offs of French pottery available to buy, even in the United States.
Since these brands have been around for such a long time, it is common to see collections passed down from generation to generation. So many French Country homes will have a lot of these pieces in their kitchens. In general, people seem to like blue and white china, which was more popular in England, but made its way over to France.
One of the main reasons why people move to the French countryside is so that they can enjoy the beautiful weather in the spring and summer. Even in the smallest country homes, people make sure to have an outdoor seating area so they can admire their gardens. In larger homes, people will often have a large dining table so that they can have outdoor parties with friends.
Even if you don’t have a huge backyard, try to find space for a park bench or a chair so that you can enjoy some fresh air. Even in the crowded French villages, people try to add outdoor seating so that they can sit for a smoke or talk to an neighbor. Also add a little side-table for tea or a fancy cocktail in the evening.
France is not the only place in the world where you will see hydrangeas blooming in the summer time. But they are especially popular in the French countryside, because they really do add a gorgeous pop of color, especially when they are planted near your front door. In America, you will most often see this style in some of the more upscale homes in places like The Hamptons and Martha’s Vineyard.
Growing hydrangeas can be a big tricky if you want to keep them alive for years. Remember that even though it’s an outdoor plant, you still have to give it a lot of love and care when you first plant it near your home. Whenever you introduce a new plan to your land, it is always a good idea to check online how much sun and water they need. After it has fully settled, it will grow back every year.
Earlier in this list, we mentioned the fact that French people absolutely love flowers. Even in the winter time, they want to have real flowers in their house. They can achieve this through drying flowers in the summer in order to preserve them. Once they are dried, they are placed in vases or baskets, and used as decor around the house. Some people will also turn these flowers into potpourri and add essential oils to make them smell like they were still alive.
If you choose to do this, make sure you learn how to preserve dried flowers properly. If they are not done correctly, they may need to be thrown away after a couple weeks. But when they are preserved to perfection, they may retain their shape and color for a year. Your best bet is to make dried flowers once a year, and throw them away once the spring brings you new live flowers.
Earlier in this list, we talked about how the French love to install wallpaper in their homes. Sometimes, people will skip the wallpaper and go straight to painting an entire mural, instead. Obviously, you want to be artistically talented if you want to do this sort of project yourself. Some people will go as far as to hire a professional to come in their home. .
Others have managed to paint murals by using a projector to throw an image onto the wall, and they are essentially just tracing what they see. There are also plenty of stencils out there for every shape imaginable, which would help you to create your own mural or wallpaper.
We have already mentioned padded walls on this list. Of course, one of the more practical way to achieve this look is by getting a padded headboard. For years, people in Europe had canopy bedding to help insulate themselves in the winter months. By the 1600’s, canopy beds began die out as people were installing fireplaces in their bedrooms to help keep them warm at night. Padding helped to make the sleeping experience a lot more comfortable.
In the United States, whenever you see someone with a padded headboard, it immediately makes the room feel more luxurious. But it is not as expensive as you might imagine. However, you may not want to take a second-hand padded headboard, unless you plan to clean or reupholster it. Over time, these will get dirty from oils off of your head. So always make sure to keep that in mind if you find one in a thrift store.
Back in the 1800’s, wallpaper was painted by hand. So whenever someone bought a roll to put in their home, it was very literally like buying a piece of art that they felt proud to own. These were expensive, and it showed your guests that you could afford to cover your walls with something a bit nicer than paint. Today, wallpaper is manufactured with machines, and when people see it, they think it looks way too over-the-top.
If you want to make your house look like it belongs in the French countryside, you will probably have to add some wallpaper to at least one room. Think it’s too much? Wallpaper can still work really well if you use it as an accent wall. Take some time to browse French country wallpaper online and find something that resonates with you before you commit to something. Also remember to make sure it matches the colors you have already picked for a room.
Years ago, people did not have running water in their homes. Their only option to take a bath was to boil water over the fire and take it to their huge claw foot tub. Those tubs are still around to this day, and many of them have simply been re-painted as time goes on, because they were in such great shape from a couple hundred years ago. In France, you will sometimes see copper tubs. Just like their cookware, they know that the copper will help to retain and evenly distribute heat. So this was perfect in the time before running water. Even today, you could keep the temperature of your bath hotter for a longer period of time.
The only downside is that finding these kinds of tubs in the United States is very expensive. And when you do find one, you have to worry about transportation and the manpower to carry it into your home. But if you can afford to do all of that, it is truly worth the experience. Looking online, these tubs cost over $1,000 online, and copper tubs cost $2,000.
Toile is a style of fabric that originated in France. It is an illustration of a scene that can be almost anything. Usually, there will be a scene of French peasants working on their farm. It usually also includes animals in the scene, like farmers with sheep and ducks. Other times, you might see royalty having a picnic outdoors with their horses and pet dogs. In the United States, French settlers in Louisiana even created toile scenes of people fighting off alligators! The illustration of the artist says a lot about the time period, and what was going on in the culture.
Some Americans who are familiar with it automatically assume that toile fabric is for old ladies, and they completely dismiss it as decor they would ever want in their home. But these patterns are actually a lot of fun to look at, once you give it a chance. There are even books filled with pictures of toile patterns that go back hundreds of years. When it is incorporated into your home tastefully, it can look gorgeous, and of course, it’s very French.
Earlier in this list, we already mentioned how the color blue was associated with royalty. So French people incorporate the color blue it in their homes a lot more than just painting their front door. It is common to see blue cabinets, tiles, and accessories in the kitchen. The contracts of blue and white looks absolutely beautiful, and it feels very fresh and clean.
Even if your kitchen is painted a different color, you could still tie in some blue and white plates, bowls, or tea cups. This color combination is very popular in both England and France. If you live on the east coast, it should be very easy for you to fo to a thrift store and find something in blue and white.