Walk into a bookstore or search “French Country Décor” on a web browser and you’ll find half a dozen current titles dedicated to making your home look like a farmhouse in Provence. The ideal is dreamy and desirable. But how practical is French country décor with a real family, in a real home in Brooklyn, St. Louis or San Antonio? Big farmhouse tables and large trumeau mirrors are misfits in urban condominiums and small homes. Or are they? Do you really need lots of space to bring the south of France into the mix?
We thought it would be fun to dispel some of the common myths about French country décor and share a few ideas on ways to incorporate this popular look into any size home.
Myth #1: French Country is impractical in the city
The farmers and workers who have populated the French countryside for centuries appreciate the simple, practical things and their furnishings are no exception. For example, the French “secrétaire à abbatant” or drop leaf desk is common in a country home. The secretary desk serves many purposes. Of course it is the perfect place to jot a note or check email, but when it includes built-in storage on the top, shelving below the writing flap, and a group of cubbyholes and concealed drawers, it’s infinitely useful. Our Selma Secretary is all that and a clock on top to mark the time. In fact, Selma can take the place of a desk, bookshelves, and chest of drawers in one. How practical is that?
If you don’t need that much storage, or want to accommodate a smaller footprint, take a look at our Isle Sur la Sorge Writing Desk. The shapely legs, carved detailing and chalky white finish spell country, but it also has the regal bearing of a Louis XV classic. Fold out the top flap to reveal a leather-covered writing surface and an assortment of handy drawers and pigeonholes. A convenient center drawer is built into the apron.
Myth #2: French Country furniture is too fussy
Clean lines and graceful curves. Hand-carved exposed wood with fluting and grooves. Contrasting welts on fine linen upholstery. These things aren’t fussy, but they are French country style. Our Andorra Armchair for instance is beautifully refined so it will mix with almost any décor. In aqua on a printed damask rug it is made for that cozy nook in a French country bedroom. In taupe on a faux skin rug with a side table, it will be a classic anchor to the modern look. An antique chair our designers spied on a trip to the tiny mountainous region between France and Spain inspired the Andorra. And the only thing fussy about the original was we made a fuss to bring it home and create our own version.
Myth #3: French Country is too precious to live with long-term
Livable furniture design is easy to recognize. It is often the most coveted seat in the house. Lived-in furniture is loved furniture. It is the stuff that becomes an heirloom because it holds memories.
Our Fontaine Wingback Chair is a gorgeous piece that bridges real world living with the elegance of sleek French country design. First, the sumptuous tufted linen back and thick, down-wrapped seat are plush and comfortable. You can feel your muscles relax the moment you allow yourself to be wrapped in its serpentine arms. The deconstructed look, with exposed wood, visible tufting threads and burlap back are the emblem of fine craftsmanship and unassuming grace. The finishing touch is the two front turned legs: a simple embellishment that takes the look up a notch.
Another French country treasure in our collection is the Cote d’Azur Sofa. From the natural linen slipcover to the slight flair in the arms, this sofa is designed to be supremely family-friendly, but still with plenty of style. Five fluffy goose down pillows can be positioned and repositioned across the back to suit every need and person in the house. And it’s built to last, with a solid birch frame and our special no-sag spring construction.
Myth #4: French Country décor doesn’t mix with other styles.
This myth couldn’t be further from the truth. We delight in seeing bold modern art hung on rough stonewalls or white tongue-and-groove paneling typical of French country. We smile when we watch home improvement shows that combine modern metal basins with antique chests to create new French vanities. We love to mix modern printed textiles and coverlets on an old iron or wood bed.
French country furniture is remarkably adaptable because it is so simple. Featuring a touch of English country along with the French, our Guildford Grove Side Table is characterized by its rich pecan tone accented with pewter hardware. This table has a slightly distressed finish giving it a lived-in heirloom look and country-house charm. Our customers often place it next to the bed, but it would meld well in a petite entryway with a Venetian glass mirror like our San Marco above it.
Venetian glass mirrors, sterling silver serving pieces or candlesticks, and mercury glass boxes, bottles and jars bring touches of glamour to a home that features French country décor. The natural, hand crafted nature of these accents helps them integrate with the every day, or dress things up for celebrations and special seasons. It’s amazing what a grouping of pillar candles in pewter or silver holders on a table dressed in French linen does to elevate the setting with minimal effort.
Myth #5: French Country furniture is BIG. It literally won’t fit in here.
Whenever anyone tells us that all French country furniture is large and grand and heavy we point to something like the Maura Night Stand. This little beauty is an original found on one of our jaunts through Europe. It stole our hearts the minute we saw it. The slender, delicate legs tapered, curved and edged in hand-painted gold are the first things you notice. Then, it’s the hand-etched details on the tray top and drawers. The Maura Night Stand is a prime example of the commanding presence a delicate piece of furniture can have in a room. It works next to the bed, of course, but it’s also unforgettable at the landing of an elegant flight of stairs. This table is French country at its finest.
Have we banished some of the myths you might have had about French country décor and furnishings? Let us know. We love to hear from you.