French Country Furniture

Mix & Mismatch

Casual and comfy is the hallmark of French country furniture. An eclectic mix of stylish and inviting pieces artfully put together.

Like everything else in this versatile decorating theme, French country furniture is not limited to any one period or style. The eclectic mix of different influences is what gives the country French decorating style its sense of ‘élan.

Ladder back chairs with rush seats are “oh-so-French country furniture. The early ones are scarce and can be expensive, but many of the newer ones look as authentic as the originals, and are an excellent substitute, providing that casual, country French ambiance.

For the dining area, another inexpensive, country French decorating idea for a seating alternative is to assemble a variety of simple wooden chairs. These could be either old ones found at auctions, flea markets, etc., or new, unfinished ones. The “naked” ones can be painted in a variety of muted colors that work with your own color scheme. . . . .
quick and easy French country!

A light, open and airy room lends itself extremely well to all kinds of French country decorating ideas.

If you are fortunate enough to have a room with lots of natural light, a comfy upholstered sofa could be offset by metal garden furniture, painted either white, or in a pale tint to pick up a favorite color in the room.

A wonderful and natural choice for French country home décor is wicker and rattan pieces when the desired mood is one of casual relaxation with a hint of the garden mixed in. Once again, import stores are one of our “places of choice” to shop for great buys on this type of furniture.

A bit more formal?

Although French country is a very casual decorating style with provincial country French furniture, eventually there were influences from the Court (primarily Louis XV) that did make their way into the rural countryside.

And so French country home décor can easily include a few more opulent pieces if that is your preference, making country French décor not only very adaptable but also personal. It is this versatility and casual elegance that has made French country decorating such a popular design choice.

The addition of a medallion backed chair, or a Louis XV domed armoire adds a touch of unexpected formality that is distinctly French and also acts as a counterpoint to accentuate the casual warmth of the room.

French country furniture, as with the other elements and accessories, is all about the mix.

A great French country decorating idea is to use coir, sisal or seagrass area rugs, or even as the carpeting to throw more decorative rugs over. They are tough and provide a textural, natural and neutral background for other, more colorful pieces to play off of.

When thinking of French country furniture, do not forget about pine – my personal favorite. It’s pale blond color works well with the other natural elements in the French country decorating scheme, and it has a simplicity that oak or other hardwoods do not.

Many of these pieces were made in the late 1800’s and came from a variety of different European countries, including Holland which produced a large number of pine pieces.

Pine tables, chairs, buffets and my favorite – wardrobes.

I find wardrobes to be the quintessential French country furniture piece. The styling is clean and simple, and by it’s very nature it evokes a sense of timelessness

Use a pine wardrobe in a French country kitchen decor to hold anything from canned goods to dried beans, or in a dining room to hold serving dishes, or maybe in a family room to house all that media paraphernalia.

Or, if you live in an old house like Art and me, with closets the size of a phone booth (remember pre-cell phone days, pay phones and phone booths?), then use one as it was intended – to hold clothes!

French country furniture should ALWAYS include some “sink into and disappear” seating – chairs or sofa.

Again, its that “hard against soft“ thing. French country home decor is all about that “tension”, that contrast.

The look is casual, so if you have a sofa that still has that nasty tartan plaid upholstery that looked so “country” 10 years ago, drape fabric (inexpensive cotton sheeting works wonderfully), over the piece, and be sure to be generous with the fabric. This gives the sofa that slightly “been here for awhile” look that is sooooooooooo country French decor.

Ideally the sofa should be in a neutral shade (hides the dog hair better), then color can be easily added with accent pillows, a few woven “throws”, paisley shawls, or even those velvet “dresser scarves” that can be found in secondhand shops.

This way your color is “movable” and can easily be changed to suit the season, a special holiday, or just "because".

Incidentally, I buy those “dresser scarves” whenever I see them. They are almost always very inexpensive and can be used on small tables, as a “throw”, even hung on a wall – and as a last resort they are wonderful for cutting up and using in collage or montage artwork

Don’t like the finish?

A good country French decorating ideas “how-to” if you have (or find) an interesting piece of wooden furniture that has darkened with age, or is a heavy darker wood, you can turn it into a country French furniture piece by “pickling” it, or simply painting it a very pale, neutral color, then “aging” it with additional tints.

“Pickling” works best on lighter woods that have darkened with age. The easy two-steip process is to wipe the watered down white paint onto the furniture, then with a clean cloth wipe it off, allowing some of the “stain” to sink into the wood grain. This technique not only lightens the piece of furniture, but gives it an instant “aged” appearance.

The bottom line?

French country people, like ALL county people, put practicality first. Furniture pieces had to be sturdy and stand up to the travails of everyday country life.

Today that rustic simplicity charms us, and gives allows for a lot of personal design flexibility.

Shop the antique stores, the flea markets, the yard sales, and, of course, the architectural salvage yards for tables, chairs and even beds. French country furniture, like all treasure, is where you find it!

Creating a faux finish works better on pieces that are very dark to begin with. The home improvement stores now carry “no fail-paint-by-numbers” faux paint finishes, complete with all the “how-to” instructions.

return from French Country Furniture to Art Decorating Ideas, Unleashed!


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