The "modern farmhouse" trend had quite a long run, but it seems that its popularity is finally being replaced by a different—albeit related—style phenomenon: French country. While the phrase might elicit memories of '90s kitchens clad in rooster wallpaper, think again: this new take on French country has more in common with the textural, well-loved aesthetic of modern farmhouse, and the comfortable-yet-formerly-formal look of English manor design. (Yes, "cottagecore" and "shabby chic" are not-so-distant relatives.)
However, because this term has been in circulation for some time, it can be difficult to pin down exactly what constitutes French country style. For instance, both ultra-minimal palettes of neutrals and bright, super-saturated shades can work in this aesthetic—the trick is knowing how to use them.
Luckily, this is a design style that really rewards all things imperfect, eclectic, and personal. Unique collections—whether of mismatched dining chairs sourced from antiques shops, or ceramic vases in every shade of grey—add much-needed character to this look and help imbue a sense of being accumulated over time. (Keep in mind, this style is derived from long-standing family properties, like farmhouses or country homes, so a sense of history and antiquity is key.)
What is French Country Design?
Characterized by classically country textures—peeling paint, rough-hewn wood, artisan ceramics and antiques—this style emanates a simple sophistication that's comfortable, not fussy, with soft sun-bleached textiles, functional dining spaces, and bright, inviting bathrooms. (Think: a formerly opulent chateau fallen into quaint disrepair, or an unassuming farmhouse maintained in warm whites and creams.)
We've rounded up some of our most beloved French country spaces, to serve as something of a field guide for the emerging trend. Read on for insight and inspiration both.
Find A Farm-Inspired Palette
Look to nature for color inspiration to master this style. Cornflower yellows, saturated berries, and muted, herb-y greens tend to be smart choices that both add vibrance to the space and reference the atmosphere that this design style was born out of. Animals, too, are a good source of color inspo—the bright red comb of a rooster or a particular plumage from other country birds can be a great starting point for your palette.
Keep a sense of history in mind to nail this style, reaching for timeless, full-throated hues rather than trendy ones.
Show Off Your Collections
French country style lends itself to a sort of mismatched, borderline shabby-chic aesthetic (depending on your preference for such things). Display your eclectic collections proudly—especially when it comes to ceramics and unique dinnerware finds—with "breakfront" cabinets to let them have their moment in the spotlight. The more unique, personality-filled, and anachronistic the arrangement, the better.
Shy Away From Perfection
In this case, "imperfection" is just another way of saying "character". Time-worn paint jobs, hand-touched tile varieties, thrifted or flea-market favorites—these are the elements that make French country style feel authentic and, most importantly, personal. Take a pause before committing to a fresh paint job, and give a second glance to that not-quite-intact mantle clock. The key to achieving a look of effortlessness and history is to do less and let your finds be what they are.
Try Ticking Stripes
Ticking stripes, cafe stripes, market stripes—whatever you call them, these simple stripe patterns feel effortlessly French. And better yet, they're versatile and easy to mix-and-match with other decor styles (we're looking it you, boho and Scandifornian) if you favor a more personalized approach. Pick neutral-field textiles in creams, taupes and whites, striped with classic hues like black, navy, or red—then intermingle them to your heart's content.
Let Texture Take Center Stage
In rooms where you opt for a more restrained palette, let an eclectic array of country textures add visual interest and variety. Imperfect wood, washes of paint that let the underlying materials reveal themselves, and mismatched antique store finds all feel at home in this neutral space, balancing the formality of the molding and staircase with more modern kitchen upgrades. The effect is a perfect mix of classic and contemporary, with a cohesive feel that lends itself to both functional family meals and highly Instagrammable scenes.
Bring In Botanicals
Whether in the form of vintage botanical prints, subtle wallpapers, or actual living greenery, it never hurts to bring some botanicals inside to help complete the French country look. Score books of nature illustrations you can frame at flea markets, or let a bundle of dried herbs (we prefer lavender) hang in your kitchen for a distinctly French feel—and a soothing scent that's as practical as it is pretty to look at. (Bonus: you'll always have herbs on hand for your next cooking project.)
Fashion A Functional Kitchen
Coming from the French countryside, it's no surprise that this style prioritizes a highly functional heart of the home for cooking. While this kitchen is stunning (without a doubt), it's also designed to be used—with plenty of prep space, a scene-stealing stove, and unvarnished wood textures that speak to utilitarian country roots. Purposeful task lighting and an extra-wide sink complete the look—and make it easy to prep dinner for a crowd. Just add table wine.
Incorporate Calming Neutrals
The sight of crisp white sheets drying on a country line is iconic for a reason. Sun-bleached whites and country creams are a smart palette for bed and bath, because they're both clean and comfortable. Mix in a few warm wood tones in the form of antiques and accessories to add an inviting air.
Create With Comfort In Mind
One of our favorite things about this style is that, while it incorporates elements of formality, it's never overly fussy. Soft, upholstered pieces mingle with straight-back wooden chairs; antique furniture is simple in style and meant to be used; elaborate wall trims are highlighted, but not held in an overly precious regard. Design your French country abode with comfort in mind, thinking about soft-to-touch textiles and hard-wearing finishes that will only get better with age. (Remember—a few spots of chipped paint only adds to the overall appeal.)