If there’s one room of a home most suited to French country décor, it’s the kitchen. That’s because the design approach, which originated in the 18th century, emphasizes a warm, homey feel. And there’s no better room than the kitchen in which to feature a welcoming, rustic décor.
The overall appearance of a French country kitchen is elegant but comfortable, without the type of gaudy decoration seen in earlier French styles. Earth tones predominate in the furnishings, cabinetry, wall hangings and accessories, and intricate moldings and scrollwork are commonly seen.
The wood or wood finishes used in the décor are generally light in color, with natural grains (or simulated grains, in the case of finishes) prominent. An aged or weathered look is a plus, and reclaimed wood is always an excellent choice. Accompanying hardware is usually made from (or finished with) bronze, iron or brass, ideally with a dark patina. If accent colors are used, they are likely to be muted, warm colors such as scarlet, mustard or moss green.
French toile fabrics, defined less by their material and more by their distinct patterns or their depictions of bucolic scenes, farm animals or birds, are the best choice for upholstery, curtains and the like. Rich fabrics such as linen are often found in French country kitchen décors, and although they are not considered de rigueur, long drapes or tapestries are not uncommon.
Materials like brick, copper, stone and slate will bolster the kitchen’s authentic rustic look by creating the appearance that elements have been added over time. These can be utilized in various ways, from floors and walls to smaller accessories and knick-knacks. Possibilities include hanging copper pots and displaying antique stone vessels on countertops – and don’t forget the flowers, a stable of any country kitchen.
French country kitchens in the 1700s may not have had center islands like the modern ones we have come to expect, but installing an island gives the space a homey, airy feel and provides the opportunity to feature antiqued woods and hardware in the center of the kitchen. Wooden or slate floors are a wonderful design touch, and they can be simulated with engineered wood flooring or ceramic tile if desired.
Some homeowners favor ceiling-mounted chandeliers for their country kitchen lighting, although many of the glitzy pieces sold as “French country” are really too ornate for the label. Simpler wood-and-iron chandeliers or iron pendant lanterns, with candle-style incandescent bulbs, are more suitable. They can be supplemented with candle wall sconces, and mirrored sconces which reflect additional light are a popular choice.