In this post: Do you love French Country decor? Here are the 6 defining style elements I use in every room to achieve modern French Country style.⇒
Could you describe your style in a few words?
I often think about what style elements define one’s look. It would take me quite a few paragraphs (if not pages) to explain how I see my design perspective, detailing the varied modes I draw influence from and how they work together for me.
It’s part French Country but it’s really more modern than that. It’s tailored and aims for elegance, yet is relaxed and casual at the same time. It draws inspiration from France and England yet caters to our decidedly American lifestyle, too.
Much easier, however, is to share with you the key visual elements I return to over and over again.
In many ways, these 6 components when used together, are the closest thing to defining my look. Almost every room I design incorporates all or most of these ingredients, and in fact, almost every item in each room can be traced back to one of these aspects.
Here are the 6 defining style elements I use in every room.
Probably the single most defining style element is the use of gilding in the majority of my rooms. This most often takes the form of a vintage mirror but can also be seen in picture frames, hardware and other accessories. I’ve been known to roam around the house with gold paint and if it isn’t moving, it has a chance of becoming gilded.
The gilded box is a resin reproduction which bears the cherubs I love so much. It sits on a modern lacquered tray, a testament to my penchant for a mix of styles.
A gilded uniquely-shaped mirror presides over a vintage ottoman bench, giving charming definition to an otherwise dull and unused corner.
I enjoy gilded paint finishes as much as, if not more than, actual brass or metal in my decor. For vintage chandeliers it’s generally authentic brass, but for the hardware details of a drapery rod an intricate paint finish adds a note of beauty.
2. White linen
I love contrasts and balance, and so each of my rooms includes pure white to offset the darks and colors in the space. In fact, white is my favorite backdrop off which each of the other elements can best be appreciated from. Sometimes it’s the furniture, other times it’s marble and stone, but most often it’s the delicate pedigree of soft linen that balances the harder pieces in a room. All the better if it’s embellished with a feminine tonal embroidery.
I love vintage tea towels and the ‘Frencher’, the better, with scalloped edging and refined stitch work.
But I also appreciate the simple drape of a luxe washed linen drapery panel.
Napkins are an obvious place to enjoy white linen and they look best when punctuated by a crystal and brass napkin ring.
Tablecloths of varied sizes work nicely, as well, and can be draped over occasional tables and bureaus.
Whether it’s fresh flowers, printed fabrics or delicate floral china, the beauty of floral is present in all of my rooms. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it dominates a room, but always it sneaks in no matter how masculine the space.
I’m extremely picky about the print patterns I choose and I enjoy the lovely softness of the fluid sweet pea pattern on our bedding.
Likewise, a bit of floral flourish on an aubusson rug is hard for me to resist, when delivered using subtle tones.
I’m a huge fan of mixing china patterns and I select the pieces I collect ever-so-carefully. It’s very personal which patterns speak to us and each item has the opportunity to delight, serving as a sweet little treasure.
And still, it’s impossible to overstate how much I love fresh flowers and ultimately, they are the crowning touch to any room. As pretty as a floral pattern can be, there’s absolutely nothing that comes close to the real thing.
I confess, I have a thing for a bit of bling. It’s often a chandelier, or maybe a pair of sconces, or sometimes just a lovely set of crystal glasses set out on a pretty tray, but when a room is missing crystal it’s like leaving the house without my wedding rings.
For lighting especially, I always prefer vintage and the mix of crystal with aged brass is quite beautiful. From the sconces I brought back from Italy to the French basket chandelier in our kitchen, I think crystal has the power to transform a room.
Even tiny little pieces like a collection of crystal ink wells adds a note of elegance to your home.
Crystal stemware, as well, is a wonderful place to highlight the merits of a gorgeous cut crystal pattern.
The underpinning for all these feminine touches that grounds every room I approach is the gorgeous patina of aged wood or chippy painted surfaces. The contrast of dark wood to white linen is oh-so-gorgeous, as is the mix of elegant gilding and crystal set against a backdrop of rustic aged pieces.
The French burled wood server that sits in our entry hall has the stunning deep patina of rich wood that, though aged, has been treated well.
I enjoy painted wood surfaces equally as well, like the French chairs that once belonged to my grandmother, or the buffet server in the dining room that I painted myself.
Yet along with these classic and tailored pieces, I love to add chippy items, too. Peeled layers of paint revealing years of use add charm and enchantment to a home.
Even better when gracing a piece pulled from the garden like a statue or timeworn urn.
One of my favorite pieces is an antique candlestick from an Italian cathedral, in painted gilt wood with wonderful chipped patina.
6. Vintage Silver
Similar to my love of gilding is an appreciation for vintage silver. I enjoy mixing the metals together so it’s not an either / or proposition. Where gilding is often found on wood surfaces with finishes chipped or flaked, on silver I love the highs and lows of lustrous sheen against tarnished recesses. I utilize lots of small vintage silver accessories to pepper my rooms like one would add jewelry.
From tea sets to candlesticks and everything in between, I lean toward delicately ornate. A bit of beading here, a touch of acanthus there, the intricate details are where the beauty resides.
Small silver pieces can be worked in anywhere including the dressing area or to add gentility to the bathroom.
These 6 elements are the very same components I use to decorate a table setting when I want to give it a French twist. They are simply the ingredients that round out a look for me and when one is missing I certainly notice it.
Am I the only one who thinks like this or do you have your go-to style elements, as well?
I’d love to hear in the comments below, the items your rooms cannot do without!
French Country Decor Style Elements Resource List
To get the look, click on the items below for direct links to the products. Where actual items were no longer available, I’ve provided many similar options.
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