French Country Decor: The 6 Defining Style Elements I Use In Every Room
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.
French Country Decor Style Elements
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!
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Those are wonderful elements and they work together beautifully in your style. I need to add a few of these to my decor, especially the silver. I love the depth and hues of real silver.
Thanks so much, Rebecca! I agree about real silver, although I use silver-plate quite often, as well. I absolutely love finding an old tarnished piece in an antique market and shining it up and bringing it back to life… 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!!
Lory, you have such beautiful things and they all work so well together.
Thanks so much, Kim!
I love your design elements. At heart, so many of those elements are things I love in a room as well. Now I have this coastal house on a barrier island and feel like I’m being pulled in a different direction but I’m sort of fighting myself. For example, I just posted my blue and white plate wall and I have gilded shelves in the display…but if I were to take it in a coastal direction I should paint them a creamy white. Oh what to do. Every picture you shared was a treasure.
Thanks so much, Nancy! I feel like I’ve actually seen coastal and French Country mixed successfully, so I’ll bet you’ll work it out perfectly… 🙂 In fact, I think that’s a challenge that would be really fun to explore. I think I would just think of the most beautiful resorts I’ve been to with that mix of European elegance and a relaxed seaside vibe. Places that come to mind – The Four Seasons in Nevis, Le Sirenuse in Positano and pretty much everywhere in the South of France.
And now I’m running to see your plate wall… 😉
Everything is so beautiful!!
Lory, you know that I love your decorating sense. I utilize the same elements in our home. We have more English than French pieces of furniture, but these elements look just as nice in either. I’ve always been drawn to “bling” done elegantly—when I was seven years old, I saved all my allowance for over one year to buy an amethyst necklace I fell in love with, and the shop owner was kind enough to let me make payments on each week (a plus to living in a village where most people know each other). I guess I just love to look at beautiful things, whether it be home décor or a pretty sunset. I love the detailing done by artisans who took great pride in creating something beautiful that would last, allowing many to enjoy their time-honored craft. So much today is just thrown together, which makes me appreciate the things we have all the more.. Loved looking at YOUR gorgeous things, as always. Hugs!
Thanks, Bobbi! I love your amethyst necklace story… 🙂 I enjoy English as much as French, in fact I think my style is somewhere in between (which is why I say it would take paragraphs to define it – easier to just show it… lol.) I, too, just love being surrounded by beautiful things. It makes life so much more pleasant!! Thanks for visiting!
Love! Pinned and tweeted! Thank you so much for sharing this with us at our linky party. We hope to see you next Monday @ 7 because we can’t wait to see your new creations! Happy Friday! Lou Lou Girls
Thanks so much!!
Our tastes are similar many ways, and your list is mine, but I would add books, so I guess that would be seven things? For me the white linen is more likely to be found in warmer months, so maybe it would be six after all.
Ha ha, thanks!! And you’re so right. How could I have left out books? For me it’s especially vintage leather bound books, but also beautiful coffee table books, the photo books I do and of course just books I love to read… 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!!
Oh be still my heart Lory. You have exquisite style and taste. Such gorgeous details. Great post. I have to go back to read it all again and look at your amazing photos again.
Have a great week.
Thank you so much, Janet! What a lovely comment… 🙂 Thanks for making my day!! (Yesterday I spent at an antique market, so more goodies are on the way.)
Thanks for this post, Lory. I’m a serious non-fan of the minimalist look. For me, too much is just right. I absolutely loved looking at the photos you included here. Enough elegance and detail to make my little soul very happy!
Thanks so much! Ha ha, I so agree about the minimalist thing… 😉 I must be surrounded by pretty things!! Thanks for stopping by!
Wow! Thanks for the information!! It helps my thinking to understand what goes into your style!! I find that I have already been drawn to these elements in my collections of my treasures from my garage sales.
Question: I have made several bears from family and friends clothing. I call them “Memory Bears” I collect teapots. I have now gotten around 50+ teapots in my collection. I also have vintage handkerchiefs.
How would you incorporate those collections into your planning?
That’s an interesting question, Pamela. Do you mean in displaying them or creating them? For displaying, I think they sounds lovely together. Certainly teapots and handkerchiefs go perfectly together. So why not have a Memory bear sitting right nearby, maybe against a pillow that ties the whole package together, in a vignette on a shelf?
Lori, everything is lovely and I would totally agree! Your mix is my mix! Beautiful!
Thanks so much, Nella! Yeah, it’s not really intentional, but I just noticed I always use this mix of elements. Not surprised at all that it’s your mix, as well, since I love your style… 🙂
I too love this mix! Another thing I always add is a touch of black to each room. My husband always jokes about my love of silver and asks me, “Is the queen coming?” Well, I’m ready when she does!
Ha ha… me too with all my gilding… 😉 Thanks for stopping by!!
I really liked this article. Although my style is nothing like yours, reading this post helped me look at what design elements are important to me. I think of my style (loosely) as modern rustic, and I realized that in each of the rooms that I love, there are always some seashells, raw wood elements, large colorful glass floor vases, at least one antique piece, live plants, and modern cleaned-lined espresso/black furniture pieces. There are a few rooms that I have been wanting to tweak because they don’t feel quite right, and this article helped me realize what elements are missing in these rooms. Thanks for such an insightful article. I know this comment is coming nearly 6 months after your post, but I just found it on Pinterest. BTW, I really enjoyed the pictures of your home, it is lovely.
Thank you so much for your lovely comment! I am thrilled to be able to help someone else see their own design style in a more clear way. I’ve noticed for a long time that these elements are common to so many rooms that I love, so bravo to Pinterest for keeping still relevant posts in circulation… 🙂 And thank you for taking the time to let me know what I wrote resonated with you. It means a lot to me!
thank you so much for this post! It is such a pleasure to find like-minded people 🙂
Your design style is so elegant. I love all the vintage pieces and feminine touches!
Perfect, Lory, simply perfect! I’m grateful! Your words resonate for me…and, finally, I feel I’m on target with the “style/look” that fills me with smiles and satisfaction. Thank you for sharing your style elements and wisdom in decorating in the lovely style I aspire to. I now feel I’ve been on target but haven’t felt the confidence in my direction and what I’ve achieved thus far. Reading your words, I now feel complete–long way to go for me but, goodness, I am so thrilled to read Designthusiasm this morning! LOL My words may sound overboard but I have struggles with confidence so I’m hopeful my words come across in the most complimentary way to you.
Wow, just love your comment! Thank you so much!! Yes, definitely follow your heart… 🙂
Yes to all 6… everything is so beautiful…
Love your style, elegance shows in everything you do…
I always have to have blue and whit in every room…it makes me feel good..
Thank you for the beautiful post….
Thanks, Daphne! And yes, to blue and white!! … 🙂
Great things to consider Lory – thanks for the really helpful advice! Plus your rooms and vignettes are just so beautiful as always! And can we talk about teacups!??! ❤️
Thanks so much, Barbara!! Yep, I’m all about the teacups… lol!
Your French burled wood server that sits in our entry hall, I have the same piece of furniture Question is what do you use on the wood and marble to keep it in good condition ?
Thank You for your advice
Hi Eileen! That’s one of my favorite pieces out of everything I own… 🙂 How fun that you have one too!! I use Lemon Pledge on the wood and just a damp cloth on the marble. I never serve on it so it doesn’t get stained. It’s mostly just dust to clean.
I love your great look. I also LOVE chippy furniture but my husband doesnt want it in the house. He says there is a good chance the paint contains lead. What are your thoughts on this?
Hi Kim! Thanks for the kind words!! Most of my antique furniture isn’t painted. The painted pieces I have I either painted myself, or they are reproductions. In fact, the only genuinely old chippy-paint piece I have is the little aqua stool. Well, I also do have some antique gilded pieces like a mirror and a few chairs. We don’t have small children or even any pets that might eat the paint, so I don’t worry about it at all.
Is your husband also concerned about newer pieces of furniture and accessories that do not pass the California Prop 65 standards? I used to worry about that and have passed up some key pieces until I realized that it’s so pervasive that it would be impossible to buy anything for the home (particularly faucets and appliances).
Thank you so much for this post. I love the 6 elements that you use in every room and I use the same ones in each room in my home. I am fortunate enough to have a lot of family pieces in each element to decorate with. I love the look. Great minds think alike!
So glad it resonates with you!!
I love your decorating Lori and also use silver and crystal in my decorating. I tend more toward the English Hunt Scene decorating as I own and breed horses and grew up riding English and jumping. I’m addicted to Ralph Lauren’s horse country decor. I’m having trouble pulling everything together though. I tend to flip/flop on decorating ideas and styles. I’ll just continue to pour over all of the wonderful decorating blog ideas until I’m more cemented in my style. Do you happen to know any blogs that specialize in Country English with an equestrian twist? Thank you!
Hi Victoria! Thank you so much for your kind words. Did you know I started my career designing for Ralph Lauren? Before I moved into home styling, I was a fashion designer for 25 years, and early on worked for Ralph. I was there the year they introduced the home furnishings line and it was absolutely instrumental in forming my taste. I was initially drawn to English Country and only later expanded into French-inspired decor. I still have many of the patterns in my closet from that very first collection.
I think you would love The Enchanted Home. Tina’s blog is rooted in English Country and she sells products in that style as well.
Simply stunning and elegant…as always! You never disappoint and every time I see pictures of your home it inspires me to continue to transition our home now that we are empty nesters.
I so loved redefining our second guest suite that I just completed using so many of these same design elements and the reviews of those staying have been raves, so I am encouraged to continue more of that look throughout our home. As I was painting or ordering or buying in person I was able to see the elements of that suite come together better because I had already seen the same elements in your home. I didn’t have to imagine because I had already seen it through you!
You inspire me to continue, so I’m working on finding those elements that are needed, like blingy chandies. I’m a typical Southern Belle with an over-abundance of silver and china, so I don’t have to change too many things. All over the house I’ve gone to whites and neutral backgrounds, so I feel I’m well on my way. Thanks again for your inspiration!
So lovely…..and I too love the elements of silver and gold, crystal and linen but now I’ll have to pull out some of my vintage linen to use as well. I can’t wait to see how it looks!
I’ve gone full force with French Country since I moved into my apartment and I must say I ticked off all the boxes. I have a crown collection that I must curate in a better fashion, but I have a whole wall of vintage mirrors, all gold and gilded and it’s my favorite part of my apartment. I have too many cherubs, but can’t help myself. I have three armoires that I have purchased and painted and just love, beautiful glassware, china, etc. After a year, I am somewhat finished buying big things and am now looking over everything and am “curating” and fine tuning the rooms. I have stopped adding to my copper collection in the kitchen. I’ve slowed down going to estate sales…incredible buys and so irresistible. The only thing I don’t do is buy fresh flowers. I have purchased the most incredible silk flowers at thrift stores and love setting up new bouquets all the time. I have lavender, baby’s breath, gorgeous peonies, wispy wild flowers and no need to water them. I gardened for years and now let the honey bees have the real ones. I have a tiny studio in my garage so I store all the extras in vintage gym baskets overhead so I have a garden in there….along with a big beautiful chandelier. Love your blog.
Thanks for another great blog! I have some pieces I’d like to gild. I’d love to know exactly what paint is on your handy little brush. Col and type, please?? Suzy
I used to have many of the same elements in my home, as some friends and I had an antique store for 16 years and we were our own best customers. I have since sold much of those elements. I tend now to the more masculine, with natural touches. I really don’t know what I would call my style now…mishmash! I love so many styles. I have French, chinoiserie, modern, old natural wicker, wood, antique, you name it!
I can totally understand making that change. For me, the one constant is the antique pieces, even mixed in with modern, organic, or masculine design. But change is fine… 🙂
Lori, your style is so elegant and cozy. Those cherubs, with the crown, are one of my favorite things in your house.
Thanks for the sweet words!
Great article! Any source for the reproduction resin box (or something similar)?
Thanks!! Nothing at this time, but I have found pretty resin boxes in the past. I’ll add them as I find them… 🙂
I love your style! There is not one item in this post I not not love to have in my house . You have great taste and it is just my style!
Aww, thank you so much!!
I have found my design spirit human in this post! I’ve always loved elements of French Country but felt pulled to more modern clean looks. After reading this post, I am thrilled that I have permission to blend both! I have some treasured silver pieces from my grandmother and my mother, a number of cut crystal vases from my mother, and I own the beautiful Ethan Allen dining table you show (although my chairs are still upholstered with 90’s Tuscan gold and red). I’m going to follow you here and look for you on Instagram. I feel reinvigorated to make changes in my home with this new focus!
This comment absolutely warms my heart!! So glad to have reached a like-minded person and that you were inspired by the post… 🙂