In this post: Looking for an updated approach to French Country living room decor? Find inspiring ideas in this casually elegant Country French living room.⇒
What exactly is modern French Country style?
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I didn’t make it up.
I just looked at my style and thought it’s a bit more modern than classic French Country and hence gave it the moniker. Then I googled ‘modern French Country’ and the images that came up looked like they fit my look. Validation!
So, in reality, I can’t say for sure if modern French Country is a recognized style. But I do know what I think it is.
Here are the elements that I’ve combined to create my definition of a modern French Country living room.
French Country Living Room Elements
Let’s start with what it’s not.
Probably the single most defining feature that separates an updated twist on French Country from the original universally recognized look is color, or the lack of it.
French Country decor used to connote small layered patterns in dusty primaries like barn red, mustard yellow and faded blue. Woods were dark, textiles were busy and roosters were present everywhere.
To achieve a more modern effect the first thing to do is to strip away the pattern and color. I use lots of white and neutral linen while retaining a relaxed rustic appeal with laundered drapey fabrics and weathered patina woods.
On top of that foundation of light and bright, there are several items that help anchor a room with a decidedly current French style.
Antique French Chairs
I tend to enjoy the comfort of new overstuffed sofas, but I love to punctuate my seating areas with authentic antique French chairs. The chairs above are recently purchased and I love the deconstructed look of the burlap upholstery which lends an air of both timeworn and trendy at the same time.
In a traditional French Country room those chairs might be upholstered with velvet or needlepoint.
The deconstructed linen and loose visible stitching help make them look more au courant.
Antique Secretaire Writing Desk
I am a huge fan of writing desks and I have several scattered about my house. The one in our living room below, actually belonged to my grandmother and my dad used to do his homework at this desk. Many years later he’s the one who painted it white to accommodate my mom’s taste for French provençale decor.
In style it’s more English than French but it sits well with the other elements around it.
Another piece I’ve added to the room is the petite stool that serves as a seat at the desk. I moved the simpler one that was here previously to an upstairs bath and found this new inexpensive one with pretty detailed legs to provide another nod to French style. The pale linen seat and whitewashed wood again contribute to the updated feel.
Small vintage decorative items placed on the desk signal an Old World heritage and several of these pieces I bought in antique markets abroad.
I’ve probably mentioned this many times, but the French trumeau mirror in our living room is one of the oldest pieces I own and one of my favorites. If you had nothing else in the room but a new white linen sofa and this gilded mirror, you’d still have achieved quintessential modern French Country style.
So while color and pattern are mostly removed, authentic French pieces set against a mostly white backdrop define the look. The more chippy patina the better!
Like the mirror, an antique gilded clock can also bestow the look I’m after on a space.
Where traditional French Country celebrates pastoral elements, this more prevailing version has simplified furniture pieces, yet more elegant accent decor.
Instead of heavy baroque draperies in a rick dark tapestry, you’ll find washed linen panels hanging from ornate gilded rods. It’s softer and airier and comprises a hint of glam, as well.
There are certain furniture details that are distinctly French, such as sinewy curved legs and tufted upholstery. The bench, below, that I use as a coffee table embodies that genre perfectly. Again the white linen fabric, painted wood and nail head trim deliver an of-the-moment twist, but the French pedigree is unmistakable.
The one place I allowed the pattern to stay is in the aubusson rug. I do think the room would look younger and more updated with a white tonal rug, but I chose to stay authentic here instead.
What the rug does offer is an underpinning of pink, which in itself is a color that reads very present-day. Ranging from blush to millennial pink, the dusty rose tone injects a freshness to rooms decorated in European style.
Some other decorative options that can straddle the new/old French style mix, yielding modern French Country style include:
- Ornate picture frames
- Crystal and brass sconces
- Distressed gilt wood candlesticks and lamps
- Glass cloches
- Cherubs and architectural fragments
- Stone and concrete urns
If it’s time to look at your French Country decor and infuse it with a modernized approach, I hope these ideas will help define your new spaces. Or perhaps you’re looking to add notes of French style to transitional rooms that are already current. In either case a touch of modern French Country decor might be just the thing to keep your rooms from getting stale.
And if there’s no such thing as modern French Country style and I made it up, maybe we should try Neo French Country?
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