How do you mix French Provincial and modern styles?
Do you like the look of the French Provincial style but want something that feels a little more modern? Are you a fan of the sense of refined comfort but prefer cleaner lines and sleeker finishes? Or, do you simply want the best of both worlds – classic styling with contemporary touches?
Whatever your motivation, you are not alone. More and more people are looking to bring the French Provincial style into the 21st century. But it can be tough to bring such contrasting looks together.
The good news is, there are a few tricks to combining these two influences into one consistent and considered design. From the use of colour to finding suitable pieces, there are several simple ways to unite these styles. Here, we look at some of the best ones and how you can apply them to your home design.
Predominance v Accent – Which is which?
When mixing styles, you need to start with a clear vision of what you want to achieve. This could be an idea of the overall look or a sense of how you want the space to feel. Either way, it will help guide your design decisions and should create consistency in your choices.
As part of this, you need to make a simple but important choice – which is your dominant style? While you may love both the French Provincial and modern aesthetics, a perfect marriage is hard to achieve. As such, it’s best to consider your design as a predominant style, with accents from another influence.
When picking your predominant style, try to consider which base features you prefer. For example, do you prefer the ornate cornicing and generous use of moulding synonymous with the French Provincial style? Or do you want the clean lines and minimalist architectural features of the modern style?
Conversely, when picking your accent style, think about the little touches you will enjoy the most. For example, do you really enjoy the contrast between detailed carving and raw natural materials? Or do you prefer sleeker, more stylised forms and glossier, more polished finishes?
Unifying the colour scheme
The good news is that there is a significant overlap between the French Provincial and modern standard colour schemes. The bad news is that these schemes tend to be used in notably different ways. However, you can find common ground.
Both the French Provincial and modern styles are well known for using paler palettes. However, the French Provincial palette is focused on creating a soft warmth and making rooms feel bright and airy but still cosy. By contrast, the modern palette is considered cooler, with a greater focus on creating a clean, bright look.
As such, when pulling influence from both these styles, it is generally better to look at where they overlap. For example, while both palettes feature white, it is best to stick to green whites, which suit both styles. Light greys may also be suitable, especially when used to create contrast with a stronger or deeper statement colour.
Whatever colour scheme you choose, it is important to keep it consistent, ideally throughout the whole home. Although they may appear similar, white and pale tones can still clash quite badly. This can make the overall design feel quite disjointed and uncomfortable to look at.
Melbourne has a long-standing love affair with French architecture. In its earliest days, the style was popular with some of the city’s wealthiest and most well-connected residents.
This fascination with French architecture continues today, as shown by the widespread popularity of French Provincial designs.
Focus on the features that always work
Certain design features and furniture pieces work with almost anything. While they may clearly belong to a certain style, they can easily fit into others, either complementing it or providing contrast. Finding pieces with this adaptability is the key to blending French Provincial and modern influences seamlessly.
Examples of such pieces include:
Large mirrors: These look great in almost any space, helping make it look lighter and larger. Mirrors with ornate gilded frames, which are a hallmark of the French Provincial style, also work well with modern designs.
Coffee tables: In a modern space, a simple coffee table with clean lines and a minimalist design is a must. Such a piece can also perfectly fit with French Provincial style, providing a subtle but tasteful contrast.
Artwork: Due to the minimalist nature of a lot of modern art, it can suit almost any style. It is also a great way to pick up the richer colours of the French Provincial palette in a modern way.
Contrasting chairs and tables: This one can work both ways, with the contrasting styles creating visual interest. For example, you could have modern aluminium chairs around a rustic table or classic armchairs around a modern console table.
Lighting: Modern lighting solutions (like recessed downlights) are a great option for homes of all styles. Some more ornate fixtures, like those seen in many French Provincial properties, can also suit a more modern design.
Choose a complementary contemporary style
There are now several distinctly different takes on contemporary style. All of these are recognisably current, but they can vary greatly in their execution. How each of these combines with traditional French Provincial style can also be quite different.
For example, some of the most popular contemporary-French Provincial style combinations include:
Modern French Provincial: This takes many of the traditional French Provincial features and simplifies them to suit a more modern aesthetic. Get this look by paring back the decoration. Highlight select intricate details by keeping the palette and overall design cleaner. This creates a balanced look that feels light and bright but still with some depth and visual drama.
Modern styling with traditional design features. Paring back the decoration and keeping the palette and overlook clean further highlights the more intricate details.
Coastal French Provincial: This celebrates many of the best parts of the French Provincial style, marrying it with the much-loved Hamptons vibe. Get this look by using traditional styling with a stronger blue and white palette and more natural timber. This creates a distinctly beachy look that feels relaxed and comfortable while still being effortlessly stylish.
Industrial French Provincial: The industrial and French Provincial styles are actually quite similar and can work very well together. Get this look by simplifying the traditional styling and increasing the use of timber, stone, steel, and leather. This creates a modern-rustic look that feels sleek, practical, and lived-in.
In addition to being a much-loved architectural style, French Provincial is also one of the most enduringly popular interior design styles. So much so that many homeowners pull influence from it without even knowing. And, given the sense of relaxed refinement well-executed French Provincial styling creates, it is easy to understand why.
Here we look at the classic hallmarks of French Provincial style and how you can integrate these into your own interior design.
Updating individual pieces of furniture
It is also possible to bring the French Provincial and modern styles together in a single piece of furniture. This represents a real marriage of the two aesthetics and creates a clear combination of the different design elements. It can also help tie together some of the other design decisions, making the overall look feel more resolved.
If you are looking to create a ‘hybrid’ piece, it is best to start with something in the French Provincial style. This will help make sure it has the trademark shape and ornamentation (e.g. cabriole legs). The final product usually also looks better when there is a traditional structure and modern styling.
Once you have selected a base piece, there are a number of easy ways to update it. For example, you can:
Paint it a modern colour: A coat of paint is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to refresh a piece of furniture. However, you need to choose the colour carefully to suit the style of the piece and the overall room design. It is also best to avoid specialised finishes (e.g. distressed or whitewashed) as this can look cheap and dated.
Reupholster it with a modern fabric: Even the most hard-wearing fabric will age quicker than other materials used in most antique furniture. As such, it is a prime candidate to be replaced. Choosing new fabric in a modern pattern or colour can really update the overall look of the whole piece.
Refinish it: The finish – if any – applied to wooden furniture can have a major impact on how it looks. It can also wear quickly, losing its lustre and showing its age. Updating the finish (e.g. repolishing, re-staining, stripping back) will revitalise the piece and help it match a more modern style.
Remember the #1 rule
The single most important thing to bear in mind when designing your home is that there are no rules! While you may want to draw influence from certain styles, you should choose furniture and finishes that suit your unique taste. After all, it is your living space, so it should reflect you and how you want to live.
Also, while each style will have its ‘rules’, these are made to be broken. A lot of the best modern design takes elements of traditional styles and uses them in new and inventive ways. And a lot of the joy of designing your own home comes from having things the way you want them.
So, do not get hung up on how things have always been done. This will stifle your creativity and suck the fun out of your design
Want to discuss this further?
If you need help or advice on pulling your design together, give Carmel Homes a call. We have helped a wide range of homeowners bring their dream living spaces to life. We also provide free design consultations and can help you create a space that suits you, your style, and how you live.