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French Provincial Kitchens | The Dos and Don’ts

If you are a fan of French Provincial homes, you know how important the kitchen is to the overall design. It is the true heart of the home and the main living spaces are usually structured around it. It is often also used as a style statement, helping to reinforce the look and feel of the whole home.

But, with so much riding on getting it right, how do you go about designing a great French Provincial kitchen? Here we share our advice on the steps to take to refine your plans and create a beautiful, functional space. We also take a closer look at the potential issues you should watch out for and try to pre-empt.

Key features of a French Provincial kitchen

French Provincial homes are best known for their unique combination of luxury finishes and rustic styling. This helps create a look that is elegant and refined, but that still feels comfortable and relaxed. Getting this balance right can be quite difficult, however a good custom home builder should be able to help.

As you would expect, French Provincial kitchens generally share many of the same characteristics and features. Specifically, they are known for their:

  • Unusual architecture: Many French Provincial kitchens feature unique structural details, like arched doorways, high or vaulted ceilings, exposed brickwork, and exposed beams. These usually help shape the space and provide a base for the overall design of the fixtures and fittings. They also add character to the area and, depending on the type of feature, can help reinforce the rustic feel.

  • Ornate details: French Provincial designs often use decorative elements to add depth and dimension to a space, or highlight unique features. For example, cornicing, plasterwork, and other types of moulding are quite prominently featured throughout many French Provincial homes. This is generally carried through into the kitchen, which may also feature complex cabinetry profiles and carved timber elements.

  • Classic styling: To help create a timeless look, the finishing touches of a French Provincial design are usually kept quite traditional. Even in more modern home designs that have a more contemporary feel, the styling choices are generally fairly classic. In fact, choosing more traditional fixtures and fittings is a good way to give almost any kitchen a French Provincial feel.

  • Generous proportions: One of the most obvious defining features of a French Provincial home is its grand scale and expansive floorplan. Rooms are usually larger in size and there is generally an easy flow between individual areas and different zones. This includes the kitchen, which is often kept open plan and generally features ample bench and storage space.

  • Consistent structure: While French Provincial homes may feel comfortable and relaxed, their design is usually carefully considered and well balanced. Importantly, key elements of the home, like the façade and kitchen, are usually designed to provide a sense of symmetry. In addition to being visually pleasing, this helps give the home its characteristic feeling of refinement and elegance.

What to do when designing a French Provincial kitchen

With the above in mind, there are a few things you should focus on when planning your French Provincial kitchen. There are also a couple of simple things you can do to refine your design and build a space that truly suits your taste. This includes:

  • Open it up: A French Provincial kitchen should be a social space, where the family can come together, and guests can gather. To support this, and allow easy movement around the space, leave the kitchen open to the neighbouring living areas. Also, by adding a large island bench, you create a place to congregate while also increasing your preparation and storage space.

  • Keep the base palette neutral: The best way to keep your French Provincial kitchen feeling light and airy is to start with a clean canvas. Softer neutral shades, like warm whites, light greens and greys, and even lighter earth tones, are the most popular choices. You can then compliment these with richer accent tones, like deeper greens and blues, particularly in your styling choices.

  • Focus on natural materials: Acknowledging the style’s rural roots, the material palette for a French Provincial kitchen tends to feature a lot of natural textures. For example, flooring is usually either timber or stone, with stone also a popular choice for the benchtop and splashback. Linen is also widely used in soft furnishings, which also helps to add a bit of a rustic touch.

  • Embrace antique furniture: Adding a few antique pieces to your kitchen will help give the space character and a sense of authenticity. For example, a classic armoire will add French Provincial flair to your kitchen, while also providing useful storage space. Similarly, traditional stools with linen coverings, carved wood detailing, or nailhead trim are the perfect option for island bench seating.

  • Choose a traditional hardware profile: Little details, like your choice of tapware and cabinetry handles, help bring the whole look of the kitchen together. As such, opting for more traditional designs, like flared spouts and lever taps, will reinforce the French Provincial feel. We also recommend completing the look by sticking to more classic finishes, like chrome, bronze, or antique brass.

  • Add a little luxury: To create a more high-end feel, find ways to add extra texture and richness to your design choices. For example, you could lay your flooring (wood or stone) in a more intricate pattern, like chevron or herringbone. You could also choose to use the same material – preferably a natural stone – for your benchtop and splashback.

  • Soften through styling: French Provincial design is based on the belief that, wherever the eye lands in a space, it should see beauty. As such, your new kitchen is not complete until you have taken the time to properly dress it. This includes carefully choosing the pieces you want to display to make the space feel lived in, but not cluttered.

Common issues you should try to avoid in a French Provincial Kitchen

Creating the perfect French Provincial kitchen is all about striking the balance between the sense of refinement and feeling of comfort. This takes a deft hand and there are a few common mistakes we have seen many homeowners (and designers) make. This includes:

  • Putting form before function: While a French Provincial kitchen should be beautiful, it also needs to be a functional space you can use every day. As such, you need to think through the practicalities of your design, as well as the aesthetics. This includes considering how durable and scratch and stain resistant the fixtures and fittings you want will be.

  • Overcomplicating the design: Although there is an ornateness to French Provincial designs, this needs to be matched with a sense of simplicity. This is particularly true when designing a kitchen, where it is easy to make the space feel cluttered and overwhelming. As such, you should always try to keep the base of your design clean, and layer on the detail.

  • Forgetting the little details: It is easy to get caught up on the big decisions, like the appliances and major finishes (benchtops, splashback, flooring, etc.). However, it is often the small details that bring the look together and make or break a design. As such, try to give your choice of light switches and power points, for example, as much thought as your cabinetry colour.

  • Being bound by the existing kitchen footprint: It can be difficult to know where to start when you are trying to design a new kitchen from scratch. But, while your existing kitchen layout can be a good reference point, it should not limit your thinking, particularly if you are planning to knockdown and rebuild. One of the biggest benefits of a knockdown and rebuild is that it allows you to create exactly what you want.

  • Ignoring other styles: While you may love French Provincial kitchens, you should not be too focused on the traditional elements of the style. Many other styles pair well with French Provincial and pulling in other influences should make your design more interesting and unique. For example, if you prefer a more minimalist feel in the kitchen, you could also incorporate elements of modern home designs.

  • Doing it all yourself: There is no need for you to go it alone when planning your new kitchen – or your new home. Working with an experienced design and build company should make the process much easier and less stressful. They should also be able to recommend ways to tailor the French Provincial style to suit your requirements, tastes, and lifestyle.

Want to discuss this further?

If you would like more advice on how to design and build a French Provincial kitchen, Carmel Homes can help. As one of Melbourne’s leading custom home builders, we have significant experience working with a wide range of design styles. This has given us a deep understanding of the intricacies of each style and how to bring them to life.

For more information on our service, or to arrange your free design consultation session, contact our friendly team today.


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