What Decor Style is French Provincial?
As custom home builders, we regularly work with everything from quite traditional to more modern home designs. While each has its charms, we have a particular fondness for the “relaxed luxury” of a French Provincial home. And we know we are not alone, with this style now as broadly popular as it has ever been.
To us, the thing that really sets a French Provincial home apart is the feeling it creates. And a lot of this comes from the little touches chosen to adorn the inside of the home.
While our focus is the design and build, we appreciate that décor is equally crucial to creating a new home. Acknowledging this, we wanted to explore the key elements of traditional French Provincial décor. We also wanted to share our advice on working these into the design and styling of your new home.
The unique appeal of a French Provincial home
As the name suggests, modern French Provincial design has its origins in the grand country estates of rural France. These properties, built centuries ago, were traditionally home to wealthy landowners or country escapes for the Parisian elite. As such, they were designed to celebrate the simplicity of their setting while providing a sense of luxury.
This combination of influences can still be seen in the style today, with natural materials regularly matched with high-end styling. Modern French Provincial designs also uphold the tradition of mixing rustic and contemporary elements and simple and more ornate features. These contrasts help give French Provincial designs depth and make them feel elevated while remaining accessible and grounded.
We believe that this is what makes this style so special – and so popular. It is concurrently aspirational and highly liveable, classic and contemporary, refined and comfortable, structured and relaxed. This means it has a little something for everyone and suits a range of personal tastes and individual lifestyles.
Importantly, classic French Provincial features can be easily paired with elements of other styles to create new, hybrid designs. For example, the ornate touches that give French Provincial designs richness and warmth also fit into a modern home design. This flexibility has helped the style stay relevant and expand its reach even as popular tastes have changed and evolved.
It is also worth highlighting the unique benefits a French Provincial home provides when you are planning to knockdown and rebuild. In some areas, knockdown and rebuild plans are required to stay within the footprint of the existing structure. A French Provincial design can help with this, as the grand scale allows you to fit more into a limited space.
French Provincial materials and colours
As with every other style, when planning French Provincial décor, you should start by selecting your colour and material palette. This will be the basis for your design and provide a framework for almost all of your other decisions. As such, choosing this upfront will help you make sure your design is cohesive and that everything you choose will work together.
If you would like to give your home a classic French Provincial feel, we suggest selecting:
• Neutral base colours: Most French Provincial designs are built on a neutral colour scheme, usually made up of warmer shades. Think warm whites and creams, light greys and greens, and even soft earth tones. This makes spaces feel light and bright and does not detract from the more ornate decorative features.
• Bold accent colours: Your accent colour choices should further reinforce the sense of warmth and add depth to your design. For example, rich terracotta and blush pink help reinforce the rural, natural feel while providing plenty of extra warmth. Gold is also a good choice, particularly for statement pieces, as it really amps up the sense of luxury.
• Natural wood finishes: Further acknowledging the style’s rural roots, natural wood is used extensively in most French Provincial designs. Most significantly, in most modern interpretations, wood flooring is used throughout the living areas, often in intricate patterns, like parquetry. Wooden furniture is also very popular and usually features ornamental elements, like the classic cabriole leg (more on this below).
• Natural stone finishes: While traditionally chosen for its availability and durability, stone is now considered a high-end choice for key surfaces. As such, it continues to be used widely in most modern French Provincial homes, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms. That said, many homeowners are now opting for engineered stone, which has a natural look but is easier to maintain.
• Wrought-iron details: Although it is used more sparingly than other materials, wrought iron remains an important element of modern French Provincial design. It is often used as a decorative detail within external doors, balcony balustrades, staircase bannisters, and occasional furniture. While traditionally, ironwork would be formed into more intricate, curved shapes, most modern designs opt for simpler, squarer forms.
• Linen furnishings: Now considered the definition of understated luxury, linen has long been admired for its durability and natural beauty. Acknowledging this, many French Provincial homes feature linen accents, particularly in the living spaces (cushions, throws, etc.) and bedrooms (sheets, blankets, etc.). This adds a softness to the décor while helping reinforce the overall feeling of relaxed refinement.
Other features of French Provincial decor
Beyond the colour and texture, there is a range of other important elements that make a design feel French Provincial. Some of these are significant architectural features that need to be considered early in the planning of your new home. A good custom home builder like Carmel Homes can help with this, seamlessly working these elements into your design.
Others are smaller touches that will help to tie the whole design together and fully reinforce the French Provincial feel. Generally, these can be planned as your new home is nearing completion and you are preparing to move in. That said, some are important considerations you should bear in mind throughout the design and build process.
Other features we suggest including in your French Provincial home include:
• Ornate moulding: As rooms tend to be generously proportioned, French Provincial designs often use moulding to help define the space and frame key features. Cornicing is particularly popular, with most homeowners opting for the depth and dimension of a more intricate design or profile. You could also choose to add exposed beams, ornamental plasterwork, skirting boards, wainscoting, or even a decorative fireplace surround.
• Antique furnishings: Traditional furniture is one of the best and easiest ways to add French Provincial flair to any home design. Even if you do not have the classic structural features, you can furnish your home with pieces in the style. This should still provide a sense of rustic elegance and refinement and can be easily updated as your tastes evolve.
• Cabriole legs: Despite being one of the most obvious identifiers of French Provincial furniture, cabriole legs actually find their origins in ancient China. Said to mimic the natural lines of an animal leg, they curve out at the top and in at the feet. They also tend to be quite decorative and are often adorned with carvings that accentuate their gentle, almost sculptural form.
• Traditional fittings: While they may seem like small details, your choice of fittings (tapware, handles, lighting, etc.) can have a big impact on how your home feels. As such, you should always choose traditional finishes (chrome, antique bronze, etc.) and shapes (lever taps, flared spouts, etc.) when designing a French Provincial home. This will help create a timeless feel, even when paired with more contemporary finishes.
• Armoires: Arguably the style’s most iconic furniture piece, an armoire is an absolute essential for any traditional French Provincial design. The perfect blend of form and function, these large freestanding wardrobes provide both useful storage space and rustic decorative detail. Some homeowners also choose to refinish these traditionally wood pieces, painting or whitewashing them to give them a more distressed look.
• Continuity and consistency: Although the French Provincial style can seem somewhat eclectic, it is important that these designs have a sense of continuity. This is most easily achieved through the consistent and repeated use of certain colours, finishes, and furnishings throughout the home. Helping tie different spaces together will make the design feel more considered and your home feel more comfortable.
• Symmetry and balance: While balance is an important part of every great home design, it is especially critical to the French Provincial style. From their symmetrical façades to their evenly distributed floorplans, balance is a key focus of the structure of these homes. This should be mirrored in the décor, with furnishings (in particular) selected and positioned to create a sense of harmony and proportionality.
Want to discuss about French Provincial homes further?
For more information on the French Provincial style or help planning your own décor, give Carmel Homes a call. Our team of professional designers have experience with a wide range of architectural and décor styles, including French Provincial. We also offer complimentary design consultations for those planning a new home build. Contact us today to arrange your free session.