10 Tips on Styling a French Provincial Interior
If you are a fan of the French Provincial style, you are probably familiar with its most iconic architectural features. In fact, you may have even incorporated some into the design of your home – or are planning to, at least. But nailing the structure’s form and function is only one part of really capturing the feel of a French Provincial home.
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.
1: Choose a subtle base colour scheme
One of the most prominent features of a French Provincial interior is the general colour scheme. This is generally kept soft and muted so as not to draw attention from other, more ornate features. A lighter, brighter palette also helps make spaces feel larger and more open.
With this in mind, a colour scheme built around whites, light greens, and light greys is best. These tones create a fresh, clean canvas that is perfect for layering richer colours and textures onto. They can also be used to create subtle contrast, to softly highlight important architectural and design details.
An important note here – the French Provincial style is all about creating a warm and welcoming space. However, the tones most frequently used can feel a little cold and stark if not carefully curated. Avoid this by staying away from crisp or blue whites, and opt for chalky or green whites.
2: Accent with gold and other warm tones
So much of the understated opulence of the French Provincial style comes from the layering of colours and textures. This helps keep the general palette clean while creating depth and richness through more vivid accent features. And it is this combination of the understated and the ornate that creates the highly sought-after, luxuriously comfortable feel.
Gold is a particularly popular choice of accent colour. Whether it is a large, gilded mirror above a fireplace or statement light fitting, gold can add glamour to a room. It can also help warm up the overall colour scheme, working well with the aforementioned lighter base tones.
Similarly, other warm tones, like blush pink and rich terracotta, can also be used to create depth. Again, these colours pair well with the softer base palette and overall natural feel. When used well, they can also add significant richness and visual drama to a room.
3: Embrace natural materials
Given its roots, the French Provincial style’s strong connection with natural materials is hardly surprising. In addition to being practical (these materials were easy to source), the use of natural materials helps ground the design. It is also very functional, given these materials are often quite hard-wearing and easy to maintain.
Wood is an especially popular choice in French Provincial homes. Used for everything from flooring to furniture, it is versatile and hard working. It can also be finished to suit a variety of styles – from relaxed and rustic to sleek and sophisticated.
Stone is also a big part of this style. Most traditional French Provincial designs featured flooring made of either flagstone or brick. More modern homes usually bring this element in via marble or engineered stone in the kitchen and wet areas.
also a range of other considerations that will impact the exact cost of your build.
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.
4: Focus on the details when Styling a French Provincial Interior
The ethos of French Provincial design is said to be that ‘the eye should rest on nothing but beauty’. This can be best seen in the strong attention to detail and focus on getting the little things just right. Often, even the choice and placement of items on bathroom vanities and bedside tables are carefully thought through.
Parquetry flooring is a great example of this commitment to beauty. While not a major feature of traditional designs, it is a must-have in more modern French Provincial homes. Parquetry, most commonly incorporated through the flooring, is seen by many as the perfect example of the beauty of intricate detailing.
Importantly, in a French Provincial home, small styling choices are used to bring the overall look together. As such, these details are often given as much thought and attention as larger design decisions and major furnishings. For example, in a sitting area, what you display on the shelves should be as carefully selected as your lounge.
5: Make a statement with your moulding
Taking the commitment to detail a step further, French Provincial designs are also known for their liberal use of moulding. This is a subtle way to add further visual interest and decorative detail to a room. It also often results in unique wall and ceiling profiles.
Common moulding used includes cornicing, skirting boards, picture rails, and wainscoting. Fireplaces are also popular and usually feature detailed carving, engraving, or plasterwork. Exposed beams round out the look and are also often a significant design feature, particularly in more traditional homes.
Moulding is also known to extend to furniture and cabinetry, which often features matching details. As such, when styling a French Provincial home, it is best to look for antique pieces. In addition to suiting the style, such pieces will provide a sense of age and authenticity to the design.
6: Search for shapely provincial furniture
On the topic of furnishings, classic French Provincial designs usually feature rounded edges. This gives these pieces a smoother, more refined feel. It also helps counteract the rawness of the natural materials, softening the overall look.
Cabriole legs are also extremely popular, having been the height of fashion in 18th century France. These are loosely modelled on the legs of certain four-legged animals and feature two curves – one outward, one inward. Their shapely curvature perfectly pairs with the rounded edges of other French Provincial inspired pieces.
7: Look for linen
One of the biggest benefits of linen is that it only gets better with age. It also has a naturally luxurious but lived-in feel. This all fits perfectly with the French Provincial style, which is both relaxed and timeless.
The easiest way to include linen in your interior design is through your bedding. Linen sheets are known for being super soft and for helping control your sleeping temperature. They can cost a little more than other options, but they last forever and are worth the investment.
Linen is also a great choice for your other soft furnishings. As a natural fibre, it is hard-wearing and breathes well, which is great for the warmer months. It also works well with tufting, which is a common feature of many French Provincial furnishings.
8: Find traditional French provincial inspired fittings
While there are suitable modern alternatives to many classic French Provincial design features, your fittings should always be kept traditional. In addition to aligning with the style, this can help make the integration of more contemporary finishes seem more seamless.
For example, in the kitchen, you might choose engineered stone benchtops and a sleeker cabinetry design. However, if you pair this with traditional tapware and handles, the overall look will still have a French Provincial feel.
Chrome is usually the best choice for traditional fittings. Gold, antique bronze or antique copper may also be appropriate, depending on the overall design. You should also consider more classic designs, like lever taps and flared spout profiles.
9: Remember to keep it rustic
When designing the interior of a French Provincial home, it is worth bearing in mind the origins of the style. While now seen as a luxurious, high-end choice, it comes from far more humble beginnings. So, while there should be a sense of refinement, this should not come with a dose of pretension.
With all of this in mind, nailing your styling is all about striking the right balance of sophistication and simplicity. One of the best ways to do this is to fully embrace the style’s rustic origins. Highlight the rawness of the natural materials, celebrate the character created by regular use, and keep comfort front of mind.
10: Create continuity throughout your French provincial interior
The most successful French Provincial designs feel resolved and have a sense of continuity throughout. There is also a good flow and a consistent character as you move from room to room. This helps make the property feel complete and the design more considered. It can also help make it feel more comfortable, as there is a clear overall tone and style.
With all of this in mind, it is best to take a holistic view of interior design decisions. While individual rooms can (and arguably should) have their own unique features, there should be a uniting theme. This could come in the form of consistent materials, a consistent colour scheme, or just a generally consistent feel.
Need help nailing your French provincial interior styling?
Carmel Homes is one of Melbourne’s leading custom home builders. We are strong advocates for the French Provincial style and understand how to bring this to life. So, if you are after advice on perfecting your interior design, give us a call.