French Country Architecture and Design - Explained

French Country Architecture and Design - Explained

Architecture
By Mateos Glen Hayes October 29, 2021

Ah, France, a land of amazing food, beautiful art, red beverages that contain alcohol, and beautiful architecture. There is much that is beautiful that also happens to be French, and it is no surprise therefore that the country is positively synonymous with the concept of effortless beauty. The same is true of French country architecture, a design style that is inspired by (you guessed it) the French country.

Like so many artisanal products of France, French country architecture has this uncanny ability to transport you to a different world. You could be in downtown Shanghai surrounded by gleaming obelisks of steel and glass, or even in Manhattan surrounded by modern, um, trash, but you’ll still feel like you’re in the rolling fields of Brittany the moment you step in a French country cottage.

How does French country design achieve this wondrous effect? And how did the architectural style of the French farmland make its way to every corner of the globe? It may seem effortless to the casual observer, but the French country design style philosophy does have some important rules that must be followed to leave us with the rustic yet chic vibe of a French country cottage.

The Roots of French Country Architecture and Design

It would be inaccurate to say that French country design comes from the country. Rather, the key operative here is that it's inspired by the French countryside. In reality, the design style is a French aristocratic take on what rustic country living looks like. The original French country design was inspired by furniture and fixtures that were popular in the courts of 18th-century French kings. The design style has evolved quite a bit since then, but the basic design principle of rustic+chic is still relevant today for contemporary interpretations of the design.

Learn More About the Origins of French Country Architecture

Learn More About the Origins of French Country Architecture

The style began to spread to the United States during and after World War One when American soldiers who served in France brought it back stateside when they built their own homes. As a part of France’s global cultural influence, French country-style design has peaked in popularity many times in various parts of the world and continues to be quite popular today. Contemporary French Country designs emphasize distressed woods, neutral colors, and plenty of natural materials. This means that the French country style aligns quite nicely with similar design styles such as the Farmhouse style, and also intersects with more minimalist styles such as Scandi style.   

How to Recognize The French Country Style

In addition to its royal aesthetic roots, the French country style also gets a lot of inspiration from nature itself. This is part of the effortless charm of a French country-style home; rather than actively trying to stand out, it instead tries to blend in with any natural surroundings. What this means is that a French country-style house makes heavy use of materials such as natural stone and wood. There are some other definitions shared by French country cottages to look out for as well.  

Symmetry

This is an important trait of a lot of French design styles, including the French Colonial style, and is a key contributor to the aesthetic attractiveness of the French country house. The ideal French country abode will have a flat natural stone facade. This is topped with a sloping roof that stands quite tall above the house and is tiled with tiered clay shingles. As an added component of the symmetrical lines of the French Country house, the roof is typically hipped, which means that its corners are arched towards the ground.

French Country Houses Have Flat Natural Stone Facades

French Country Houses Have Flat Natural Stone Facades

Windows

Windows are another important detail on a French country design. They are usually tall and rectangular as part of the symmetry of the aesthetic. Most French country houses have two stories, and the windows on both stories are usually aligned, and traditionally are treated with arches and wooden shutters. 

Double Chimneys

This is another trademark detail of French country homes and is again part of the overarching theme of symmetry. The chimneys are typically arranged such that one is on each side of the house. 

Elements of French Country Interior Design

Interior Details

The classic French country interior abounds with natural materials such as wood and natural stone. Wooden flooring is a common feature, typically consisting of parquet which is one of the most popular picks. Limestone is another popular flooring option in French country design. This is usually topped with wood planked ceilings which are painted white, and completed with old-style white plaster walls. Some of these homes will also feature exposed wooden beams as part of their rustic aesthetic.   

Neutral Colors 

A key part of the timelessness of French country-style design is the neutral color palette. This isn’t universally true for all French country houses as some will incorporate brighter Mediterranean colors, but most hold true to a more restrained color palette. This translates to a lot of whites, yellows, blues, greys, and cream colors. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this means French country houses are cold and sterile though. If anything, the opposite is true as these colors are tastefully arranged in a way that is meant to give interior spaces a warm, cozy feel complete with natural materials which accent the space.

The Neutral Color Palette Is a Signature of French Country Houses

The Neutral Color Palette Is a Signature of French Country Houses

No Modern Lines

In contrast to the clean straight lines that have come to dominate the interior design of many homes, French country design emphasizes soft lines. So, the lines of a French country house are designed to be natural, simple, and curvy. This applies to the interior, the exterior, and furnishings and is an important part of what makes for a nice, cozy atmosphere. The stress is therefore not on modern minimalism, but rather on everyday livability and simplicity. 

How to Design Your House in French Country Style

If you’ve read this far, we’d like to give you a heartfelt “merci beaucoup” and as a reward, it’s time to talk about the ins and outs of transforming your house into the ideal French country domicile.

How Can You Transform Your House Into a Classic French Country Style Home?

How Can You Transform Your House Into a Classic French Country Style Home?

Neutral Repaints

This is one of the first steps to any French country-style remodel, and it will arguably do more to set the stage than any other change. Your interior color scheme is an important detail that needs to be done right for the French country vibe to come through. Inside, this means lots of neutral colors such as white, cream, grey, and some softer Mediterranean shades if you’re looking to add a bit more flare to the look. For some added depth, you can also add some more vibrant colors such as red. 

Furniture

When choosing furniture for your French country cottage-style home, you want to look for anything that has low sheen wood and natural upholstery. Ideally, something white, pale yellow, or blue and upholstered with linen is what you want to find. This will look at living spaces that are subtly chic as well as rustic.

Look for Natural Upholstery for Your French-themed Interior

Look for Natural Upholstery for Your French-themed Interior

Layering

This refers to interior fixtures, furnishings, and decor. You want to layer the old with the new to create the depth that is a standard feature of French country decor. To achieve this look as it was intended though, you need to pair newer decor with vintage stuff. Vintage decor, such as classic furniture, ceramics, mirrors, antique clocks, and other things that you can find for reasonable prices at flea markets is what you’re looking for.  

Wood and Stone

To achieve that idyllic French country kitchen, living room, or bedroom you’ll need to do some remodeling so that you can bring some of these natural materials into your home. Wood flooring is a classic feature of an authentic French country house, so consider parquet flooring put in to help pull the look together. Natural stone cladding is another way to give your house a more Français look, and can also be brought into the home in the form of stone backsplashes. Alternatively, consider putting in limestone flooring if the parquet isn’t to your taste. 

French Kitchens Are Full of Wood and Stone

French Kitchens Are Full of Wood and Stone

Symmetry

Another way to emulate the French country style is to introduce some symmetry into your home’s design. On a basic level, this can be achieved by rearranging furnishings and fixtures so that spacing between objects is proportional and that fixtures sit parallel to one another. It’s up to you how much symmetry you put in and this will necessarily be limited by the space you have in your home. If you want to get involved in making things more symmetrical, you’re gonna have to call some contractors. Items such as windows, doors, chimneys, and even roofing can be redesigned so that things are more symmetrical in line with French country-style houses.

Symmetry Is the ABC of French Homes

Symmetry Is the ABC of French Homes

Written by
Mateos Glen Hayes

Written by Mateos Glen Hayes