Je Ne Sais Quoi: How to Achieve a French Country Look in Your Home

Je Ne Sais Quoi: How to Achieve a French Country Look in Your Home
  • Opening Intro -

    “Je ne sais quoi” literally means “I know not what.”

    It’s used to describe a pleasing quality that cannot adequately be explained or defined.

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And French-themed décor certainly has the ability to lend an indescribable comfort and classiness to your home. Here’s how to infuse your home with this sophisticated style.

Lay a Foundation

It’s possible to achieve a French country look in just about any home, but it helps to begin with a solid foundation. These basics will help you get started:

  • French Doors: If your room opens onto a patio, replace your sliding glass door with double French doors. Top them with a decorative trim for added charm.
  • Elaborate Carpeting: Antique rugs are often seen in French country-style rooms. These carpeting choices lend warmth and comfortable elegance.
  • Large Windows: Natural light is the perfect way to accent your French décor. Invest in windows that let in lots of light and have interesting, intricate details such as Muntin Bars.
  • Window Treatments: Long, flowing window treatments and decorative valances lend to the casual opulence of French country decorating.

Choose Texture Over Color

Antique and distressed wood accents are an integral part of French country design. Many French country rooms use a minimal color palette—white or ivory and one or two accent colors. These rooms rely on texture to make the walls and wood furniture interesting instead of adding extra colors.

Consider refinishing your bookcase, end table, or mantle with neutral or light-colored distressed paint. Look for furnishings that have beautiful details or distressed wood components. Details, flairs, and intricacies will create depth of texture in your décor, maximizing the effect of the decorative style developed in Provence, France.

Be Inspired by the Past

Antiques lend a sense of history to a room. History is an important part of creating the easy lavishness of French country design. Look for classic antique elements such as the following:

  • vintage china
  • candlesticks
  • a chandelier
  • antique books
  • Faberge eggs

While the initial focus should be on the sweeping, soft lines of French decorating, don’t shy away from adding other historical oddities. French decorating is elaborate and detail-oriented. Deepen the room’s sense of history using these elements:

  • gilded trim
  • intricate frames
  • framed mirrors
  • throw pillows
  • delicate potted flowers like orchids

Don’t Be Too Picky

It can be tempting to look for the perfect chaise lounge or Rococo candelabra to complete your room, but, unlike some other décor styles, French country does not require perfectly matching furnishings. A well-thought-out French country room can accommodate details from many different eras.
More often the room is tied together through common elements, such as these:

  • Color Palette: Light colors such as pale pink, beige, and powder blue or muted hues like rust and chocolate brown tie disparate elements in a room together. 
  • Silhouette: Soft, feminine lines and flourishes are an important aspect of French country styling. Embellished chair legs, scalloped window valances, and detailed chandeliers can unify a room without looking overly match-y.
  • Patterns: Similar upholstery can make dissimilar furniture look beautifully matched. Delicate vignette toile, old fashioned script, floral patterns, ogee patterns, and gingham upholstery can take a room from sparse and modern to cozy and elegant instantaneously.

French country rooms can incorporate a large number of contrasting elements before they begin to look cluttered, so don’t be afraid to accumulate a number of decorations and experiment with the arrangement.

French country decorating can make your home feel both comfortable and classy. Use these tips to add a little of the French countryside into your home, no matter where you live.

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