I love a French look for my home. In the last few years, I have transformed our house mainly with white paint, vintage, second hand furniture and my own efforts. It's lightened our house, making it feel cleaner, fresher and prettier. I've also added more furniture and detail into some rooms and pared down others, creating a more liveable and interesting space.
Sure, if you are building or renovating a house or have an endless supply of money then there are many ways of getting this look - panelled walls, floor to ceiling windows, flagstone flooring, wallpaper, French doors etc. However realistically most of us are just making the best of our homes with our limited resources – both time and money – and so these are my tips for achieving a French look in your home quite simply. All the photos below are from our own house and the look below is realistic to achieve - not some magazine photo-shopped and styled expensive house!
1. Choose a neutral palette and add accents of colour. While you may think a neutral palette is boring, it does give an air of calm to your house. The walls in our house are painted in Dulux Sleigh which is a muted beige that is lovely - not too beige or creamish - I'm struggling to describe it but it's very French looking! It is a great backdrop to the white wooden trims, painted furniture and wooden floors. For colour accents we have some Persian rugs and an aubergine sofa.
2. Paint your furniture! The French are renowned for their penchant for painting furniture Good colours for French furniture are white, muted grey or taupe - although you can also go bold with deep red or navy or duck egg blue. You can also add interest to your painted furniture by adding mouldings, painting the detail in a different colour or lighting distressing for a more rustic look. For a more palatial French look you can use gilt on the trims. Remember that not every piece of furniture needs to be painted – keep some lovely pieces for a balanced look but not those orangey pine ones! Don’t be scared by painting furniture. It is quite easy - see my furniture painting tips here.
3. Keep an eye out at auction or antique shops for a couple of spectacular vintage pieces of furniture such as an armoire or French sideboard to enhance your French interior design concept. These can completely transform a room and become a conversation piece – as well as offer great storage. I often see vintage French sideboards in beautiful condition priced between $60 and $200 on eBay and at auction. Armoires will often sell between $300 to $500 at auction in Sydney. Very affordable for an impressive piece of furniture.
4. Add mouldings and paint your kitchen cabinet doors. You can easily transform your kitchen without spending much money. One of the best ways to update or transform a kitchen relatively cheaply is to replace the cabinet doors. I bought my kitchen cabinet doors from Sydney Doors and hand painted them in British Paints Colorbond Dune for a French look. If you want to save money and your doors are in good condition you could also just add mouldings to your existing doors and then paint. I also had a French rangehood built for my kitchen out of MDF. This classical French shape added to the overall look without costing much money at all.
5. Lighting – Chandeliers look wonderful over dining tables and in more formal living spaces. You can often buy chandeliers second hand or at auctions. Clean them regularly with soapy water to keep them sparkly. In living spaces and bedrooms, turn off your overhead lights and make use of matching lamps for mood lighting.
6. Use soft muted furnishings such as rugs, sofas, cushions and throws. Motifs for a French look include a crown, fleur de lis, bees, and stripes. You can also use neutral linens with red or blue stripes or accents.
7. Wicker and wire baskets offer great French style storage – either use unpainted or give them a light wash with white or grey paint and add stencilled numbers. We use a wicker basket in the kitchen for our potatoes etc, one in the bedroom for dirty clothes and we used to use them in the lounge room for kids' toys but thankfully our kids have outgrown toys all over the living room! I have a lovely vintage wire crate that I place old mason jars in and use as a huge vase.
8. Cheap accessories in the kitchen easily add to a French look – timber breadboards, striped tea towels, enamel jugs and cloches or cake domes. I have a lovely white enamel jug I bought at IKEA for $20 that I keep on my bench top. Old silver and bone handled cutlery can be found at markets and paired with white plates and a French striped or white table cloth can really make a table feel special.
9. Create vignettes. Group beloved objects on your sideboard or consoles for an interesting composition. I have found that having these vignettes also make me not use sideboard as dumping grounds for all the clutter. We have a little wicker basket by one of our sideboards to dump keys, sunglasses, loose coins etc = but I still find keeping my desk neat and tidy a daily challenge...that I usually fail!
10. Mix the old and new together to create a well rounded, comfortable effect. Mix flea market finds and antiques with new pieces, choosing pieces that have meaning to you so your home holds a special meaning and is unique and shows your personality even though it is decorated in a particular style.
Do you have any French influence in your home?
What else can you add for creating the French look?
If you are not into DIY, why not check out my latest pieces of furniture for sale.
yours in all things French