My sister just bought a house (success!) but hates the French Country style cabinets. How this is possible for a woman who grew up on the same farm as me, can’t get enough of baguettes, and otherwise has good taste, I don’t know. But she’s tearing those poor, beautiful cabinets out, and I need you to help balance the kitchen design equilibrium. When a cabinet is torn out, somewhere another one must go in. They are a beautiful species and must be preserved.
French Country design is the best of Old World elegance without too much frou frou. The style is based on natural elements, and it is delightfully warm-toned and cozy. Here are the basics, with a video and kitchen remodeling tips at the end.
Natural Building Materials
French Country design starts with the woods. Wood and wooden cabinets, that is. Natural building materials are a key feature of French Country design. Exposed beams, and especially barn wood, in the ceilings and furniture trump up the rustic side of the look. Where there’s wood, show it off. Where there isn’t, it’s time for some remodeling or some freestanding pieces like this Wilshire Four Drawer Bakers cabinet.
The most striking feature of French Country kitchens are the kitchen cabinets, which are either very dark or very light wood. I’ve seen nearly transparent varnishes applied to light wood so the grain shows through. It’s also common in French Country kitchen design to paint the wood white, off-white, eggshell, taupe, beige, or a series of other names for neutral. At the other end of the spectrum, some cabinets have dark varnish or black paint, but they are very rarely any shade inbetween.
French Country design even lets you put dark and light cabinets together, which I haven’t seen in any other kitchen design.
Wood isn’t the only natural building material essential for this style of kitchen design. Kitchens just aren’t user friendly without countertops and backsplashes, which makes lots of space for natural stone, tile, and even brick.
Country Color Palette
With the cabinets in traditional neutral tones, accents are where French Country kitchens pop. The color palette spans the range of any earthy tones, which you can usually find by the earthy names. Sunshine yellow, terra cotta, rust, brick, and grass green. Red tones are especially popular, to feel the room feeling warm and cozy.
Terra cotta, pottery, and wrought iron decor all make wonderful design accents. They are elegant and understated. Old World inspired cloth (on the curtains and chair covers) is another soft accent. Go for French fabric stripes, paisley, plaid, country prints, tapestry, and toile in neutral tones. Useful antiques like clocks are another great touch.
Hardware and Fixtures
Another place traditional elegance comes into French Country style is with kitchen fixtures and cabinet hardware. The wood may be pretty smooth-lined and simple, and the deep sinks, too, but the faucets and handles are usually stately works of art.
There’s room in a French Country kitchen for contemporary design. If you can’t give up your modern appliances, for instance, you can still use them as a contrast to the traditional look. Stainless steel and granite countertops can fit into a French Country kitchen beautifully, especially if you go with white for the cabinets and downplay the accents.
More good news. Because it allows for distressed furniture, French Country design is a great choice for older homes and kitchens that double as children’s playgrounds. See the transformation of one French Country kitchen in this HGTV video clip.
Before you start with the demolishing, or even the plans, for your new French Country kitchen, read these beginning tips to planning a kitchen remodel. And as you get on with the project, move on to these tips on molding and finishing touches. A good remodeler is always prepared, and not just with HGTV clips.