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Country French Kitchens
14 fabulous country French kitchens to get your design wheels turning!
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Country French kitchens are both elegant and homey, rustic yet refined. Click through these gorgeous examples to snag ideas you can apply in your own kitchen.
In their quest for livable luxury, this young family in Mandeville, Louisiana, assembled a dream team of designers to help create a home that exudes the everyday elegance that defines Country French style.
“It was important for us to use hearty pieces that could stand up to a growing family,” says designer Christina Brechtel of Bella Cucina Design, who lent her hand to the kitchen and great room with her partner Susan Brechtel. “With two young children, a new baby, and two dogs the furnishings had to be indestructible. Provincial French antiques that were already ‘beaten up’ are forgiving, and would allow any scrapes, cracks, or stains to simply add to the patina of the space.”
“Blending old and new keeps the room up-to-date and livable,” says Christina. “If we went overboard with the ‘traditional’ it would feel too contrived and museum-like.”
This yin-yang approach to design plays out in the eat-in kitchen where Christina and Susan paired contrasting finishes like polished marble, granite, and limestone together with rustic bronze cabinet hardware, wrought iron chandeliers, and hand-forged wine cellar doors. There are even contrasts in the kitchen’s monochromatic palette. By applying different concentrations of the same warm beige to the walls, ceiling, trim, and cabinetry, a streamlined look was achieved, but without the monotony of a single hue.
A custom limestone hood and marble tile backsplash crown a stainless steel professional grade range inset an arched grotto. In lieu of a breakfast room, a second island measuring 10-feet-long serves as a casual eating area as well as a visual divider between the kitchen and the great room.
Bright, Inviting Kitchen
“In the United States, there’s a tendency to Americanize what we think of as country French design, and make it busier and more colorful than it actually is,” says interior designer Linda McDougald. “But in reality, if you travel to the South of France, simplicity is what you’ll see. That’s why I like to play things way down—it allows us to be more authentic.”
McDougald’s less-is-more approach is beautifully evident in this South Carolina kitchen. Infused with worn and weathered character imported from the South of France—or convincingly approximated stateside—it’s easy to forget the house is brand new. Still, McDougald says, “We were not trying to create a period piece, or fool anyone into thinking they were in another country. Rather, this was all about using color and material to feel fresh and modern while also incorporating the owners’ love of painted French furniture and the romance it implies.”
Though McDougald describes the kitchen as “purely American” in feel, its paneled cabinet doors, marble counters, and wood ceiling marry nicely with the European sensibility of the rest of the house. Bar stools are cloaked in easy-care leather.
“I like finishes that look as though they’ve been washed out over many years of use. When the stain or color’s almost gone, that’s when I like it best,” McDougald says. “There are no polished finishes in this house. It’s all about patina."
Architectural consultant and Texas homeowner Sarah West loves the thrill of a good hunt. “I have a strong interest in the history behind architectural antiques,” she says. “They tell a story and add character to a home.” Her interest in French relics became clear while working on her first build 10 years ago.
“Sarah asked for a country French house with a soft mix of stone and stucco," says architect Travis Mattingly who worked with Sarah on her most recent home.
Plans in hand, Sarah and her husband, Larry, set off for Europe. “We ventured across the south of France and found treasures that I thought would fit into this house. I found myself falling in love with certain finds and reworking the plans to fit them,” Sarah says.
The home’s overall tone suggests an elegant, rustic farmhouse in the French countryside. The kitchen, complete with long, marble-topped island and tall ceilings is reminiscent of a French Patisserie. A French linen press topped with honed white marble stands in for a typical island. Perimeter countertops are reclaimed (French) flooring. The backsplash is antique Belgian brick installed on the original mortared side. The kitchen's pièce de résistance, an 18th-century French stone farm sink, is flanked by a pair of reclaimed French cabinets.
Sarah reworked sketches of the kitchen to include architectural items such as the interior shutters culled from a home in the South of France. Vintage oak floors, imported from France, show their patina with a natural wax finish. “I love the warm color of the antique floors and wanted to be able to admire the character of the wood,” says Sarah. “The wax finish allows the depth and age to show through.”
Maximizing natural light and views helped this kitchen's layout fall into place. In a decidedly French home, the challenge was to give the existing kitchen a fresh interpretation and modern features for homeowner Jill Nunnally, her husband, Talbot, and their three children. In terms of aesthetics, the pull toward French style was inescapable, says Jill, a designer herself. After 10 years spent researching materials, cabinetry ideas, and colors, “I knew I wanted both painted and stained cabinets, with chicken wire incorporated in the design, as well as an island with the feeling of furniture,” she says. “I also liked thick limestone countertops.”
To give the back wall a strong presence, architect Linda MacArthur and kitchen designer Jane Hollman centered the range as the focal point, with windows on either side that look out to the pool.
Upper cabinets are cream, and the island complements the other elements with its sophisticated gray-blue. “We like to use the three-color tones in our French and European kitchens, because the contrast gives it that unfitted look and feel,” MacArthur says.
To make the island stand out even more, Jill commissioned a hand-painted design on its sides, based on a decorative motif she had seen on a French chest. Similarly, she wanted lighting more special than the recessed fixtures needed for a well-lit cooking area. When she spotted oversize burlap shades at a local warehouse, Jill knew she’d found another important accessory for the kitchen.
“I love burlap,” she says. “The texture, color, and relaxed feeling add so much to the room."
With three teenagers and their friends going in and out, the kitchen’s rustic elements had to not only look good, but also take some wear and tear. Concrete and limestone counters, travertine-tile floors, and cabinets already with a few dings in them actually look better over time. In another 10 years, this kitchen may need a few tweaks, but its timeless look should still be a standout.
Architect Linda MacArthur shares her strategies for bringing a touch of France to your own kitchen.
- Create an unfitted look. Consider furniturelike cabinets, chicken-wire inserts, and a mix of finishes.
- Embrace natural materials. Stone floor tiles, concrete or limestone countertops, and reclaimed-wood ceiling beams add rustic character.
- Bring in subtle color. Painted or glazed cabinets in muted earthy hues infuse a space with warmth.
Charming Country Kitchen
Thanks to architect Larry Boerder and interior designer Barbara Vessels this half-timbered Dallas abode (inspired by homes in the Normandy region, an area influenced by invaders and English rulers before being claimed by France) perfectly suits its setting and the homeowner's eclectic collections of European antiques.
"The homeowner loves casual elegance, country French and English country styles, and antiques from the late-18th to mid-19th centuries," says Vessels. "She's been collecting French antiques for a long time and has a large collection of blue porcelain pieces. Both she and her husband love blue, so we used it in every room."
Blue shades, whether featured as sweeps or smatterings, enhance rather than distract in the charming kitchen.
"It doesn't come off as a blue house," says Vessels. "We combined blues with warm neutrals, pale caramels, and creams to create serene spaces that feel warm and comfortable."
Bricks on the home's exterior and the homeowner's porcelain collections inspired the hearth-like range wall and backsplash fashioned from reproduction French tiles. The island's blue marble top and painted finish partner nicely with a pair of English needlework rugs that brighten the tile and wood floors.
A total kitchen remodel in this 45-year-old French-style manoir in North Carolina included installing handpainted Delft-style tiles from Portugal for the niche atop the Aga stove and new countertops of white cloud marble. The zinc-topped beech wood island with a shelf suspended from pipes was made to order in the South of France.
Glazed subway tile in a seafoam hue adds soothing color to the rough ceiling and hushed tones of the island in interior designer Desiree Ashworth’s Utah kitchen. Fashioned from poplar, the island (bearing a Belgian X motif) is stained to match the doors throughout the house. The marble countertop was honed for a softer, worn patina. Stools combine industrial bases with reclaimed wooden seats.
Hefty marble countertops and stainless-steel appliances provide a sleek contrast to this kitchen’s rustic barnwood ceiling and weathered island. Open shelves stocked with chicken-wire baskets and white pottery add cottage-style touches.
Rough yet Refined
An abundance of texture—reclaimed bricks on the arched entry into the kitchen and and the kitchen backsplash as well as hand-hewn beams crowning the kitchen ceiling—imbues warmth and comfort in this European-style home.
A builder who’s conceived a number of homes for his young family, homeowner Bill Parkinson counts the rustic embellishments in his home among his favorite features. “No matter what direction we take on a new building project, [my wife] Jessica always brings us back around to an old-world, European slant,” he says. “Adding raw elements takes that to a whole new level.”
In fact, while Bill and Jessica both consider themselves devotees of old-world style, Jessica favors a classic French aesthetic. Bill, on the other hand, is drawn to a less refined look. To marry the subtle differences in their sensibilities, interior designers Mona Thompson and Talena Ray balanced comfort and elegance through a mix of furnishings, fabrics, and finishes that share a light, neutral color palette—and again, plenty of texture.
In the kitchen, grayed and glazed cabinetry mingles with character-conferring spice storage crafted from corbels and shutters. The focal point range hood is constructed of wood and coated with plaster to echo the look of cast stone from Europe.
Holland native Regine Laverge-Schade's heritage served as inspiration for her Washington Depot, Connecticut, home. Devised with the help of architectural designer Ken Daniel, builder Walter Johnson, and Netherlands artisan Co de Zinger, the home pays tribute to Regine’s childhood abodes and the property’s sweeping vistas. “It was inspired by Dutch Colonial and South African-style homes, which I love for their straightforward architecture,” says Regine, who is an interior designer and antiques dealer.
"I grew up in homes with antique Dutch and French furniture, a look I have combined here," says Regine. "The interiors have changed as I picked up a piece here or there and family heirlooms came to America. My home has turned out very French because I love that style best! It ages so well, is very usable and comfortable."
In the kitchen, blue Friesland tiles, Dutch-built cabinets, marble floors, and a mantel shelf salvaged from a canal house give a nod to Regine's native land. White-painted woodwork, beams, and bookcases and oak-plank and marble-tile floors show off the home's classic character. The statuesque table, functioning as an island, was found in shards and rebuilt by Regine's marble supplier. Its Belgian bluestone counter matches the perimeter countertops
Gracefully aged textures that capture the countryside’s spirit set a soothing scene for everyday living throughout the open floor plan of interior designer Elizabeth Barnette’s home in South Carolina.
Because the kitchen and living room are open to each other, the former called for a showpiece range—a La Cornue white enamel cooker accented with brass accents that tarnish over time. Gold streaks in the Calcutta marble’s backsplash play off the stove and cabinetry’s brass hardware.
A playful touch is the island’s light fixture. Originally used in the French countryside to trap a rooster so the hens could be left alone while they fed, a rooster basket now finds new life above the island.
In 2008, the Will Bourdreaux and his wife, Shelley reached out to Trey Arnold of Jack Arnold Companies to build their dream home. Well-known across the country for his authentic European architectural style, Arnold worked with the couple to create a modern family home that would meet their country French sensibilities.
"We gave serious consideration to the materials we used—particularly in the kitchen and keeping room since that’s where all the action takes place,” says Will. “We have two teenagers, two pets and hosts of friends and neighbors coming and going on a daily basis, so using reclaimed wood just seemed to make sense. It’s already withstood the test of time and bears a wonderful patina to prove it. Integrating copper, wrought iron and brick supported that sense of permanence. But the decision to utilize these materials wasn’t based solely on durability. We loved their visual and tactile qualities as well. Our style is casual and leans more towards classic than contemporary, so having a foundation that’s not shiny or new allowed us a little leeway to dabble with more modern furnishings and décor,” he says.
The copper chimney caps, finials, and gutters on the home’s exterior triggered the idea for the standing-seam copper range hood. “I like how it connects the indoors and outdoors while bringing a pop of color into the kitchen,” says Will who collaborated with a local roofer to design and fabric the piece.
“With new construction, it’s important to incorporate elements that have meaning and history," says interior designer Nancy Price. "They help make a house a home, and convey a sense of warmth and age while allowing it to stay somewhat edited.”
Reclaimed lumber is used generously throughout the interior to lend the soul of a centuries-old provincial French manor. Hardy ceiling beams and floors, featuring their original nail holes and saw marks, are made from dirty-top antique heart pine recovered from dilapidated barns and warehouses across the South. Forgoing contemporary building practices, the floor boards are mounted atop purlins to capture the hollow rhythm of footsteps commonly heard in historic homes.
In this sun-drenched kitchen, milky white walls and cabinets offset the rich patina of the millwork. Modeled after a provincial pie-safe, a spacious built-in pantry with bronze wire fronts and gathered linen panels conceals bulky countertop appliances.
When Anita and Kevin Joyce visited France years and years ago, the country and its people welcomed them with open arms, spurring these American Francophiles to bring back a delightful souvenir for their Houston home life: a bit of that French joie de vivre.
Anita pictured a sprawling table surrounded by friends and family, laughing and lingering over a sumptuous supper, “and I associated French furniture with that elegance and warmth,” she explains. “I like that things in French homes tend to be authentically old rather than something new made to look old. And that’s what I try to find for my own house: the real things, the old things.” (She chronicles her projects both big and small on her blog and in her book, French Accents.)
Her desire for authentic antiques is apparent even with the most cursory glance around the home she and Kevin built in The Heights, a century-old neighborhood in the heart of Houston. Cramped, isolated kitchens are one drawback of an old house and a huge reason why the Joyces built their French-style home from scratch. A spacious kitchen with banks of cabinetry—many glass-fronted to display Anita’s collection of dishes—and professional appliances means that they can host and cook for a crowd. “This room is why we built new,” Anita says firmly. “Older houses are more chopped up, and we wanted a big kitchen open to the living room.”
With rough, reclaimed beams overhead, rugged limestone tiles underfoot, and the aroma of fresh-baked bread wafting from the French-made La Cornue oven, the kitchen in this remodeled home in Westport, Connecticut, is irresistible.
“We were trying to effect the look of old kitchens in Europe,” says interior designer Anne-Marie Barton, who oversaw the two-year renovation of this 1925 Tudor Revival-style house. “They have that old black granite that’s unlevel and imperfect,” she says, so for the expanded and updated kitchen, she chose river-washed Ubatuba granite, which has a similar pitted patina. “It’s not dark black any longer. It ages with time and use, and this is a family that lives strongly in their house,” Barton says.
With truly old European kitchens as her guide, Barton infused the space with handmade Moroccan backsplash tiles, reclaimed wood beams, and limestone tiles underfoot. The tiles were salvaged from run down French chateaux and shipped to Connecticut in a crate. “Because they were used, they smell when they arrive. A good smell,” Barton says. “But you have to air them out.”
The Sidecar, price available upon request from Moore & Giles [1-800-737-0169]
This beautifully crafted bar cart, The Sidecar by Moore and Giles, is a great way to store liquor, glassware, bar tools, and anything else needed to complete your own miniature bar. The cart, made of Virginia black walnut, birch, leather, aluminum, and brass, is wheeled to make sure the party can travel with you. Perfect for drink-lovers without the space for a full bar.