August 21, 2014
Provence is well known for its beautiful weather, coastal countryside, laidback lifestyle, and markets bursting with local goodness such as olives and lavender. All of these elements come together seamlessly in the southern French region's homes — quietly enticing with unfussy and natural hues, furnishings and accessories.
To add French country charm to your home's living room, integrate the following hallmarks of Provençal style.
A classic if luxurious example of Provençal decor. Image via Desire to Inspire.
Key to French country rooms are plaster walls with a chalky, matte finish in muted colours, preferably an aged white for an Old World look. While such a project takes a bit of time, the technique is relatively easy and the payoff is impressive. For step-by-step plastering instructions, visit Behr. A rustic stone wall is quite common as well. If you're not lucky enough to have stone under your wallboard (wouldn't that be a treat!), you can create the look at home with faux panels available at home-improvement or specialty stores.
Cosy up with colour
If you find white too stark, whitewashing wood so grain and knots show through or opting for pale earthy tones that reflect the Mediterranean region are other options. Think bleached out yellow for the sun, blue for the water, olive for the groves and lavender for the fields. Furnishings, if not left in their natural wood state, tend to be painted blue-grey, green-grey or antique white.
Beam me up, set me down
Exposed wood ceiling beams are prominent in Provence homes, either painted to blend in with the ceiling or left to complement in their natural colour. To install faux wood beams, follow these instructions from Barron Designs.
While ceiling beams shine overhead, terra cotta tiles make a sweet statement underfoot. Not only do they bring earthy appeal, but the tiles are durable, easy to clean and available in various shapes, usually square or hexagonal. They also offer a nice balance of cool-to-the-touch in the summer months, and warmth (at least more warmth than other ceramic tiles) in the winter. For a more colourful flooring alternative, try encaustic cement tiles. The inlaid patterns are created using two to six different hues of clay and certainly add drama. Then there is hardwood — natural, white-washed or stencilled — and left bare or topped with an area rug. Sisal, coir and seagrass are some top area rug choices, as well as traditional Savonneries and Aubussons.
Provençal living rooms are disarming and inviting. Furnishings may appear mismatched and shabby-chic, but the look is far from being thrown together. Every treasured piece has been chosen for a reason — sentimentality being more valued than price — and is meant to be used. Much of Provence's wood pieces are constructed from walnut, including the essential armoire that in the living space fulfills a variety of duties, from bookcase to media centre. Other key pieces include oversized coffee table upon which accessories, drinks and food can be placed, plush slipcovered armchairs, clean-lined sofa, metal daybed, and straw, cane or ladderback chairs. Rest assured it's okay to introduce a Louis XV into the mix — the eclectic look is all about mixing and matching old and new, simple and ornate. In terms of layout, furniture should be arranged to take advantage of the view or focal point and for intimate conversation.
Restoration Hardware draws heavily on Provence Style for this living room.
Fabrics offer elegance, charm or whimsy to a room, depending on the type employed. The trademark Indiennes, introduced to France in the early 17th century and produced in Provence by the latter half of the 1600s, are vibrant, bold and infectious with their floral, vine and insect motifs. (Take a look at the designs of historic company Souleiado.) Natural fabrics like linen, cotton and cheesecloth in muted hues are elemental, but avoid dressing them up with frills and tassels. For windows, toiles are a lovely choice, but to keep the light shining in, sheers and gauzy-fabrics like muslin, voile or lace offer that breezy Mediterranean feel. When hanging drapery, be sure to start close to the ceiling and let the fabric pool on the floor.
It's so easy to get caught up in wanting to display every cherished possession, but add too much and clutter will reign. Start with the basics, such as a throw over a sofa arm, a few decorative pillows on chairs, scattered reading lights, vases of flowers. Group collections in odd numbers on a mantle or console — family photos, candlesticks, pottery (which can also be hung on the walls as artwork). Bring to the mix a vintage map or two, weathered signs and old books piled on the coffee table, and add a touch of the sea with a bowl of shells or glass.
Timeless, rustic, harmonious. That's Provençal style.
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