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Many people interchange the terms French provincial and French country. In general, French provincial refers to the décor and style that was found in the rural homes of the Provence region of France in the 1600s and 1700s. The décor typically has simple lines with an elegant flair. For example, an armoire may be made of rustic pine, but the top of it might have a simple floral pattern carved into it. The French provincial style must not be confused with the décor of French royalty, such as the ornate style of Louis XV.
French provincial décor can be recreated in nearly any home, as long as it mimics the style of the French countryside in the 17th and 18th centuries. Typically, the colors are warm, including creams, browns, and blacks. Occasionally, pieces may include deep burgundy or golden yellow tones as well.
The furniture in French provincial style is usually more rustic in appearance. For example, large tables, armoires, cupboards, and buffets are all popular for the French country style. In most cases, these items are made of local woods, such as pine, walnut, or oak. Embroidered chairs and other fabric items are often common in French provincial décor as well. The patterns are distinct from the more showy embroidery found in the French castles, using images from the countryside, such as farm animals and hunting scenes.
In addition, French provincial décor may be painted with several different colors layering each other. The effect gives furniture a deep, multi-dimensional appearance. In many cases, the furniture also is distressed to increase its rugged appearance. Typically, the hinges, knobs, and handles are either wood or a rustic metal, such as copper or wrought iron. Gold knobs or handles are generally reserved for the eye-catching style of the Louis XV décor.
Often, the French provincial style will include wooden shelves throughout a room. The shelves might be stacked to include a wide range of accessories, such as vases, jars, tea sets, oil lamps, and books. It is not always necessary to include authentic antique accessories — many times items can be found that merely mimic that style for a fraction of the cost. Aside from finding a home on the shelves, these items might also be situated on end tables, placed on buffet tops, or set in an open cupboard. In many kitchens, the pots and pans will hang from hooks in the ceiling, giving the chef easy access and allowing the cookware to be seen by visitors to the home.