The popular style known as shabby chic, owes some of its origins to traditional French decor. This may have been prompted by the influx of British people who have bought many domestic and farm buildings in rural France and taken on projects to restore them sympathetically. Whatever its origins, it is an easy to manage and fresh style which can, if necessary, be achieved on a shoestring.
The canvas on which to begin your room design is the paint colour. Both walls and woodwork tend to be neutral or soft in colour. It’s important when choosing neutrals that they are the right ones and beware of falling into the magnolia trap. Magnolia type colours have a rather sickly tinge of pinky yellow and are a horrible reminder of student days. Look at the colours carefulmatte texture are also suitable. Woodwork, similarly, can be white or very pale. If you have time on your hands then uly and pick those with a grey element rather than beige. Very soft pinks and blues that are almost white and have a chalky, sing paint effects to achieve an aged appearance is relatively easy. There are many paints designed for this purpose with additional waxes to achieve the finish, but again, it’s also possible on a budget with only imagination and the cheaper brands of paint.
Now you have your blank canvas and the beauty of this style is that it is a very blank canvas which will allow your carefully chosen furniture and objects to stand out. The next thing, to consider is lighting. This means looking at artificial lighting and the availability of daylight. Each room is different and will need an individual approach with regards to lighting corners, alcoves etc., but a good rule of thumb is to keep it light and airy. Curtains look better when they are a semi – opaque voile rather than a heavy fabric and blinds can be used to block light when needed. To make a statement, French Chateau style delicately ornate chandeliers can be carried off in even the most modest room. There are numerous smaller chandeliers available in the mainstream market which will create a focal point and you can always try antique fairs and car boot sales for more age and originality.
Another way to maximise light and one that fits well with traditional French design, is the use of mirrors. French bedroom furniture will often include multiple mirrors: hanging individually, fitted into armoires or on dressing tables. In a sitting room the same theme can be continued. Strategically placed mirrors will reflect light and space and create a whole new feel to a previously ordinary room. There are many mirrors available in the ornately carved French antique/shabby chic style and they will typically be painted in a pale colour and distressed to age them or have a slightly tarnished looking gilt finish.
Finally the furniture! Painted furniture is enjoying huge popularity at the moment but leaving some wooden furniture unpainted will give a room more variety. There has to be some contrast to the paleness of the walls and either light or dark wood will look good against the blank canvas. French rustic furniture is often plain and simple but it blends well with a more ornate, fin de siècle style which is characterised by touches of gilt and delicate hand carving. Dressers are also a fabulous striking feature in a dining, kitchen or breakfast room. Add a mishmash of white crockery and some fresh flowers and the French style decor is achieved.