How to Identify French Provincial Furniture
Does your home reflect the refined elegance of the French countryside? Beyond the rolling vineyards, pine forests, and lavender fields of Provence, many provinces in France set the tone for a popular decorating style now known as French Provincial or French Country. Incorporating French-inspired furniture into your home is incredibly easy if you know what to look for in antiques or reproductions. However, knowing how to identify French Provincial furniture can be tricky without any experience or know-how. Fortunately, Laurel Crown has more than 25 years of experience in handcrafting high-quality antique reproductions, and French Provincial is one of the most popular styles in our selection.
What is French Provincial vs. Provençal?
Though they share a similar appearance, province and Provence are two very different things. In French, the word province is used for any place that is outside of Paris. Over time, the term provincial has become synonymous with being from the countryside. Provence is a region in southeastern France that borders the Mediterranean Sea and was one the first Roman province beyond the Alps. Known for its diverse landscapes, Provence has been a top holiday destination for many years. The term Provençal is used to refer to the dialect of the Occitan language that was once widely spoken in Provence as well as the people that live along the beautiful French Riviera.
French Provincial furniture has long been associated with Provence, because rural life had remained relatively unchanged there with all its rustic textures, rich colors, and primitive furnishings. However, there is more to the French countryside other than pastoral Provence. French Provincial, sometimes used interchangeably with French Country, refers to a decorating and furnishing style that originated in the provinces of France throughout the 1700s and 1800s.
How to Identify French Provincial Furniture
Parisian furniture of the past was highly ornamental and often over-the-top, with flourishes in the form of ornate gilding, molding, and paneling. Country furnishings, on the other hand, were far more rustic yet they seemed to strike a balance between beauty and comfort. French Provincial, as we know it today, combines graceful flourishes with gentle tones to create an elegant and sophisticated look that can work well in any modern setting as it can in the most lavish of historic abodes. Inspired by the warm, earthy colors of the neoclassical era, French Country furnishings usually feel lived-in and welcoming yet still impeccably styled. French Provincial furnishings are also quite playful with touches of botanical themes in art, fabric, wallpaper, and accessories.
Colors: Neutral and muted tones epitomize the French Provincial palette, with no shortage of taupe, ivory, sage, grey, and other earthy colors. In addition to neutral hues, you might also find sunny yellow or soft gold, fiery red or burnt rust, bright grass green or dark hunter green, and cobalt blue or soft ocean tones. Some Provincial pieces retain the same sophisticated palette of Parisian interiors, bright black or dull gray flourishes to punctuate both bright and muted colors.
Features: Architecture has an important influence on French Country design, especially in terms of the materials used to make these rustic pieces. Many furnishings incorporate raw or distressed wood with plenty of carvings and curved details to give each piece a graceful silhouette. Many furnishings feature the classic cabriole leg, where the knees curve outward and the ankles curve inward, often terminating to ornamental feet. The hoof, scroll, tambour, and whorl foot are commonly found with fine French antiques and reproductions alike.
Materials: Drawing inspiration from the surrounding countryside, French Provincial furniture is often made of natural materials that lend to the simplicity of the style as a whole, such as rush-woven seats. Case furniture was often made of light woods such as pine, but dark woods such as mahogany were very fashionable during the neoclassical period.
Patterns: Prints and textiles are generally used to embellish French Provincial furnishings and make them feel more inviting. You will be hard-pressed to find a French Country chair, chaise lounge, or sofa that isn't upholstered with a pattern consisting of checks, plaids, stripes, or toile. As we mentioned before, florals were also widely used in addition to other country elements, such as beetles, grapes, lavender, olives, roosters, and sunflowers.
Now that you know how to identify French Provincial furniture and understand the difference between Provincial and Provence, hopefully the idea of decorating your home within the French country aesthetic does not seem as intimidating as it might have been before. We proudly offer a wide selection of French antique reproductions that are all carved, sanded, and finished by hand with the utmost attention to detail. If you have any questions about this guide or would like to learn more about our custom-made antique reproductions, please feel free to contact us for more information.
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