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Learn More About Farmhouse and French Country Styles

When it comes to picking the right rustic aesthetic for your home, you’ll find a plethora of options from which to choose. Two of the most popular options are “French country” and “farmhouse,” which may seem similar to some but are widely different in design philosophy. The former interior design aims to be elegant, soft, and chic, while the latter leans more toward casual, American choices. We’ll expand on definitions, philosophies, and practices of both rustic styles, comparing and contrasting them to help you find the perfect fit for your ideal home style.

French Country Style

French country furniture is simple enough to blend into the countryside, yet it has all the visual refinement required to capture a more regal aesthetic that sets it apart from any old country home. Much of this design philosophy attempts to translate the essential modern furniture and furnishings one would find in an urban home into a rural style while making efforts to capture a level of sophistication.  French country has its variations, and they all revolve around a simple style focusing on walnut, oak, and fruitwood.  The design doesn’t employ as many additions or ornaments on the furniture as other styles.

French country began during the early 17th century. As the French middle class grew, so did the desire for comfortable and wealthy ideals in the countryside. This group of citizens enjoyed recreations of simpler, and less decorated Baroque-style furniture, creating the French country aesthetic. This style was expanded upon in the 18th century, the era that is more commonly associated with the current interpretation of French country. As Louis XV and Regence styles reigned, from them came Rococo, which all levels between the aristocracy and middle class loved. When people think of French country today, Rococo imagery often comes to mind.

There are three main elements to focus on when creating the French country style. The first element is incorporating as many natural materials as possible, like wood or metal, into your furniture. Large pieces of furniture are the centerpiece of any room, so try to include some sort of large, rustic, wood-made piece, like a couch or table. Including metal accents, either strictly for design or a functional piece like a handle, will also lend to the style greatly. Secondly, the element of a distressed or painted look on furnishing or a piece of furniture is essential to French country. Pieces that look older suggest that they are or could be antiques, adding to that regal feel. A distressed finish will look fantastic on the classic curved lines of Rococo furniture. Third, aim for colors and patterns that are soft and subtle. This might include variants of blue, pink, cream, or yellow. Consider botanical or natural patterns, which lend well not just to those colors but, to more earthy ones like a faded red or ochre. 
Play around with ornate and gilded accessories of any size, like mirrors, light fixtures, chinaware, or potted plants to match that natural, country look. Whatever you choose, remember the key to French country as you style your rooms: rustic elegance.

Farmhouse Style

Practicality and simplicity are the purposes of farmhouse design. Farmhouse homes are a style that balances these two elements to create a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere. It can often be seen as a unique blend of styles, as it doesn’t try to match pieces of furniture and furnishing together. Farmhouse is crafted primarily from wood and doesn’t fall in line with the modern approach of minimalism. It’s often built from odd, yet pleasing details sprinkled here and there throughout the home that reveals a colorful layer of personality. In these homes, comfort comes before style, but that’s not to say you can’t make it look great.

The Farmhouse style originated in Europe in the 16th century, then spread to the North American colonies. As Americans ventured out west in the 19th century, they brought Farmhouse with them. While these houses were initially designed for function and practicality, built using only nearby materials, they evolved throughout the Industrial Revolution to include better materials. By the 21st century, this style has expanded from rural to suburban areas and even urban in some cases. It has become a style with designs focused on farm imagery and retro Americana. While the specific interior items of Farmhouse have changed drastically over the ages, it still insists on a design that focuses on simplicity and comfort.

When aiming for a Farmhouse style, you’ll want to focus on a couple of different elements. Old furniture can match the aesthetic, but you want to make sure you have the right finish to cement it into the look. Include rustic looks and textures like exposed brick or wood that has been weathered or distressed. In addition to furniture, your walls, ceiling, and floors can be textured to capture a more rural feel. Metal elements can work in these spaces. Your colors should center around neutral ones like white, grey, black, or brown.  You can add bold and muted accents like deep, barn-like reds or soft, sunny greens. Focus your textures on homemade-looking materials and items made from rich textiles like natural fiber to imitation fur.
As Farmhouse isn’t as concerned with matching every room or every element of one room together, don’t be afraid to get creative and personal with your décor. It’s a great way to show off some personality as well as bring a bit of extra energy into each room. Many repurposed items or DIY furnishings work well in Farmhouse style. Including weathered signage, repurposed barn equipment, or classic farm dishware like mason jars is a cheap, simple, and effective way to capture the design.

While French country and Farmhouse share certain elements, their goals are simple to differentiate. In French country, you can embrace some aspects of rural life while highlighting regal and elegant styles. In Farmhouse, comfort is the goal, and one would focus more on rustic aspects. Consider their differences carefully when you plan for a more rural look in your home.

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