For the French, their cultural heritage is something like a national treasure. Living in a building with a history is infinitely higher valued than owning a high priced McMansion, and even their interior design carries over and refers back to prior versions of itself. In that way, French design is both eclectic and decadent, emphasizing comfort, history, and sophistication. Which is why French design is often exported and lovingly adopted around the world. What has come to be known as French Country design – an evolved and updated version of French Provincial style – is perhaps the most commonly imitated, and is a great place to start if you’re looking to build a decadent, old-world inspired luxury bathroom.
What Goes Into A French Country Bathroom Design?
French country design is modeled after the luxurious country homes of the 1600s in the Provence region of France. Though the design has evolved in many ways since then (not the least of which the introduction of indoor plumbing), many elements have remained tried and true. Most importantly, the French have always considered the bathroom to be an integral part of the home, and put a strong emphasis on decor, style, and comfort, even at times over utility. Giving the bathroom equal design treatment as the rest of the home is really the guiding principle of French country bathroom design.
Here in the states, we tend to think of bathroom vanities as being more or less analogous to kitchen cabinetry. You want them to look good, of course, inasmuch as they make up a large part of the room and you’ll have to look at them. But they’re primarily there for utility – as storage space rather than furniture. But in French country bathroom design, every element has to be considered on its own as a piece of furniture decorating your space. That’s why French country style bathrooms often incorporate open, washbasin-style bathroom vanities like this Yorkshire Vanity from Cole+Co, or ones made to look like converted dressers or dressing tables. Add an antiqued white finish to add a sense of age, and you’ve begun not only to enhance your design, but also the most valuable “accessory” – a sense of history.
Now, this is one of the ways that French country bathroom design diverges significantly from conventional American design wisdom. Because the bathroom is considered to be just another room, and one that places a strong emphasis on leisure and comfort, the French often include additional furniture, especially accent chairs, small tables, big mirrors, or even antique chaise lounges. Many Americans would worry about moisture and so on, but for the French, style takes precedence, and that means rounding out your room with furniture.
Modern American bathrooms are all about the shower – from big custom showers and steam showers to elaborate massage shower heads and frameless shower doors. But French country bathroom design puts a much, much stronger emphasis on the bathtub. You’re practically guaranteed to find a freestanding bathtub of some kind – either a clawfoot tub, a more classical pedestal style tub like this Reef Tub from Atlantis, or even a drop-in tub set in a stone base. The idea behind this is to promote relaxation – a place to soak, unwind, and enjoy the space – as well as to underscore tradition by using a historical bathtub style.
Another key to French country bathroom design is fabric. While many other materials are commonly used – like wood floors, stone tile, and wrought iron accents – the inclusion of fabric is far and away the most important. From window dressings and fabric shower curtains to textured wall paper, plushy towels, and even throw rugs if your bathroom is big enough, adding texture through fabric is the best way to add the dual sophistication and hominess of French country design to your bathroom.
Color is actually a slightly strange aspect of French country bathroom design. By and large, you want to opt for light colors – antique whites and creams, sky blue, sea foam green, and lavender. But dark, rusty oranges, bright gold, and mustardy yellows (like the gorgeous wallpaper paired with this Windsor Vanity) are also common in a French country palette, as they add warmth and contrast. Personally, I would let the amount of natural light your bathroom gets be a deciding factor in your color scheme. Whites, creams, and pastels all shine in areas with abundant light, while the darker oranges and rich gem tones (in fabric especially) work well with amber or yellow artificial lighting to create a rich, regal ambiance rather than one that’s light and airy.
French country bathroom design is all about creating a relaxing, luxurious environment the same way you would the rest of your home – by adding comfortable furniture, beautiful color and texture, and generally making it a place you’d like to spend some time. Do you like French country design?