Homes in the French countryside are filled with whitewashed wood, elegant details and broad windows that fill each room with natural light. French provincial bathrooms are inspired by these themes, combining rustic charm with an elegant ambiance.
The effortless beauty encompassed in this style makes it a popular choice for modern bathrooms. No matter what country you’re in, these design tips will make it easy to recreate a French provincial bathroom look.
French Provincial Fundamentals
When planning your French provincial bathroom, it’s a good idea to brush up on the basics of French interior design. This will ensure that the bathroom in question achieves the masterful balance between rustic and elegant elements.
When choosing the color palette, design expert Pamela Cole Harris suggests opting for warm colors in light shades. Warm pinks, yellows and creams are all great options, and baby blue can work as well. Next, she suggests creating a shabby chic look by combining rustic or re-painted wood with wrought iron elements. Many people turn to wood when creating this style, but wooden elements should always be balanced with something that feels elegant or sophisticated.
Black and white color schemes can also work well in the French bathroom. This is demonstrated on So Much Better with Age, Jamie Lundstrom’s French style blog. When redesigning an outdated bathroom, Lundstrom added a black and white accent wall featuring French words in cursive. She also incorporated black and white tile and a curved vanity in dark wood. These elements are balanced with pops of dusty pinks and warm gold in the towels and mirror frame.
When remodeling a small bathroom to incorporate French provincial style, there might not be room for an ornate piece of furniture. In this case, you can opt for a theme.
One idea for a powder room comes from Lory Bernstein at Designthusiasm. This bathroom includes floral wallpaper and a matching toilet and vanity, both in an elegant porcelain finish. A large, gold-rimmed mirror is set on the wall above the pedestal sink, acting as the main focal point of the room.
Powder rooms are focused on simplicity, so you might not need extra wall decor if you already have a mirror and wall color or wallpaper.
Form over Function
Another thing to keep in mind when creating a French bathroom is that the French often prioritize form over function. This goes against what many Americans believe about bathroom design, but it does help a space become more elegant.
According to Lisa Farmer, owner of Kentucky-based design studio Lisa Farmer Designs, the French might choose beautiful drapes that frame a clawfoot tub, regardless of whether or not they’re mildew resistant. Or, they might look for large, ornate mirrors – even if they’re impractical for a small space.
This doesn’t mean you should choose design elements that aren’t functional. Rather, let this principal guide you in choosing elegant, gilded features that are slightly outside your comfort zone.
Rustic decor is an essential element of French provincial bathroom style. To achieve this look, you might start out a small scale by including bathroom signs in French wording. For example,
Southern style blogger Lauren Shaver of Bless’er House shows how to upcycle thrifted wooden pallet boards into rustic signs. You could paint these signs with a French word such as toilette, and place the sign on the outside of the bathroom door.
Another way to make elements more rustic is to paint them with white chalkboard paint. Sarah Vandiver of the Little Vintage Nest blog used this technique in a couple of ways. First, she painted two French provincial vanities in white chalkboard paint with the drawer pulls in rustic black. One vanity was upcycled to include a sink while the other she uses for storage. She also added chalkboard paint to a new mirror border, which had been originally painted gold.
When opting to use larger vanities and upcycled dressers, another key is to decorate these surfaces in a charming, yet uncluttered way.
The blog Kristine in Between provides an example of adding French farmhouse charm to a surface, with a rustic wooden tray. The tray can be topped with vintage apothecary jars, which can then be filled with bathroom essentials like cotton balls or soap.
As mentioned, French country bathrooms balance rustic elements with those that have a more elegant, old-world feel.
Floral wallpaper is one way to add a vintage touch to the bathroom, according to freelance content editor Rachel Homer. French-style mirrors can also be used to add appeal to a bathroom, she says. If using floral wallpaper and statement mirrors, an all-white, rustic vanity could be the perfect way to balance out the look.
Another way to style floral wallpaper with an elegant mirror is seen on the blog French Country Cottage. Blogger Courtney explains how a mirror in soft gray was the perfect addition to her bathroom. The neutral color balances out the feminine theme created by the pink floral wallpaper.
A clawfoot tub is another way to add a touch of luxury to a French provincial style bathroom. Kelly at For Creative Juice provides a number of options as to how freestanding tubs work with a shabby-chic design. For example, a clawfoot tub might feature chrome or gold accented feet for an extra touch of class. Or, a tub with a black base could add more intrigue to a darker color scheme. No matter how you style it, it’s important to add a rug, throw or curtains nearby to make the overall feel even softer and cozier.
Gold accents can be paired with rustic elements throughout to bathroom to add a classic touch.
Debra Steilen, president at Buzzworthy Communications, showcases a cobalt blue bathroom with numerous gold accents. The main piece in the room is an ornately shaped mirror that evokes French royalty. This standout feature is balanced with a bronze finished faucet, a gold towel rack, and gold wall sconces. A pure white vanity with a more modern finish is incorporated into these bold designs to maintain a feel that’s majestic, yet still approachable.
Marble and Porcelain
Marble is another material that looks great in French bathrooms, especially if you’re opting for a more modern touch. The ShopRoomIdeas blog offers a few ideas for how to create a French bathroom inspired by Versailles. This royal palace doesn’t include any of the rustic charm found in cottages, but it does offer inspiration for how the French use marble.
For example, marble provides the sleek white finish that characterizes French interior design. You can also opt for porcelain tiles, which are less expensive and easier to maintain, but still look great.
Elegant drapery and fabric can elevate your French provincial bathroom to the next level. Jennifer Davenport of the blog Jennifer Decorates suggests choosing vibrant colors like yellow, blue black and green. These colors, especially in floral prints, work well as curtains in a French bath.
Toile is a popular French fabric that tends to feature floral and Victorian imagery, sometimes of people or families. It usually has a white or cream background with a blue or red print. White fabric in cotton, ruffles and lace also work well in French-inspired interiors.
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