French Country exteriors incorporate earthy paint colors.

How to Paint in Country French Style

by Mary Cockrill

French Country style, inspired by the quaint homes in the romantic countryside of rural France, mixes casual elegance with natural materials to create warmly inviting bungalows, cottages and chateaus. Even though you can't physically move your family to a charming house nestled in Provence or Dordogne, you can give your home a bit of French Country appeal with the right paint colors and finishes.

1. Get Back to Nature

Give your home's exterior a touch of French Country warmth with nature-inspired paint colors, such as deep brown, misty gray, creamy ivory, sage green, brick red and soft beige. French Country architecture often includes an eclectic mixture of stucco, window boxes, wrought-iron railings, wooden shutters, painted timbers, and stone or brick highlights around the windows and doors. If your home has a stucco exterior, apply creamy ivory paint to the walls; use faux painting techniques to add the look of stone or bricks around your windows. Trim the front of your house with decorative timbers painted dark brown. Add French Country charm to a stone, brick or wood exterior by applying sage green paint to rustic wooden shutters around each window. Apply sage green paint to the front door and install charming window boxes in the same hue.

2. Stir Up Old World Vibes

Paint your interior walls to emulate the aged and weathered look typical of French Country style. Apply a glaze mixture over taupe-colored walls to instantly develop a patina that normally develops over the years. Or, cover the walls with milk paint for a matte finish that shows impressive variances in the color. Use milk paint hues in soft, cool colors -- watery blue, pale pink, misty gray, soft sage green -- to mimic interior hues found in northern France. If you prefer more intense interior colors, copy the hues found in southern French Country homes, such as turquoise, terracotta red, saffron yellow and musty violet.

3. Time Warped Furniture

Because new furniture doesn't suit the French Country look, make a modern wood piece look like its been around for a long time with distressed-painting techniques. For example, apply gray paint to your wood furniture, followed by a coat of light-colored paint, such as off-white or soft yellow. Create a distressed, weathered appearance by lightly sanding the corners, edges and curved or raised areas to expose the gray base coat. You can also cover the piece with a crackle finish to easily add the illusion of years to your wood furniture.

4. Must-Have Painting Tips

Because the French consider white a decorative color instead of a neutral, use white paint with creamy warm tones, but avoid bright white paints. Create pleasing harmony with complementary paint colors to generate French Country style for your home; steer clear of sharply contrasting colors. Add a touch of French Country flair to interior paneled walls by applying paint to the raised molding details in a hue that's two or three shades lighter than the existing molding color.

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