Create the feel of the French countryside through painted furniture.

How to Paint French Country Furniture

by Joanna Hughes

Celebrated for its charm, elegance and extraordinary craftsmanship, French Country is a contemporary decorating style embraced by many. While a trip to Paris to select a bedroom suite may not be in your near future, crafty home decorators can achieve French Country furniture style through paint. Select the right colors and choose from a variety of decorative painting techniques to create your own Provence-perfect pieces.

1. Les Couleurs

While ivory and white hues may come to mind when thinking about classic French Country painted furniture, this style embraces the full spectrum of color -- from cheerful lemon yellow and glowing gold to deep rich blue and evocative turquoise. When choosing the palette for your painted furniture, consider the colors epitomized by the rolling hills of southern France: sun-drenched fields, bright blue sky and rich terra cotta pathways. These warm, wonderful colors bring dull, drab furniture to new life. Avoid glossy finishes, as French Country furniture has a timeworn character.

2. Pièce de Résistance

When selecting furniture to paint, look for pieces with elegant curves and intricate carvings. Chair legs frequently show off curved shapes, a classic trait of Country French furniture. Country French flair is also exhibited by ornate wood carving featuring everything from florid scrollwork to the classic French fleur-de-lis. Not only do these decorative accents show off superior French craftsmanship, they are also perfect candidates for decorative painting, as paint highlights these ornamental areas.

3. Rustic Beauté

Decorative antiquing methods, such as whitewashing, two-color distressing and crackling, imbue furniture with classic charm. Don't be afraid to experiment with sandpaper and steel wool to give your piece that worn-away look, particularly in areas that would receive frequent use, such as tabletops and edges. A clear layer of wood-finish wax, such as beeswax, applied over dried paint delivers the perfect lustrous sheen to complete the antique look.

4. A Fine Finale

While French Country furniture may be rustic, that doesn't mean it lacks decorative flourish. In fact, hand-painted details, such as stencils, borders and gilding, are trademarks of this signature style. Aspiring artists can hand paint designs of their own choosing; if time or talent is lacking, aspiring Francophiles can take advantage of a variety of stencils featuring style-appropriate florals and farm animals. Painted borders and gilding also reference the artistry of the style while adding visual interest to painted furniture.

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