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  1. Thanks for trying to sort out the different styles. The French Country style exploded with Pierre Deux and their offerings of furniture, fabrics, and antiques. But I think their approach was way too upscale. To me French Country refers to a more primitive kind of living, with plenty of rustic, even shabby furniture, copper, wrought iron, and mixed print fabrics. I have traveled to many regions of France and don’t believe we have to limit ourselves to Provence for inspiration. There are books in existence which delineate distinctive regional styles. For example, Normandy has a heavily Tudor look, and Brittany has its stone houses, blue shutters, and lace window curtains.

    In my own attempts to decorate in French Country style, I have tried to incorporate elements from many different rural areas in France. So I have stone, copper, wrought iron, baskets, hydrangeas and roses, worn linens and laces, collections of keys, and comfy old furniture – sometimes with painted and weathered finishes. It’s so important to remember that the look we are trying to emulate is that of ordinary, country people.

    p.s. I was a French major, but I bet you guessed that!

      • I’ve been wondering and struggling with this same issue of terms. Thank you so much for clearing up some of the noise. I think its interesting to see what Americans term French vs what French really is. I’m with you and Gigi; relaxed, worn, country, rustic, lived in but impeccable taste is what I think of as French Country.

        • So glad this helped a little! It can be confusing but at the end of the day, I think you should decorate however you want! Relaxed, worn, and country is so up my alley!

          • My husband and I just bought a 1930 English Tudor. It still has most of its original details ie, unpainted trim work, wood floors and original lighting. However it has a Art Deco bend. I want to do this house justice. To me Art Deco is a bit…… formal. I love more casual/country. What a conundrum!! What to do, what to do?

  2. Thanks for the explanation. I’m currently trying to figure out my style and I guess it’s not as “cottagey” as I thought. I love the outside look of cottages, but the inside is a little more old fashioned to me. Can I mix the look of the outside (cottage feel) with the inside (modern farmhouse style)? In the middle of designing a house and that’s definitely the way I’m going with it! ??‍♀️

  3. I began building a new home with what I believed to be the french country cottage style about a year ago. During the process I visited Paris, London, and Amsterdam. I returned to the US believing even stronger that I was on the right track. Although I may be missing something, I believe that all of Europe has some sense of the same great style. Tudor details were very present in all 3 countries I visited. I say keep your eyes pealed and repeat beautiful things and you will never go wrong. My home has soft curvy lines, tudor exterior triming, and a sense of the formal and casual mixed together, and I love it! If you try to hard for one certain style it will feel way to intentional. If it is in the same basic region of the world just have fun and do what you love!

    • I agree that there are a lot of similarities in Europe and they all have some type of the same style. Thank you for sharing all your insight! I’m sure you had an amazing time traveling to Paris, London, and Amsterdam. Congrats on the house too! One day I would love to build a custom European home!

  4. Yikes!!!!
    My daughters are happily married to Frenchman and I have had the opportunity to visit them and their in-laws in Versailles, Paris, Champagne, and many other regions in France in many occasions. The American concept of French style is very different from the real thing but thank you for enlighten us with your research.
    Merci!

    • So happy for your daughters and how cool that you get to go visit them. I’m sure you’ve seen lots of different styles and have lots of insight to share! And yes, I agree that the American concept is very different too!

  5. I just found this from April 2020 but it looks like it’s still garnering comments so I’ll add mine. Caroline, I told you previously that I had fallen down the rabbit hole following your fashion posts and now I’m having fun branching out from there.
    You did a marvelous job on your own house and I really like the unusual shade of green that you chose for your door and shutters. The bench is just like one in my grandparents yard years ago and that made me nostalgic.
    It seems as if your talents to design and create are multi-dimensional….. stay inspired and keep sharing!

    • Thank you so much for the kind words, Wren! I’m glad you fell down the rabbit hole. The bench is one of my favorite parts of my exterior!

  6. My husband and I are in the process of remodeling an old ranch style house. I too lean more towards the cottage style. Do you have photos that you can share of your home?

  7. Thank you for your research. My husband and I bought a 1901, small 900 square foot home recently and I’ve been trying to determine what style I am after. Like you, when I searched farmhouse or cottage I was confused; cottages were huge homes and farmhouses looked like the new tract homes in town. I now think that my style is French country as I’m so drawn to those components. Thank you again.

    • I’m happy this helped give you some clarity! At the end of the day, I think you can do what you want, but it is helpful to have some styles defined. Your house sounds adorable. Good luck with moving and any changes you may do!

  8. When I think of French Country style, I think of tall slender lines and curves; common items have a touch of elegance and sophistication; and although it leans more towards a feminine feel, it is welcoming to masculine tastes as well.

    • It’s tough but I think the best things come through trial and error! At the end of the day I think it’s all about creating a home you love.

  9. Thanks so much for your research and insight! I too have been saying for years that my style dream is “French Country Cottage” while still wondering the differences/similarities between those three styles. Like you I am excited to see that calling my style “French Country Cottage” was exactly what I wanted it to be! Yay! Thanks for doing the work and sharing it!

  10. Hi Carolyn, I loved reading your article. I work for http://www.antiquefarmhouse.com and I work with various interior styles from Farmhouse to French Country, Vintage, Cottage & Shabby Chic… You taught me a thing or two and I will be sharing them with my team. Your terms you used for each look will help when we are defining items for our categories and Curated Events! Thanks you for your research!

  11. Great article! This is my first visit and I came over from Pinterest. I look forward to exploring more of your archives to see your unique cottage style implemented. I also vacillate between French Country and English Cottage. My “cottage” is an 899 square foot tract home from 1951 that was originally a flat roof home! It has beamed wood ceilings that I just adore and most of the homes in our Sacramento neighborhood received traditional roofs in the 70’s and 80’s so they look more traditional now. I love exploring the all the cottage themes and have settled into what I think of as English/European Cottage (mostly!) Thank you for such a thought-provoking article.

    • Thank you for the kind words! Your home sounds so cool and unique. I’ve always wanted beamed wood ceilings! I too love all cottage themes as well. Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Yes! My family looks at me like I’m crazy when I say I have a french country/old farmhouse style because they are thinking of yellow/blue combined with roosters. Ahhhhhh! I’m talking about aged terracotta, copper pots with herb bundles everywhere, and furniture that looks like it’s been collected and passed down through generations. I’m so happy to find someone delineated it so well!

  13. My house is a French Country Cottage which is what I have referred to it as for the last 10 years. French Country Cottage is a more relaxed and cozy version of the French Country Style. The different regions of France are influenced by other countries. For instance, the Provence region in Southern France is influenced by Mediterranean and Italian Styles, the northern areas of France around Brittany are influenced by England and their Tudor and Cottage Styles. There is also some Scandinavian influence in Country French. I think that is the real draw of French Country, it’s an eclectic mix of many styles.

    • Great question, Rebecca. Sounds like a whole nother post to me! I’m no expert, but off the top of my head, I would think that falls under a coastal style.

  14. Our home is definitely an American farmhouse. But I’m not crazy for the Farmhouse style. No real farmers have white upholstery! I lean more towards rustic English and French interiors. I use a lot of family peices and shop in resale and antique stores. Fortunately the house has all its original bead board walls and ceiling so I won’t need to wallpaper!

    • Original bead board and ceilings? That sounds amazing! Thank you for sharing more of your style.

  15. This article was very helpful! I love several different country styles. French country is my favorite, probably because of my visits to the Champagne region in France when I was younger. American Country is a more informal look and one that is easier to pull off with American antiques. When I started to re-style my kitchen as ‘farmhouse’ I realized I already owned over half of the accessories and accents I needed, many of which were passed down to me from my grandmothers. I’ve done my bedroom in French country, having purchased several well made French provincial reproductions a few years back, supplemented by things I purchased (framed artwork, mostly) when I traveled to France. I used to own two antique French chairs, which I foolishly gave away during a move ten years ago. I hope to visit my sister-in-law in Texas this Spring and attend the Round Rock market with her. We’ll see what I can find there!

    • I think that is so cool that you have accents passed down from your grandmother. It sounds like your home is amazing. And going to that market would be so awesome too! I’m definitely itching to thrift and visit flea markets more.

  16. Great article, thank you, I also think architectural elements play a part with showcasing differences in styles, old corbels, windows, doors, mirrors, pediments, planters, pieces of fence, pillars, etc as well as gardens and plants surrounding the house and entries. I think there are many items that cross over easily and can be used in either of the styles.
    Thank you again,
    Brigid

  17. Thank you for writing this! We are building a new house but I want old world feel and this gives me such wonderful inspiration! I look forward to devouring your blog. 🙂

  18. Thank you for this delightful article. I have been creating an English cottage home. I find that it has a lot to do with an English cottage garden, which has an overgrown, natural look of organized chaos. Combining different shades of green and accented with tall flowers, a garden provides a balance of repose and industry. A light-filled conservatory and lots of wooden antique furniture, artwork featuring horses and landscapes complete the interiors. The property should exude warmth, charm, and coziness. If there’s any elegance, it is understated and casual.

    • Your home sounds simply divine! I’ve been working on the garden myself lately, trying to achieve that organized chaos. Thank you for your insight!

  19. Thank you for clearing up the confusion. I’m working on a total remodel of an old ranch style home, and my mind has been spinning! I would love it if you would share photos of your remodel. I sure could use some inspiration.

    • I’m glad this helps! I have photos of my remodel under the “home chic home” tab 🙂 Good luck on your remodel! It’s a lot of work but rewarding at the same time… as I’m sure you know.

  20. Thanks for breaking this down!
    While I agree that “it’s your home, do as you wish” I think it’s important for people to understand what comes from where. We closed on a plain, blah, open concept house in June and I tell you it’s hard to figure out how we want it. I also enjoy the French country, English cottage, as well as farmhouse style with a bit of industrial in there as well. I grew up on a horse farm smack in the Heartland of ol US, so am used to what that farmhouse was -rather plain and simple but comfortable (and the only thing that was white were the walls and the exterior). My 4th Great Grandfather built his homestead in the 1860’s and became a cattle and crop farmer, that homestead still stands and I finally got a chance to see it. The rooms were smaller than expected but it makes sense as smaller rooms are easier to heat. The floors were wide plank, hand sawn, from trees on the property which also makes sense as wide planks ment less cutting. The hand sawn beams, hand made cabinets were gorgeous in their plain style. It was clear to me that this house is what actual farmhouse style is. Efficent, hand made, comfortable, able to stand up to time and easy to add onto.
    I think it’s important to consider the lifestyle included with these homes. Up from sun rise to beyond sunset, working hard to provide, while also enjoying the little things of life and family also being proud of what you have and being able to pass it on to your children.
    Perhaps that might be while these styles speak and bring comfort to so many, because it’s something we all can relate to.

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