Country Lighting 2012

Upscale French Country Rooster Chandelier

I’m off to decorate the next house and became so excited with all the new developments in home country lighting that I’m writing a new post just to show these off!

First off, I discovered that the rooster (traditionally found in the French and Tuscan country styles) is quickly going out of style in the wrought iron sconce lighting and pot rack styled chandeliers. However I also found that the lowly rooster has taken a step up into more elaborate decorating schemes and he’s showing a little more color as a result.
Upscale French Country Rooster Chandelier
Click the image to see the gorgeous detailing on this chandelier or click here to check pricing and availability. This style is also available as a chandelier/pot rack here.

More Traditional French Country Lighting

For years I showed clients the beautiful olive branch chandelier but this new ‘makeover’ of that country lighting has my appreciation for 2011. A little french country, a little shabby chic — in fact both of the following two chandeliers would work in either style or setting. Show off your whimsical nature and challenge yourself to decorate a stunning room around either one of these.
Stunning Shabby Chic Paris Inspired Chandelier (French Country Lighting)
Love Shabby Chic and Country Lighting? Check out this new for 2011 chandelier...

Traditional American Country Lighting

Back on home soil, you’d never believe what we’re seeing a lot of in farmhouse lighting, log cabin homes and even in the rustic-inspired man caves. Did you guess correctly? It’s the wagon wheel light! You’re about to see these everywhere – hanging over pool tables, kitchen islands, and even in the foyer of your favorite country lighting catalogs and country decor magazines. I’ll show you one but you’ll have to click through to see related styles…they come in round and oval and the oval is actually interesting because they’re a variation on a worn out theme. They’ve been extended from their traditional round shape by two wood splits for a centerpiece.

What I like best about this company’s version is the copper lanterns hanging from chandeliers making the old wagon wheel styling more functional and (I must admit) more beautiful.
Farmhouse Country Lighting, The Wagonwheel Chandelier
As you’ve seen there is a wide variation of styles within the country lighting category. Not to mention that one person’s definition of country decor is far different than another’s interpretation. I have two friends, for instance, who couldn’t be more different in their personalities but the bossy one says they both decorate their homes in the country traditions. Oddly enough, the more aware of the two begs to differ. Her home is an upscale Tuscan country styled home mixed with modern art pieces and palazzo tiling. The first woman – is all about primitive country (which you know we love here at GoodByeCityLife) but her home is all bashed and weathered barn board with some dry-brush painting techniques scattered throughout the house.

They both have ‘country’ in their decorative styles but neither one would be comfortable living in the other’s house for very long. As such, their taste in country lighting is also very different. One would love the wagonwheel, the other would adore the rooster with dripping crystals. I’m sure you can figure out which one would suit each of these ladies best.

French Country Fabrics – Toile

Iron railings and lavender gray shutters on a toile curtain background.

There’s just something about French Country – isn’t there? The style of the French show up in their decorating, their food, and their joie de vivre.

A few years back I took my daughter to France to experience the culture first hand. We loved it there as much as we love Italy. There is something so wonderfully mystical about the French.

They may grow the same chickens, milk similar breeds of goats, eat and share the same food we do; yet their country living style makes me yearn to end my days there.Iron railings and lavender gray shutters on a toile curtain background.

Sunny lush hillsides, fields of lavender, warm breezes year round. I have written about French country decorating and living since the day of our return and this article is no different although I’ll be focusing on the fabrics used in French decor. This isn’t all about the country fabrics so rich in barnyard scenery, but about toile, specifically.

A reader asked me just last week “What are you talking about when you say toile?”

Toile is used on a variety of fabrics both economical and elegant. The word itself is used to describe a printing technique that looks almost engraving or stamped into the fabric. Toile can be seen in anything from fine pressed velvets to thin cotton sheeting. The patterning most often depicts a scene such as the barnyard scene or two lovers embracing in a field of flowers.

Toile is most often only available in two tones. The relief and the background. The most common is white/black but you can also find these printed fabrics in any shades – dramatic or demure.

Toile first hit the decorating scene in the 1700s. It showed up in curtains, wallpaper, tableclothes and bedding of the elite. Quickly the style moved into the homes of all income brackets and over 300 years later it is still a French staple in home decorating.

French Country Decorating Popularity

As I write this there is a huge increase in French Country decor across the United States and Canada. As more of us focus our energy on the home front – either we’re getting too old to go out much anymore (aging Baby Boomers), or too poor due to the recession.

The French know that love and happiness exists no matter of age or income or circumstance. That feeling is infused into our bedrooms and living rooms the very first day we bring home our toile pillowcases or throw pillows.

If you love the romanticism of French country decorating but can’t decide on a particular color scheme, look no further than some of the gorgeous photos of French villas in decorating books as well as travel websites. When we visited Villefrance, Paris and Nice we found beautifully faded villas and buildings in all colors – each one of them sun-drenched and faded. Not as brilliant or ‘sweet’ as pastels these colors were more reminiscent of your favorite demin jeans that have been well worn and faded over the years.

The fabrics that hang in the windows of these buildings, or adorn the tables and sofas within the walls, can be of almost any design that pleases you as long as the colors are either brilliant and fresh or faded and demure. High or low contrast – very little in between.

For ideas on French Country Decor please visit our country store pages.

Match Your French Country Bedding

This over stitched, cornflower blue quilt is perfect for French country bedding.

Although I love French Country decorating I honestly did not expect such a positive response to the last article I wrote on French Country bedding. It seems there are far more people interested in this simple and elegant style than I had imagined. If your question is how you can remodel an existing bedroom’s decor and match it to your new sheet set, comforter and quilt, then I do hope this helps.

Colors in French Country Bedding

Your gorgeous new bed set likely includes the shades most often seen in French Country decorating. They are the creams, the soft yellows, pale cornflower blue, some very specific light greens and any other relaxing colors that you have seen or know first hand that is found in the hills, farms and valleys of the French countryside. Just thinking of those sun-drenched lavender fields should be enough to make you want to snuggle up in your bed and drift off to a peaceful slumber.

But don’t yet! We’ve got remodeling and decorating to do.This over stitched, cornflower blue quilt is perfect for French country bedding.

With your bedding in hand decide on a color from the quilt or duvet cover to transform one or more walls of your bedroom. If you can’t paint the room consider painting your furniture (even a few nightstands) or your accessories such as wooden lamp bases, picture frames. Existing rustic country furniture fits right in so don’t worry too much over dressers and wardrobes unless they are deep burgundy so often seen in rustic country decorating. Smaller pieces painted in that red won’t look too out of place.

Another way to bring in the color are in your non-bedding fabrics. French Country is partially texture by definition so consider adding layers to your windows in toile printed fabrics or small throws and pillows on bedside chairs is a perfect and inexpensive complement to the style.

If You Haven’t Already Found the Perfect French Country Bedding

As you’ve no doubt noticed, French Country bedding displays are layers of comfort and textures. Unless you’ve managed to find a large bed in a bag set that suits this style – and I have yet to see one that I fell in love with – you’ll have to purchase the elements piece by piece. You can mix your colors but be careful when mixing prints unless you know they are all made by the same manufacturer or you can view them side by side.

Parts of your bedding will be solid while others will be patterned anyway – again, choosing the pattern first and then matching the solid to that pattern’s colors is easiest. Once you have the sheets, find a bedspread or duvet cover in a solid color that coordinates. Or, once you’ve found the perfect quilt start shopping for matching sheets and comforters. Either way remember that French country decor is a relaxed and unpretentious look so you can safely through out most of the standard and rigid rules of decorating while you shop.

On top of your normal bedding it is the French country quilt that puts the icing on the cake. These are usually folded and laying across the foot of the bed for extra warmth on your toes or to be pulled up in the night when the air turns chilly. Widely available today these quilts are over-stitched and commonly found in French toile patterns. Toile patterns are most often seen in cream or white as a base and have patterned repeats of country scenes or animals every 12-24 inches. French country floral patterns are also stunning – they are more graphic and masculine than the prissy cute country prints so look for hard edges or outlines in the prints with cream or ivory backgrounds.

Pillows can be in any shape or size and covered in more of the color you want to bring into the room. A little bit of lace goes a long way without looking prissy so go ahead and add grandmother’s hand-crocheted, lace edged pillow cases as well as the chenille covered decorative throw pillows.

French Country Room Accents

My favorite has always been fresh and fragrant flowers in white or clear glass jugs, but those bedtime dreams are seasonal so during the winter months I bring out the silks and use reed diffusers or candles to fill my room with the scent of lavender. The sweet fragrance from your flowers or deep and mysterious scent of lavender will make you think you’re sleeping on a French farm with warm night breezes flowing through your windows.

On your walls you’ll want an ornately framed mirror to reflect the window’s light but keep the color neutral on that frame. Gilded mirrors are great for the more upscale French decorating but in the country they’re painted white and aged to look like an antique.

Framed prints of flowers – again soft and neutral in color – work wonderfully. My favorite is a watercolor poppy print I purchased years ago from an Italian artist who knew the countryside and the lighting in this part of the world well. In fact, here it is – Gorgeous country blooms of poppies in the sunlight. Perfect for country decor, French country decor or Tuscan inspired homes.

If you’re anything like me when you drag yourself out of bed in the morning the first thing you look at is your feet hitting the floor. Don’t negate all your wonderful dreams of splendor by putting those feet on a cold floor. Add some decorative rugs, they don’t need to be expensive, on both sides of the bed to transition yourself. Keep in mind that rugs and carpets are another wonderful way to bring texture into your room and a moderately bumpy sisal rug works as well as a squishy cream shag or braided mat.

You can buy mostly everything you need for this French Country look and you won’t need to lug it home yourself as they deliver almost every one of their products fast and free – even the furniture. You may need to search on the site for such keywords as quilt, bacati, toile, and natural. You could also check French Country bedding in the Country Store right here on GoodByeCityLife.

French Country Furniture for Every Room

This nicely crafted hall stand is the perfect changeover furnishing for French Country.

If you’re looking for a change with your current decorating scheme why not try adding French Country furniture and a few decorative accents? It’s easier than you think to turn any country kitchen, rustic living room or farmhouse bedroom into the fresh new look of French Country.This nicely crafted hall stand is the perfect changeover area for French Country furniture.

Some of your existing furniture may already be a perfect fit but a few relatively inexpensive pieces added with a new set of curtains and pillows might be all that is required. If you want to paint a wall or some of your unfinished pine pieces any color will work for French Country furniture as long as it matches the furnishings you’ve chosen.

Perfect hues come from a sunny warm yellow or a soft gold. Warmer tones of red or burnt orange. Small bursts of deep dark hunter green and a vibrant cobalt blue all work when paired with gentle lavender or the less-purple ocean tones. Add some cool gray tones or sharp black to set off patterns or to weight smaller accent items and you’re all set. If you can imagine the French countryside with it’s gentle sun and rolling fields of lavender, you’ll have it.

French country dining table and chairs. A mix of iron and wood plus comfortable chairs.

French Country Furniture – The New Antique Look

The dining room table at right is a good example of French Country but before you run out to buy this table and chair set, a word of caution. This set makes a bold statement so unless you are absolutely in love with it don’t buy it. Consider that the French have antique dining sets in most of their homes. These may be a little more ornate when compared to the rest of their furniture but they have been handed down from many generations and are often the finest quality antiques. Don’t hesitate to purchase a more traditional set when when redecorating your dining room.

The dining room below or at right – although not ornate – also fits into the French country theme but is a little more realistic in style. You will be able to take this set into more themes as your taste changes and it still carries some of the styling the French are known for.This French Country inspired table and chairs bears all the markings of fine craftsmanship.

Furniture that works well when adding in the warm reds might have a rusted metal hue or anodized steel as seen in many of the ceiling fixtures of French Country. The shape of the furniture itself will be clean and bright while the finer pieces will have some detailing.

The final look is a little rustic but very welcoming and comfortable. French country furniture might have some curved panels or hand-carved decorative accents. Some pieces could have oiled wood tops with painted legs. And of course you can’t have a French Country room without a wardrobe or armoire in the corner.

In the dining room, large tables are expected. They can be rectangular or round and should have a low-sheen finish. The detailing in the set will be seen in the chairs where carved arms or legs add charm. Dining chairs are often seen with slatted backs and seats. You can make them more comfortable with some nicely patterned cushions.

French Country Furniture Accents

Speaking of cushions and the fabrics that make this room stunning look for the colors above in faded plaids or checks, toile and Provencal floral prints. Toile is a traditional two tone design that depicts a story and often contains farm animals, the countryside, or courtship scenes of the 18th century. Floral prints will be multi-colored (usually in soft greens, lavender, and orange) and actually originate from India in the 17th century. I will write more about that in another post.

Accents to French Country furnishings include motifs or themes of roosters, lavender, grapes, olives, and sunflowers. All or just a few of these accents on some simple furniture lines will finish the look off nicely. Larger examples of French Country furniture are available for viewing online.

French Country Bedding

This is the bedding set I choose for my French Country bedroom. Note the quilt, the colors, the natural rug and whitewashed boards.

Lately I’ve discovered a passion for the French Country style and since I had to re-decorate my bedroom it was natural to incorporate the style into my design.

In fact, French Country decor works perfectly in a bedroom as it elicits the sense of comfort and relaxation. The style in itself borders on elegance but seldom hits the mark of being pretentious. It is a step up from Shabby Chic but it does have some of the well loved and weathered traits with hints of pastels mixed in.

This is the bedding set I choose for my French Country bedroom. Note the quilt, the colors, the natural rug and whitewashed boards.

Hues, patterns, and textures will be important considerations when choosing French Country bedding. The French are big on complimentary textures that fit the task of design. The bedding – sheets, quilts and shams – are complimentary in color but while the sheets are crisp, light and soft, the quilts are often double-stitched, highly patterned and heavy.

The actual bed that these sets look best on are chipped white painted iron or ornately carved wooden head and foot boards. The French have thought this through – the bed itself needs to be secure as it will be your refuge for the next eight hours – while the bedding needs to embrace you softly so that you enjoy the most comforting rest.Stunning and classic French Country bed. Notice the detailing, the chippy white paint and the simple elegance without pretense.

Past The French Country Bedding

Bring other elements of the room into match the bedding and you can easily pull off the look. Airy white curtains or tablecloths – nylon sheers are comparable in density but not in their ability to let the summer breezes blow through the room. Consider lace on the windows and tables, then be sure to place white pottery vases of colorful bloom heavy flowers on top of every surface.

Personally I moved into the French Country style because it was so fresh. It was also incredible easy to transform my tired primitive and rustic pieces into this style. My chipped paint furniture stayed in the room (after getting a quick coat of white wash to brighten them up) and fresh linens, pillow coverings and rugs were added. With just a few hundred dollars (most of it spent on my gorgeous French Country bedding set), I’d nailed it and you can too.

You can find great deals on French Country bedding in the Country Store right here on GoodByeCityLife.

One Final Tip: Paint the Walls to Match Your Bedding

If you have the time and drywall on your walls – I don’t as we’re currently in a log home but the walls have a pickled white finish – I strongly suggest to get your bedding first and then choosing a color from the quilt, paint your walls. Turn down the hue if your French Country sheet set is a two-tone toile just don’t make it too sweet and pastel. Remember you’re going for a sun-drenched and faded hue. If you’ve taken a color from your bed set you’ll have a room that looks as planned and perfect as a true French Country decorator ever could have planned for you. Paint is truly one of the easiest ways to update a room and it is the least expensive way to change the look of a space. For the cost of a few gallons of paint and an afternoon of your time you’ll be able to wake each morning to a pretty little French country cottage setting.

Examples…

This room almost made it to my house. It is very close to the sun-inspired French Country but the furnishings, the bed skirt and the curtains are all wrong. However the pattern and the weight of the quilt are perfect. If you want to see more from this line, it is showcased online. Sunny yellows of French country bedding. This is that rich patterned tone of French Country but the rest of the rooms' accessories are all wrong.

The first room you saw at the top of this page is mine. Take note of the patterned quilt, the natural look flooring, the painted white bed frame and my one painted wall in a French Country bedding inspired, yellow.

This bed was my second choice as it has the chippy white paint texture that I love so much. You can buy all this stuff at here and you don’t even need to lug it all home as they deliver nearly everything fast and free – even furniture. The only trouble is in finding what you want as they don’t keep their decor items categorized by themes so you’ll need to look for white bed, toile, natural, and so on. Failing that, you will find some gorgeous French Country bedding, curtains and art in the Country Store right here on GoodByeCityLife!

Home Decor Basics: Paint

frenchcountryyellow

If you’ve never painted a wall in the past you may be quickly confused upon entering a modern paint store. Gallons of paint, treatments and finishes line the shelves without much explanation of why you’d choose on can over the next.

Take heart! There are just a few basics to consider when choosing the right paint for your home decor task you’ve begun. Paint is, simply put, a mixture of pigment, resin and a carrier agent. In general, the main (white or eggshell) pigment is the base of which small amounts of other pigments are added to obtain your chosen color.

Warm yellow paint treatment.Resin is what makes paint adhere to your wall, furniture or other surface. The carrier is the evaporative liquid that is included in the bulk of the mixture that allows you to brush or roll on the surface for an even finish. Water is the primary agent in latex paints and solvents for oil or alkyd paints. In smaller quantities, paint also contains clay or other inert ingredients used to adjust a paint’s sheen.

Past the basic ingredients, the quantity of titanium dioxide and other additives define the paint’s characteristics, quality and price.

Latex or Oil/Alkyd for Home Decor

What’s the difference?

Up until a few years ago, the first question you’d be asked at the paint store (once you chose your color) is whether you’d like to use latex or oil. For years oil (aka alkyd or solvent-based) paints were favored for trim, woodwork, most exterior and some interior surfaces for the reason that they flow uniformly, are long lasting and mold resistant. Solvent paints have excellent leveling characteristics and adhere well particularly to poorly-prepared or chalky surfaces. They even give a tough, hard-shell finish, and most of the exterior alkyds can be utilized in sub-freezing conditions. These finish looks must be considered when attempting DIY home decor.

In the last few years however, the change in paints is extreme. Very seldom would you choose oil paints today as many state and federal air-quality laws are clamping down on their use and the latex paints have developed well enough to manage all household needs. The problem, environmentally, with solvent-based paints is that they contain high concentration of mineral spirits that evaporate into the air as volatile organic compounds resulting in air pollution.

Many experts say that solvent paints that comply with ‘green’ standards don’t really have advantages over the water-based paints as they dry slower and are more difficult to apply and clean up after, not to mention that they cost 50-100% more than latex.

Choosing Between Alkyd-Modified, Vinyl-Acrylic, or Acrylic Paint

Latex paints are not all the same. The first known latex paints were named after their synthetic ‘latex’ rubber base but the synthetic rubber is not used today. Stating ‘latex’ at the paint store could refer to all and any water-borne paint. Within the latex category you will have three more decisions to make: vinyl-acrylic, 100 percent acrylic, or alkyd-modified latex.

The best option? Well, vinyl-acrylic latex is the least costly of the three and is considered appropriate for most interior walls and some short-durability exterior uses. Best known high performance interior paints are 100 percent acrylic and cost a little more. Many home decorators claim that 100% acrylic has better color retention and better adhesion than any of the types. Finally, in exterior paints, use either 100 percent acrylic or alkyd-modified latex. Although both of these types are excellent if house siding was previously painted with an alkyd or is chalking, alkyd-modified latex is preferred. It has been said that the alkyd-modified latex does an excellent job of penetrating and anchoring the coating on a chalky surface.