How To Design A French Kitchen Theme

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There’s nothing quite as picturesque as a romantic lunch at an outdoor Parisian café. Unfortunately, it’s not often that you find yourself on an impromptu trip to France, but you can capture the elegance and romance of the city of light, and enjoy it from your very own kitchen.

Pick Your Theme

French design is hardly black and white. There are several themes to choose from when you’re styling a French kitchen, and each requires a different set of design elements. The most popular of these themes are:

  • French classic
  • French country
  • French modern

French classic embraces bold colors and patterns. Think of the design elements that are often incorporated in classic French cinema: a minimalist color scheme, subtle lighting, and tasteful furniture. This is a much more vintage look than the other themes, so try using reds accented with blacks and incorporate French fleur de lys symbols and traditional floral design.

A French country kitchen takes some of its design features from American country décor. This is a great theme to choose if you have a spacious kitchen with high ceilings and rafters. Restored wood, shabby chic paint, and traditional farmhouse décor will bring this concept together. Country color themes tend to include bold primary colors like cornflower blue or sunshine yellow.

French modern is about unifying several bold elements. The best way to approach this theme is by envisioning an upscale French restaurant kitchen—stainless steel appliances, sleek countertops, and careful geometric arrangement. Clean white marble is also a nice addition to a modern French kitchen.

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Spruce Up Your Walls With Parisian Prints

If there’s one design element that is consistent in Parisian design, it’s elegant simplicity. You can add a French flair to your walls without applying tacky wallpaper or over-designed paint patterns. Choose one of the following elements:

  • Wallpaper accents
  • Chair rail
  • Patterned paint

Wallpaper accents can provide the fun of wallpaper without appearing too cluttered. Try picking a section or strip of your wall to cover with a basic France-inspired wallpaper. You can also try incorporating your wallpaper into your backsplash or your cupboard faces.

Chair rails are probably the easiest way to liven up your walls. They work well with split-paint designs and are fairly easy to install.

Patterned paint might take a bit more effort, but the effects can be remarkable. Simply apply painter’s tape in the desired pattern and see what French elements you can create by hand painting.

French Décor and Dinnerware

When the time comes to choose the right type of French décor, stay subtle and true to your theme. Ceramic accent pieces and floral motifs will be great additions to any French kitchen, however, a few bold items will make a huge statement. Consider these options:

  • Chandelier
  • Floral paintings
  • Stripes and checkers on the walls or floors

It’s important to remember that bold design choices need to be accompanied by a consistent design aesthetic. Don’t get hung up on the details and forget the overall theme.

French dinnerware can carry as much weight as the food that’s being served. Traditional French bistro dinnerware can be as simple as plain white porcelain and as intricate as heavy floral patterns. Again, the key here is to stick with your theme. If you’ve opted for a Country kitchen, try mixing and matching your cups and plates for a natural feel. For modern, sleek French design, try monochromatic plates in a variety of bold colors, and even untraditional shapes. For an elegant French kitchen, stick to classic, formal dinnerware with floral patterns and gold or silver inlay.

If you have a wine collection, it’s important to have the right accessories, particularly in a French kitchen. Glassware is all about emphasizing the drink. For a basic set of glassware, you’ll need at least 2 of each of the following:

  • A red wine glass—great for Burgundy or Bordeaux, will have a wider body
  • A white wine glass—will be narrower and U-shaped, will keep contents cooler
  • A champagne glass—will be upright and narrow
  • A dessert wine glass—much smaller than average wine glasses

There are several other specific glasses for the avid connoisseur. However, even this basic knowledge of appropriate glassware will impress your guests and look great at a dinner party.

Bring The Parisian Café Home

Add the elements of a traditional Parisian restaurant to your kitchen. Create a dining space for two that emulates the romance of that outdoor Paris café you loved visiting. Choose a well-lit area (preferably below a window) to arrange your furniture and be sure to include the following:

  • A small circular table
  • Two chairs (design depending on your theme)
  • A thin, tall vase

Complement your French design with functioning elements including wrought-iron end tables, wine racks, and bistro chairs. French design often includes the use of multiple fabrics so be sure to incorporate soft cotton, lace, and even pastel-colored wool into your design. Just make sure you keep that romantic French café in mind when you decorate, cook, and host.

If executed well, French kitchens can captivate their owners and guests. The key is to pick a theme and stick with it. Centuries of design and tradition make creating a French kitchen an experience you’ll not regret.

Last Updated: December 27, 2011
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About Chanti Burnette Chanti was a freelance writer for

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