French kitchen style runs the gamut from distinctively traditional and quite formal to playful and a bit rustic, but it is always characterized by natural materials, color, function and a mood that invites family togetherness. It is a wonderful, comfortable style for a Chicagoland remodel.
French Kitchens Set a High Standard
French influence on kitchen design is hard to mistake and impossible to ignore. There is a distinctive charm and informality inherent in French design that is never contrived, but is also singularly logical and functional. French cuisine, at its best, is simple rather than fussy, elegant without being stuffy, beautiful to look at and even better to consume. That’s the way a French kitchen should be — comfortable and easy on the eyes, but with all the necessary gear and implements close at hand and ready to use.
It’s a tall order, but if you dream of incorporating that French aesthetic into your own kitchen, here are some ways to do it right.
Furniture Quality Cabinets
Wood is the material of choice for cabinets in a French-style kitchen, although they may be painted, stained light or dark, or sport an antique finish. Maple and cherry have a high-end appeal, while oak may be either formal in design or tend toward country casual. French-style cabinets tend to have curves and raised panels, and may sport custom details like legs and curved drawer fronts. Free-standing armoires designed for custom storage are popular; and upper cabinets often feature lighted interiors with glass-paneled doors.
Casually Elegant or Playfully Country
French provincial is more playful, often with painted finishes, and country French sometimes features open shelving, cabinet doors with fabric or or chicken wire inserts, and distressed weather finishes. Even this informal version of French, however, relies on details to make a statement. Crown moulding is common and is sometimes in a contrasting color or finish. Hardware is also an important element, frequently with scrolled backplates or elaborate escutcheons rather than simple knobs and pulls.
Countertops and flooring in French style kitchens are also typically natural materials, either wood or stone. Countertops can be granite, marble, travertine or wood, and are often used to provide distinctive contrast. Dark or black granite counters and a dark wood floor, for example, would pair beautifully with light-toned maple or white-painted cabinets. Classic grey-veined Carrara marble is quintessentially French when paired with elegant dark cherry cabinets, a terrazzo floor and brass hardware.
All the conveniences
Design your French kitchen for real use. French chefs need space as well as convenience. Consider a large range with two or three ovens. A separate cooktop with a built-in grill or griddle offers additional options. Choose a large single-bowl or two-compartment sink for cleanup duty, with another one or two-bowl sink for food prep.
Depending on your personal preferences, you might select a single large refrigerator-freezer, or place under-counter refrigeration with point-of-use accessibility for baking or making salads. Disguise the look of modern kitchen appliances by adding cabinet panels to refrigerators and dishwashers. Exhaust hoods may also sport wood panels, corbels, niches and decorative trim, in keeping with the kitchen theme.
Spacious Design — Open Plan Layouts
French style is welcoming: Large islands or peninsula counters with seating for family members and guests are a prominent feature of many French designs; dining tables and china hutches are also frequently incorporated into large kitchen design. But even a smaller kitchen can be French in character! It’s more a matter of spirit than of size. The cultural appeal of food and family dining is apparent in French design — and preparing the food is often a family affair! And who wants to hide a beautiful kitchen?
Colorful Accessories, Artwork and Light Fixtures
Pattern and color are important. Small scale prints or gingham fabric add French flair; traditional toile or stylized chickens, sheep or rabbits are quirky and appealing. Hang art on the walls: Pick botanical prints, historical renderings of herbs and spices, pastoral scenes, or oversize oils of fruit and vegetable. Add graphic interest with old shop signs or buy reproduction French “butcher shop” animal sculpture for a unique touch.
Display utensils in pottery jugs and stack table linen in wicker baskets. Keep shiny copper cookware handy and display favorite cookbooks on the counter. Set an antique scale or old egg basket on the counter just for fun. Keep liquid soap and cooking oil handy in distinctive corked wine bottles or decanters. Hang a chalkboard or paint your pantry door with chalkboard paint to keep your grocery list handy; or use it to post the menu for a dinner party!
Your French kitchen can be every bit as stylish and functional as your living room — and it should reflect the way your family lives. For help designing your new French Kitchen, make an appointment with the design professionals at The Kitchen Master. If you want to incorporate the best of French design into your suburban Chicago kitchen remodel, we’d love to lend a hand!