Last week we talked about the REAL French country kitchen: unfitted, un-fussy, centered around a farm table and cozy as can be. It’s likely to be a small and practical kitchen, just for the family, not a showcase for guests. As promised, we’re following up with some American style French country kitchens.
Americans entertain in an entirely different manner from the French. In the States, a kitchen is a gathering place for guests. Everyone gravitates to the kitchen, and meals are informal and often served family style. This almost never happens in France, where meals are sit-down affairs with multiple courses. Even when meals are casual in France, there is a certain structure to them, and there’s a zero chance that you’re going to perch on a stool or on a sofa with a plate on your lap.
Perhaps this difference in lifestyle is the reason for the slick American kitchens, dazzling in their surfaces and details and frequently wide open to the main living space, or at least to the dining room. Still, Americans are fond of French style, so they’ve adopted some of the best features of French kitchens and made them their own.
The current trend in American kitchens, country French and otherwise, is to have fitted wooden base cabinets but to abandon the overheads for open shelving or a bank of windows, as they do in Europe. The Country French styled ones often have a massive stone or plaster range hood as the focus of the room, which is reminiscent of a French fireplace.
Americans will rarely give up their islands, though (or a nice big peninsula), a feature which seems uniquely American and a must-have, if one has the space.
In the photos, I’ve featured one hybrid Franco-American kitchen: my own. Well, two of them actually: the one I had in Charleston before we moved, and the one we have now in France. Both are more American than French, though my current French kitchen was once an old barn, so it has old stone walls. And though I’ve got a farm table in the center instead of an island, I couldn’t part with my overhead cabinets. The French would call it an “American kitchen” for sure.
I’ve also included two kitchens, also European in style, of a couple of American friends with fabulous taste.
Photos above, and below:
In my own French kitchen, I went with fitted cabinets but I used old armoire doors for the pantry, as a nod to the unfitted look. The table in the center is definitely a French feature. The range hood is simple, we made it out of sheetrock but banded it in pine. On it I hung an old plaster piece I found in Beaune. (This kitchen appeared in Better Homes & Gardens Kitchens and Baths Magazine).
Below is my former Charleston kitchen. It’s a bit European, with its antique glazed cabinets , French chandelier, and hanging copper pots. But it’s open to the family room and fitted all the way—definitely a gathering place. (This kitchen appeared in Renovation Style).
My friend Darlene’s beautiful kitchen in Charleston is fitted and has a peninsula, but she fashioned a backsplash from tiles she hand-carried from a trip to Italy, and she used a small French butcher block as her island, plus her lantern and confit jars were brought over from France. Her kitchen is wide open to her dining and family room, in the American way. (Darlene’s kitchen appeared in Traditional Home).
Alix Rico is an American interior designer living in France (and New Orleans). The setting is an old French house, Provençal, and so is the look, which she has nailed. Love those beautiful windows and curtains, and the plaster range hood which is true to the look of a French fireplace. (This kitchen was featured in Country French).
No farm table in Alix's kitchen, but isn't this the most charming little area for a un petit déjeuner à deux that you've ever seen?
Do you have a "French country kitchen", or a favorite photo of one? Please share!
All photos are by Gordon Beall for Meredith Publishing.
In the COMMENTS: Jo Ellen, you have a mélange kitchen too, would love to see it. Susan has affirmed my French kitchen theories: "I'm glad someone finally put this whole kitchen thing to right!" (You must visit Susan's lovely blog on French life, Our French Oasis). Kiki, you nailed the description too. Patricia, I'll bet you were surprised to see your kitchen, which I love! Natalia, vive la difference is right, and, as Salve says, there is real heart in a French kitchen. Paula, what a story! Now I want to know what's under that door.
Favorite Reads: Don't you love an old-fashioned book shop? Well, if you've ever coveted being the proprietor of one, do I have a deal for you! In Valbonne, one of my very favorite towns in the south of France, Lin Wolff is an American who has run a charming little English bookstore there for years, which I have happily visited. And now she's selling. Interested? You can get in touch with her here.
And speaking of books, one of our longtime loyal readers and contributors, Herm Meyer, is a poet whose website we have mentioned several times, so you may have visited it. Now Herm has collected his poems and photos into a book. The photo at right shows Herm at a book signing. Do check out his lovely book, Pic-poems and Stuff.