He Loves The Phony French Country Kitchens

I received this email recently regarding French Country Kitchens:

I will respond to the email like this.


Sorry, Ms. Bern


Uh oh.


But your article on 12 kitchen trends was impossibly subjective!


(I believe this post no longer exists.)



The ornate French Country kitchens you had disdain for were spectacular, and there was not a square foot that wasn’t visually beautiful.



Sure, if you like miles and miles of tumbled marble, brown granite, fake antiquing, over-the-top-badly proportioned carving, cabinets of varying heights and depths for no apparent reason, exaggerated ogee edges on the counters. In some cases, too many disparate materials.


It’s a matter of taste.

The simple “French Provencal” example was charming, too, and both styles should be appreciated. Designers think they have re-invented the wheel with the white shaker cabinets, white marble top trend. 10 years before; it was all about dark cabinets and granite countertops, which are now looked upon with disdain. What’s next?


Hold on, just a second. I would prefer not to be lumped with “designers.” I have a great appreciation for different styles of cabinetry and finishes.


I’ve done real estate speculating on houses for 35 years and seen it all come and go and come and go.

My last purchase was a deck house from the mid-seventies. The cabinets were in a dark, flush mahogany design with staple-shaped, stainless steel pulls. The cabinets stayed; the only change was replacing the orange Formica countertop with white Silestone.

I wasn’t going to be coerced into the new mantra of “Granite or go home.” It paid off. By the mid-twenty-first century, ignorant young buyers will point to anything brass and utter “Gold…I hate gold.”


I only liked granite for about three years, from 1988 – 1991, and after that, no more!
However, earlier on, you stated that every square foot of the [phony French kitchens] is visually beautiful. However, all of these beauties have granite countertops that neither of us cares for.


Never mind that brass has been around since the time of the pharaohs.


Yes, of course.


The metal was an affront to their ‘refreshing,’ newly formed opinions of what was right or wrong.

Now ‘gold’ is back, reinterpreted in a softer finish to save decorating-trend-sheep– Sorry, I mean’t savvy followers!- from lapsing into PTSD convulsions.


Oh, stop being a d*ckhead!


It’s gotten pretty silly, or maybe as I get older, the decades fly by, blurring into a moment of short-term memory loss in home buyers.


Sorry, you lost me completely.


And don’t get me started on open-plan living where every dirty pot and pan is on view for the guest’s admiration.


No, please keep going. I couldn’t agree with you more on that one. 


I mean, why trouble yourself with high-end materials if everything is going to be splattered with spaghetti sauce?




BTW, GOLD has never gone well with gray, no matter how you finish it. Other than that, your website is visually very informative and appealing.




Gold doesn’t go with gray? Well, don’t tell that to Robert Adam.





Unfortunately, it sounds like Rob missed the point of that post which talks about my philosophy of kitchens and design as a whole.


Aside from Rob’s pedantic diatribe beginning with French Country Kitchens and much more, I stumbled and fell over this one.


It is not a matter of taste; it’s a matter of authenticity. Big dif.


While taste does come into play, my point was that these kitchens are not French Country. It is fine to like them. However, they are French Country Kitchens, like saying Cool Whip is the same as home-made whipped cream.

However, Rob (not Robert Adam) is not alone. Over the years, in my design practice, I found it to be one of the most misused interior design terms.


Today, I will try to answer these questions about French Country Kitchens.


  • What goes into an authentic French Country Kitchen?
  • And how is one supposed to differentiate between French country kitchens, English country kitchens, and Italian country kitchens?
  • And American country kitchens, for that matter.
  • What period of history do we need to go back to?
  • Plus, what about today? Isn’t there room for interpretation?
  • Can we mix different styles, or is that a no, no?


Well, those are all terrific questions. So, to begin, let’s go back to the 17th-19th centuries to see what French Country Kitchens looked like.


Jean-Baptiste_Siméon_Chardin_017 - 1738 woman cleaning turnips - early French Country Kitchens

Jean-Baptiste_Siméon_Chardin_017 – 1738 woman cleaning turnips


Not much to see here except a woman who looks like she’s about to dig the knife into her wrist. But fine. French Country kitchens must’ve been pretty basic.




Her feet have got to be killing her. Love the buffet! That would be in the French Country Louis XV style.





Sorry, that’s in Swedish.


I bet whatever she’s ladling into that bowl is delicious! I wish there were more to see, though. And yes, it’s not French, but, for our purposes, it doesn’t make a lot of difference.

That is because most people don’t know what French Country Kitchens are or any of the European Countries. And for the most part, they were much the same. Very bare and rustic. Kitchens were for cooking, not conversing with your guests over cocktails.


“The Cherry Girl” (1875) by Joseph Caraud (1821-1905)

“The Cherry Girl” (1875) by Joseph Caraud (1821-1905)


What a punim! It’s okay; I’m giving you permission to eat a few. No one will know. But, there’s an encaustic cement tile floor!


Joseph Bail, né à Limonest (Rhône) 1862- 1921 - "The serving Maid

Joseph Bail, né à Limonest (Rhône) 1862- 1921 – “The serving Maid.”

Ahhh.. I see a glimpse of a Country French-style armoire in the background.


Well, we’ve already been through this.


The kitchens of 100 years ago or more were utterly different than they are now.


I wonder what those maids would think if they walked in and saw this.


horrible over-the-top-ersatz-meaning-fake-french-country-kitchen


And this is why I’m talking about this subject again. (There are lots of terrific kitchens in this post).


French Country Kitchens


I can’t tell you the number of times I had a prospective client on the other end of the phone line, and I would hear, in a voice identical to Fran Drescher—


“I want a French Country Kitchen.”


OR, she wants to do the entire home in “French Country.”

Here’s the thing. If she really wants a French Country Kitchen, it might look something like the kitchen below.


Above and Below, from The Bible of British Taste

Okay, these are English, not French, but when it comes to European country kitchens, there isn’t a significant difference between countries.


Domenica More Gordon, an artist’s house in Scotland. | Bible of British Taste-corner cabinet -bowl collection


However, we all know that my Westchester housewife, on the other end of a landline phone, would rather bungee jump with a frayed cord down a 200-foot cliff than have a new kitchen that looks like this. ;]


ersatz French Country Kitchen

She wants a kitchen like the one above. But, since this type of kitchen is not something I’m incapable of doing, I gracefully bow out.

By the way, Ruth Guilding’s blog, the Bible of British Taste, should be required weekly reading for all Americans starting the day they begin eating solid food.

So, Laurel… Are you saying that French Country Kitchens means that you need to make a big bloody mess and have all of your shit stuff lying around?


No, French Country Kitchens doesn’t mean you need to have everything out, but that’s a lot closer to authentic Country French Kitchens than some plastic, fake, disproportionate, carved-up-the-wazoo design masquerading as something it’s not.

It’s not anything– except bad design.

And Rob, I am not sorry! It is NOT a matter of taste.


There is good design and bad design.


But not all good design is to my liking. That, is a matter of taste.

However, all lousy design is subjecting itself to my intense scrutiny and ridicule. That is because I am aiming to rid the world of BAD DESIGN.

Do some people disagree with my categorization of good and bad design?

Yes, absolutely, and I am totally fine with that.


The point is that Americans, in particular, have become so imbued with the false, faux (the lousy kind of fake) we don’t always know what is good design and what isn’t.


In truth, I have done a lot of thinking about timeless elements vs. what’s on-trend. Sometimes a classic element is on-trend, but because it becomes so overdone, the saturation alone can make it feel tiresome after a while. However, that is a different blog post.

By the way, not all English people like having all their stuff out. In fact, from what I observed when I was there last October, most of them are pretty tidy. However, they also knew that 30 American designers and architects were about to descend on their home.


Well, where does that leave us, Laurel?


That’s an excellent question.


I think that we Americans need to loosen up and 86 (get rid of) some or all of the upper cabinets IF the kitchen is large enough, and we can eliminate some counter space. Floor-to-ceiling cabinets are great. Pantries are too. There WILL be enough storage. In fact, MORE storage if we can stop the copious number of counters. This kitchen will be easier to keep clean too! (for great kitchen storage ideas, click here)


But let’s call it a French or English “inspired” kitchen, perhaps.


And if you like the word country, because it sounds more charming, then sure. Call it whatever you want. French Country, English Country, Italian Country, Botswana Country. I don’t care.

Love is love, and Country is Country!


Below are some things that your French Country inspired kitchen might have. But really, there are no hard and fast rules.



photograph-Simon-Watson- via Architectural Digest - French-Country-Kitchen-with-French-Limestone

Photo by Simon Watson – Kitchen belonging to Frederic Fekkai.


If, I had to say what the quintessential French Country kitchen looked like, this would be it.


But this is not going to fly with most Americans. They will think that it’s too rough and dirty looking.

But hey, it’s the COUNTRY.


photograph - Simon Watson French Country Kitchen with French Limestone - French Country Kitchens

Maison Creative

This is another one that embodies the feeling of an authentic 21st-century French Country Kitchen.


Sharon Santoni

And this one too.


photo: Benjamin Edwards Neptune Kitchens - Country French Kitchens

photo: Benjamin Edwards for Neptune Kitchens

This might be more English, but I love the juxtaposition of materials. I wonder what the rest looks like.


Photo- Oberto Gili -peregalli-saint-moritz-switzerland - french country kitchens

Photo-Oberto-Gili-Design- Studio Peregalli

This one is like stepping into Provence.


Architecture-Bobby McAlpine - Interior Design-Ray Booth - photo - Peter Estersohn-dramatic - Country French inspired kitchen - la cornue range - iron windows doors

Bobby McAlpine and Ray Booth

I’ve long been a fan of Bobby McAlpine and associates. If you are too or think you might be, click here for more.


Above and below Sacris Design

French Country kitchens don’t have to be rustic and dirty. Although, I would say this is more of a contemporary kitchen that I could see in a country or suburban home. However, it could also work in an older home in a city.


Love this fresh kitchen pantry with Raphael Wallpaper by Sandberg.

You may have remembered the Raphael wallpaper in the green colorway in this kitchen I helped design about three years ago.


Jeannette-Whitson linen-skirting-counter-French Country Kitchen inspired

Jeannette Whitson

We were talking about Jeannette Whitson’s fantastic kitchen. Remember, she’s the incredibly talented designer who said, “Kitchens are my gateway drug.” haha, I love that! This is a different one.


Minnie Peters Modern French Country kitchens

Minnie Peters

Minnie is another fantastic designer. I adore her work! Please check out her website at the link above.


Neptune kitchen - contemporary French Country kitchen
This last kitchen by Neptune Kitchens to me embodies the spirit of the contemporary French Country Kitchen. It is beautifully proportioned, airy, highly functional, sleek, easy-on-the-eyes.


And, I dare say that if a French maid from the 19th century walked in…

She would say… “Vraiment Cool!”







PS: The Serena and Lily 20% off sitewide sale continues. Please check it out and the rest of the newly updated HOT SALES here.


The news is below.

Oh, man, that Neptune kitchen reminded me I have something to show you regarding my new kitchen.


I read all of your fantastic comments. They were phenomenally helpful. Thank you so much! I’m not going to say anything else here, but if you are interested, I’ve posted a new rendering showing the final kitchen design. (please click here). I am 1000% in love with it!


Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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