Style | Considering What is meant by Provençal Design

I believe that design inspiration can be found almost anywhere. There are times when my imagination has been stirred by something so seemingly simple, like an afternoon’s walk somewhere picturesque and peaceful that gave rise to an entire colour palette I was developing. On other occasions, I look to more pronounced movements, such as Shaker; periods of history, such as the Renaissance; or the design heritage of a particular country, be it Scandinavia, Italy, France, Great Britain or parts of America. While some interior schemes fundamentally subscribe to one quintessential ‘look’, I will often blend aspects to create variation, intrigue and the most wonderful medley of inspiration. For me though, Provençal is one of the styles that I regard most highly, and love to reference in the homes that I am fortunate enough to design.

Provençal is sometimes thought of as being the aesthetic of the Provence region of France. Understandably so. But it is rather a misnomer as the term is a reference to the word provincial and is the original interpretation of French-country style. It does indeed capture the spirit of Provence, but not of Provence alone. The words that always come to mind when I think of this aesthetic are beautiful light, soft colours and textures, a feeling of contentment and ease. It encourages different sentiments to those that arise when daydreaming of British countryside. It is, for me, a different type of beauty; one imbued with romance and poetry.

A classic Provençal palette is one that uses hazy pastels. Easy whites dominate, punctuated with brushstrokes of soft sage, blush and powdered blue. Ceilings are never forgotten and are typically treated in the same dulcet shade as the walls. But these gallic-inspired interiors are not solely a softly-spoken tale, for they are built around rustic elements that might be in the form of rough-plastered walls and worn wooden floorboards. French-country interiors are superb at opening our eyes to wall alternatives, such as rendered and whitewashed finishes or painting with lime-based distempers in pale yellow ochres, blues or greens. The result is as though you’ve used a watercolour. Furniture may be in aged iron, antique and highly polished walnut (the preferred timber for Provençal style), or it may be painted – either light or bright colours – and distressed. Often, it is a combination as the result is not supposed to feel too put-together, but rather one than has grown organically and sporadically. Further, the interior is often more sparse than not; lavish decoration is instead in the realm of Ancien Régime furniture, such as Louis quinze. Most typically, straw-seated chairs, armoires, scallop-edged textiles and crisp white bed linen are seen within a provincial French home. The entire aim of a Provençal interior is to recall the atmosphere of a quiet French province and its relaxed way of living.

There are numerous smaller touches associated with Provençal style that are shared with many other aesthetics. Examples include a focus of florals, natural motifs and pleasing, natural fragrances that float from room to room. It is when these elements are combined with the hues, the textures and the materials that a true Provençal interior is achieved. Though, if what a client is seeking for is something far more subtle, far more blended, I borrow just a few ‘Provençal pointers’. They help me to create that sense of provincial ease and joie de vivre that make our homes happier, wholesome and full of heart.

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