You don't need a decorating authority to tell you that a room with whitewashed walls, unpolished terra-cotta floors, blue-and-white tiles and an antique walnut armoire is a country-French-style room.
This rustic, traditional style is one of the most popular looks currently. Consequently, you'll find many reproductions in the marketplace to help you achieve it, says Pierre Moulin, co-author of "Pierre Deux's French Country."
A principal of Pierre Deux, the New York antiques firm that helped popularize the style, Moulin says the French-country look is more an overall feeling than any single specific group of furnishings.
However, he says, some of these elements in antiques or reproductions help to create a French-country room:
--An armoire--often as tall as 10 feet--was often part of a bride's dowry and was passed down from one generation to another. Today, armoires are used to store a great variety of belongings, such as clothing, linens, home entertainment equipment, dinnerware and bar ware. Armoires look great in virtually any room, especially the living area, dining room and bedroom.
French armoires are usually walnut or cherry and often feature carvings of flowers, wheat or vine leaves. Some of the prettiest armoires, however, have painted finishes.
--Dining chairs in country-French rooms are rustic and simple. Rush seats are typical, but cane and ladder backs are also used.
--Appropriate French-country beds include canopy beds, beds with panel headboards and day beds. A white-mesh, draped-metal framed bed with a canopy frame that comes to a center point is a romantic treatment. Most country bedrooms were quite simple, with a minimum of possessions and accessories on display.
--Country-French fabrics emphasize natural fibers. Good choices include vividly colored Provencal prints, plaids and tapestries, and toile de Jouy scenes in white with black, red, green or blue can be used both as upholstery and to line walls.
If you're stuck for a color scheme or fabric choice, look at the provincial paintings of Cezanne and Van Gogh to get some ideas.
Here are some additional decorating suggestions from Michael Delgaudio, fashion director of Henredon Furniture:
Paint the walls white. A stucco finish is ideal because it provides a rustic feeling.
Terra-cotta tile, bare wood planking or sisal matting are all appropriate choices for floors. If you like the look of tile, but don't want to install it, try painting the floor with a blue and white trompe l'oeil tile pattern.
Arrange furniture symmetrically and use pairs of furniture and accessories to create a strong feeling of balance. For example, place the same model of console table or chairs at either side of a door or sofa. Place two candlesticks on a mantel.
Emphasize accessories such as pewter, glazed and unglazed ceramic pieces, copper pots, straw baskets, dried flowers. For fresh flowers, favor potted geraniums and bunches of daisies, and hang pictures a little higher than normal.
Arrange the interior of armoires attractively so you can leave them open. Line them with French fabric, as housewives did in Provence. Keep window treatments simple; lace panels are appropriate.