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Secrets of the French country boudoir - March 2019

The key to creating a French country bedroom is to keep it clean and simple, says Courtney Allison

Layers of soft linens in whites and neutrals, gilded and painted antiques, and an admittedly over-the-top chandelier give our bedroom a romantic French country cottage atmosphere.

We built our bedroom as an addition to the original cottage about ten years ago. Adding on to a vintage home while keeping the original look has challenges, so we focused on a few of the original and easy to re-create elements to blend it seamlessly: corner windows, wood plank walls, and matte hardwood flooring.

Over the years, my style has shifted toward what is more serene and restful
for the eye. Where I once loved layer upon layer of patterns and colours in a room, I now crave the peaceful, elegant feeling that comes from tone-on-tone neutrals. As such, the bedroom has changed to reflect a lighter feeling.

I fell in love with the simple lines of this reproduction Swedish country-style bed the first time I saw it. While the chippy paint and oyster-colored linen fabric set a neutral tone, the canopy frame indulges the side of me that loves elegance and reminds me of my first canopy bed at age five. I leave the frame uncovered – simply enjoying the dainty lines, beautiful carvings, and wood – which also makes the bed feel lighter and more grown-up.

The bedroom design started off very much French Country. I craved colour and pattern at that time, and we started with yellow paint on the walls whose eventual shade was the result of no less than five remixes to dull the glaring neon tone that kept coming through. That buttery yellow became a perfect backdrop for one of my signature pieces: a bold red-and-white buffalo-check second-hand sofa that I reupholstered.

That sofa has been moved from the foot of the bed, where it felt a bit too large for the dainty lines of the bed, near to the bedroom fireplace, and though it is probably the boldest colour in the room, it is a favourite piece even now.


The nightstands in the bedroom are a good example of mix and mingle without a match. They are not the same style, era, or finish. One is more elegant and detailed with gilding, and the other more simple with details covered by a coat of paint. Even in their different looks and styles, they balance each other and work well together – much like a marriage.

Hers – A 1930s French commode serves as my nightstand. This was a happy accidental find. I had contacted a seller on Craigslist about the buffet deux corps in the living room and set up a time to take a look at it. When my husband and I arrived, she opened a garage door to reveal the inside chock-full of chairs, dressers, mirrors, and more, all French- and European-style antiques.

When I spotted this French commode with faux-marble top, pale yellow paint, and gilded details, I knew it was perfect and we loaded it up, along with quite a few other pieces. Various flowers, stacks of decorating books, and this and that seem to land
here often.

His – My husband’s nightstand is a simple antique chest of drawers. It has a muted color and subtle carvings, and this chest provides a large amount of storage for his various treasures.

In contrast to my side of the bed, this chest is compact, with clean lines and, on the top, just a lamp, a stack of old but interesting books, and a clay dish the kids made for all his papers and pocket bits. I was lucky to find a man who couldn’t care less about the style and girly aspects of the house.


Books are one of those things that I have on repeat and use everywhere for stylings. I have bought paper bags full of old books from church sales, thrift stores and tag sales. Less important are the age, title or subject on some, as sometimes it is merely the look and feel of those pieces of history.

I once carted home a collection of old building code books from a yard sale – all twenty-seven of them. They had the most delicious pale green pages and old leather covers; though I knew the amount of them alone was going to be hard to get into my suitcase, I couldn’t leave them behind.

Aside from the shoulder ache that remains even now, when I think about carrying them in my carry-on bag – those books are an enjoyable reminder of the sale and that summer.

I have filled several bookcases in the house chock-full of old books. For unity, I will sometimes wrap the ones with more colorful covers in plain paper and write the title in pencil or turn them backwards for a cleaner look, letting the ruffled pages be the focus.


From chunky blankets and stacks of willow baskets washed in a perfect shade of grey to that subtle texture of linen on pillows and upholstery, texture plays a big part in the way my style comes together and creates a look.

Texture brings a certain warmth and a comfortable feeling to any space. It adds detail without being overwhelming in color or adding a too-busy, cluttered feeling. And in a room where you layer neutrals and soft colors, something like a simple woven basket can be a delightful addition.


I am a huge linen-loving girl. I have an armoire in my guest bedroom full of folded linens, a closet in the hall with quilts and blankets, and baskets with extras just waiting to be layered on the beds. I also have fabrics I have collected over the years that have the colour, pattern, or style that I love and that wait for the perfect project to be used.

I like a mix of simple, plain linens dotted with old romantic faded florals and French tickings. My favourites are those with shades of white, oatmeals, old washed grays and faded florals, and simple patterns in the softest of colours.

Extracted from French Country Cottage by Courtney Allison, published by Gibbs Smith. Available to buy from

Get the look

With cunning French high street and online purchases, you can mimic Courtney’s chic and simple country look ... Prices and availability correct at time of going to press.

Bedside manner

If you cannot find the right antique chest of drawers at a brocante or antiques shop, a modern take with solid oak does the job.
Price €419.90, part of the Robin des Bois range from

Loving the layers

If you prefer the layered look using new linen rather than vintage, this duvet cover (housse de couette) in washed linen from Zara Home starts at €69.99, with pillow case sets (taie d’oreiller) from €35.99.

Night light

Enjoy your bedtime reading in truly relaxed country-style with this simple lampe à poser, which adds a touch of gilded elegance.
Dimensions: 30x61cm, price €31.79 from

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