Why do the French tend to favour shades of brown in interior and exterior decoration?
I try not to generalise here, and it may not be the case so much these days, but if any of you out there have viewed older houses in France that haven’t been updated for a few decades, I am fairly sure that you will have spotted a bit of a “brown” theme going on.
Take for example our lovely hovel on the left .
Apart from the old peeling brown paint on the shutters and doors, we had wood with dark brown varnish everywhere, including brown wooden panelled ceilings.
The “newer” doors had that awful brown sapele finish , there was brown glass in the internal garage door, brown patterned wallpaper in the kitchen and sitting room and on some of the doors- and brown varnished wood floors throughout. All the window frames were stained dark brown.
Almost all the old houses we viewed on our buying trip had the same colour scheme.Whilst this can look cosy and charming by firelight accessorised with lace and crochet and traditional French fabrics, it is all too dark and depressing for me.
I am fighting a battle with my partner and our friend Chris the carpenter who has visited the house and thinks we should keep all the wood as wood, with just a whisper of varnish or wax but the fact is that everything needs lightening up.
French houses do not generally have large windows and a dark frame and shutters will affect the way the light comes into any room even when via more generously sized & glazed French windows .
The best way to demonstrate the power of paint on all these surfaces is to look at the change we have brought about in the terrace bedroom. Starting with the expanse of tongue & groove boarded ceiling-
below left- the room, photographed first week of September and prior to painting (with light on!) and right , third week of September AFTER painting (and without artificial illumination!)
The dark wood window frame really jumps out now, and not in a good way! I don’t want to paint the good hand made hardwood windows so I am going to try limewaxing, to keep the grain but lighten the look.This has worked really well on the terrace room floor and as a bonus, the wax finish performed above and beyond the call of duty when a leak from the roof gradually soaked the bedside rug over the winter when we weren’t there. I lifted the sodden, mouldy rug expecting a ruined floor, but it seems fine and has dried out perfectly-All hail Liberon liming wax!!