French Country Kitchen Design

Don’t let a narrow or cumbersome area discourage you from achieving your kitchen design dreams. No matter how challenging your kitchen’s layout or size, you can still grace it with a design that’s functional and French country chic.


The new island affords plenty of workspace, but still allows for easy movement throughout the entire space. (Photo: Grey Crawford)

Awkward Island, Adieu!

Before designer Joani Stewart of Montana Avenue Interiors remodeled this kitchen, the Mediterranean-style space had a peninsula that gobbled the space between the kitchen and breakfast room. Exposed beams ran just above the upper cabinets, capping the 8-foot pitched ceiling and creating a squashed feeling. Worse still was “the shape of the room—it was very narrow,” Stewart explains. Even after getting rid of the big peninsula, planning the use of the space remained the biggest roadblock between Stewart and her client’s dream French country kitchen design.


The homeowner hand-painted the designs on the ladder-back chairs to further accentuate the French country feel. The built-in bench window seat, table and chairs provided ample seating space. (Photo: Grey Crawford)

Kitchen Cordon Bleu

After gutting the kitchen, the design team replaced the low-hanging original beams with replicated beams placed higher. Then functionality took center stage: Stewart designed an island that looks antique and also features storage accessible from both sides. She added other storage extras, such as a handy spice cabinet tucked on the side of the refrigerator cabinet. To enhance the French feel, Stewart installed a copper farm sink, a pot rack above the island, a chandelier and sconces, French-inspired cabinetry and an arched stove hood. In addition to the ceiling beams, Stewart added architectural elements like the columns and the arch over the breakfast area. The distressed, wide-beam oak flooring also lent an antique “worn” feel. But the real showstopper in this kitchen design just might be the hand-painted tile mural behind the stove. Stewart made the stone backsplash and marble countertops as low-key as possible so that nothing would upstage the stunning mural, which became the kitchen’s pièce de résistance.


The designer’s true inspiration? This custom mural, which an artist created by taking different photos from a favorite cookbook and then assembling the tiles like a mosaic. (Photo: Grey Crawford)

No matter what design you’re going for, here are some essential tips:

• Choose function. For example, make sure your cookware and kitchen tools are easily accessible when you’re working in the cooking and food-prep areas.

• Use “the triangle.” When you’re planning out a kitchen design, you must use the triangle, which forms the area connecting the kitchen’s three main spaces: cleanup, food storage and cooking. So your refrigerator/freezer (food storage), sink and dishwasher (cleanup), and stovetop and workspace (cooking) should form this triangle; the three areas should not be too far apart.

• Supply seating. Kitchens are the new living rooms in most houses today, so make sure you have enough seating space that’s open to the cooking area “to accommodate hanging around in the kitchen,” Stewart suggests. If space allows, incorporate seating at your kitchen island, as well as plenty of seating space in a breakfast area or eat-in dining table.


Written by Sarah Terry

Photography by Grey Crawford

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