"Becoming Madame: French Kitchens – The Inside Scoop"

Becoming Madame: The inside scoop on French kitchens

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A collection of design tips for creating a quintessential French kitchen in your own home.

I had a delightful request for some information about French kitchens from a reader. Originally my idea for this post was to scour the houses and apartments of my families and friends in Paris and throughout France in order to do a truly thorough and realistic post. I was a little too ambitious. It would take a couple of months for me to invite myself to all these people's houses and take the right pictures to put it all together. I decided to err on the side of efficiency, and most pictures are courtesy of www.remodelingmyspace.com and www.thekitchendesigner.org. Throughout this post are pictures I've been able to find that actually look like the French kitchens I know and love.

Having said that, I have tons to say about French kitchens. In fact, my mother did a kitchen renovation a few years back (I've included a few pictures in this post also), and it is from my belle-mère country kitchen in Dordogne that she derived her inspiration. I do believe that type of country kitchen is the most beautiful, quintessentially French kitchen I've ever seen, anywhere.

Becoming Madame: French Kitchens – The Inside ScoopBecoming Madame: French Kitchens – The Inside Scoop

I must mention that my tastes are completely classic and perhaps even low-tech in the sense that I would much rather have an old wood plank table as an island than the sophisticated space-odyssey-type productions I see when I'm visiting friends back home. Those modern designs are also very popular in France, particularly with the younger generations or Parisians (as a matter of space), anyone who shops at IKEA, or anyone who grew up with tradition breathing down their neck and wants to make a drastic split from their past. I'm neither of those things. In fact, I'd rather like to live back when carriages ruled the roads, ladies wore long dresses (hold the corset) and gentlemen were in tails and top hats; when we dressed for dinner at home...

But I'm getting away from my point... French kitchens!

When I first moved to France, some of my very first impressions were about French kitchens, oddly enough. These have since been elaborated upon by my introduction into an old traditional French family and all the French kitchens that came along with them. So when I speak of a French kitchen I speak of the old traditional French kitchens to which I'm privy. When the time comes for me to renovate my own French kitchen, these are the rules upon which I'll absolutely rely:

 

  • French kitchens have doors and are closed to the rest of the house; open concept kitchens are called cuisines américaines in France.
  • Because so few French families have a washer and dryer (the French hang dry their clothes for the most part), their washing machine, or in some cases their two-in-one machine, is in the kitchen.
  • French kitchens have large French doors, or French windows, that open wide with no screens.
  • French kitchens host big pieces of furniture as their cupboards: large buffets, wood tables, or long wood work tables, for example.
  • French kitchens flaunt a great deal of wood.
Becoming Madame: French Kitchens – The Inside Scoop
  • French kitchens boast large stone, parquet or terracotta floors.
  • French kitchens have very often mustard yellow or cream coloured walls of a thick stucco texture (because here the calls are a metre or more wide!).
  • French kitchens have high ceilings.
  • Exposed thick wooden beams in the ceiling are quite common.
  • French kitchens almost always have a breakfast table in one corner or another.
  • A large stand-along stove with a hood is a given, such as a Lacanche or a Cornue.
Becoming Madame: French Kitchens – The Inside Scoop
  • French kitchens have flowing drapes.
  • In fact, French kitchens go hand in hand with linen: think tablecloths, napkins, and drapery.
  • French kitchens use a long, old, wooden, planked table as an island
  • French kitchens have a wrought-iron light fixture or pot rack hanging from the ceiling with copper pots suspended.
  • French kitchens put their dishes on display.
  • French kitchens have a basket of straw laid out on a shelf where the eggs are kept.
  • A rooster is almost always present in some form or another.
  • French kitchens have large sinks – porcelain, trough-style or stone.
  • French kitchens have a large pantry and/or an entrance to the wine cellar/cold storage.
  • Unless absolutely impossible, French kitchens love a fireplace.
    Becoming Madame: French Kitchens – The Inside Scoop
    Very traditional or maybe just old. What I love is the wood and copper.
  • French kitchens have fresh herbs growing in the window or just outside the door.
  •  
    You'll find antique objects like an ancient balance or what looks like your grandmothers cooper pot for preserves.
  • French kitchens have nooks and crannies; small places where the phone sits or a chair or a little table just for grandma's cookbooks.
  • French kitchens are very likely to harbour a close affiliation with sunshine/natural light.
  • And finally, French kitchens feel rather bare without fresh-cut flowers and bowls of fruit on the counter.
Becoming Madame: French Kitchens – The Inside Scoop

 

 


Reprinted with permission of Becoming Madame.

Becoming MadameBorn south of the Mason Dixon line, Becoming Madame is a North American attorney, writer and professor living in Paris with her French husband. Since moving to France six years ago, she has learnt fluent French and now teaches law at the Université de Paris to French students. She writes and runs the blog Becoming Madame, which provides an inside peek into real life in the French capital – les marchés, Soldes, boulangeries, cafés, French cooking, traditions and living as an expat.

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5 Comments To This Article

  • Lisa Morel posted:

    on 17th July 2013, 19:42:18 - Reply

    You forgot to say that French kitchens lack counter space, simply because French women (or men) have always prepared food on the kitchen table ! A French kitchen may have counters on top of the lower cupboards, but invariably, there will be a potted plant or some other decorative object (a rooster.....) smack in the middle. Counters in France are just for displaying decorations. The kitchen table is where all the peeling, chopping and mixing happens !
  • El Med posted:

    on 17th July 2013, 17:21:19 - Reply

    I am afraid this person has never set foot in a modest Parisian apartment. The "French kitchens" I know bear no resemblance to those described.
  • Tica posted:

    on 17th July 2013, 17:16:58 - Reply

    Hi David,
    I have lived in France for over twenty five years. A blog reader of mine told me to read your post since we are renovating our apartment in Paris. I must agree with the three commenters above me... I have never seen a kitchen like the ones you have mentioned. I know you live in France, but very few of your kitchen details do.
  • Kris posted:

    on 17th July 2013, 16:06:25 - Reply

    I too live in France and all the kitchens pictured are at least twice the size of any kitchens in the houses I have visited. I do have a fireplace which I can use for cooking and would love a Cornue if only I had enough room for one. I have a table too, big enough for four. My friend has a large kitchen with a table in the middle and a picture of a Rooster, a tiled floor and is more rustic than most. She does live in France, but she is English. Another friend whose husband is a cook and can turn out some very special meals has a kitchen the size of the average cupboard.
  • Phil in France posted:

    on 17th July 2013, 11:44:06 - Reply

    With very few exceptions, these only apply if you happen to live in a house that cost you several million euros. 'real' french kitchens look nothing like the photos you've posted. Source: I live in France, and I have a kitchen, and I have friends with kitchens. [Edited by moderator]