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The American version of a French country kitchen usually goes something like this: light gray cabinets, ceiling-mounted copper pots, a fancy La Cornue range, and Regency-style lanterns. But if you stepped inside a real home in, say, the Loire Valley, you’d be pressed to find these stereotypical rustic-chic details. Instead you’d discover spaces that are cozier yet practical at their core. Looking at some of our favorite French country kitchens abroad, here are 12 things we noticed (almost) all of them have in common. 

Creative Open-Storage Solutions 

It’s not unusual to situate the playroom next to the kitchen, that way you can have eyes on little ones while getting dinner ready. But photographer and artist Aurélie Lécuyer came up with a setup that pleases everyone: Her kids’ fun zone is located on a mezzanine above the kitchen, which they can access via a plaster-coated staircase that doubles as storage. It also means Lécuyer doesn’t have to drag out a step stool every time she wants to reach the highest pot. 

Knotty Woods

Sleek white oak is a popular choice in American kitchens, but this space belonging to winemakers Camille and Guillaume Boillot in France’s Burgundy region is covered in a less obvious wood: fir. The paneling, which stretches to the ceiling, emits a buttery warm glow alongside the cream resin floors. 

Lighting With Personality

A cohesive lighting plan is hard to follow when you work in the design industry like Romain and Loanah Faget, the pair who runs bespoke cabinetry and furniture studio Blomkål. The couple simply has too many ideas. So as a result, the pendant lamps that line their galley kitchen are a mix of everything from IKEA to one-of-a-kind finds from shops in their town, Angoulême.

Dining Tables That Double as Island Extensions

It’s clear stepping inside an authentic French country kitchen that when guests come over, they’re gathering here. So many homeowners make way for friends to dine in the kitchen, often with an antique dining table or, in the case of this stone farmhouse in Basque, a leaflike extension that is attached to the plaster island. 

Painted Furniture 

French country kitchens have the tendency to skew moody, mostly because of their low ceilings and small windows. To raise spirits, it only takes a can (or two) of a happy paint color. The owners of this charming home in the Périgord region gathered green, yellow, and pink and took paintbrushes to the dining chairs and crooked built-ins.  

Plate-Slash-Mug Racks 

When Véronique Powell moved back to this 18th-century mill in Charente after living on the island of Hydra, Greece, for several years, she took a few ideas back with her, including a newfound love of blue and white everything. Now she shows off her breezy dish collection with an out-in-the-open rack that also has rows of hooks for coffee mugs. 

Countertop Decor

Just because you’re accustomed to seeing table lamps on nightstands doesn’t mean one can’t live on your countertop next to your coffee machine. While the placement seems unusual, they make a kitchen feel 10 times homier—and it gets you out of paying a contractor to rip open your ceiling and install canned bulbs.

Minimalist Cooktops 

Interior designer Ludivine Degas and her husband, Stephane, chose to leave city life for a 1970s home on Arcachon Bay, and with that, they also left behind unnecessary visual clutter. The streamlined island features a Pitt cooking system that allows them to wipe in between all the crevices.

Hits of Verdant Green

While French country kitchens tend to feature muted shades of cream, white, and wood, one outlier you’ll see frequently is emerald green. We’re guessing it has something to do with reflecting the lush rolling hills you’ll peep out the window.

Cooling Floors

Terracotta hex tile flows from room to room in Sharon and Paul Mrozinski’s Provence home, infusing some color into the house and also offering a cooling spot for bare feet to land in the hottest months of the year. 

DIYs From the Garden

On the kitchen table, Rochefort-based gift boutique owner Georgia displays a mix of old and new dishware, but not all are for serving foie gras or oysters. The soup tureen has been transformed into a candelabra of sorts with the help of some sturdy taper holders and eucalyptus sprigs.