Autumn In French Country

from Decorating
This country-French weekend retreat is warm and relaxing due to a mix of fall colors and old-world accents, even in its bedroom décor.

Pat Akin was hooked on all things French after just one trip to Europe a few years ago. Since then, she has returned for a number of extended visits, acquiring an in-depth appreciation of the country’s fabled decorative arts.

“The French have a knack for taking the most mundane items and making them into something truly beautiful,” Pat says. “Whether it’s fabrics or ceramics, they render them in a beautiful, interesting way.”

So when Pat and husband L.J. purchased an eight-year-old house as a weekend retreat in Big Canoe, Georgia, it was a foregone conclusion that the lakeside getaway would be a celebration of French country style.

Luckily, the original builder had imbued the house with Continental appeal. Outdoors, French trail lights illuminate porches and decks. A 20-foot-high arched window frames a view of Lake Pettit from the great-room. Brick-and-heart-of-pine flooring reinforces the old-world sensibility. In a passageway between the great-room and study, an antique copper bucket serves as a bar sink.

Building on these elements, Pat and interior designer Cheryl Stanley commissioned decorative artist Susan Barbour to embellish the walls of the great-room, pass-through, and study. In the great-room, Barbour ragged the walls with what she calls a “nicotine gold” glaze. A variation of the ragging treatment created a leather effect in the pass-through and study. “The look is soft and muted – very old-world,” Stanley says. “The walls look as if they have been there forever.”

Against this backdrop are grouped furnishings and accessories reflecting the relaxed atmosphere of the French countryside Pat loves. Antique farm tables are laden with vintage accessories. A French writing desk beckons Pat to pen a note to friends. Imported baskets recall shopping forays to outdoor food markets. In true French country fashion, basket-wrapped bottles that were originally used to store vinegar in early 1800s France make everyday items suitable for display. Toile pillows accent traditionally styled upholstered goods in the study.

Like a vacation in Provence, time seems suspended when the family gathers at the lake. Spring and summer days are spent canoeing or lazing on a large deck off the great-room.

The family’s favorite time to visit, however, is the fall, when the air is cool and crisp and the foliage is a rainbow of brilliant colors. Everyone gathers in the great-room, soaking up heat from the fireplace and enjoying the warmth of the autumnal color scheme that extends through most of the house.

In the master bedroom, red is the underpinning for a diversion into a crisp black-and-white color scheme that appears in a painted armoire, checked draperies, bed dressings, upholstery, and even fringe on throw pillows.

“I wanted a room that would be comfortable for Pat’s husband as well as her,” Stanley says. “So I chose upholstery for the chaise lounge and bed linens that are decorated with a French hunting scene.” The choice of black-and-white cotton toile is a decorative nod to both the furniture and the French aesthetic. “Toile is about as French as you can get,” she adds.

Pat hasn’t planned any trips to France for the near future. But that doesn’t mean her collection won’t continue to grow. Most of her treasures are purchased in the United States through dealers who make frequent buying trips to Europe.

The promise of new discoveries is one reason Pat is enamored by all things French. And that, no doubt, will lure the family back to the lakeside hideaway season after season.

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