Creating with what you know

Posted by Kathleen Moore, CastleView 3D:
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A French country style rendering project

A builder came to me a while back with a new floorplan he had designed.  He wanted to showcase it with beautiful renderings on his website and marketing materials.  His only instruction to me was to “make it look French Country style.”

I’ve been to the French countryside exactly once, in August 2003.  Some friends and I spent a week piloting a houseboat through the locks of the Canal du Nivernais in the Burgundy region of central France.  My memories of this delightful trip include lots of good wine and the best boeuf bourguignonne I’ve ever tasted (so good we went back to the same inn the next night and ordered it again).  They also include canalside views of rolling hills and interesting architecture — lovely churches and chateaux, charming lock-keepers’ cottages.

When I took on the rendering project for this builder, I wasn’t especially familiar with what’s known as “French Country decor,” so naturally these were the images that immediately flashed through my mind.

I consulted various design websites, books, and other resources to educate myself more about the style.  In case you’re interested, here’s the list of design elements I put together to define French Country style:

  • Used to be called French Provençale or French Provincial.
  • Rustic, old-world, welcoming; warm and casual; lavender fields and bright sunshine; casual and relaxed with light and airy spaces.
  • Colors:  Sunny yellow, golds, terracotta red, French blue, lavender, bright and dark greens.  Color palette mixed and matched on fabrics, accents, and walls, with accents of black and gray.
  • Fabrics:  Colorful Provençal prints combining primary colors with greens, lavenders, and bright orange. Toile with white, cream, or yellow ground and large motifs in a single contrasting color, such as black, blue, red, or green.
  • Motifs:  roosters, olives, sunflowers, grapes, lavender, beetles [beetles? really?]
  • Rough stained or painted plaster walls, hefty beamed ceilings and walls, delicate carved wood details.
  • Rustic flooring of stone, clay, or brick, covered with wool or cotton rugs.
  • Gently worn, weathered paint; rough plaster, stone, wood, wrought iron, terracotta, clay, zinc, glass, linen, and natural fibers.
  • Textured walls, informal wood tones, weathered patinas, hand painted furniture.
  • A large dining table, rectangle or round, with a dull waxed or low-sheen finish; chairs are ladderback or have vertical slats, often with rush seating.
  • Rusted metal furniture, lighting fixtures, and furniture
  • Woven or wire baskets, colorful ceramics and tiles, carved wood pieces, Chinoiserie pottery, and natural grasses for accessories
  • Faience, creamware, antique lanterns, decorative birdcages, candlesticks, urns.  Iron candle holders, wire baskets, heavy pottery water pitchers, colorful tablecloths.
  • Wrought iron chandelier
  • Old, dark, or colorful paintings
  • Natural flowers in baskets, an old pitcher or copper pot, or clear glass vases.  Geraniums and lavender are popular.
  • Outdoors: concrete statues, potted boxwood, wrought iron accessories; seamless flow between house and garden.
  • Deeply cut window sills with tall, narrow windows.

My research was helpful, but the images from my trip were probably more influential in determining the final look of the renderings.  It was hot during my week in France (perhaps you remember the record-breaking heatwave they had in 2003?  that’s when we were there), so the exteriors and especially the interior rendering have a sultry, sun-baked feel to them (click to view renderings full-size).

CastleView 3D rendering of French Country style house, exterior front view

CastleView 3D rendering of French Country style house, exterior front view

CastleView 3D rendering of French Country style house, exterior rear view

CastleView 3D rendering of French Country style house, exterior rear view

CastleView 3D rendering of French Country style interior

CastleView 3D rendering of French Country style interior

I’m not sure this was exactly what the builder had in mind when he specified French Country, but he was pleased with the renderings so it must have been close enough.

Every artist has their personal favorites among their own works, and these are some of mine. When I look at these renderings, I recapture the sense of relaxed warmth and the spirit of discovery and adventure I had on my boat trip through the French countryside — and my hope is that some of that comes through to other viewers as well.


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