They were cheap, but overpriced. It was time for a recession.
So I approached French Country Living with suspicion, wondering whether all this was a retailers' theme park or had any connection with reality. Here's what I learned from the book about French Country style:
- Furniture is old and mismatched, and there's no such thing as a three piece suite. Much of it, both metal and wood, is painted. Chairs, sofas and beds are gracefully perched on legs, and elephantine divans are nowhere in sight.
- Rooms have an effortlessly curated rather than a purchased or designed look.
- Colours are powdery and muted, like flowers that have faded prettily in the sun.
- Fabrics used include toile, ticking and dainty floral prints. (Have you noticed that when stripes are called 'ticking', they are twice the price of stripes called 'stripes'?) Quilts, cushions, and window seats bring warmth and colour.
- Storage isn't built in, even in the kitchen, and armoires play a queen mother role, stately and dominant. There's an air of orderly clutter, with many everyday items on display.
- Opulent touches finish some rooms - a gold painted bath, toleware or crystal chandeliers and huge gilt mirrors.
- Sinks are ceramic, and there's no visible chrome or stainless steel; if anything has an industrial look, it's 19th century industrial.
So no, French style needn't involve buying disposable furniture, but rather being imaginative with good quality existing items, and perhaps buying fabric and paint (and an inspirational, charmingly illustrated book such as this one). I suspect it all needs to be done very slowly.
And how suitable for our new ethos of more frugal living and imaginative economy; we can all tuck our credit cards safely away in the toile-lined armoire (ok, the brown paper lined cupboard or press will do for now) until the junk shops abandon their gilt bird-cages and close down.