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What is French Country Style? | The Difference Between French Country, English Cottage, & Farmhouse Style

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I’ve decided that I want my 60’s ranch to be a cottage. That’s the great thing with ranches. Sure, they can be boring, basic, and blah. But they have no style….meaning you have the freedom to do what you want! You can’t exactly give a victorian home a prairie modern twist and you can’t really give a craftsman home the Scandinavian treatment. I mean, sure, it’s your home, you can do whatever you want. But you don’t want to do a disservice to your home or throw people off! Don’t worry, I’m not someone that thinks you can’t mix styles…I just think it’s important to know which is which!

I’ve said on here before that my style is French Country mixed with cottage and as we’ve been planning out our exterior makeover, I wanted it to match the inside and be cohesive with the style that I’ve chosen…except…well, French Country and cottage can be very different things. So I started to get confused and doubt everything I thought I knew about design as well as feel a little stupid if I had it all wrong. I mean sure, I pick what I like and my style is pretty consistent anyway and rules are meant to be broken…but still. If I was going to assign my house a style I wanted it to be as cohesive as it could be!

As an example, here are some exteriors that really inspire me:

But what category do those pictures fall under? Have I been using these words incorrectly? Do I say French Country and mean cottage? Is farmhouse supposed to be in here somewhere? Or am I just a hot mess and off the map completely??

I’m no interior designer and never have I claimed to be, so it’s very likely that I’m using these style terms incorrectly, but still, I was curious!

I decided that instead of just doubting it all I should educate myself. So to books and the internet I went and this post is what I came up with.

If you’re curious to know if I’ve been using these words wrong, what the differences between these styles are, or curious to know if you’ve been thinking of them wrong, well then, keep reading!

The Difference Between French Country, English Cottage, & Farmhouse Design

When I search French Country exteriors and cottage exteriors, I get very different things.

If you were to google search a French Country home, you’d get this:


That looks a little American to me, but the design inspiration had to come from somewhere I suppose. So is French Country style big and grand? Like this?


No, because that is a chateau! French Country is not the same as these grand, luxurious houses.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what made me an expert all of a sudden, I’m getting these photos in the most authentic places I could think of: french real estate for sale websites. I mean, genius, right? 😉

If we were to search for what’s for sale in the outskirts of Provence right now, we’d find this:

Pretty different than what America would call a French Country home, right? And no, it’s not titled “French Country” of course, as I believe that would be people in China calling their food “Chinese food” when it’s just, you know, food.

But it is a country house in France and well, that’s about as French Country as you can get! That looks a lot closer to what I thought French Country was, not like this huge place that got built in Minnesota:


I think the American version of these French homes is a lot grander and more magnificent than what is actually french country. If anything, American’s version is closer to chateaus, estates, and manors. So when you search “French Country” and see big, grand homes, I believe that’s what’s wrong!

According to this source, French Country style is inspired by the country (not really a lightbulb moment…but kinda!), specifically Provence. French decor can be super elegant and over-the-top, but when you mix it with “country”, it’s a lot more warm, laid-back, and simple. French Country originates from the “rural valleys of southern France” (source), so if you think French Country is grand and ornate, you are probably thinking of Parisian styles, like this.

According to this article, “French Country” is a catch-all term, but it can split into even more specific categories, with French Provincial being the more elegant style and Country french being more rustic.

Here’s a guide I created to what French Country style is in a nutshell, feel free to pin!

what is french country style

So, we’ve got all that figured out. We know what French Country style is!

But now are you (we, me) getting French Country and English Cottage confused?

At first glance, no. Because this is what comes up when you google search an English cottage:


This English cottage seems to have a hobbit/Lord of the Rings feel. Though there definitely are similarities, at first glance, it seems pretty different than French Country.

But can Google be believed? Let’s check out some English real estate sites to see.

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So while I see a lot of the same styles between French Country and English cottage, I don’t think they can be used interchangeably. I mean first off, the name + origin, but also, English cottage has more of a Tudor style to it I think.

Cottages originated in England, which is why “English cottage” comes to mind first when you think of cottages.

As far as interiors, cottages usually have a lot more mixed prints, wallpaper, patterned upholstery, animal prints, and general things that would make you think “grandma”. Not hating, I do love this style…

But cottage style is too broad a word to nail down just one style. Overall it’s a home type, not necessarily a design style, and it symbolizes warmth, comfort, and natural materials. But you could have an English cottage style, coastal/beachy, country cottage, etc. Cottage style is the “traditional take on shabby chic” (source), and it’s a big umbrella for many different styles under it. So there isn’t a big chance you were using that term incorrectly because it could mean a lot of different things.

what is english cottage style

So now how does the farmhouse style fit into all of this?

Well, that one is a little difficult to explain because just like cottages, there are farmhouses all over the world so it could be anything! But most people are thinking “Fixer Upper” farmhouse, so we’ll call that classic/modern farmhouse.

For example, if you were to google search farmhouse style, you’d get this:


That is probably what we’d all expect, right?

But an actual farmhouse for sale in England looks like this:

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Pretty different, right?

That example goes to show that when an American says their style is “farmhouse”, they do not quite literally mean “farmhouse”. They mean modern farmhouse, like this:


So of course, with a modern farmhouse style, you’ll see more new and modern things, making it different than the country/cottage look.

The basics of rustic and cozy are still there, but it’s mixed with contemporary pieces and sleek lines.

French Country style is softer while farmhouse style is cleaner and more casual. There are lots of curved lines in French Country style, while farmhouse style may have more defined lines.

I read that somewhere, but I can’t remember where to cite it. No, I’m not that intune to lines when it comes to decorating haha.

what is modern farmhouse style

Do you feel like you get the differences now?

After browsing what authentic homes in the French countryside were like, I felt relieved that I was after the same style that I thought I was. I’ll stick with saying my style is French Country inspired with cottage elements (just not English cottage) or I’ll say French Country Cottage. Though I haven’t seen that term used all that much, there is this whole blog based off of French Country Cottage style, so it must be a thing!

I think there are a lot of similarities between all of these styles. I think cottage can mean so much and you can use them interchangeably, but I can’t say the same for American (modern) farmhouse. French Country and English Country can also not be used interchangeably. This article describes those two well.

Whewww did I lose you?

I’ll admit, this post was more for myself than anyone. I know I needed to figure it out in my head, but I hope it did help someone else. With that being said, feel free to disagree with me or add some info that I don’t know. I’ll be happy to hear it!

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Founder and editor of My Chic Obsession, Carolyn is your trusted fashion maven. Carolyn's drive to help others achieve a classic and timeless wardrobe fuels her posts, making a go-to resource for style seekers worldwide. Beyond the wardrobe, she resides in the heartland of the Midwest, dreaming up new ideas and raising her two lively boys - her biggest fashion critics.