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France’s Provence region always conjures up images of endless lavender fields, ancient hilltop villages, delicious rosé, and of course the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean as well as its sun-washed beaches. A landscape so beautiful it has served as inspiration for some of the greatest artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, and Claude Monet.
Nature definitely takes center stage here. A provençal garden is brimming with color, fragrant blooms, and olive and pine trees.
“Mediterranean plants have a very rich flora. But I also use Californian plants,” says Louis Benech. He is France’s most famous and sought-after landscape designer who was responsible for reinventing the Parisian Jardins des Tuileries in the 90s and has worked on over 300 landscaping projects for the likes of Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent (he designed their garden in the Château Gabriel in Deauville) and François and Maryvonne Pinault who needed help with their vacation home outside of St. Tropez.
Benech explains that the type of lavender people mostly see in images from the South of France is called “Lavandula x intermedia,” a hybrid plant with large beautiful spikes and strong scent (that is also used as an ingredient in perfumes and cosmetics).
He also recommends planting Coulter’s Matilija poppies—a California-native shrub—that when in bloom “look like butterflies floating in the air.”
No garden would be complete without roses. Benech says that he loves roses and always uses Cecile Brunner “climbing” roses in his gardens. They are tall bushes that have pale pink blooms and are very popular in gardens in the countryside.
Now let’s talk decor. In the South of France, unlike Paris, furniture should be elegant in an understated way.
“I would choose furniture that is as discreet as possible. [Provence] is about nature, about the sky, and about the plants, and not about the furniture,” says Paris-based interior designer Cyril Vergniol of Stylagos. “You just want it [the furniture] to be nice, simple, and comfortable. When it comes to outdoor furniture, I prefer when it “disappears” [in the landscape].”
If you’d still like to add pops of color, choose one, two at most. For example, you can opt for ceramic dinnerware in a vibrant hue, or you can mix and match glasses in different shades. But don’t go overboard. The color should come from the flowers in your garden, not your décor items.
Vergniol also suggests buying chaise lounges that you can move around easily as the sun changes its position throughout the day. “I’d go for something light and comfortable,” he adds.
And while French people are notorious with their talent in the kitchen, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you would have to invest in an elaborate outdoor cooking space.
“An outdoor kitchen is such an American thing. In France, we don’t have them. You may see a barbecue here and there, but that’s about it.”
Now check out some decor items (and plants) that will turn your patio into a Provençal heaven.
Outdoor Riviera Dining Chair
Serena & Lily gave the classic bistro chair a Riviera-inspired makeover. Plastic woven details in white and blue on the back and seat bring a coastal vibe to this charming chair. It is also available in an armchair version.
To buy: $398, serenaandlily.com
Serena & Lily Terrace Dining Table
We love the pedestal design of this dining table and the natural grey hue of the top. It is crafted from reconstituted stone so it’s the perfect furniture piece for a garden. What’s more, with time the stone will develop a beautiful patina that will make it even more charming.
To buy: $3,498, serenaandlily.com
Restoration Hardware Balmain Teak Chaise
Less is more. This chaise lounge has a simple, minimalist design yet it is so chic. It comes in two natural finishes that would blend in perfectly with the lush greenery of your Provence-inspired garden.
To buy: $1,675, restorationhardware.com
Sunbrella Canvas Spa 20" Sq. Outdoor Pillow
To make your outdoor sofa extra cozy and add some color to it, place a couple of these pillows on both ends. The light green hue will freshen up your lounge area but not so much as to become the focal point of your backyard.
To buy: $39, crateandbarrel.com
Crate & Barrel Marbury 16-Piece Dinnerware Set
Your tabletop will look so beautiful with this vintage-inspired dinnerware set. The organic curves of each piece together with their slightly aged look are ideal for rustic-themed dinner parties.
To buy: $164, crateandbarrel.com
Ceramic Bottle 3 Piece Table Vase Set
Complete your tabletop with fresh flowers or bunches of lavender placed in these two-tone ceramic vases. Their handcrafted look will fit in ideally in your Provence-inspired garden décor.
To buy: $153, birchlane.com
Charlton Home Rhinecliff 9' Market Umbrella
Create a shaded area in your backyard with this classic market umbrella. It has a sturdy aluminum frame and a crank lift for easy opening. Thanks to the tilting mechanism you can adjust its position throughout the day without moving the entire umbrella.
To buy: $95, wayfair.com
Malibu Organic Beach Towels
Add a subtle pop of color to your garden décor with these organic Turkish cotton beach towels. They sport a striped pattern and fringed trims. But best of all, they are super absorbent and quick to dry making them a must-have for a lazy day spent by the pool.
To buy: $98, coyuchi.com
CB2 Rio Planters
In case you’d like to add a few potted plants or trees to your garden, these textured terracotta planters will come in very handy. Their warm earthy shade, whitewash finish, and geometric patterns are the epitome of rustic chic.
To buy: from $50, cb2.com
Caleb Handcrafted Metal Lanterns
If you live in an area similar to Provence where it can get pretty windy at night, opt out of having hanging lights in your backyard and go for something more stable such as these metal lanterns. The arched windows and weathered finish of the metal add an antique vibe to them that will turn your patio into the most romantic spot in the evening.
To buy: from $50, potterybarn.com
Provence Lavender Plant
There are so many benefits of having a few lavender bushes in your backyard. Aside from the obvious—they smell divine and when in bloom they look absolutely fabulous—they also repel insects and their aroma promotes calmness. Plus, they are super easy to grow so even if you’re not a pro, there is no way you could fail.
To buy: from $27, gardengoodsdirect.com
Blair Rose Gold Flatware
The warm copper-like hue of this flatware set will add some vintage vibes to your tabletop. It is actually made from stainless steel so it’s sturdy enough to be used every day.
To buy: from $30, westelm.com