Audrey Hepburn said that Paris is always a good idea. And that is one big truth, for Paris is ideal to inspire one in so many different levels. She has remarkable landmarks such as the iconic Eiffel tower, stunning architectural gems (many of which are made of Lutetian limestone), exquisite museums, an unforgettable style and an artistic verve that is overwhelming. Her architectural consistency is praiseworthy.
Likewise, French interiors have a timeless elegance and a rather distinct style that isn’t too hard to copy if you take note of my tips. Obviously, it helps that so many French apartments have beautiful architectural features such as high ceilings with ornaments, fantastic parquet flooring and art nouveau features much too often. After all, this old city was first built around the middle of the 3rd century BC and has never suffered any damages due to a disaster or a war.
Therefore, it is a city with a large heritage and a unique aesthetic appeal as trends and movements from all periods have etched their markings over the years on the city-scape, her facades and interiors. Hence, I’d like to share with you pointers on French interior design style in an attempt to inspire you to recreate it yourself in your space should you so wish it.
Showcase the Architecture
So many French interiors have stunning architectural features; a legacy that they are proud of and they showcase it really well. Many Parisian homes are blessed with elaborate ceiling moldings and parquet flooring (chevron and herringbone patterns being the most common). Yet, they adopt a neutral color palette that acts as a white canvas, like a clean slate backdrop in order to add their own original flair to a space. (Follow the link if you are interested in finding out how to make an all white interior).
As such, bright or dark colored wall colors are hardly ever favored. However, accent colors in decor and textiles are most certainly used throughout to make a design statement. Hence, contrasts with a big impact are created – a real must!
French interior design style: All about mixing styles
Since Paris has a mix of architectural styles from so many different periods, Parisians have an innate ability to blend seamlessly styles when it comes to home décor, too. Every piece counts and understated glamour is ultimate goal. Old pieces come together with new ones with an original flair. Much too often antiques, vintage pieces including area rugs and chinoiserie coexist with new edgy designer furniture. However, make no mistake about this: the French approach home styling with a very minimal mindset. They edit their possessions carefully.
Room to breathe
French interiors give furniture room to breathe. They are never packed, for unnecessary clutter is a real turn-off for the French. This means that furniture is placed somewhat far apart thus, allowing them to stand out and actually make a statement against the negative space. Again, juxtapositions are of key importance.
Leave it undone
Another thing that characterizes French interiors is the element of leaving something undone. Of course, some of you may argue that this is typical of their mentality as a people, but that’s something I don’t know for myself. However, it is certainly true that their interiors are never over-styled.
Take their flower arrangements for instance, that are kept minimal by using one kind of flower instead of many. Frequently, they will leave their bed partially undone in a stylish way in order to place emphasis on the fact that true beauty is never perfect, otherwise it would be boring. If you feel uncomfortable with this idea, then consider other options like a stack of books next to chaise longue as opposed to a side table.
The home décor in French interior design style
Now when it comes to the actual home décor, there are at least five elements that are quite characteristic in Parisian homes. These are crystal chandeliers, antique gilded mirrors, large artworks, a chaise longue (or a daybed) and gold accents that act as Art Deco reminders. They are the ideal additions to a home that exudes a chic, sophisticated French inspired style.
Therefore, even if you don’t have a noteworthy embellished ceiling, a crystal chandelier still remains a great way to light your living/dining room and make an eclectic design statement. Similarly, if you are not a big fan of antiques, a large gilded mirror may do the trick. It’s usually quite stunning when placed over a fireplace mantel, but in case you don’t have a fireplace then I strongly recommend hanging it on top of a sideboard. Don’t be afraid to clash old vintage elements with new ones.
Now, gold accents may not be as easy to introduce. However, a piece like a brass side table or a brassy cart bar (like the one in the picture) can surely add those precious gold accents I just mentioned. Lastly, I’d like to mention that although a chaise longue has grown less fashionable, it remains a typical piece that exudes a timeless French elegance. Therefore, if you do have some spare space then by all means add one on.
If you are reading other design blogs (like this one), then you might notice that many design bloggers argue that lush drapery is also a typical element of Parisian homes. Allow me to have a few reservations on this note though, because I think that’s a bit debatable. Many do have silk drapes with pinch-pleat detailing indeed. Some have more plain linen ones. And many more don’t have any and yet, their homes look just as elegant. (Follow the link, in case you are interested in learning more about choosing window treatments).
One thing is for sure – you will not easily come across a Parisian home with curtains that have pattern prints. On the other hand, you will come across many Parisian homes with velvet upholstered sofas. A bit of lavishness goes a long way in France and anything that’s refined is more than welcome. So I guess you could include that as another element.
So there you have it. These are the basic French interior design style rules. It’s quite simple really, but should you need any more advice feel free to contact me. If on the other hand you have any thoughts and/or style dilemmas, please share them with me and I will try to address them.