The French are masters at interior designing and home décor. They infuse an effortless elegance into their furnishings, accent pieces and color schemes. How do they do it? It’s easier than you’d think. Here are 5 ways to add a French sensibility to your home:
Before you decorate any room, look around. Try to recognize what the architectural bones of the space are saying to you. That’s where the charm and character comes from. And the French tune in to it, and respect it. They choose furnishings and arrangements that honor the history inherent in a space.
For example, to the French, the light streaming in a large picture window is best dressed in lace or silky sheers. Anything more would cover up or detract from the natural beauty.
Bold crown moldings are nearly revered in France, but that doesn’t mean the French wouldn’t paint them a subtle rose gold or muted blue-green to contemporize a room.
And most of all, the French know about making an entrance. So they decorate their entryways with one or two statement pieces and let the rest speak for itself.
So look around and listen to your instincts just like the French do. You’ll succeed in unifying the architectural components of the space with what you put in it.
The French make style look so effortless and it’s because they believe rules aren’t cast in stone.
Fashion is an easy example. A French woman would never walk out of the door wearing an outfit that matches from head to toe. But she would make sure everything goes together. There’s a difference. She relies on a common color or two, or a flexible theme to unify the pieces in her wardrobe, and in her home.
So if you have a plump and inviting Louis XV-style wingback chair next to your fireplace resist the urge to make up the entire room in that period. It won’t be as elegant as you might have dreamed—and it could come off like a movie set.
Think instead like the Parisians, who pair a sleek, mirrored 19th century piece like our Montparnasse Coffee Table with an heirloom-to-be Louis III-style attention-getter like our Bardot Sofa.
A mix of styles looks more sophisticated and adds an element of playfulness.
Décor should be pleasing, but it never hurts for it to be practical too.
Most French homes and apartments are considerably smaller than the American versions, so every inch counts.
Bookshelves have galvanized bins or thick-woven wicker baskets for stowing and storing. Large ceramic vases double as utensil holders. Nesting tables are a must. It all looks eclectic, but elegant.
There’s no reason why you can’t adopt the same practice, even if you don’t need the space! Would a secretary desk fit under the stairwell and beautifully clean up that nook? How about a tall, open-shelved corner cabinet in the second bath?
Take a look at our Maldives Cabinet—it might be just the thing to add charm and organization to a forgotten area.
More than anything, the French know how to add whimsy and enjoyment to life. It’s reflected in how they decorate a room, too.
Everywhere you look in French homes, restaurants and stores, you’ll notice the iconic rooster peering at you. It’s not just because the rooster is the official bird of France; it’s because it’s droll—a visual bon mot.
What’s your personal emblem? Is it the rooster, like the French, or could it be the pineapple as it is in the French Caribbean? A pineapple at the entrance of a French home is the equivalent of a welcome mat at an American doorstep.
Whatever suits your personality, add this little something sparingly and strategically. In one French style home we visited, about a dozen bright-handled ice cream scoops encircled the walls of the kitchen almost like a 3-D border print—but so much more fun!
In the end, is what you’ve created truly YOU? By that we mean, the deep down, confident YOU.
One of the best ways to have your home reflect your true colors is to display personal treasures. Items that are dear to your heart are often the best objets d’art.
And they’re even better when you give them a French twist. For instance, print some photos of your celebrated travels, but make them black-and-white and/or sepia. Then frame them up on one wall for an impact that’s warm and refined.
Or arrange your heirloom collection of Grandfather’s pocket watches or your children’s sterling baby spoons. Glass topped tables show off cherished artifacts perfectly.
From your favorite collections to the ticking striped pillows. From the plants in zinc pots to the light fixture that always spurs conversation. Own it. Or change it. The French do.
Then light a few candles (isn’t ambiance a French word?). Put some fresh cut flowers in that thick ceramic pitcher you found at the flea market. And relax in your home.