Open any international design magazine and you’ll find French homes. There’s something about French interior design that’s instantly recognizable. Je ne sai qui. While you can’t import the mansard roofs of Paris or the countryside views of Provence, there are many things you can do to bring French interior character into your home. We asked three of his Paris-based design experts about the most important features of his designs for French interiors and how to create that look at home, even if you’re miles away from République. I asked how.
accept the past
France embraces the history of design, says Asiri Aki, founder of French lifestyle brand Madame de la Maison and author of a new book Joie: A Parisian’s Guide to Celebrating the Good Life. “The French appreciate the designs of the past,” says Aki. “They respect the bones of the space and superimpose it on modern life.”
Say “yes” to molded products
All three experts we spoke to pointed out that historic architecture is an essential element of French interiors. “You can’t recreate French interior style in a drywall box,” warns Penny Drew Baird, an interior designer with offices in New York and Paris. Penny Drew Baird is the author of his two design books on French interior style. Fortunately, adding molding is a relatively easy and affordable update that you can do yourself or hire. It also doesn’t have to be anything decorative, “just ceiling molding or basic crown molding is fine,” says Baird.
disguise a fireplace
Another architectural element found in many French rooms is the fireplace. Adding a working fireplace would require a major renovation, but Baird suggests that you could just “add a cloak and dress it up,” noting it would be “almost architectural.”
Use mirrors to create magic
Golden inlaid mirrors are often found above French fireplaces. “An antique mirror or a gilded wood mirror definitely adds a French flair,” says Aki. Placing a large mirror above the fireplace will not only reflect your French decor, but will also reflect light throughout the room.
Hmm…If your TV is currently in the top spot above your mantle (or on the main wall in your living room), find a new spot. According to design experts, the French prefer not to make their TV the center of attention.room
Weave in antiques, especially French ones.
Even the most modern French home is likely to have some antiques mixed in, says David Jimenez, a Paris-based interior designer who wrote the book. Parisian by design. For the most iconic French style, check out Louis XV and XIV furniture. “This is his 300-year-old furniture, but it still looks fresh in a variety of environments,” says Jimenez.
Incorporating iconic French patterns
When it comes to patterns that characterize French interior styles, Baird points to toile de Jouy, a collective term for fabrics that feature idyllic and romantic scenes and motifs. The printed fabric was originally made in Ireland, but became popular in France in the 18th century and “never went out of style,” Baird says.
However, if you prefer something less traditional, Jimenez suggests classic awning stripes. “You see it everywhere: the Palais Royal, street awnings, curtains, upholstery on chairs, and it’s a very uniquely French thing,” he says. However, not just any wide stripe will do. Jimenez says consistency in the width of the stripes is important, with 7 centimeters wide being the classic French stripe.
Some copper pots on display
The large La Cornue and Lacanche ranges are a hallmark of the French culinary space, but are beyond most people’s budgets. Instead, “If you want to give your kitchen a typical French feel, hang some copper pots,” says Aki. Jimenez also points out that these are often available second-hand and very cheaply, so all you need to do is polish them.
Made of high quality ceramics
According to Aki, the French don’t save the best for special occasions. They use it every day, and usually the best ones are the old ones. “French homes have a lot of different combinations of dishes,” she says. “Flea market folks, there are pieces that have been passed down. They don’t all have to be shiny and new.”
Hang art like in the Louvre
“When you decorate it in an art salon style, it always feels more European,” says Jimenez. (Salon-style hangings are basically dense, crowded gallery walls that are intentionally mismatched.) So to really complete this look, pick up a salon wall set at a big-box store. No need to purchase. “The frames are very intentionally mismatched,” Jimenez says. “The more mixed the groupings are, the more interesting it becomes.”
shop at flea market
“The French people I know are very happy not to spend a lot of money. They have a deep appreciation for going to flea markets,” says Jimenez. Of course, who wouldn’t shop at the Paris markets, which Jiménez describes as “unlike any other place in the world”? But even in the continental United States, Free He Market is a great place to pick up antiques like copper pots, fine china, and vintage he art on a budget.
French style bed making
“French beds have a laid-back style, and the bed is a little easier to assemble. Think of a nice-looking duvet that isn’t completely tucked away,” says Jimenez. Experts also say the French often prefer classic white or plain bedding rather than bold patterns, and Aki says she often sees linen sheets in French homes.
Enjoy the luxury of fresh flowers
Perhaps the easiest way to add some French flair? Decorate with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers. All the experts pointed out that the French never hesitate to treat themselves, always fresh and never fake.