From those silky Hermès scarves to Chanel No. 5 to the iconic black-and-white-striped tee, French style is always, well, in style. So it should come as no surprise that the French approach to home decor should be something to aspire toward as well.
One reason their homes look so fantastique is that the French don’t do cookie-cutter, explains Siham Mozouz, a French blogger, photographer, and author of “French By Design.”
“The French have a particular affection for old and for antiques, and they despise total looks,” she says, referring to the matching sets so commonly seen in U.S. big-box stores.
Most importantly, the French take time to imbue their spaces with items that are distinctively them, Mozouz stresses.
“The French approach to decor is very intuitive and personal … just like you would pick your favorite outfit in a clothing store,” she says. “It’s not about creating a perfect space to impress your guests; it’s about setting up the ideal refuge and nest for you and your loved ones.”
Ready to give your home that je ne sais quoi? Here are six decor secrets to steal from the French.
1. Make the most of a midcentury modern touch
Photo by be-attitude
Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken, right? French style has spent centuries at the forefront of fashion and culture, so there’s no reason to veer far from this aesthetic, explains Lauren Lozano Ziol, a Chicago-based interior designer and former Parisian who often works with clients in France.
“French people stay rooted in their classic sensibility,” she says. “The grandness of their heritage is important, so they like French antiques and fabric.”
But you don’t have to be 100% old-world to get the authentic French feel.
“The modern generation also loves contemporary, midcentury design and clean lines to incorporate into their classic and ornate architecture,” Ziol says. “It always adds for a fun mix to see midcentury pieces paired with Louis-classic furniture, toning down the seriousness of a traditional and classic French home.”
What to buy:
2. Don’t you dare demo that vintage tiling
Photo by Susan Serra
Even though a few pieces of modern furniture bring a welcome breath of fresh air, don’t forget to showcase historical elements if your home has them.
“The French cherish the old,” Mozouz says. “If you are lucky enough to move into an old home with old terra-cotta or graphic tiles in the kitchen, for example, don’t demo it. Work with it and make this ancient element the star of your French-flair kitchen.”
If you don’t live in a vintage home or want to add some historical details to your remodeled pad, consider touches that will give you a classic or vintage look. For example, try applied molding or wainscoting in a living or dining space, or look for vintage tiles for your kitchen or bathroom.
3. Find your passion for antiquing
Photo by DoorsSupply
Ikea shoppers, take note: If you want your home to have more of a French look, you need to spend more time at flea markets than big-box stores.
“If you have the choice between buying new or thrifting, thrifting is always a better option,” Mozouz says. “Adding some antique pieces and vintage elements will instantly add character and French flair to your space.”
Take, for instance, the kitchen: Mozouz recommends displaying colorful, vintage jars or vintage pepper mills on a rustic, wooden shelf. In the dining or living room, a French antique mirror will catch the natural light and increase the space visually.
“Anything that makes the space lived-in, personal, and authentic will give a French je ne sais quoi feel,” she says.
Don’t have the fortitude for antiquing? You can always fake it with some new items that look old.
What to buy:
4. Make eating an art form
Photo by Linda McDougald Design | Postcard from Paris Home
The French take mealtimes very seriously, which means the kitchen or dining room table has to look the part, Ziol explains.
“Eating is such a ceremony that the French make sure the table setting is meticulous with loads of Old World charm,” she says.
That means filling your kitchen with high-end copper pots, decanters, and silver candlesticks.
“In the dining room, white tablecloths, blue and white porcelain, and fresh flowers are always essential,” she adds.
What to buy:
5. Let the outside in
Photo by Viscusi Elson Interior Design – Gina Viscusi Elson
Natural light and elements are a priority for any French family, from tiny apartments in Paris to Provencal estates.
“Let the light in!” Mozouz stresses. “Open the window curtains to fill your space with natural light, cut some fresh flowers from the backyard, and place them in small vignettes around your space.”
And speaking of the outdoors, it’s easy to make this space feel positively French country chic.
“On the patio, a metal cafe table and bistro chairs will add an instant French guinguette [outdoor cafe] vibe,” Mozouz says. “Add some string lights, then use vintage metal buckets as plant pots for Mediterranean plants like lavender, sage, or a planted olive tree.”
What to buy:
- French-inspired round bistro table, $169 and chairs, $299 at Target
- Galvanized metal planter, Wayfair, $26
6. Take your time
It’s going to take time to complete your French-inspired space, Mozouz says. Tempting as it might be, don’t rush, and avoid the one-stop shopping sprees and catalog looks at all costs.
“The best spaces take months or even years to fill with found treasures. One-stop shopping sets are rarely a winning equation,” she says. “Instead, learn about a piece and its era, research it, and hunt it patiently so when you come across it, you know it’s the one. If your interior is filled with such finds, you will have achieved the holy grail of French decor.”
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