It’s difficult to distil the interior design style of an entire country, especially one as varied and rich in history and culture as France, into five features. There’s a world of difference between a Parisian apartment and farmhouse in Provence – though they’re both quintessentially French in style, their individual styles can often be fairly disparate.
When people say they want to decorate their home in the French style, they usually have one of these styles in mind. However, it is possible to blend the key features of both in the same home if you consider the available options carefully and truly embrace the aesthetic.
It’s no coincidence that the chaise longue originated in France. Long known for taking relaxation to new heights, it could only have been the French who popularised (it was believed the Egyptians were the first to create them) the combination of a chair and a daybed. It was usually the main piece of furniture in a parlour or drawing room during the days of the French monarchy, and although a chaise longue would not necessarily be suitable for many homes today, we can still incorporate the idea of a statement piece into our living rooms. An ornate or particularly long sofa immediately draws the eye and allows the rest of the room to be designed around it.
One key feature of French design that has almost become its own style involves furniture and other elements of the home that look slightly weathered – this gives them a sense of charm and the impression that they’re vintage (even if they’re not). Used both in farmhouses (where distressed wood looks stylish and sturdy) and city homes (where dull wrought iron, as opposed to shiny new brass, is brought to life by its surroundings) The style suggests longevity and tradition, and is easy for you to achieve in almost any piece as long as you’re careful while you’re doing the distressing. Start by sandpapering down a freshly-painted chair and see how far you’d like to go with the rest of the room.
3.Subdued wall tones
Whether it’s a pale yellow farmhouse kitchen or a warm white city living room, it’s rare to see bright, bold colours on the walls of French homes. By favouring pastel tones and subdued colours, you can then choose stronger, contrasting shades in your furniture and other items in the room. This creates visual interest and gives you greater license to choose things that pop and draw the eye. As the above picture demonstrates, though, you can always go for a pastel colour scheme throughout the entire room.
4.A touch of irreverence
Although you might think of most French homes as completely stylish and cool with every element working in tandem to create a complete overall aesthetic, this is rarely the case. The cities and villages all over the country play host to various flea and vintage markets where homeowners look for interesting pieces that they can use to decorate their houses and apartments. These pieces are not always obviously in tune with our perception of a French home, but they always seem to work. From old birdcages (sans bird) to an interesting bust of someone you can’t identify, there’s no limit to what might work in your space – get down to your local market (or onto the internet) and see what you can find!
For all France’s reputation for cool understatement when it comes to style, most homes incorporate a bit of opulence for contrast with the rest of the space – not too much, otherwise the area would look gaudy. Something like a chandelier in the kitchen or a huge gilt-edged mirror in the living room represents just the right amount of luxury without overpowering the visual coherence of the space. The range of choice available is huge – you could go for a marble mantelpiece or some modern art – and it shouldn’t be too difficult to find something that reflects your personality and aesthetic sensibilities in the context of the room as a whole.
Any of these fundamentally French features would work in any sort of home – just make sure you think about how each one can fit in with your overall theme and colour scheme to create a space that is cohesive and chic.