The French certainly are the envy of the rest of the world when it comes to their je ne sais quoi (rough translation: “a certain something”). Some describe it as effortless class—an intangible quality—and it doesn’t stop at their sense of dress. Time after time, I’ve found myself drooling over classically chic French interior designs. This post is dedicated to breaking through the mystery and pinpointing exactly what it is about French interiors that makes them always look so good. Beyond that, I have some suggestions on how you can inject a little French sophistication into your own abode.
Striking the balance between old and new
If your house already contains some French architectural details—for example, decorative ceiling mouldings, architectural wall panels or French doors—begin by restoring them to their original state and sprucing them up with a fresh, white coat of paint. Expose and restore any rustic beams or French oak flooring. Aim to get as natural a finish as possible, so avoid glossy lacquer finishes. If you don’t already have any French details in your home, look into introducing some such as a limestone fireplace, French oak parquetry flooring or decorative ceiling mouldings. These traditional French elements tend to be highly ornate and detailed, so aim to finish everything in a clean and simple manner. As we move through these steps you’ll notice it’s all about contrasting the traditional with the contemporary.
Focus on the fireplace, not the television
French interior design is about arranging living areas to encourage social interaction. This means that your TV should not be the main focal point! To entice more quality social engagement, place comfortable chairs and sofas to face one other, with one end open to a fireplace or window. If your living room doesn’t have a fireplace, think about installing a false one (trust me no one will know if its operational or not unless you literally try to light a fire in it!). Its mere presence will boost the “cozy” factor. Extra tips: Place candles or logs of wood inside so you’re not staring at a blank wall inside. They also look great in bedrooms.
A neutral color palette with a focus on natural materials in varying textures
The French have this next part down to a fine art: using the right finishes, and not too many of them. Balance is key. Try a little wood and a little metal (of a single color). Use high-quality linen bedding and upholstery, with some white to neutralize. Toss in a sisal rug or a knitted throw for added texture. Stick to a neutral color palette of white, grey and black. If you must go for some color, try introducing a touch of navy, burgundy or burnt orange, but only in limited amounts to ensure the palette keeps its timelessness and sophistication. This is definitely a case of “less is more.”
Sexy black-and-white photography
Quintessential French-inspired interior design always marries well with large-scale black and white portrait photography. This is because the French interior palette plays with sophisticated, matte textures rather than with color. The tonal shadows found in black-and-white portrait photography are the perfect contrast to the layered textural finishes of a typical French interior. It just works.
A touch of metal turns rooms to gold
You may have noticed that the aged metal in all these modern French interiors is used sparsely. Metals are not mixed, and are not seen en-masse. There’s a touch here and there—either in the lighting, mirror frames or accessories—but never to excess. How beautiful is the aged brass finish on these kitchen cabinets? And notice how the simple faucet delicately picks up the aged brass theme once more. It’s minimalist perfection.
Dress to impress
The french have that effortlessly chic look perfected. Bring that refined and simplistic style not just into your home but into your closet as well.