The French seem to have it all when it comes to fashion and interiors. Here are 10 decorating tips I’ve learned from the French over the years. As much as I appreciate and love their fashion style, I love the decor style so much more. And just like their fashion style, their decor style is also simple, chic, and timeless. I’ve spent many hours reading books on French decor and interiors and many hours scrolling Pinterest looking at these exact images.
It’s all so interesting to me how all areas of their lives intertwine between fashion, interiors, food, and culture. Everything seems to be done with intent, appreciation, and respecting beauty and culture.
Here are 10 decorating tips I’ve learned from the French and ways I’ve incorporated them into our house to fill it with beauty, interest, and a home we love.
1. Start With The Bones
When we first walked into our house almost 6 years ago, I remember walking into the living room and seeing the crown molding, 2 gorgeous gold sconces hanging, and a marble fireplace. I immediately looked at Nathan and said ok, this is our house. I also remember thinking the bones of the house were incredible and all the work which needed to be done would be worth it. Trust me, there was a lot of work that needed to be done. Our home is over 100 years old so you can imagine the work but also imagine the beautiful bones.
Most homes in France and Parisian apartments are so incredibly old but the bones are what really stand out. The old herringbone floors, double windows, crown molding, and marble fireplaces. This is something we aren’t much accustomed to in the states. We want new, updated, big, spacious homes but the problem with these is there are no bones. You can always change the decor inside the house but you certainly can’t change the bones of the house.
2. Embrace Imperfection
As much as I discuss on this blog how much I love French fashion, food, decor, and Paris, I also realize the French are human like everyone else. And, like everyone else they are not perfect. They don’t all live like “Emily in Paris,” and live in these amazing Parisian Haussman buildings with Chanel handbags in every color. Like everyone else, they also have their problems and imperfections. And just like people, houses and spaces also have their imperfections. I could go around our house and pick out every single imperfection and thing I want to change but why. Sometimes, embracing imperfection is more important. Loving the old heirloom piece of furniture is better than the brand new out-of-the-box, made in a factory piece of furniture. I am certainly guilty of this but over time I have learned to appreciate the imperfections of our house.
3. White Walls
If you ever look at pictures of Parisian apartments, the walls are always painted white. They do this for several reasons: to get as much natural light as possible and to bring out the other historical charms of the apartment, such as the crown molding. Color is added into the apartment more by way of furniture and accents.
In our other two homes, we’ve owned, I’ve always painted the main rooms a color of some sort and not white. For this house in the living room, with all of the old elements, sconces, marble fireplace, I knew immediately it needed to be painted white. I absolutely love the look of a room painted all white, I know some might think it’s stale and boring but when done right it looks so elegant, crisp, and makes the room feel larger. If I am being completely honest, when I walk into a home with dark walls I immediately think about how dark it makes the house look and how small it looks.
4. Architectural Interest
Before I started really studying and admiring French decor and interiors, I didn’t pay much attention to the architectural interest of homes. I have learned over time to really look at what’s inside a home and how it’s made. Our home has these beautiful archways which separate each of our rooms from one another. The home we lived in before this one was wide open, all the rooms just melted into one another and there was no clear distinction. It’s better to embrace the architectural details of the space versus working against them. I feel I’ve learned to appreciate our home better by doing this.
Whether it’s a gorgeous chandelier, sconces through the home, or even more modern updated lighting the French have these beauties somewhere in their homes. Thankfully, we haven’t had to change much lighting in our home because it came with beautiful glass chandeliers in the dining room and hallway original to the home. In the living room, we have these gold sconces that speak for themselves and that I smile at every day. Lighting can make an entire room and I wanted the vibe to be original to the home so we have just kept most of these pieces.
Artwork is an extremely important part of the French culture and is expressed so in many ways. One of those ways is by the art in their homes. Art is obviously a personal choice but an important one. I choose to adorn our walls with French paintings mostly. I am a huge impressionist fan and have several paintings throughout the house with this type of style. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on artwork. I’ve purchased a few paintings from vintage stores and one of my favorite paintings is one London did. Also, sometimes if you look at a French home the artwork is displayed on the floor or kitchen counters, it’s up to you where to put the art. These are probably my favorite decorating tips from the French I have learned.
7. Books On The Bookshelf
We didn’t have specific bookshelves when we moved into the house but a few years ago we decided to make a section of the living room into a little book corner. We bought some billy bookcases from IKEA and then put crown molding around them so they look built-in. If you go into any French person’s home or apartment you will see it full of books. Not only are these books they are reading but also books used to accessorize. Just make sure the bookshelf looks natural and not overly staged. You want it to look actually usable and not just there for decorating purposes.
8. Add Flowers
Flowers are the easiest way to add some French flair to your home. I buy weekly fresh flowers from Trader Joe’s because I love the way the house looks with them. There is nothing more beautiful than walking into our home and seeing fresh flowers in each room. Just easy and simple bouquets of hydrangeas, tulips, or even roses. If you ask anyone about decorating tips from the French they take away, fresh flowers are always at the top of the list.
9. Gilded Mirror On The Mantle
A focal point in French decor and interiors is the gilded mirror. In Parisian apartments, you will find them above the mantle or leaning against a wall. Mirrors brighten a room and instantly make a space look bigger. We didn’t buy much furniture when we first moved into this house however I knew I wanted a gilded mirror and this one from Anthropologie right away for the mantle. That was one of the first purchases we made and I will always have a gilded mirror anywhere I live.
Just like with fashion, the French choose to accessorize their homes wisely and simply but with only the best accessories. You can go the Parisian way with things like a Diptyque candle, fashion coffee table books, and luxury dinnerware. Or, you can go more the French country way with vintage paintings all over and copper pans hanging in your kitchen. I prefer to have a mix of both in our home with the living room being more Parisian accessories and the kitchen being more French country.
I would love to know if there are any decorating tips from the French you’ve incorporated into your home?