If someone says to you “French Decor” what do you picture? Is it rustic shutters, wrought iron balconies and mutual tones? Perhaps you imagine the countryside more, with washed walls, calming neutrals and vintage furniture. Whatever it is, it’s a super chic and glamorous image you have in your head, right?
Marrying a Parisien who has a huge family and tonnes of friends I’ve seen my fair share of French homes. While they’re not all like how we imagine (some bright red, some clinically white, and others sporting walls donned with large tapestry carpets), I am pleased to say that those Château de Versailles-like homes do exist. I’ve seen them…
Now this is where my confession comes in…I’m a stalker. Not of people but of homes. I crawl curbs, loiter on street corners and trespass properties at dusk. (What do you mean I could get arrested?!) Twilight is my favourite hour because that’s when the lights are on inside and the curtains aren’t yet drawn, or as is the case in France, the shutters aren’t yet closed. Which means those of us on the outside can see everything. Everything!!!!
It’s normally at this hour that I’m stood gawping at the insides of these stunning homes inSaint-Germain-des-Prés with huge chandeliers, gorgeous ceiling roses and beautifully sculpted cornices (cos that’s all that the dodgy folk like me can see from the street).
And while I walk away, picking my jaw up off the floor, I can only dream of having my own Paris apartment one day…but I have been in some of these places and I can tell you it’s everything we imagine and more.
Now until that day comes, when I have my own apartment (it will happen, it has to happen!), I have decided to practice the look in my current home as a full-fledged Frenchie wannabe living in oh-so-exotic Hertfordshire.
The stereotypical French style I aspire to is very bourgeois; I’m talking high ceilings, panelled rooms and muted tones. This is the look I tried to recreate in our home, and you can get the look too. Here are some top five touches you can to your home to create that french je ne sais quoi.
Become an illusionist
A room can easily be transformed to feel higher than it is, with a few tricks. I get that not all properties have high ceilings, and it’s definitely hard to find the floor-to-ceiling windows you get in Paris…but you can definitely do some things to help. For example, you can draw the eye upwards by hanging things higher. This includes mirrors, art, or photos. Or you can create height (and period features) by installing a picture rail two thirds of the way under the ceiling. This, along with high hung frames, breaks the wall up and gives the impression of added height. You can also opt for long curtains rather than short ones, to further elongate the height of the room. Ultimately, it will make the room feel bigger than it really is. Win win!
The most ostentatious homes in Paris ooze glamour even when unfurnished. And that’s because the beautifully sculpted cornices, ceiling roses and in some cases doorways literally frame the property so beautifully. While it may feel incongruous in some homes, you can take the more subtle approach to this French look by adding an ornate ceiling rose or some masterfully crafted plasterwork to your cornices. It isn’t cheap, but the finished effect is pretty special!
Practice some Panelling
A bit of Paris and tradition in our home is something you can copy and create yourselves. And here’s the best bit; it can be done on a shoestring budget…our panelled hallway. Some hip Parisians feel panelled apartments are a tad ‘bourgeois’, but if you’re in the know, you know these period features must be kept as they’re a huge draw. Particularly to suckers like me! Panelling is big in traditional Parisian homes. With some dado or wood strips you can create a panelled room in your home. Doing it yourself it takes meticulous planning but the finished look is stunning. You can read my blog about it here.
With super tall buildings and limited light Parisians are careful in their choice of colours when it comes to interiors. In fact, there aren’t really colours; it’s all about tones. You’ll find the tones of a chic parisien apartment are very muted and light. So think whites, greys, laté colours. With a hint of pastel here and then. As it happens this colour palette is very on trend now, so you’re in luck! You can also find super deep greys too, which looks great on panelled walls; a look we’ve adopted in the hallway using Farrow & Ball, Manor House Gray. This is a deep rich colour. Here’s a colour swatch of some tones you could use.
The Finale: Chez Chandelier
Lastly, it comes down to the furnishings. The perfect finishing touch for any Parisien look is a gold mirror, that reflects light around the room. Think light light light! You can’t get enough of it. And a good chandelier just nails it. With crystals dangling down it will reflect light beams and rainbow spectrums all around the room too. So once it’s hung all you need is sunshine, something our French counterparts know a lot more than us Brits!