7 Secrets of Sophisticated French Style

While travelling to Paris or France may be off the cards right now, you can still capture the indescribable essence (that je ne sais quoi) of sophisticated French Interior Style in your own home. 

I’ve always loved the effortless sophistication of French interior style.  Like French fashion, Parisian design feels so natural and yet so hard to replicate.  It’s part casual, part absolute elegance.  I thought I’d take a look at recreating this incredibly appealing, effortless yet sophisticated aesthetic.  It’s so achievable, regardless of where you find yourself in the world.   Surprisingly, I think these are my favourite principals for any kind of interior decor.  So, for a little French flair or just the perfect interior (any style), these seven simple tips are for you!

1. Start with the Foundations

Respect your homes architecture and highlight it.  While many of us start with ‘white boxes’ devoid of personality, empty Parisian apartments already have serious flair.  It could be herringbone parquet floors, double windows letting in lots of light, a chandelier drawing attention to a high ceiling or a gorgeous fireplace (or all of the above). 

Although our homes are often more contemporary and simpler in their detailing, pay attention to the architectural features that you have and highlight them.  It could be a beautiful view, hardwood polished floors, VJ walls and decorative features, a high ceiling, or a large opening onto a sunny deck.  Whatever your architectural feature, make it a focal point.

The same goes with key pieces of furniture.  Parisian apartments often appear effortless because of a very simple formula.  The French decorate like they dress.  They build their wardrobe around a few timeless classics.  In the same way, the French design their homes around a few timeless, classic pieces of furniture.  The rest evolves with their personality over time.

2. Go Neutral

French interior style is all about a subdued neutral palette that lets form, pattern and texture, steal the show.  This adds to the overall calm feel of this style.  Go all in with a monochromatic scheme or neutral shades of white, linen, sand, chalky green, tan, grey and black.  Touches of metallic and splashes of colour can form highlights or connect different objects from various time periods in a room. 

White walls are often used in French interior style to make spaces look and feel bigger and brighter.  White also adds to the feeling of calm, but make sure you use the right white.  Nothing too blue or yellow.  A creamy white with a hint of pink is perfect.  Try Dulux Natural White or Dulux Whisper White.

3. Make it Effortless

This could be the biggest key of all – don’t try too hard! French interiors appear effortless because they are just as much about lifestyle as design.

French interior spaces are well thought out, storage is optimised, and everything has a function.  Each piece has a purpose as well as beauty and timelessness.  Nothing is overly matching, so rooms appear to have come together organically. 

So, keep it simple.  Mix vintage with new, and allow your memories and treasures brought home from travels to shape the space rather than following a particular style.  Use art, books, plants and things you love to create an organically lived-in space.  Scatter pieces almost randomly for a considered nonchalance.

4. Add a Touch of Glamour

In contrast to the calm, effortless vibe, no French interior is complete without a touch of glamour.  Metallic details make a space seem more luxurious.  A gilded frame hanging over a fireplace, a brass trinket box or metallic details on a chair – the options are endless. 

Oversized mirrors with decorative gold frames bounce light around a room making a space feel bigger as well as adding some glamour.  They are also an easy way to add a vintage contrast to contemporary space.  

Another way to add sparkle is in the form of a chandelier.  A beautiful pendant can add a little sparkle to a dining room, a small power room or any space that needs a little romance or glamour.  You can also add vintage crystal trinkets, candle holders and so on.

Curtains in French interiors are also used to add romance and glamour.  They are normally lavish, running from floor to ceiling and gently pooling onto the floor.

5. Eclectic Justaposition

It’s often the juxtaposition of old and new or simple and luxurious, that drives the sophisticated French interior style and gives it a playfulness.  Decorate according to your whims.  Make the space come alive with surprising contrasts that won’t limit you to one era or particular style.

There are no rules.  Try to assemble things that shouldn’t be together in the first place.  This reinforces the effortless feel that everything was collected over time.  Think 20th century works with beautiful antiques displaying age and history or ethnic collectables from your travels alongside cool retro pieces.  Have fun searching flea markets and antique shops.  When an object makes you stop in your tracks – take note.  At the end of the day, beautiful objects go together no matter where or when they were made.

French interior style also features purposely clashing prints, patterns and colour.  These are often used to give a sense of balance.  For instance, an antique day bed set amongst a mid-century modern grouping may be upholstered in a modern print or colour to unify the arrangement. 

6. Embrace Negative Space

French interior style also values minimalism.  They aren’t afraid of empty space.  Art is often large and singular, or simply not there at all. They’ll often forgo an area rug where others might automatically place one (maybe they just want to show off those fantastic parquet floors), and furniture is given room to breathe. 

So rather than filing up your home for the sake of it, remember that less can be more.

7. Accessorising

It only takes a little accessorizing to express your unique style in that effortless French way.  Nothing too fussy and be careful not to create ‘clutter’.  The art of turning clutter into stylish arrangements is all about grouping common objects together.  Cluster small things together on top of a book or tray so they appear to the eye as one object and ensure everything is balanced.  If all else fails stack it into neat, chic little piles.

Groups of your favourite books casually piled on top of each other in a prominent spot.  Plants in various stylish pots.  Mismatched candles that add a subtle fragrance to a room.  Treasures from your travels scattered alongside artwork old and new.  Finally, a simple bunch of flowers are the perfect finishing touch for any room. 

French homes have often seen a lot of history and the interiors are collected and evolve over time.  This gives their home a richness that can’t be obtained overnight.  What elements would you incorporate to give your home some French inspired style? Let me know in the comments below!

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Adentro Design is a Brisbane-based interior design studio focused on creating unique spaces that tell your story.  With 20+ years of experience, we have delivered exceptional outcomes in  commercial, resort, retail and residential spaces.  Our designs inspire, connect and drive productivity … or simply, spark joy!  Let us make the design process easy for you.