The French might be the world’s most stylish denizens. From their perfectly tied scarves to their impossibly delicate desserts, it’s as if les français gave sophistication its name. Naturally, French style extends to interiors, and we believe we’ve cracked the code. With their impeccably undone appeal and nonchalant aesthetic, the French carry an air of sophistication without looking like they even tried. It’s incredibly appealing and totally achievable, regardless of where you find yourself in the world.
How do the French get everything from their dreamy Parisian maisons to their countryside chateaus so right each and every time? We’ve got the answers: Follow these seven simple tips to give your home a touch of that French je ne sais quoi.
Unlike the interiors of, say, a Beverly Hills manse, a French home is never overstyled. There’s always an element of undone-ness, whether that be a wrinkled linen duvet cover or a classic portrait with chipped paint leaning on the floor against a wall. This is especially true for French country decorating, where easy nonchalance meets elegance.
Have a Moment of Glory
In contrast to those undone moments, some of the chicest French homes also embrace a touch of lavishness, like dramatic silk drapes that puddle onto the floor. If drapes aren’t your style, a gilded mirror so oversize it almost touches the ceiling will certainly do.
Behold the Armoire
French closets are nowhere near as expansive as American ones. The French answer to the closet is the armoire, a freestanding storage piece that has drawers, shelves, and/or a hanging rod. Add one to your bedroom to hold your clothing or to your bathroom to store linens and towels.
Add a Touch of Sparkle
French interiors are rarely flashy, but they often have a bit of sparkle in the form of an antique or vintage French chandelier—the older the better. The idea is to make your ceiling fixture look original, like it’s been around since the days of Marie Antoinette.
Many French homes—especially in Paris—are graced with stunning historic architecture; after all, France is much older than the United States. Thus, the French have developed the great skill of celebrating the intricate bones of their homes, rather than fighting them. If you have carved-wood detailing, leave your walls white so the sculpture can be the star of the show. Have beautiful herringbone floors? Skip that rug, or use a glass table to show them off.
Go for a Soak
The French take remarkably quick showers—the concept of conserving water isn’t new to them. But soaking and unwinding in a deep tub is a specialty of theirs (they’re experts at relaxing, too). Add an elegant freestanding porcelain tub to your home; even cold water will seem alluring.
Create a Subdued Palette
It’s rare to see bold, bright walls in a French home. These Europeans know their way around a color wheel, and it’s usually in the realm of a gorgeously chalky and subdued hue. Think white, pale mint, sand, linen, or gray. You can add pops of color in art, decorative accents, or a dynamic bedspread like the one in this gorgeous room from A+B Kasha.
What is your most loved interior design style from around the world? Up next, the secret to styling your home like a Parisian.
Update: This story was originally published on June 14, 2016. It has since been updated by Sacha Strebe and Hadley Mendelsohn.