Decorate Like This, and You're Practically French

When it comes to decorating, the French already have a leg up on us. Working with centuries of beautiful, intricate architectural details and family heirlooms, it doesn't take much to make a space look (and feel) special and cool. But we don't call French décor effortless for no reason—most often these cool, curated spaces are formed over the years through accumulation and an understanding of important architecture and design movements, rather than through the careful planning of an interior designer.

So how can you learn from the French's decorating philosophy and apply it to your own home? We decided to investigate and pinpoint some of the most common threads found in cool Parisian apartments. Whether it's original contemporary art or statement modern furniture, the French invest in these pieces because they know they will stand the test of time and build on an already existing collection of important items, no matter the style or time period. Want to get a little closer to decorating like the French? Start with these surefire bets.

Start With Iconic Furniture

French Homes — Iconic Furniture
Simon Watson/Trunk Archive

The French are notorious for holding on to family heirlooms, which means they never have to decorate from scratch. The result: When they decide to replace a piece of furniture, they go for trusted classics that will stand the test of time.

Prouvé Standard Chair
Vitra Prouvé Standard Chair $995

Decorate With Books (That You Actually Read)

French Homes — Books
Simon Watson/Trunk Archive

The French actually read the books that populate their bookcases—and there are a lot of them. Don't worry too much about your books matching, and display them proudly, even if they don't have the prettiest jackets.

Taschen Design Essentials $60

Always Add a Statement Chair

French Homes — Modern Chairs
Christopher Sturman/Trunk Archive

Every French person knows the value of a good statement chair that can double as seating and as a work of art. Often, they opt for classic pieces that have gained iconic status. These pieces can transform a room in an instant.

Knoll Bertoia Two-Tone Diamond Lounge Chair $1237

Group Your Eclectic Art Collection

French Homes — Gallery Walls
Simon Watson/Trunk Archive

Just like the French hold on to their heirloom furniture, they often amass generations of art from their families, which can be tricky to decorate with. Instead of fighting the clash of styles, embrace it. An eclectic gallery wall can become its own art statement.

Michael Wall Pink Natural IV $495

Add Oversize Industrial Lighting

French Homes — Industrial Lighting
Simon Watson/Trunk Archive

The French have a soft spot for oversize industrial or modern furniture. Think giant sconces and chandeliers with swing arms that extend multiple feet. Again, this makes a bold statement with a functional item—and it always leaves an impression.

Vitra Prouvé Potence Lamp $2130

Add a Daybed

French Homes — Daybed
Simon Watson/Trunk Archive

We Americans love our sectional sofas, but the French appreciate a good daybed—in the living room or even in the bedroom. Take this as a lesson in the art of napping—something we could all learn to do a little more of.

Barcelona® Couch
Knoll Barcelona Couch $10065

Prioritize Abstract Art

French Homes — Abstract Art
Simon Watson/Trunk Archive

Lastly, the French often prize abstract and contemporary art. Especially in environments where the architectural details are intricate, this helps to create a balance between eras and styles. Always consider this when choosing furniture or artwork.

Serkan Özkaya Spaghetti Chair $560

Related Stories