In this post I’m sharing one of the questions that I’m most often asked about. How do I give my home a contemporary French interior? Perhaps you already decorate in a French style but just want to update it? Whether you call it new French chic, Paris apartment, elegant French flair or modern French country. Let’s dive into some history, tips and suggestions so that you can see what I mean. Bonus that these tips really working for ANY STYLE, so let’s dive right in!
Before I go on though, do this your way and be sure to infuse your own style! Make it livable and comfortable foremost for you and your family. But keep reading for the biggest takeaway tip!
So…let’s face it, the French have been setting the trend in both style and fashion since the 1600’s. If you’ve ever been to France then you’ll know. Architecture was baroque, furniture was massive and often decorated with hand applied gilding. Marble was everywhere.
Chateaus like Versailles and Chenonceau were in their glory days outfitted with rich wood parquet floors and patterned stone.
Generous curves, columns, intricate applied moulding and richly embellished surfaces, the chateaus have incredibly ornate “bones”. Then bring in the marble fireplaces in every room, crystal chandeliers, gilded mirrors and these castles were certainly fit for royalty!
We love all of this glamour yet want to gear our homes to a more contemporary French interior. Right? We don’t live in castles or chateaus, and life is far more informal for us in modern times. We CAN have some iteration of this from the royal era but use more restraint. Do you really want your home to look like Versailles?
I think not, so let’s find new ways to mix old and new in a sophisticated way. Give your own castle a contemporary French interior by mixing in some some chic modern pieces amongst tradition.
But what’s my biggest tip? USE RESTRAINT and don’t overdo with the stuff! Yes, I have accessories and decor for every season, but I don’t put them out all at once and edit, edit, edit all rooms!
Contemporary French Interior Style Tips
The Architecture Or Room Shell
- Look down! As remodeling contractors we generally start with the flooring, which makes sense because it’s a messy job! Start with the bones of the room and take a good look at your floors first. What changes can you make? In just about every Paris apartment that I’ve ever been in the floors are parquet or patterned wood, but we don’t see that much in today’s modern world of design.
- If thinking about new flooring perhaps a rustic bleached wood floor might give some French flair to your contemporary French interior? Porcelain tile with the look of stone is timeless as well and will last for a lifetime. I have tile that has the appearance of stone in all of the main areas of my house. Living in a humid climate it’s practical to the point of almost indestructible, but it’s also quite lovely. Speaking of flooring and climate issues…we also have this – Luxury Vinyl Plank that looks exactly like wood installed in several rooms.
- If you have a blank slate with your walls, then adding crown moulding would a terrific next step to sophistication. It gives a polished and finished look to a room, whether you plan on adding additional moulding or not.
- At the moment picture moulding and board and batten are über trending. If used judiciously you’ll likely never tire of it, but like all good things it can be over played.
- Walls are generally painted white in most contemporary French interiors, or a light shade of grey or greige. Keep it simple with a neutral color palette and let the architecture of the room serve as a beautiful backdrop. If you need some neutral paint help…check out this informative post on – The Best Neutral Paint Shades For Interiors.
Adding Depth To Your Modern French Interior
- Rugs play a big part in French decorating and soften up a room. Traditionally Aubusson rugs were used back in the Louis days and are still very much in vogue. But the contemporary French interior often goes more bohemian. Something to keep in the mindset of modernizing. You’ve probably noticed that I change out my area rugs as frequently as someone changes their lipstick! Here are some of my favorites below.
- Window treatments in modern French interiors are kept to a minimum. Besides the need for privacy, you can add a luxe look with either velvet drapes or linen. Be sure to hang them up as high as possible on the wall and allow for lots of drape and puddle. Use restraint…simple, quiet and elegant is the look of modern French decorating!
- A fireplace with a carved marble mantel is the one accessory piece that is still seen today in most French homes. It’s timeless! In my own home we don’t have actual fireplaces, since it would never be needed in this climate. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have mantels though…there are two! Wood mantels with or without a firebox are equally chic, and painted white can almost be marble-esque.
- Next is a large accessory piece that every French contemporary interior NEEDS to have. Any guesses? YES, it’s a mirror and with gilding or painted white or greige! Place a Louis XVI mirror over the mantel and the look is timeless and oh so chic! A reasonably priced antique French mirror is hard to find, so I’ll be linking a few new options below.
- Bring in the light with a bit of sparkle in the form of a French style chandelier. Don’t even get me started on how essential a chandelier is for that French factor! If you really want to make a modern pop, mix up your lighting. An antique (or good replica) French beaded chandelier juxtaposed with a newly designed floor lamp will do the trick of making a power statement. Or how about a modern chandelier with high style?!
- In my own home I will usually mingle furnishings in an intentional way. In the living room, pair a velvet sofa with a pair of modern chairs or a sleek coffee table. Go for pieces with patina and have one or two important pieces like a bèrgere chair with a leather Chesterfield couch. This living room makes quite a statement without much fuss.
- In the dining room perhaps a zinc topped or tulip table. Mingle with Thonet chairs or practical and elegant white slipcovered. How about some modern luxe velvet chairs!
- The bedroom will always have a ready made focal point, since the bed is the largest piece of furniture in the room. There are oodles of French modern style beds available these days and I’ll link some below. Choose natural materials for your bedding as the French do and don’t skimp on quality! If there is one thing that can really make or break your day it’s the quality of your sleep. There’s nothing better than climbing into bed at night and wrapping yourself up in either linen or high quality crisp cotton…or (as I do) a combination of both!
- Accessories kept to a minimum since you want the architectural elements to shine in your contemporary French interior styling. Think organic natural materials in terms of fabrics as mentioned. Linen, velvet, wood, zinc, clear glass, crystal, marble. Keep your vignettes simple and pair pieces in odd groupings like 3, 5, 7. If decorating a mantel, try mixing up things like books, plants and perhaps a family memento or an antique. Of course flowers are always in bloom in modern French homes!
Remember that with any good design practicality should come first and from the furniture to the aesthetics, it should all have a function.