The Luxurist

A compendium for luxury living


Modern French Interior Design 101

The six signature marks of a stylish Parisian interior

Joanne Quinn By Joanne QuinnSenior Interior Designer

Ah, Paris… The entire city is an institution of style but Paris’ architecture and interior design? That’s what really interests us. Paris interiors are informed, composed and sensitively adventurous. They’re exactly the kind of thing that parquet-floored, balcony-lined, boiserie-clad dreams are made of.

Here are a few things you should consider adding to your space to give it that Parisian je ne sais quoi.

1. Striking wall lights

Of course, Parisian interiors include table lamps, floor lamps and pendant lights but wall sconces (even the word is French!) are particularly Parisian. Mounted in the apertures of the city’s home’s trademark wall panelling, these pieces take on a life of their own. Translucent alabaster crafted into simple geometric shapes (like these Kelly Wearstler designs) or statement-making urchin offerings are particularly evocative of Paris style.

2. Sculptural additions

French styling is inherently pared back but sculptural additions are a staple of Parisian interiors. Give your space a dose of Paris chic with a striking mirror design, a sculptural ornament or a unique light installation. Something as simple as a coffee table fruit bowl can and should have a considered design.

3. Abstract artwork

In a city where art is revered, can a home without artwork ever feel fully dressed? Parisian artwork takes many forms but the simplest way to channel the look is with abstract art. The contrast of established Hausmann bones and modern art, with its defiant attitude, is a thoroughly Parisian design move.

4. Nonchalant styling

Paris likes to keep things simple. Wasn’t is Coco Chanel who advocated “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off”? Styling in Paris is careful and never overdone – letting its environment speak for itself. A simple glass vase, a well-proportioned mirror or a simple linen cushion is all a Parisian apartment needs to enhance its timelessness.

5. Understated furniture

Paris design prioritises design integrity. Simple lines are preferred over unnecessary or distracting decoration and serene arrangements are tied together by a sense of relaxed elegance. A sinuous chaise longue, an expertly piped stool (in the colour du jour, pink, of course), a fine marble coffee table or a barely-there console are just a few examples of Paris’ love for the subdued.

6. Traditional pieces

There can be nothing more Parisian than an antique ornament, a gilded fireplace mirror or a decorative bergère paired with modern counterparts. The city seems to have a knack for elevating a space via unique combinations. Despite the traditionality of these pieces, everything maintains a slightly nonchalant vibe – architectural prints are either propped up on the floor or mantlepiece, soft furnishings have a “lived in” look and classical additions feel authentic.

Learn about the French tastemakers who mould the design world in our “Top Ten French Interior Designers” article.