French interior design is renowned for its casual feel and timeless elegance. Use these design tips to master the effortlessly chic look.

By Jessica Bennett
August 31, 2020
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The French are known for a few things: buttery croissants, the Eiffel Tower, and their impeccable taste. In homes, French style embodies a casual elegance that feels at once effortless and carefully curated, reserved yet deeply personal. Often filled with a high-low mix of styles and eras, French-style interiors might seem impossibly chic, but the look isn't impossible to emulate. You don't have to live in a historic Parisian apartment or an 18th-century farmhouse in the Provençal countryside to appreciate the simple charms of French interior design. Follow these design rules to master the art of French style in your own home.

modern black and white dining area
Credit: Brie Williams

1. Mix old and new.

French-style interiors are often highly distinctive and eclectic, featuring furniture and decor from a broad range of eras, design styles, and sources. To achieve this look, juxtapose flea market finds with contemporary pieces or European antiques with midcentury modern furnishings. Keep the look cohesive instead of chaotic by repeating a few key colors throughout the space to connect the assorted elements.

Living room with wooden coffee table and white furniture
Credit: David A Land

2. Celebrate architectural details.

Your home might not have the intricate ceiling moldings and herringbone floors of a penthouse off the Seine, but you can still play up a room's architectural details. Draw attention to an elegant fireplace mantel with decorative vases or art, or forego a rug to highlight the richness of your wood flooring. If your home lacks distinctive architecture, consider small upgrades to boost character, such as adding crown molding in the living room or installing wainscoting in the dining room. For a rustic French look, redo floors in an entryway or kitchen with terra-cotta tiles or herringbone brick.

double french doors into kitchen with brick floor
Credit: John Bessler

3. Decorate with subdued colors.

Part of the simplicity of French-style interiors comes from the color palette. Crisp white walls and neutral furnishings typically dominate, with small hits of color mixed in for interest. Look to muted colors with gray undertones, such as sage green, steely blue, or dusty rose, to add depth to a neutral palette while maintaining a sophisticated subdued effect. To ground the look, layer in small doses of black through hardware or light fixtures.

Eclectic style bedroom with cottage, rustic, and country style accents
Credit: Paul Dyer

4. Add a touch of glamour.

Every French-style room needs an element of glamour. You can instantly elevate a space with humble bones by hanging a delicate crystal chandelier or mounting a gilded antique mirror. Choose just one or two glitzy accessories to introduce an air of luxury without going all-out glam.

wooden dresser in front of glass panes
Credit: Brie Williams

5. Embrace the beauty of aging.

In French-style interiors, beautiful doesn't mean perfect. The French welcome the character of aged wood, chipped paint, and burnished metal. Give your home a sense of history with items that gracefully show their age, such as a mirror that's scuffed and speckled with age spots or an antique painted table with a peeling finish.

living room gold accents
Credit: Kim Cornelison

6. Create a lived-in space.

One hallmark of French interiors is that they never look too perfect. To imitate this laissez-faire approach, don't worry too much about decorating around a specific style. Instead, accessorize with items that have special meaning to you, such as books, artwork, or family heirlooms, to organically create a space you love.

Living room with large area rug
Credit: David Tsay

7. Don't over-decorate.

As you layer accessories with an eclectic mix of furnishings, remember not to over-do it. French-style interiors reflect a pared-down aesthetic that doesn't feel cluttered or overcrowded. When styling a space, edit furniture and decor down to only the items that serve a purpose or reflect your personality. Decorating with fewer elements helps give your favorite pieces, whether that's an antique armchair or a handcrafted vase, the attention they deserve.

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