Decorate like a Parisian with these clever and utterly exquisite design ideas.

By Catie Parrish
August 01, 2016

Parisian decorating is all about mixing new and old to create a space with a sense of history. There's no better way to incorporate the past than including family furniture and keepsakes that have been handed down for generations. Not only will your grandmother's table or great uncle's painting add substance to your space, they will also provide a story. A bit of patina is a soothing contrast to shiny new things. If a trip down memory lane leaves your hands empty, check out a local yard sale, thrift store, or estate sale.

2. Let the Architecture Do the Talking


Many of the most beautiful Parisian rooms don't need wallpaper or creative paint techniques because the baroque moldings, trim, window casings, and fireplace surrounds are so ornate.

Your room may not be blessed with these trimmings, but they can be added. Paint them the same color of the walls for a sophisticated monochromatic look (preferably a creamy white or dove gray), or take a page from many French interiors and paint them an accent color, such as a metallic gold or soothing sage green.

3. Establish a Luscious Color Palette

Bath Trends

There are always exceptions, but generally Parisians don't decorate with bold hues like chartreuse or hot pink. You're much more likely to find a room dressed in cream, gold, ivory, and gray. Bring in the colors you love but in softer subdued tones, such as dusty lavender, powder blue, buttery yellow, and blush pink. Black accents will help ground the space and keep it from feeling overly ethereal.

4. Make a Statement with a Mirror


The space above a fireplace mantel is a prime decorating opportunity. Instead of hanging a television or leaning artwork, do as Parisians do and feature a mirror. For a French look, there are a few rules of thumb to follow:

  1. Select a mirror that is about as wide as the fireplace and as tall as possible. Your goal should be to fill the area from the mantel to the ceiling.
  2. Choose a mirror with an ornate gold frame. (Bonus points if it's antique!)
  3. In front of the mirror, place a bust, floral arrangement, or pair of candelabras.

5. Show a Little Leg

living room

In lieu of bulky sofas, oversize armchairs, and hefty coffee tables, Parisian furniture tends to be a bit more delicate. Look for pieces with exposed legs, particularly turned, curved, or carved legs. In a room with lots of leggy furniture, a few skirted pieces can be a nice break. Even this, however, is an opportunity to add style with a pretty fringe or pleated detail.

6. Add a Chandelier

dining room

When shopping for a ceiling light fixture, your options might seem endless. There are pendants, flush-mount fixtures, track lighting, recessed lighting, and directional lights. However, if you are channeling Parisian decor, there's only one real choice: a chandelier.

This hallmark of French decorating is timeless and lovely in every space from an entryway to a bathroom. Up the French ante by opting for a vintage or antique chandelier. You may be surprised at the variety that exists in the world of chandeliers. There are versions with or without crystals, with or without candles, with or without shades, and beyond.

7. Create an Illusion of Height


The quintessential Parisian apartment has a shuttered balcony, wood herringbone floors, and gorgeous high ceilings. If you're not fortunate enough to have a room with soaring ceilings, fake the look by painting the ceiling a slightly lighter hue than the walls. For instance, if your walls are a warm gray, tint your wall paint with a bit of white and use it on the ceiling.

In addition, hang window treatments high and wide. If you're planning some renovation work, replace your windows with long and tall versions to mimic French doors.

8. Shoot for Symmetry

kitchen shelving

Pairs of objects please the eye and help give any room a balanced, elegant look. Take a peek at any Parisian interior you adore, and you're bound to spot duos of decorations: wall sconces flanking a fireplace, matching armchairs tilted toward a coffee table, a pair of footstools tucked beneath a console. A couple matching items also helps your room from looking like a mishmash of miscellaneous finds.

9. Don't Be Too Literal


Here are some things you're unlikely to find in a true Parisian home: an Eiffel Tower statue, faux vintage postcards, or anything with the word "Paris" on it. Instead of scooping up anything that says or looks "French," a more sophisticated approach is to decorate with pieces that elicit a French feeling. Consider framed black-and-white photographs, pretty vases, interesting sculptures, and intricate drawings.

10. Focus on Fabrics


Because you'll be touching and seeing them up close and personal, textiles should be chosen carefully. A touch of silk is undeniably Parisian. You may not be able to afford floor-sweeping silk drapes, but spring for a silk-covered pillow or two. Another classic fabric option is French ticking. It's a bit more casual but just as charming. When it comes to pattern, you can't go wrong with a toile, scrollwork, checked, or striped.


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