Think of a stylish nation and the French spring to mind almost immediately. With their cutting edge haute couture fashion, brilliant sculptors and painters, world-class film industry, elegant châteaux and fabulous gastronomy, the French really have style in abundance. They seem to have a skill for creating things of great beauty with very little effort – how do they do that?
Take their interior design style, for example. The French like to do things in extremes, whether it’s the super-bling of the Palace of Versailles, a rustic Limousin farmhouse, elegant parquet-floored Parisian apartment or gilt-edged Baroque country house grandeur, it’s guaranteed to look fabulous.
To achieve a home that twinkles with Gallic charm there are a number of different routes to take. Depending on personal style, this could involve heading off in a rustic French farmyard direction with milk churns in the kitchen, gingham curtains and simple wooden French furniture, such as dressers and armoires, to create a truly continental accent.
If grand interiors are required, then put together an elegant boudoir featuring ornately carved commodes (chest of drawers), large gilt framed mirrors, glittering chandeliers and a sumptuous chaise longue from which to relax and admire the view. The French are famous for being good in the bedroom, and this is certainly the case when it comes to the furniture! There can be fewer more French experiences than falling asleep in the soft, opulence of a mahogany sleigh bed; adding this particular item of furniture to a room instantly translates it into fluent French. Visitors to France should head for Brocantes, flea markets and Depot Ventes, all good hunting grounds for authentic furniture.
Upholstery and linens are taken very seriously across the channel. To get a French twist into fabrics, choose distinctive motifs such as fleur de lis and chintzy fabrics that catch the sunlight. Simple ticking, stripes and linens work well in more relaxed schemes, or for an injection of French formality try out one of the many Toile de Jouy designs, typically French and oozing style. These famous pastoral textile designs are mostly blues, reds and blacks on an ivory background. The designs have become so popular it is possible to acquire lampshades and wallpapers in the same range, to create a unified look.
Now introducing a little French flair into the British home has long been a popular pastime. We have welcomed with open arms the chairs with their elegantly turned legs, the gigantic rustic dressers, the light and airy colour schemes and the antiques of the Louis Phillipe and Henri II periods. The naïve Provençal peasant furniture or the ornate dark woods of the Breton styles have all become familiar sights in British homes. Another inspired French invention that has really caught on over here is shutters, such as the type supplied by www.thecaliforniacompany.co.uk. Shutters are used to keep out the hot midday sun, to retain privacy and to insulate against heat loss at night. With a huge range of styles available, shutters offer an elegant alternative to curtains or blinds and lend an unmistakably French flavour to any room.
With careful selection of some key furniture and design elements, it is possible to create a French inspired oasis within the home. Why not embark on a love affair with all things French – who knows where it could lead?
Aimee Claire – Aimee is an enthusiastic, well-educated freelance writer with a passion for Interior Design. She is fascinated at how different patterns, textures and lighting can completely change the look and atmosphere of a room. One day she will run her own Interior Design company, but for now is happy experimenting with new designs in her own house.