If you are completely besotted with a French-style aesthetic for your interior spaces, then you don’t need a trip to Paris or Provence for inspiration. You just need to take a trip to The Crown Collection where a beautifully curated range of French furniture and accessories await.
But what exactly is ‘French style’? If you had to ask the French to define their interior style choices, they would probably look at you askance and in a condescending French way – with a French accent – say, “You cannot define French style; you either have it or you don’t.”
But we are going to try because it is not as elusive as the French make it out to be. There are certain quintessential characteristics that have come to reflect the French style in interior design circles and which you can simply add to your home.
Although not French, Columbian interior designer, Juan Montoya, clearly articulates what we believe makes French-style interiors so special: “A room should never allow the eye to settle in one place. It should smile at you and create fantasy.”
Follow our 5 decor tips for any space in your home to smile at you – French Style.
#1 The colour palette
Before you even begin your journey into choosing antique or vintage French-style furniture pieces or decorative accessories, you need to arm yourself with some French colour therapy.
Although bold pops of colour are not out of the question, they are minor accents to an overarching swatch card of softer and romantic neutrals: shades of white, beige, grey, sage, duck-egg blue and blush pink. These are the backdrop colours that will charm any interior and welcome you. (The French will not negotiate on this and once you start having fun with the eclectic side of French design, you will understand why).
Getting the colour palette right is the key to a successful decor story. And from this starting point, there are so many French styles you can experiment with to find your personal favourite that will give your home a bespoke ‘ooh-la-la’ Parisian or French country feel.
#2 The architectural details
Charles Eames (of the iconic Eames chair) said that “The details are not the details. They make the design.”
This couldn’t be more true of French Style interiors. If your spaces don’t boast architectural details such as ornate pressed ceilings, crown moulding, exposed wooden beams, wainscotting or chevron-patterned wood floors, then antique or vintage French pieces are the solution.
No matter how many crystal chandeliers, gilded mirrors and shiny silver accessories feature in French style design, the French are nothing if they aren’t refined and subtle in their approach to interior design elements. So even though a room may house an ornate gilded mirror, gilded chairs and a chandelier, the effect will never be gaudy or over-the-top. Rather, there is an understated elegance that is harmonious and comfortable.
When done properly, French-styled rooms make you want to linger and just appreciate every beautifully placed piece.
#4 The distressed, aged look
It doesn’t really matter which style of French design is your favourite because when it comes to furniture pieces, the number one consideration is comfort and style (and a white-washed, distressed or aged finish). Somehow this aged patina – which draws on a historical decor narrative – still lends a sophisticated charm.
These layered decor notes create a warm atmosphere; highlighting a space that is lived-in and well-loved. Another way to add an aged look is by adding an antique Aubusson carpet; the history, colours and patterns are the perfect soft furnishing in any room.
“There are two things that make a room timeless: a sense of history and a piece of the future.” –Charlotte Moss, award-winning interior designer.
#5 The eclectic charm
French-style homes exude the epitome of casual elegance – almost as if they have been thrown together. (We say almost because an eclectic space still follows some clear decor principles that are adhered to achieve the ‘the look’). The secret to achieving this French eclectic cohesiveness is the fun factor of mixing and matching old and new pieces. This is where the French get interior design right. It is their ‘je ne sais quoi.’ A carefully curated aesthetic of antique and vintage items, scattered among contemporary pieces, adds personality and a French chicness.
David Hicks, the English interior decorator and designer who was known for his bold mixing of antique and modern furnishings, needs to have the last word on this: “The best rooms have something to say about the people who live in them.”
There is a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ element to any home that has a French vintage style. The timeless elegance and romance associated with the French and their decorating history have bewitched us all. French decor has evolved from the elaborate and ornate Versailles and Renaissance decadence to a design solution that is practical, beautiful and sensual.
From French country chic to rustic minimalism, vintage pieces combine casual and regal in an effortless way. It is all about comfortable luxury pieces that everyone falls in love with.
French country decor is all about soft, muted colours, toile and floral fabrics, bleached, distressed or painted wooden antique furniture, natural materials, a chandelier(of course) and a touch of gold. The old-world charm is achieved by mixing and matching vintage pieces with a unique vintage flair. Layering with fabrics, textures, wallpaper and antique carpets, is the secret to French romanticism and a bespoke ambience that will make you feel at home. This is where an armoire, a chaise lounge or daybed and a painted and carved French-style bombe chest of drawers(reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast) are the perfect starting points for any space.
What sets French Vintage decor apart is the ability to get away with mixing and matching fabrics and antique furniture in a bold eclectic way. This more ‘Parisian’ influence loves to make a chic statement with ornate fabrics and tapestries, gallery walls and bold, moody colours. There is a definite sophisticated edge but without compromising on comfort and practicality as well as not being too perfect or formal. There may be a lot going on, but the multi-layered design narrative and subtle arrangement still exude a sense of calm.
When French vintage adds rustic elements into the mix, the result is relaxed and almost thrown together, but it just works. Exposed ceiling beams, rough walls, distressed floors, mismatched colourful fabrics and natural elements all tell a story that has you feeling you’ve stepped back in time, but in a good way. The secret to achieving this is ‘chiner’ – a French word meaning ‘to hunt for.’ Hunting for antique and vintage furniture pieces is the heart of French decor.
French Vintage at the Crown Collection
Your French affair starts at The Crown Collection, South Africa’s largest emporium of antique, vintage, contemporary and French-style furniture and accessories. Start your ‘chiner’ for the perfect French vintage and antique pieces to add that sense of handpicked‘je ne sais quoi’ to your home. This is where comfortable and sophisticated French-style vintage charm lives from Louis XVI armchairs to gilded mirrors and crystal chandeliers.