How to Decorate Your Apartment Like a Parisian
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While many of us might fantasize about living in Louis XIV’s quintessentially Baroque palace in Versailles, we could also settle for a more transitional style that mixes new and old with French flavor. Decorating your home like a Parisian might seem like a challenge if you’re not living in the City of Lights, but achieving French apartment style is actually much easier than it looks.
Although you might not find apartments with elegant molding and parquet floors depending on your city, there are several key elements of French contemporary style that you can implement in any space. Beyond just interior design style, there are several lifestyle factors that add to the character and charm of many Parisian homes, especially when it comes to dining and entertaining. In this guide, I’m sharing how to decorate your apartment like a Parisian and create a French apartment style no matter where you are in the world.
If you really want to decorate your home like a Parisian, why not consider moving to Paris? I have an entire post on How I Moved to France (and How You Can Too). Plus you can check out my Ultimate Guide to Teaching English in France. Although you might not be able to afford a luxury Haussmannian apartment right away, you’ll be one step closer to achieving your dream Parisian apartment. However, if your future adobe is not in Paris, you can still add French flair to any space with my tips below
For more French lifestyle content, check out these posts:
Choose the Right Space
There are many architectural features that are ideal for creating the perfect French-inspired space: an antique fireplace, parquet wood floors, high ceilings and applied molding. Unfortunately, these details are difficult to find outside of Paris where these key Haussmannian architecture elements were popular during the construction of the city. If you want to know more about the history of Paris’s historic Haussmannian apartment buildings, check out how this architectural style transformed France’s capital city.
If you’re searching for a new apartment to go with a French contemporary style, look at older spaces with more character. You don’t need to have all of these structural elements, but they can help solidify your Parisian design style. The more charm and character, the better.
If you want to renovate your current space, you can add several of these Haussmannian features. Parquet wood floors and applied molding are two particular elements that are relatively easy to add to your space. However, I would embrace the unique architectural style of your home instead of making drastic changes. Instead of trying to change the architecture, focus on the decorating tips below to create a Parisian atmosphere.
Paint Your Walls White
In small, Parisian apartments where it’s sometimes difficult to get any sunlight, light-reflecting white walls do wonders for brightening up a space. It also creates the perfect canvas for decorating your home. If you want to add some color to your walls, go for beige, cream or gray paint. I love the different shades of gray used by Paris-based interior designer Anne-Sophie Pailleret in this romantic and contemporary Parisian apartment.
Add a Gold-Gilt Mirror
A gold-gilt mirror is perfect for adding a Parisian flair to your space. Place one on your fireplace, dresser or cabinet (no need to hang it on the wall either). You can find Baroque mirrors online like this one from Anthropologie and a selection from Etsy. Another option is to search your local thrift stores and antique shops. You’re more likely to find a gold mirror with a vintage charm and at a lower price. If you don’t have any luck in store, sites like 1stDibs and Chairish offer a selection of antique French mirrors, but they are usually more expensive.
Incorporate Art and Culture
Every French home I’ve visited always revealed the owner’s tastes in art and culture. Even in the chicest Parisian apartments you can find posters from art exhibits, local artwork and shelves stocked with a variety of books. You can frenchify your space by showcasing your favorite artwork and cultural interests. Consider arranging your record collection or adding a few books and magazines to your coffee table. Display a souvenir from a recent trip or hang a unique piece of art on your wall. Remember to choose what is authentic to your own interests and tastes.
Opt for Velvet and Linen
Velvet is one fabric that you can find in almost any chic Parisian apartment. Add some French flair to your space by adding a Baroque style velvet armchair or ottoman. If you don’t want to invest in expensive velvet furniture, consider a pair of colorful velvet pillows to liven up your home. I’m obsessed with the bright pink velvet chair and pillow featured in this super chic Paris living room.
Be careful not to overdo it with velvet as it can easily make your space feel outdated. Instead, balance velvet with simple fabrics like linen. From duvet covers to curtains, linen is a great material to choose when decorating your home the French way.
Keep It Minimal
With so many elements to the Parisian apartment, it is easy to overdo your space with too many items. Even if you’re not living in a tiny Parisian apartment, avoid cluttering your home with knick-knacks and useless items. Make sure that all items in your space are valuable or inspiring to you. Although Marie Kondo isn’t French, her KonMari Method will certainly help you simplify your Parisian-inspired space.
Refrain from too many loud pieces in your space as well. One element of French contemporary style is mixing bolder, detailed pieces with simpler, cleaner items. Balance is key when it comes to curating your home like a Parisian.
Mix In Something International
Why do Parisian apartments feel charmingly antiquated, yet simultaneously contemporary and chic? French contemporary style borrows from different styles, blending modern elements with traditional design. Adding newer pieces perfectly compliments the old Baroque style, so try incorporating contemporary international pieces into your space like Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair or Eero Saarinen's Tulip Table. You can easily find more affordable versions of these famous styles online. Check out this article from Apartment Therapy on 6 tulip tables for less for inspiration.
Go for Greenery
A simple way to liven up your French-inspired apartment is by placing plants throughout the space. Add a bouquet of fresh flowers on your living room table. Place potted plants here and there. If you have a green thumb, grow your own plants on your balcony. You’ll instantly add a sense of freshness and liveness to your apartment.
Light It Up
A quintessentially French way to light your apartment is with a chandelier. This sparkly lighting option can pair beautifully with contemporary decor. If you’re looking for a more modest lighting fixture, try clean, modern options. Even this basic pendant lamp shade from Ikea can work in a French contemporary space. I love the unexpected use of a bamboo pendant lamp in this eclectic Parisian home.
Opt for Simple Bedding
Create a boutique hotel atmosphere in your home by opting for simple, yet chic bedding. As I previously mentioned, white can instantly brighten up a small, dull space, and it works in almost any bedroom. Start with a basic set of white sheets, then add a white duvet cover to transform your bed the French way. Want to create your luxurious bed for less? One of my favorite places to buy high quality bedding at over half-off traditional retail is Quince.
If you want to add some color, try a bold accent pillow or a textured throw blanket. I love the pops of green with the white bedding in this Parisian bedroom. For a more subtle use of color, opt for neutral shades like blush pink, beige or light gray. This French bedroom feels fresh, yet refined with pink and gray bedding.
Frenchify Your Outdoor Space
A private garden, let alone a modest balcony, is a luxury when you’re living in Paris. If you have an outdoor space, don’t neglect giving it a French touch. To a balcony, add a small French bistro table and chairs set. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a coffee, chat with a friend or read a book. Spruce it up your cozy outdoor space with some comfortable pillows and a small vase of flowers.
If you’ve got a green thumb, consider planting some flowers or herbs on your window sill. While I was living in Paris, the French hostess who I stayed with didn’t have a balcony, but she had flowers and plants growing outside of almost every window.
Thanks for reading. How do you decorate your apartment?