Effortless elegance is so very French. Whether they’re dressing themselves up or decorating their homes, the French have an innate ability to create an intoxicating mix of finesse and flamboyance with ease.

French interior design styles deftly combine the old with the new, stay true to established décor principles and still inject a healthy dose of the homeowner’s personality into the space.

French design is bold, sophisticated and chic. But it is also quirky and personal. No two French homes you visit will ever seem or feel alike. A confident design vision is key to pulling off such original flair.

At first glance, it might appear there are no rules when it comes to employing French interior design ideas. That isn’t quite the case. There are some dos and don’ts. For instance:

  • Do use simple, natural fabrics like linen, cotton, and cheesecloth.
  • Don’t go overboard with frills, ruffles, tassels, fringes, and floral fabrics.
  • Do leave a wall completely bare if you can.
  • Don’t surround that beautiful Louis XV chair with more of the same. Make it stand out by pairing it with something completely contrasting, like a modern or minimalist piece of furniture.
  • Do be bold and unconventional. Pair baroque curves with clean, modern lines.
  • Don’t shy away from introducing one spectacular element like an extravagantly colored objet d’art, a large-scale work of art on a wall or an oversize piece of furniture to up the wow factor.
  • Do look upwards. Remember the ceiling and plan to make it more interesting. The French go beyond just flat, white paint on the ceiling.
  • Don’t hold yourself back when decorating the bedroom. A French interior design bedroom makes for a classy retreat that’s a pleasure to retire to at the end of a stressful day.
  • Do add something gilded or shiny to the décor.

Getting the modern French interior design look

French style has evolved considerably since the unapologetic ornate décor of the regal era. After the French Revolution, people began to turn their backs on that over the top aesthetic and go for a simpler look with just a subtle nod here and there to the ornate design history. Here are some guiding principles:


There is a lot of room for flexibility when it comes to color. Let your personality dictate the palette you choose.

If you want to create a calm feel, go for neutrals like white, off-white, taupe, mushroom, light grey, soft duck egg blue or a serene green.

If you wish to punch up the mood, bold colors are the way to go. Peacock blue, teal, emerald green, a shade of red – nothing is off limits in French interior design.

Feature wall

If you can, include a feature wall using distinctive French patterns. This is where you can incorporate French design from the more extravagant era. Nothing is as representative of French culture as an iconic fleur-de-lys pattern.

Or go bolder with a nod to France’s regal décor history by picking a wallpaper with Baroque or Rococo designs. For a more muted vintage look, you could consider Toile de Jouy, which features pastoral scenes on a light background. Damask patterns are always a safe bet because they seem traditional and contemporary at the same time.


Look for at least one or two pieces of vintage furniture or antiques that will help you balance the classic with the more contemporary. Fabric choices also allow you a lot of flexibility. You could go simple with organic cotton and linens with subtle patterns for upholstery or take the opposite direction and choose luxurious fabrics like velvet, brocade, silk, and lace. Again, it is your taste and personality that are in the driving seat.


If you’re leaning towards creating more dramatic ambiance, a chandelier is always a great focal point. There are a whole host of designs to choose from, some more classic and others more contemporary. Wall sconces generally have silk shades with fringes, beads, crystals or even feathers around the bottom rim.

Mix old and new

A typical French family generally has some stunning old objet d’art lying around that becomes the showstopper even in a room with a modern flair. If you don’t have something like that readily available, keep an eye out of décor pieces that look vintage. Playing off the old with the new is a foolproof French design trick.

Showcase French antiquities

You don’t need to go overboard, but having even one gorgeous French antiquity completely transforms any room done in this decorating style.

Picture the elegant curves of a Louis XV style buffet, the glitz of a gilt-wood mirror or the artisan appeal of an old tapestry.

If a genuine antique isn’t within your price range, look for cheaper reproductions or pieces that mimic the look at online auction sites or flea markets.


Floor to ceiling drapes lend an air of class to any room and the French love to employ this design trick. It also fools the eye into thinking that the window is much larger than it actually is, making the space seem bigger and airier.


The French favor floors finished with natural materials like hardwood, stone, and slate. But they also love to layer the look by using area rugs that could be either traditional or contemporary, depending on the overall design of the space.

The French interior design look is well within reach and can work for any budget. It allows you to let your personality shape the décor while also creating a room with classic French appeal.

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