The secret to decorating the French way
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French by Design1 of 10
By Andie Huber
In honor of Bastille Day, we are taking a look at the effortless style of Parisian homes. Erin Swift, stylist and author of the book French Accents: At Home with Parisian Objects and Details, details the secret to decorating the French way: It's all about breaking the traditional rules to create a space that's unique and sophisticated, but still inviting. Here are nine tips you can borrow.
Counter Argument2 of 10
Rule to break: Keep counters, cabinets and floors neutral.
While America continues its love affair with all-white kitchens, Swift points out that the French are not afraid of being bold in their color choices. Here, "the kitchen combines bold cabinetry in cobalt blue against terra-cotta-colored tiles and classic French antiques. Orange and blue are complementary hues on the color wheel, which is why this look is so appealing," writes Swift.
On the Wall3 of 10
Rule to break: Wall art doesn't always mean fine art.
Rethink what "art" is and what might work on your walls, suggests Swift. "Consider hanging everyday objects with graphic appeal; vintage board games can add color and a playful look to any room," she writes.
All Arranged4 of 10
Rule to break: The more, the better.
Rather than going overboard with collections and objects, the French have a more curated approach to display—keeping what they love in their homes and on their walls without overwhelming the space. Here, a couple books, a lamp and a small collection of artwork become a focal point within the room without being overpowering.
Garden Swap5 of 10
Rule to break: Garden furniture should remain outdoors.
Bringing the outdoors in isn't limited to indoor plants. Swift highlights this room that uses "great-looking garden furniture in a formal setting to complement even the most intricate antique." The chair looks surprisingly at home with the room's rich and historical surroundings.
Shelf Life6 of 10
Rule to break: Bookcases are like mini-libraries at home.
Organizing book by subject matter? Not if you're French. "Arrange your book collection by hue," suggests Swift. "Remove the book jackets if you want solid colors; keep the jackets on if you like a more graphic or patterned effect." This space, with its low-hanging chandelier feels glamorous but the books add a "pleasantly haphazard" feeling.
Glass Act7 of 10
Rule to break: Put away the crystal and china between holidays.
"Take your beautiful china, crystal, and serving pieces out of the cabinets and let them adorn your home—the reflection of glass adds luster to any room," writes Swift.
In the Mix8 of 10
Rule to break: Everything must match and coordinate.
"Choose a statement piece," recommends Swift, "like an outré [shocking] armchair, and build a room around it, balancing its boldness with other more subtle elements." An animal-horn-and-hide chair is unexpected and fun—showcasing a bit of personality without being too much.
Let's Eat9 of 10
Rule to break: Formal dining is for dining rooms.
Kitchens have all the expected components to make great meals, but if you don't have the space for a separate dining room, why not, as Swift suggests, "Eschew the kitchen island for a counter-height kitchen table. Use it as a work surface when needed, and as a casual but elegant dining setup at other times." This is an intimate option that adds unexpected warmth to family meals and get-togethers.
Time Travel10 of 10
Rule to break: Stick to one decorating style.
Rather than having your home look as if it were frozen in one era, take cues from the French and borrow from various time periods to decorate. Here, turquoise blue walls balance the modern art while the 20th-century rug grounds the more traditional, dark wood dining furniture. High ceilings and an ornate fireplace lend architectural details, resulting in a unique space that highlights a wide range of styles.