The Secrets to Creating an Effortlessly Chic, Parisian-Style Home

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Design experts reveal the must-have elements to make your pad a French abode.

There are many reasons to love the French. Their food, architecture, style, and culture are all rich and beautiful. And they all seem to do it effortlessly. The same is true for their home decor style as it exudes effortless elegance and timeless sophistication.

“In many ways, Parisian homes emulate their fashion sensibility: it begins with a celebration of the classics,” Heather Goerzen, creative and design at Havenly, told Departures. “Like a pair of high waisted jeans with a crisp white button-down and red lipstick or that chic Chanel black dress, the French know good style endures and use traditional pieces as their foundation rather than simply chasing flash-in-the-pan trends.”

Here we tap three design experts to reveal their top tips for achieving that natural over the staged look and mastering that vintage charm alongside avant-garde modernism. 

Create an Artful Mix

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“Parisian homes seem to capture the essence of how to pair the new and the old perfectly, and how to showcase mini-collections of objects,” said VP of Style at online interior design service Modsy Alessandra Wood. “There’s a casualness and easiness to how objects are paired and displayed that seems organic, rather than staged. Instead of focusing on how to make something look perfectly balanced, try to let the scene develop organically by adding objects as you collect them.”

Decorate With Plenty of Antiques

“Within this shell, there are various distinctive elements,” said Plum Guide’s Paris Home Critic, Cécile Emon. “The first one I think of is the presence of antique furniture, inherited from a grandmother or flea market. Even if the overall style of the apartment is modern, there will always be a touch of antique brought by a small object, a piece of furniture, or even a covering.”

Meaning Trumps Trendy

“Don’t just buy decor for the sake of decor, and avoid jumping on every here-today-gone-tomorrow trend,” said Goerzen. “Take the time to collect pieces and furniture that means something to you. That elicits a feeling, and you can’t stop thinking about it. This goes for big and small pieces alike: wait to discover that armoire with statement charm, or bring home that chipped plate from the flea market that just makes you smile.”

Have Dramatic Pairings

“Parisian interiors master dramatic pairings as well, such as gorgeous maximalist stone with minimalist fixtures or over the top mirrors with sleek and low profile sofas,” said Wood. “Find two pieces that seem to be at odds with each other and pair them together in your space for a dramatic feel.”

Opt for a Subdued Palette

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“Parisian style embraces more subdued hues rather than bright tones, creating homes with quiet neutral tones, or perhaps sticking to timeless black and white,” Goerzen. “If you do see color, it tends to be rich and luxurious hues like burnt orange, deep green, or moody burgundy.”

Use Live Plants and Flowers 

“Greenery and flowers add pops of color and literally add life to a space,” said Wood. “Choose organic, farmers market arrangements for bouquets and let your plants thrive and grow on their own without trying to tame them into a specific look or shape.”

Invest in a Few Statement Pieces That are Timeless and Unique

“One thing you’ll notice about Parisian homes is that while there are a lot of similar elements from home to home, each one is extremely personal to its occupants and filled with different and unique pieces,” said Wood. “So, rather than buying what everyone else has, invest in pieces you love with a certain vibe, and your home will be a bit more Parisian!”

Celebrate Architecture

“Parisian style starts with the bones,” said Goerzen. “Herringbone floors, ornate molding, elaborate fireplaces - with a beautiful canvas, it’s no wonder Parisian spaces feel so nonchalantly refined. If you’re up for a labor of design love, architectural features like molding and flooring could dramatically transform your home.”

Create Collected Contrast

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“Streamlined pieces meet sculptural elements, mix the modern with the ornate, juxtapose the old with the new in a meaningful way,” said Goerzen. “It’s all of these things curated over time and styled side by side that give a home ‘oh, it just happens to look this beautiful’ vibe.”

Own These Key Pieces

“French homes are anything but one-dimensional,” said Goerzen. “As the philosopher, Michel de Montaigne, said, ‘A little of everything and nothing thoroughly, after the French fashion.’ The trick for getting the polished Parisian home is a seamless juxtaposition of old and new, weaving in v. A King Louis XV chair next to cubist art, or a statement sofa with contemporary lines in contrast with more ornate architecture.” 

And these pieces make the difference:

  • “Objects with a little patina add a sense of history that juxtaposes beautifully with modernity,” said Goerzen. “Think an antique sideboard next to a mid-century accent chair; a contemporary table with a vintage chandelier above (or vice versa).”

  • “I also think about small details like having a corkscrew, an Opinel knife in your kitchen or having plants on your balcony, a bouquet of dried flowers in his living room, and small cacti everywhere,” said Emon. “And of course beauty products, clothing and accessories from famous French brands.” 

  • “While you will see a lot of antiques in the quintessential Parisian home, you will also find timeless modern pieces, particularly chairs, that speak to avante garde design,” said Goerzen. “Like a Knoll womb chair, or a Herman Miller lounge chair. As mentioned before, it’s the mix of eras that makes it visually interesting, and effortlessly styled.”

  • “For the lucky ones with a large library, you will surely find classics of French and foreign literature, art books, cookbooks, travel guides, comic books, and magazines,” said Emon. “Even if the apartment is too small to have a library, there will always be a few books and magazines.” 

  • “A must for the Parisian look is dramatic drapes,” said Goerzen. “The pleated-linen look is versatile and can easily be dressed up for a more glamorous French take, or the backdrop for a relaxed interpretation.”

  • “For an armchair or sofa, I would say the Ligne Roset brand and more particularly the Ploum or Togo model,” said Emon. “I also like the world of India Mahdavi and Pierre Paulin. For ceramic dishes, look at Judith Lasry’s work. Crockery with a Hermes pattern will always look chic on your table.” 

  • “Embrace ornate details and sculptural objects,” said Goerzen. “A pedestal with a bust on it feels right at home in Parisian style.”