Ooh La La! 7 Rooms That Showcase Chic French Style

In her new book, French Accents., designer Erin Swift, along with photographer Jonny Valiant, show us how to embrace Parisian decorating in any home

Mixing old and new pieces, bold and muted colors and simple and rich textures to style an imperfect yet totally pulled together look is what French decor is all about. With photographer Jonny Valiant by her side, author Erin Swift traveled through France and the United States to try and nail the essence of chic French style at home. "No matter how different these homes were from one another, a fresh, elegant, and daring aesthetic was a common thread," she writes in French Accents.

Here, some of our favorite rooms and the design ideas that inspired them.

Contrast Colors

French Decor

Jonny Valiant

This living room offers a study in contrasts. The white-on-white walls with their intricate moldings and the neutral colors surrounding the mantel and floors receive a surprising splash of color in the form of the bright Caravane sofa and slipper chairs. The upholstered pieces are actually grey; the homeowner wanted a fresh, summery look, so she had yellow and green slipcovers made for the season. A rough-hewn antique African stool and a sleek black marble table by Italian designer Gae Aulenti offset the plushness of the sofa and chairs. Nestled among the coffee table’s books and periodicals are a nude sculpture by Olivier Debré and a vivid red lobster dish.

Pop a Bold Accent Against a Neutral Background

French Decor

Jonny Valiant

The neutral colors of the bedroom create a soothing atmosphere, punctuated with vibrant orange shams, iconic Tizio lamps, Christian Liaigre bedside tables, plus artwork by Marc Hispard and Ruben Alterio.

Go Monochromatic

French Decor

Jonny Valiant

The simplicity of the white-and-black color scheme allows the room’s exquisite details to shine. The monochromatic wall and ceiling are covered in neoclassical-style moldings. The furnishings are high-design pieces: Barcelona stolls by Mies van der Rohe and Christian Liaigre coffee table and chairs, with Biedermeier side chairs flanking the mantel.

Consider a Counter-Height Table In Your Kitchen

French Decor

Jonny Valiant

The kitchen table is a bar-height custom-made oak-and-limestone piece of the homeowner Jean-Louis Deniot’s design, set with chairs from Williams-Sonoma Home. The floor is covered in traditional French black-and-white cement tiles. The table and 1880s French Épis de Blé chandeliers create a symmetrical effect.

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 other times.

Embrace the Imperfection of a Vintage Piece

Jonny Valiant

When refinishing an antique or vintage item, balance old and new. Bring the piece back to life with paint or upholstery, but let it show its age through imperfections, too.

The compact but well-appointed bar is set with a silver cocktail shaker and ice bucket, amber cocktail glasses, and crystal decanters, all atop a neoclassical gilt console table. The surfaces and finishes on the console and drink ware are complemented by the polished tortoiseshell, the ceramic umbrella stand, and the Spanish-leather-and-silk-damask chair surrounding them. The original distressed leather of the chair back is accented by new silk damask and fringed-seat.

Choose a Statement Rug

French Decor

Jonny Valiant

The dining room’s restrained color scheme is brashly punctuated by the Verner Panton rug beneath the Christophe Delcourt table.

Go Bold on Your Walls

French Decor

Jonny Valiant

Boldly painted walls bring out the vibrant colors of Roy Lichtenstein’s Masterpiece and Hans Hofmann’s Cathedral, as well as those in the twentieth-century Austrian rug. The dining table and chairs, in dark wood and cream-colored upholstery, allow this room’s artwork to get its due attention.

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