When we decided to move to Paris, one of the things I was most excited about was decorating my own Parisian apartment. It would be classic Haussmannian with herringbone floors, marble mantels, high ceilings and moldings – the works.
Scrolled iron balconies and a rooftop view were also on the wanted list. After a few weeks of scouring (and drooling over) listings from afar, I fell hard for an appartement familial in the 7ème. We negotiated with the rental agent and sealed the deal even before laying eyes on our future home.
It was better than I’d imagined: a light-filled double salon and a killer view of the Dome des Invalides, even a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower in all its iconic beauty. But the fun was just beginning. It was now time to decorate.
We’d brought some furniture from the US (beds, IKEA dressers, a dining table) but many of the fun pieces remained to be found: couch, chairs, lighting, rugs, maybe some art. And so the hunt was on. After three years, plenty of bargain-and-treasure-hunting (and lots of rearranging), our place feels like home. Here are some tips and favorite spots discovered along my decorating journey à la Parisienne.
Something old, something new. I’m a diehard fan of Paris flea markets and brocantes. For a California girl raised on sitcoms and takeout, the idea that you could buy 19th century candlesticks for the price of lunch is still unimaginably wonderful. Whether you’re outfitting a whole apartment or looking for a decorative souvenir, a weekend visit to les puces at Porte de Vanves or Saint-Ouen (Clignancourt) is a must.
Find Clignancourt’s best mid-century design at Marché Serpette and Paul Bert, more classic treasures like chandeliers dripping with crystal and Louis dining chairs at Marché Dauphine and Biron. Know what you’re looking for and what you’re prepared to spend – the sprawling marché can quickly overwhelm. And don’t forget to bargain. It’s expected.
Artful chaos. Like those gorgeously tousled chignons and devil-may-care ensembles, the chicest Parisian interiors are studies in serious effort that only look effortless. They almost always feature an intriguing mix of vintage and contemporary, shabby and pristine. (Think grand-mère’s fruitwood buffet and lovingly worn Persian rugs alongside a sofa from Habitat or AMPM.)
Accessories should be ruthlessly edited and artfully displayed although never too perfect or precious. Where American interiors are often defined by plumped matching pillows and symmetrical seating arrangements, the French prefer a more organic, bohemian eclecticism – layered, curated, distinctly undecorated.
It’s all in the mix. For that truly Parisian look, think opposites. Classic Haussmannian will look best with clean lined furnishings, abstract art and industrial or vintage lighting; a Marais hideaway with exposed beams and worn floors can do with a Louis setee and linen slipcovers.
Each room should feature pieces from different eras for a total look that feels collected over time, not culled from a catalog or single furniture showroom. You wouldn’t wear a total look from one designer, now would you? Neither should your living room.
Think woven rugs and washed linens, generous sofas and farm tables paired with iconic lighting and mid-century-inspired seating. Ditto the uber-hip Marais concept store, Merci. It’s the place I like to go for ideas (and then troll the flea markets or LeBonCoin – France’s answer to craigslist – to affordably recreate the look.)
If Phillipe Starck and Terence Conran are global icons, the new Parisian interior is epitomized by deco-darling Sarah Lavoine whose two Paris boutiques are rife with inspiration. Low-slung linen sofas, vintage lighting and graphic black and white (with key pops of color) define her urban-chic aesthetic.
So whether you prefer Scandinavian mid-century, French Art Nouveau or classic old world Parisian, remember: French style is all in the details. Have fun and mix it up. As French design icon Philippe Starck says, “Freedom is the only style.”
- Planning a last minute trip to Paris? We’re offering some amazing last minute discounts for February and March in our gorgeous Paris apartments
- Marissa Cox, behind the beautiful blog Rue Rodier, paid a visit to Habitat’s new vintage space: Habitat 1964 – a furniture lovers’ dream
- Visit VosgesParis for amazing interior decoration and inspiration
- Looking for that perfect Parisian apartment but need some advice on the way? Check out Kelly Page’s posts for the HiP Paris blog on how to navigate the real estate scene here in the French capital, part I and part II