Homes

Paris Style: Secrets to Decorating Like a Parisian

by Paige Bradley Frost

Decorating your apartment like a Parisian starts with finding the right place to live, be it on a small street in the Marais (left) or somewhere with more light like through this open window (right).

Carin Olsson

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.

Paris apartments usually have parquet floors, marble mantelpieces and a gilded mirror.

Haven in Paris

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.

When decorating your Paris apartment, don't forget about the terrace like this one with a table and a chair and a statue of a little girl sitting on a stool.

Haven in Paris

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.

Decorating your Paris apartment is all about mixing period features with modern furniture.

Haven in Paris

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.

Vintage pictures and books should be a must for decorating your apartment like a Parisian.

Hotels Paris Rive Gauche

Paris apartments sometimes come with balconies big enough to have green potted hedges (left). An opulent Paris apartment staircase (right).

Haven in Paris

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.

How you decorate your Paris apartment depends on the light and view like through this open balcony door looking out onto neighboring buildings.

Haven in Paris

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.

The view of neighboring Paris apartments through a window (left). Old books found at a flea-market are perfect for decorating your apartment Paris style (center). A typical Paris apartment comes with a marble fireplace, high ceilings and moldings (right).

The most beautiful Paris apartments come with lots of original features like a beamed ceiling and parquet floors.

Haven in Paris

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.)

A vintage shop sign, like this one, which reads 'Patisserie', is a great way to add character to your kitchen if you want to decorate your home like a Parisian.

Haven in Paris

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.

A Paris apartment balcony with plants and flowers and a table and chair (left). Decorating your bathroom Paris style can be simple and effective with a few fresh flowers and stack of white towels (right).

Haven in Paris

Paris apartments often come with original features like a beamed ceiling, from which you can hang a chandelier.

Carin Olsson

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.

Inspiration for decorating your apartment like a Parisian, especially if you like to mix old with new.

Haven in Paris

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.

Doors that lead to a balcony in a Montmartre Paris apartment (left). A fancy dining room in a Paris apartment with a chandelier and marble fireplace (center). Decorate your apartment like a Parisian by hanging collected ceramic plates around a doorway (right).

There are lots of ways of decorating your apartment like a Parisian, like mixing contemporary furniture to offset period features like a marble fireplace.

Haven in Paris

Iconic style. Sir Terrence Conran may be a Brit, but his designs and retail spaces (The Conran Shop and Habitat) have come to define the modern Parisian aesthetic.

An idea for decorating your bathroom like a Parisian's is to have a free-standing bath tub and fresh flowers for a touch of color.

Hotels Paris Rive Gauche

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.)

The open blue door to a Paris apartment, with terracotta tiles and warm fabrics in the bedroom (left). The living room with terracotta tiles and a flower-upholstered armchair next to a brick fireplace (right).

Haven in Paris

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.

An urban-chic style here, in this Paris apartment, with neutral tones on the cozy sofa and flea-market finds like the stack of old books on the black table.

Haven in Paris

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.”

A large, sunny, Paris apartment terrace with a wooden table and chairs and the table set with blue plates and glasses.

Haven in Paris

Related links:

Written by Paige Frost for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.

Written By

Paige Bradley Frost

Paige Bradley Frost, a Los Angeles native, moved back to Paris with her young family in 2011 after first living and getting married there in 2000. A lover of French style and cuisine, she spends her days scouting and writing about the city's gems when not chasing after her two young children. Her articles about parenting, culture and lifestyle have appeared on NYTimes.com, the Huffington Post and various other publications. She blogs about her Paris experiences at http://parisdejavu.blogspot.com. View Paige Bradley Frost's Website

14 comments on “Paris Style: Secrets to Decorating Like a Parisian

Wow! Wow wow wow ten thousand times! How come I just now found your blog! I love Paris so much, however for now I can only dream of living there. Your blog has kept the dream alive. I’m sure that soon enough I will make my dream come true. Thank you.:) Mérci.

Parisians always had and always will have the perfect and very specific sense of style. But for those who doesn’t have french genes, there are many examples, which can be followed to create a real parisian atmosphere. These interiors with all decoration items are jsut a perfect combination of elegancy, funcionality and comfort.

I had a home for many years in the Luberon region of France, where I became enamored of the light, the food and, of course, the gardens. I now live in Florida, and when renovating, I wanted to bring a bit of Provence into my home and garden. Imagine my joy when I walked into Authentic Provence in West Palm Beach (also online at http://authenticprovence.com). The owners have sourced the most incredible French and Italian garden antiques and products: statues, fountains, planters (note especially the classic Caisse de Versailles, and Anduze pottery), terra cotta shields, stone animals, copper pots, garden spouts, and on and on. They have created an environment that took me right back to many afternoons spent in the beautiful homes and gardens of Provence. They are also very helpful in giving advice and even sourcing special items, and can arrange shipping anywhere in the USA. I highly recommend this business!

So… which of the pictures are of your place? I’m disappointed tht you didn’t share your rooms and point out everything you put together in them. Most of the pictures you included look like they’re from magazines.

Haven in Paris

Diane, these are many different Paris apartments, decorated by Parisians!! 🙂 Truly!

I recommend (highly) the following B&B in the Loire area:
http://www.la-pinsonniere.fr

Let them know Erica and Alain from Haven in Paris sent you.

Lovely style. If you happen to know of rentals in this area or the Loire valley in July, Please share.

Lynne from Design The Life you Want to Live

What a divine tour of Paris it’s gorgeous bohemian layered style ! I loved it !!

Thank you for sharing !! The photos are gorgeous.

Oh la la.

Bisous,
Lynne xx

Ahhh i love this!

Hi Kiki – Sounds like you have had an amazing journey with your own French property. I’m a compulsive “re-decorator” so now that our place is “done,” it’s time to start mixing it up again. Thanks for commenting!

Paige; this is a wonderful collection of beautiful Parisian ‘sights’….
I know what you mean; when we bought our 1920 Meulière (house built from local stones) we had all the things above and a bit more – as well as workmen for the next three years…. I also could use EVERYTHING we had from our Victorian house we owned in England (except 5 Marcel Breuer chairs we bought wayyyyyy tooooo expensive in Bristol & who then became obsolete when we got a large Laura Ashley dining table & 6 chairs) AND all our stuff from our little house in Switzerland…. Funny too that I had kept a ‘dream photo’ of a veranda when I lived in Switzerland BEFORE being in England and now my French veranda looks just like that picture…. 🙂
You took me on a super pleasure tour with this article – Thank You and
gros bisous de ma belle maison (Ile-de-France)
Kiki
(if interested, you can find some pictures – very randomly – in the public folder of my Flickr account under:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vol-au-vent/sets/72157630745069238/ – enjoy!)

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