The New French Look is spirited and fresh, layered but never fussy, effortless yet always chic. It uses elements of colour and pattern confidently to create an elegant atmosphere, but with a sense of exuberance. It’s not all about the new either: it references history, without ever looking stale and stuffy. There’s a respectful nod to the past but, at the same time, the interiors are edgy.
The French have refined the art of looking chic without trying too hard. It’s like they wake up and boom – they’re chic. They make it look easy. While theirs can be a difficult style to emulate, it can be done. But, before talking about colours and features, it’s important to understand the French approach to decorating their spaces. Design extraordinaire and author of The New French Look – Lauren Li shares the three main themes that inform how the French decorate their homes: art, dining and history. Then, there’s that ‘indefinable’ ingredient.
Dining Rooms are the Heart of The Home
In French homes, we see more emphasis placed on the dining table than the kitchen itself. This is the opposite of trends occurring here in Australia, where we may see a large ‘show kitchen’ often with an additional butler’s pantry however, mealtimes are spent individually and not at a dining table at all – instead, meals are often eaten on the sofa – quelle horreur. So, to live French, reclaim the space for a dining table.
Sitting down to an unhurried meal remains an important part of French culture. The food is delicious and the wine flows, bien sûr, but it’s the conversation around the table with friends and family where the French zest for life really plays out. For the French, gastronomy is an art form – and they know how to eat well. Dining together is more than merely satisfying nutritional needs; mealtimes are social, flavourful, pleasurable activities. The dining table is central to how the French live in their homes.
In France, arguably, the dining table is the true heart of the home. And especially that very French feature – the banquette seat.
Historical but not a Museum
As the only country that faces both the North Sea and the Mediterranean, France has a particularly rich set of influences. From Romanesque and Gothic architecture to rural farmhouses, the French don’t need to look far to see the layers of time in their midst. These historical elements are retained, giving the interiors soul, while contemporary elements are boldly layered over them, resulting in a harmonious space.
History is celebrated, yet the French still look forward. It’s this attitude that makes their homes such a magical combination of the old infused with a daring touch of modernity.
The New French look is about combining the old with new, but not in a shabby-chic way. The heritage features of the building are celebrated – this is about living with the place, not living in a museum. Old things are given new life when mixed with the clean lines of contemporary pieces. While we see more antique pieces in the country house, the clean lines of a mid-century chair or a sculptural pendant light instantly elevate the space, creating a fresh feel.
That Indefinable Magic
You don’t know what it is, you just know it is something. It’s that thing that can’t be described; there’s no label for it. It’s that ‘je ne sais quoi’ – ‘I don’t know what’.
The French look is thoughtful but deliberately relaxed. Homes have an almost anti-décor air; they are not overdone. It’s confident and laid-back, yet never messy or cluttered. If they have worked with a designer, it’s made to look like the owners have done it themselves.
It’s a look the French pull off well. Their homes have amazing panache, but more than trends, it’s a style of living. The sense of history lends a timelessness, at the same the spaces are lively and comfortable. To achieve this, certain elements feature in classic French style, imbuing rooms with that indefinable something.
French Décor Essentials:
- Colour play. Clean combinations such as yellow and blue.
- Patterns. Especially on flooring and soft furnishings.
- Fibres. Rattan, sea grass and wicker lend a hand-crafted touch.
- Contrasts. Old pieces juxtaposed with contemporary.
- Soul. A considered space that isn’t over-decorated.
- Layers. Wall panelling, with contemporary photography or wall art.
- Patina. Items that are well-used and loved.
- Order. Collected over time yet never cluttered.
- Vintage luxe. A few key classic pieces with a hint of luxury.
The New French Look features a diverse spread of design concepts, objects, furnishings and accessories from French and French-inspired designers, artists and brands. They range from aspirational looks and premium collectibles we might only dream about, to styling ideas and objects that are easily incorporated into everyday living. The aim is to spark creativity when planning your space.
Designing and building your own home can be daunting, and we all need support along the way! Which is why we created BuildLike a BuildHer and our DesignHer programs. Reach out anytime for a chat with us, we’d love to hear your story and discuss how we can help you! You can book a 20 minute free consult here.