Classic interior design styles and how to light them – French chic


Ooh la la… Ever fancied living in an airy Paris apartment overlooking the Seine? Continuing our series on the great interior decor trends and how you can use them for inspiration in your own home (with a special emphasis on lighting), here’s how you can bring some French chic style into your home, wherever it is...

See also: Classic interior design styles and how to light them – 1. Mid-Century Modern 2. English Country House style 3. Industrial style 4. Eclectic style 5. Coastal style 6. Scandinavian style 7. Art Deco

When we think about French interior design, those distinctive 19th century Parisian apartments that feature so strongly in French cinema may well come to mind. That’s not to ignore the impact of 20th century designers such as Philippe Starck, and buildings like the Pompidou Centre, but it was Georges-Eugène Haussmann who was responsible for what we have come to regard as the unmistakable ‘look’ of Paris. By the middle of the 19th century, Paris was a cramped, chaotic, unhealthy city and France’s Emperor, Napoléon lll, commissioned Haussmann to undertake its complete renovation. Between 1853 and 1870, Hausmann oversaw the creation of the elegant apartment blocks, wide boulevards, tree-lined squares and parks, museums and stations that we associate with the French capital. As can often be the case with complete overhauls, things did not end well, at least for Haussmann and he was eventually sacked from his post - but his city planning and architectural legacy remains. And it is in those apartment blocks, with their high ceilings and floor to ceiling windows, which then sprang up in other French cities, such as Lyon, that we can still see stunning examples of contemporary French design at its best. (Though lovers of French country house style might take a different view…)


How to achieve a French chic interior

There’s nothing overstated about French interior design. Yes, it’s elegant, but effortlessly so, never overpowering; it’s the subtle but clever touches that give French interiors a certain je ne sais quoi. Check out the work of Jean-Louis Deniot, or follow the pictures on Pinterest and you’ll see some distinct themes emerging.

We’ve put together a menu of French interiors and features to help you decide. You could, for example, adopt or adapt just one or two elements of French design that would work well in your home. And, being Pooky, we’ll show you how to bring light into your home the French way.

Simply natural floors

If you are fortunate enough to have a home with wooden parquet floors, hang on to them as they provide a perfect foundation for a French interior. Stone and slate are equally acceptable natural floor materials and rugs rather than carpets add a touch of warmth and comfort where needed. Tile floors often make an appearance in bathrooms and hallways.


Subtle colour palettes...

For many years, white was the ubiquitous hallmark of the French interior and, although no longer exclusively the case, the emphasis is still on neutrals: greys, taupes, creams and, yes, all the whites.

...Plus a touch of teal

That doesn’t mean you have to exclude strong or bold colour, but use it judiciously as a single feature. This interior, photographed in 1963, shows antique French furniture set against a teal wall, a colour that remains a popular feature in French interiors almost 50 years later. That photo could have been taken yesterday, so timeless is classic French design. A touch of teal is a great way - and a great colour - to give a bit of a lift to internal doors.


Spaced out

You won’t find clutter in a stylish French interior; apartment living means that space is at a premium and each room or designated area has to be fit for purpose. Easy circulation is a priority and a sense of space means that it is far easier to appreciate distinctive features or statement pieces. This sitting room gets it just right: there’s enough space in which to stretch out and relax and enough to move around comfortably and appreciate the finer points of the furniture and furnishings. If you’ve lived in a Parisian apartment you’ll know just how small and narrow some French kitchens can be. Being French, however, those kitchens still come with a touch of class - in this case, with an added dash of American flair.

Light touch decoration

French chic means minimal decorative features; it’s definitely a no-fuss look but that doesn’t mean that rooms need to be featureless. A few carefully selected but complementary pieces can create a space that is light, airy and comfortable but with just enough personal items to convey a unique and stylish sense of home. This interior (in Esher, England - but tres chic nonetheless) by Rebecca Hughes captures the spirit…

Image: Rebecca Hughes


Optical illusions

Those distinctive French floor to ceiling windows demand full-length curtains. But even if you can’t replicate the windows, opt for full-length curtains as they create the illusion of height and space. Plain fabrics such as heavy linens or light voiles are ideal; patterned fabrics are not out of the question but if you choose, say a toile de jouy print, go easy on patterns elsewhere in the room.


Sheen or shine

Metallic finishes have always found a place in French interiors, in picture frames, for example, or as mirror surrounds; gilt-wood surrounds and furniture frames are probably as close as our French neighbours get to domestic bling! Metal furniture, like this shiny bright modern sofa has a place too, bringing a touch of the avant-garde as a balance to antique pieces.

Image: Husk Design Blog


Lighting a French style interior

Clear glass pendants and wall lights

For a light, airy, Parisian apartment feel, go for pendants in blown glass. Bowls and globes are particularly good. And there are wall light equivalents for an extra va-va-voom...

Espere wall light Qilin pendant



There’s nothing more distinctly French in terms of lighting than the chandelier and the Pooky range includes classic styles such Juliet, a French teardrop-shaped, beaded chandelier, and Rita, whose droplets would grace any bedroom. If you would prefer a thoroughly modern chandelier, then look no further than our Elysee, which marries antiqued brasswork with frosted glass rods. - Unfortunately the Elysee is no longer available, but please take a look at our extensive range of chandeliers here

Table lamps for variety

Unusual or statement table lamps are a great way to introduce a little je ne sais quois amongst all that elegant understatement. Try bold colours and avant-garde shapes.



Gilt-edged mirrors - the final touch

We couldn’t focus on all things Gallic without helping you to a generous serving of Pooky mirrors that would grace any French interior: the understated elegance of Feathers, a rather clever combination of cast aluminium and antiqued gold, for example, or the classical style of the aptly named Darling. And we couldn’t possibly say au revoir without mentioning this fabulous convex mirror that we named after one of the all-time greats of French cinema, the unforgettable, Yves Montand.

Yves mirror

Browse our range of affordable designer lighting here.