French Influence on Interior Design

Napoleon's Bedroom

Every other year, the corporate leaders of Decorating Den Interiors plan a trip for any interested franchise owners and decorators.  It’s a great opportunity to meet with other decorators and discuss business and design.  This year, the trip offers a special chance for design inspiration because it is in Paris, France.

I can’t think of a better place to go to get stimulated and excited about interior design than in Paris.  In fact, some of the earliest professional interior designers worked in France.  Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine were French architects who were instrumental in developing the Directoire style. When Napoleon came to power, he hired Percier and Fontaine to renovate the Louvre for him, among many other projects.  They then popularized the Empire style, which was based on the Directoire style, but adapted for Napoleon.

Musee des Arts Decoratifs

One of the best places for visitors to get an overview of French interior decoration is at the expansive collection at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, where examples of French furniture and accessories create a visual timeline of the history of French decorative arts from Louis XIV to Art Deco to contemporary pieces.  Among these pieces are examples of the Directoire and Empire styles made popular by Percier and Fontaine.

A trip to Versailles, just outside of Paris, is also an exciting adventure for any decorating enthusiast.  I often recommend to my clients that we hang a mirror in a dark, overlooked corner of their homes to brighten the space.  Needless to say, this is not an original idea of mine.  In fact, this idea of adding mirrors to multiply the natural light of a space is best demonstrated in Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors, where seventeen arched mirrors mirror and reflect the light of the seventeen arched windows across from them.

Hall of Mirrors

While a trip to France is by far the best way to get a taste of French design, those of us who went to the Decorating Den conference in Phoenix recently were treated to a presentation on all things French by Carol Donayre Bugg, Decorating Den’s VP Director of Design.  She highlighted some new furniture and accessories from our suppliers that have a French flair.  Below is a sampling of some of my favorite French style products.  So even if a trip to Paris isn’t in your near future, you can add a bit of France to your home with items like these.

French style is not really about trends.  The French tend to decorate once and edit their spaces only slightly over the years as thing wear out.  They will use timeless pieces but combine them in interesting mixtures of Louis XV, toile, modern pieces, country French and of course lots of mirrors!  A great example of this French approach is Coco Chanel’s home at the Ritz Hotel in Paris.  Although decorated before I was born, I find it fresh and, as the French would say, au courant.

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