When it comes to admirable fashion and beauty standards, there’s most certainly a “French girl” aesthetic that’s generally considered impossibly cool. Think Breton stripes and jeans, a messy bun or bed hair, and a bare face with maybe just a pop of red lipstick. It’s all about trying without really trying — or not looking like you did, at least.
That said, I think there’s a way to extend that subtle je ne sais quoi aesthetic into your interiors. And I’m not alone. Author Danielle Postel-Vinay just wrote a book on mastering French style at home, Home Sweet Maison, where she outlines how the French build their layered yet orderly, casual cool interiors one room at a time. Using her book as a guide, I found a handful of “French girl” approved rooms with the hopes that you might copy them stateside, that is, if you want a little French flair in your life.
First things first is the French entrée, or entry, and according to Postel-Vinay, this room is very revealing about a home’s owner. How? By displaying your books and other telling personal objects, of course. This Parisian space from Domino proves it’s all about having lots of art books casually stacked or leaning against one another plus a mix of modern and more traditional artworks on the wall.
Next up, scents. “The French love to fill parts of their home with fragrances that are personal to their own experiences and memories,” writes Postel-Vinay. While she goes on to say the French tend to favor scents derived from natural oils and essences, an artfully placed Diptyque candle is surely a solid way to earn your (Breton) stripes in cultivating that “French girl” cool, as seen here from The Beauty Look Book.
Another great way to use these beloved candles from The Beauty Look Book: When you’ve burned all the wax, and after a good cleaning, try them for storage for toiletries or makeup in le bain, or the French bathroom.
And, of course, we’re all familiar with the French salon, that center of culture and conversation in every home. It’s akin to the American living room, just chicer somehow, maybe because there’s a little more sense of history to it. For instance, in the Parisian home of Sabina Socol featured on Harper’s Bazaar, her mismatched but tasteful furniture mix with a baroque mirror and, to keep things from being too stuffy, a modern brass ceiling hanging. Bonus points if you have great bones in your space—ceiling medallions, an ornate fireplace or original moldings—these are the kinds of architectural features you’d find in a Parisian apartment and can add to your space with a trip to the home center and a little sweat equity.
The biggest thing Postel-Vinay notes about the French dining room is that there should be no distractions. Let your large dining table be the focal point, and don’t stress about the right lighting because a “French girl” wouldn’t. She’d put that overhead chandy right on a dimmer, light some tapers, and call it a day. This particular room is by Atlanta-based designer Barbara Westbrook, featured in her book “Gracious Rooms“.
The home of Michelle Adams (seen here from House Beautiful) might be stateside, but it exudes a casual, modern “French girl” aesthetic. In a cozy eating nook, you can’t go wrong with a striped table cloth and lots of white—that cafe chic look.
If Julia Child is any indicator, the French kitchen is an orderly workplace and full of wine (and cheese)! The concept of mise en place, or everything in its place, is something Postel-Vinay says French kitchens are known for, so put your stuff away! Clean counters, organized drawers, tidy shelving—that’s what a “French girl” kitchen entails. As far as finishes, marble is a go-to mixed with metals and warm, modern woods, like this kitchen from Marie Claire Maison. It’s nowhere near “farmhouse chic,” but rather a lived-in luxe aesthetic, like a broken-in leather jacket, another “French girl” fashion staple.
And lastly, the boudoir, or bedroom, which I’m fairly certain would be full of neutral linens without much fuss. This room, for instance, spotted on My Domaine, is simple yet incredibly chic, with a classic black-white-brass palette we see so often in French interiors. The main lesson here is not to over style. Maybe you don’t need ironed sheets or 20 throw pillows. Pare down to the essentials and add just a few special pieces.
You may not fool a bona fide “French girl” with these decorating moves, but you’re bound to up your home style game just by giving one of these Francophile-friendly ideas a try.